4 Free Ways To Continue Your Education After College

Posted on August 11, 2014 by:

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Three presenters on stage with projection screen, room full of people seated at conference

Attending a conference is a great way to learn more about your field, and your employer might even pay for it.

During my time in undergrad, I learned that school is more than sitting in a classroom. So, even if you’re not heading back to school in the fall, that doesn’t mean you can’t nurture your love for learning into your adulthood!

You can further your education without filing that FAFSA all over again. Get resourceful, and use your connections and community to improve your skill set and beef up your résumé. Or heck—just learn something new because you think it’s cool. That works too. Here are four ways you can do it for free.

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1. Start At “Home”

You need a place to begin your journey. Why not choose the place where your last education ended: your alma mater!

You are a walking ambassador for future generations, so contact your university’s alumni center and see if any networking events are coming up. The college experience was more than just a piece of paper in an expensive frame; it’s a ticket to meet people that you otherwise never would have.

My journalism professors were editors of the Washington Post, NY Times best-selling authors, respected academics, and activists. It’s their job to help the next wave of people in their industry. Shoot them an email, and ask for book suggestions from past syllabi, any industry events, or just to keep you in mind for any opportunities they see pop up.

Professors know that students rarely do the work to follow up and engage, so the fact that you circle back and contact them shows initiative.

2. Ask Your Job

If you currently work in your desired field, approach your employer and start a conversation about how they can help you achieve your goals.

Is there a conference you’d like to attend across the country? A 6-week online course? If it will help you excel at work, your employer may foot the bill! Everyone’s company culture is different, but it’s always a good idea to prepare a formal proposal detailing how their investment will benefit them and the company goals.

Is the convention, class, or trip unrelated to your job? Get creative! Since I work for a hair website, I usually promise to be an ambassador for NaturallyCurly.com wherever I go. I post relevant pictures to social media and even contribute relevant written pieces, like showing how curly haired women in different industries rock their natural hair with pride.

3. Use The Internet

Be a self-starter! Log on and get some learnin’!

I’ve learned how to use film editing software, self-publish a book, and improve my social media marketing strategy—all relevant things to my field. Millions of YouTube tutorials and blog posts can guide you. Vimeo has a Film 101 section perfect for budding filmmakers. Google is your friend!

You’ll need to do some research on your own, but for the creative fields that I’m interested in, I subscribe to email newsletters from The Create Daily, 99u.com, and Poynters News Univeristy. They send regular updates on classes, conventions, and webinars. Sometimes they’re free. And if not, refer to tip #2.

4. Crowdsource

Hey—if you can get your friends and family to cover the expenses for some continuing education, go for it!

We all know the heavy hitters like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but have you tried Patreon? If you have creative endeavors, it’s a way to let your supporters, fans, and customers help you fundraise!

We live in a time when information is at our fingertips. Take these steps, and treat your education just like you would any other college class. Stay focused, and reap the benefits.

What do you want to learn next, and where will you learn it? Let us know in the comments.

(Photo: wikimedia)

These Effortless Shortcuts Could Equal Big Savings For You

Posted on August 6, 2014 by:

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Pennies, nickles, dimes, quarters in pile

Save your change from fun purchases, and within a year you could have enough to make a huge student loan payment. (Don’t pay it off in pennies, though.)

I’m all about maximizing efficiencies at school and work, so it’s no surprise I look for ways to replicate these efforts in my financial life.

I’m always looking for financial life-hacks, and below are my three most effective ones for saving and paying off debt.

***

1. Make Your Credit Card Company Pay You

OK, so last time we talked, I said that using credit instead of cash is a budgeting mistake you should avoid. That’s still true if you’ve been using your credit card for unnecessary spending. In that case, skip this tip until you get your shopping habits under control

However, if you’ve mastered the art of not treating available credit like extra income, using a credit card can be an excellent way to organize your bills and get some free money. All you have to do is find a no-fee, cash-back rewards card and then automate your regular bills, like your cellphone, Netflix, and utilities, to it. This will not only ensure you never miss a due date (and face late fees), but it will also earn you cash back on things you’re buying anyway.

I get a check for $50 from my cash-back credit card about every 2 months, and I always set it aside for my emergency fund. That $50 is not a huge amount on its own, but it equals an extra $300 per year in savings—without working any extra hours or cutting spending elsewhere.

2. Use Cash, Then Keep The Change

Now that I have a regular income, I take out cash from my bank account every week for “fun” spending on things like coffee and dinners out. When the cash runs out, so does my fun. But more importantly, I save the change and small bills in an old-school piggy bank to use against my MBA student loans when I graduate.

Because Canada uses both $1 and $2 coins, a little bit of change will go a long way a year from now! My piggy bank holds about $400 to $600 when full, so if I drop in whatever weighs down my wallet every week, I’ll be able to make a big payment against my small graduate school loan a year from now without feeling the pinch.

Commit to putting away anything smaller than a $5 bill, and you’ll have hundreds of dollars in a matter of months.

3. Shop Where There’s Cash Back

You might already look online for deals and coupons, but have you tried rebate websites like Ebates?

Ebates offers you 1% to 5% cash back for shopping online at stores you probably already visit frequently, like Amazon. Couple this with a cash-back credit card, and next time you buy textbooks for school or a gift for mom and dad, you’ll likely earn 2%+ cash back on purchases you had to make anyway.

***

When it comes to spending, there’s never any reason to pay more than you have to; however, sometimes the secret isn’t finding a sale, but getting money back. Pocketing extra change and cash-back rewards will help you meet your savings and debt repayment goals faster without having to change any of your behavior.

Who said money management can’t be effortless?

What’s your favorite financial life-hack? Share it in the comments!

(Photo: Wikimedia)

3 Ways That Apps Can Help You Survive Long-Distance Friendships

Posted on August 5, 2014 by:

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White sphere with symbols for apps

Using free apps to stay in touch makes the world seem a little smaller.

In high school, I counted down the days until summer vacation. But now that I’m in college, I’m really starting to understand the “Summertime Sadness.”

With classes and homework out of the way for 3 months, there’s plenty of time to hang out with friends. In high school, most of my friends were a short drive away, so pool parties and bonfires were weekly events for us. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in college.

***

I’m in touch with a few high school friends but much closer with people from college. By closer, however, I mean emotionally, not geographically. Financially, I can’t travel to New York or Maryland every weekend (or Australia … at all), so I’ve had to find ways to connect with the people I love without emptying my bank account.

You probably know that free apps like Skype and Snapchat can help with this. However, even with great services like these, you can still lose touch—if you don’t have a plan. If you’re in a similar situation, follow these three steps to ensure your relationships can go the distance.

1. Put It On The Calendar

Video chatting, especially through Skype, is hands down my favorite method of communication this summer. Until hologram technology takes off, video chatting with friends is the closest thing to hanging out in person. But with summer internships and plans keeping you busy, it’s easy to tell your friends, “Oh, we should Skype soon!” and never actually do it.

Instead, schedule weekly virtual dates with your friends. You might think you don’t have time for these, but if you mark them on your calendar like you’d schedule gym time or lunch plans, staying in touch gets easier. My best friend and I have a weekly Skype date, and that half-hour is one of the highlights of my week. It makes the distance between Massachusetts and Maryland seem just a little smaller.

2. Share Moments And Messages

When I first got Snapchat, I was all about just sending and receiving selfies. Now, my friends and I use it to share moments with each other from our everyday lives: pictures of our vacation spots, Frisbee games, and jury duty (hey, it can’t all be fun).

While you can use Facebook or Instagram to share photos, Snapchat is different because your pictures go to individuals—making them more personal than a public post. You can also add text on top of the pictures, captioning them with a heartfelt note or an inside joke.

So, this summer, send pictures of the fun things you do to your friends, but be sure to add a message to let them know you miss them. Think of it as like a postcard (without the cost of postage!) telling your friends you wish they were with you.

3. Remember You’ll Be Together Soon!

You can find a ton of free apps to count down the days until you see your friends. A countdown is a good reminder that while this summer may seem endless, you’ll reunited be soon enough. I use Dreamdays Lite because it’s pretty and I can customize my countdowns with my own pictures.

Pick an app and set up a countdown until the next time you’ll see your friends. By keeping busy and staying in touch, the days will fly by, and that’s the best cure for “Summertime Sadness” I’ve found.

How do you stay in touch with your friends over the long summer break? Let us know in the comments.

(Photo: Wikimedia)

Not-So-Common Ways To Cut Your Utility Bills

Posted on July 30, 2014 by:

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Brown cat in washing machine

To make laundry on a Friday night more fun, have your cat help.

I found my dream apartment. Inexpensive, great location, and it allows cats. The only drawback? I have to pay my own utilities.

Until this point, I didn’t even know people paid for “sewage.” Now, it’s on my roster of monthly expenses.

***

After doing some research, I learned that the average one-bedroom apartment spends about $200 a month on utilities (sans cable). That’s enough to cover coffee out every day and a gym membership! Or, ahem, to take a chunk out of my student debt every month.

Fortunately, my parents’ frugal utility habits stuck with me. Hopefully, I don’t need to tell you college-educated individuals that turning things off when you’re not using them saves money. However, here are some less common ways you could be reducing your bills.

Do Your Laundry At Night

Some energy companies charge less for using water during off-peak hours. Call your energy providers and ask if they offer this discount. If they do, find out what “off peak” means to them. It’s different for each company but usually means sometime after dark. When you talk to them, ask about any additional discounts too.

Doing laundry at night has saved me money in another way too: Friday night laundry is a great excuse to stay in at night in my PJs with a bowl of ice cream and a good book (Netflix = energy).

Set Your Water Heater To 120 Degrees

This temperature is toasty enough to kill the germs on your dishes, wash your clothes squeaky clean, and even take a nice hot shower. It also prevents you from making things too hot and spending unnecessary cash … oh, and scalding yourself.

Fill In The Cracks

The more cracks and spaces in your apartment, that more difficult it is to heat or cool. If you don’t have a spastic cat (like I do) that tears apart everything hanging from anything, put towels along the base and frame of windows and doors to help with this. If you do have a feline like this, or if you simply want something more heavy duty, foam lining is a cheap purchase to save money in the long term.

Use A Fan … In Every Season

Heat rises. So, if you’re blessed with a ceiling fan, use it in the summer to suck the hot up and out, then keep it on in the winter to push that heat down. This will keep you and your thermostat happy. Just make sure your fan’s blades rotate in the proper direction for both.

If you don’t have a ceiling fan, consider other fans and how you can place them to evenly distribute the air. My friend tells me this piece of advice is common sense and should be omitted from this post; I say she’s a smarty-pants, and I don’t think so. So, I’m including it.

Install A Low-Flow Shower Head

Water gets expensive fast—especially when your roommate insists on splitting the shower bill, even though you take a 5-minute shower and he takes a 40-minute shower every day.

One way to cut the bill (other than finding a non-aquatic roommate) is buying a low-flow showerhead. This will cut shower water usage in half and make your roommate’s shower time much less enjoyable. That will teach him.

Have A “No Electricity Night”

Make your electricity-saving endeavors into a party. Pick a night to tell stories over a flashlight and under a pillow fort, or enjoy some time by a fire outside. Invite people over for a no-electric potluck. People will get creative with what they can bring that doesn’t need to be heated—and you’ll eat for free! Win-win!

How do you save on your utility costs? Share your tips in the comments.

(Photo: Wikimedia)

Why Summer Is The Best Time To Save On Winter Costs

Posted on July 25, 2014 by:

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Snowman on snowy roof with wooden sign that says "Frozen"

Don’t let the cold bother you anyway. Get ready for winter costs in summer, and you’ll be a happy snowman!

All right, so who is ready for winter? Most likely, no one. Except for those of you who “like” winter (I’m exceedingly skeptical that you people are actually telling the truth).

Despite our most adamant efforts to avoid winter, it will be upon us before you know it.

But why am I killing your summertime buzz with this winter talk? Because summer is the perfect time to begin winterizing your home/apartment—and your wallet will thank you for the forethought and commitment to planning ahead. Here are three things you can do to get started.

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1. Set Up A Home Energy Audit

If you’re looking to save some money this winter, you might want to begin with a home energy assessment or audit. Many states even offer a free assessment along with rebates or incentives if you decide to upgrade your heating, add insulation, etc. We had an energy assessment when we first moved into our home. Although we didn’t take advantage of any offers, we still got a free programmable thermostat … not too shabby.

Why do this in the summer? For starters, many solutions help with heating and cooling your home. Also, if you do decide to upgrade, starting in the summer provides more lead-time. Not to mention, a lot of people wait until the first signs of winter to take action, which could make it more difficult (and costly) to find someone to complete the work. Beat the crowd.

2. Consider Alternative Heating Options

Like many older New England homes, our house’s primary heating source is oil—a costly (and dirty) option. Last winter, my wife and I began researching alternative heating options, and we landed on inserting a pellet stove insert into our fireplace (which, ironically, is another heat “drain”).

While the initial upfront cost is high (anywhere from $2,000-$4,500, depending on the stove), operation and maintenance are very reasonable. Depending on how long you plan on staying in your home/apartment, your current heating source, and (of course) where you live, you could expect to see a return on investment in as little as 3 years.

Since the beginning of summer, we’ve noticed prices for these stoves dropping, as companies try to clear way for new inventory. This also put us in a great negotiating position.

3. Don’t Overlook House “Projects”

I put projects in quotes mainly because I love using quotes, but also because some of these aren’t your traditional, large-scale “projects” (see, there I go again). Quick fixes are important to maximize your winter savings. For instance, cleaning the filter in your furnace. No doubt a dirty job, but the yearly maintenance is necessary (especially after a long winter) to ensure it runs efficiently. And an efficient furnace is a less expensive one.

Or how about insulating your water pipes? Energy.gov, which has illustrated instructions for this easy job, estimates that homeowners who spend $10 to $15 and 3 hours insulating pipes on a small home will save $8 to $12 a year in energy costs.

***

So while you are wasting away in Margaritaville this summer, remember to channel some inner resolve and ask yourself “WWBVD”?

Do you plan on getting ready for winter early? Let us know in the comments!

(Photo: Wikimedia)

Can You Afford To Get Married?

Posted on July 23, 2014 by:

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Cupcakes and cookies on a table

Cupcakes and cookies won’t cost as much as a big wedding cake, and they’re just as delicious.

You may not be able to afford the wedding of your dreams. You may not be able to afford the wedding of your mother’s dreams. You may feel like you can’t even afford to be a guest at someone else’s wedding.

But you can afford to get married—even if you have student loans.

A marriage license and a trip to City Hall or the chapel don’t actually cost that much. It’s the big party that goes over budget. But there are ways to do it on the cheap without feeling like you’re cheaping out.

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I don’t just mean looking on Pinterest for DIY wedding decorations, although that will save you some cash too. I mean changing your attitude about what a wedding means.

The bridal industry loves to quote the price of an average wedding at about $25,000. But remember, giant celebrity weddings are included in that kind of figure. Most weddings cost a lot less. Mine was under half that, and we could probably have gotten it lower if we really tried much more. Here’s what worked for us:

1. Keep it small and plan quickly: Fewer people and less planning time means a small affair. We thought of it as a large dinner party rather than a small wedding. We managed to keep it under 60 guests.

2. Know your priorities: Everyone’s got one thing they think is most important. For us, it was food. We cut way back on the invitations, the dress, the ring, the entertainment, the transportation, the wedding party … everything but food and drink for the guests.

I know one couple who wanted lots of friends at the wedding, so they set up a big tent out in the country, did all their own decorations, and had the groom’s college roommate’s band play the reception. The band was awful and the food was forgettable, but everyone had a great time.

3. Pay for it yourselves: If it’s your money on the line, you’ll find it a lot easier to pay for what you want, and not pay for what you don’t want. If someone’s parents are paying the bill, they’re also calling the shots.

Bucking Expensive Traditions

We also saved money by skipping out on some traditions we didn’t feel especially attached to. You may find it hard to give up on some things, but try to remind yourself that no wedding can have the whole shebang.

Cake: Almost any other pastry costs less than a four-tier wedding cake. Some people do regular cakes, or cupcakes or cookies or selections of pastries. We opted for pie.

Ring: The pressure to buy a diamond, and to buy a big one, is immense. But the diamond engagement ring was largely invented by the diamond cartels and their ad agencies in the 1930s. Consider a beautiful ring that’s not a diamond—you can find great value in sapphires and rubies these days.

If you must have a diamond, consider practicality before you go for the biggest one you can afford: AskMen points out that a big solitaire is actually kind of hard to wear every day. In fact, I know one woman stopped wearing her ring when she accidentally scratched her daughter’s face with it. My wife still wears her ring, but it’s a low profile setting. Not coincidentally, we paid less than a thousand for the engagement ring and matching wedding band.

If you do want a diamond, shop wisely, and look to estate sales and vintage stores, where diamond rings sell for a fraction of their original price.

Clothing: Wedding dresses are absurdly expensive. A good party dress tends to be cheaper and looks just as nice. Dresses in with prints or in colors other than white are especially useful, because you can wear them again. Grooms look as good in a suit as in a tuxedo, and will find they can wear them on more occasions—like job interviews.

Managing Money for a New Couple

Of course, the cost of the wedding isn’t the only reason people say they’re afraid they can’t afford to get married.  And if you’re reluctant to get married because you have cold feet and are just using the cost as an excuse, we can’t help you.

But if you worry that you and your sweetheart have different amounts of student loan debt, or fear that your debt will hold your partner back, check out these articles on couples and finance:

Are you planning a wedding on a small budget? Tell us about it in the comments!

(Photo: thingsarebetterwithaparrott)

Save On Travel Accommodations By Staying With Locals

Posted on July 18, 2014 by:

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red couch in living room with bookshelf, plants, and lamps.

A couch may not be as comfortable as a hotel bed, but it will save you a lot of money.

When traveling, one of the biggest expenses is usually accommodations.

If you’re backpacking in Europe, you’ll likely find that hotels are out your price range—even budget ones usually cost at least $70 per night. Hostels could fit your budget better, but their prices vary greatly, with the minimum usually about $20 per night.

Fortunately, savvy travelers can find lodging that’s cheaper than this—or even free! As long as you do your research, maintain an open mind, and stay safety-conscious, you can stretch your cash by staying with locals. Here are different ways to do it.

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Stay With Someone You Know

The most obvious one, right? On my first big Eurotrip, my friend and I planned most of our travels around where we would have a place to stay with people we know. Now that I’m back in Europe, I’ve met up and stayed with several people I met that previous trip. Because that’s the secret here: Make friends while traveling.

Two summers ago, I stayed for a night with a local resident I befriended in Berlin after I checked out of my hostel. She welcomed me into her home for a full week when I returned to Berlin this summer. This trip, I also stayed in a Berlin hostel for a few days, and then visited someone I met there, at his house outside London. Just be friendly and offer other travelers a place to stay with you if they ever make it to your home. They will likely do the same for you!

Surf Couches

The international Couchsurfing network links travelers with local hosts who have a spare sleeping surface. You can request a place to stay by sending personalized messages to potential hosts. Network users fill out detailed profiles and review the other Couchsurfers they meet, in order for people to get an idea of other members’ personalities and past couch-surfing experiences.

Joining is technically free, but some hosts ask that surfers bring some small contribution to the household, like groceries for a shared meal or toilet paper. You can also spend $25 for an optional “verification” that supposedly improves your odds of getting accepted as a host or guest. However, most of the hosts I’ve stayed with weren’t verified—I relied on user reviews instead!

In my experience, the Couchsurfing philosophy is all about social and cultural exchange—it’s not the best for people who simply want a free bed when they come home from a long day of sightseeing. Couch hosts are also more likely to welcome other couch hosts, so if you want to surf, consider having travelers stay at your home first!

Volunteer

Several online networks facilitate homestays for travelers to take a “working holiday.” Organizations such as WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), HelpX, and Workaway match willing and able workers with hosts who need help during the day, in exchange for a place to sleep and some meals.

Members pay a small fee to join some of these sites, but it costs around the same amount as one or two nights in a hostel. Many of these volunteer exchanges have a minimum stay of about 2 weeks.

Again, this is not a typical tourist vacation option; however, for those looking for an interesting, immersive experience, a volunteer exchange is something to investigate. The most common type of working holiday is farm work, but other opportunities include working at a hostel, cooking for other volunteers, babysitting, website work, and much more.

Save A Few Bucks On Hostels

The arrangements above aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. If none of them is possible for you, I can offer one pro tip for getting a slightly cheaper night at a hostel: Do not use any of the popular hostel booking sites. These are all a bit more expensive than booking directly through the hostel’s personal website.

You can use these booking sites to find a hostel with available beds, but then book through the hostel website. You may need to send an email or make a phone call, which seems like more work, but it’s worth it if you want to save a few dollars!

How do you save on accommodations when traveling? Share your tips in the comments!

(Photo: rabi)

3 Ways You Can Get Fit For Free This Summer

Posted on July 17, 2014 by:

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Staircase in woods overlooking lake and castle

Who needs a Stairmaster when you can climb this for free? The view’s much better than the gym, too.

If you’re like me, there isn’t a gym rat bone in your entire body.

Hey, it can be intimidating to hop on a treadmill and run your 13-minute mile next to the marathon runner-in-training. Unfortunately, if your insecurities keep you away too long, you just wasted a perfectly good (and expensive!) gym membership.

Besides that, activation fees, cancellation charges, and monthly payments to use state-of-the-art facilities may not be in your budget, and that’s OK. I’ve found three ways to get fit for free—so grab your sneakers and leave your wallet at home:

***

1. Meetup Groups

Meetup.com is a wonderful resource to find like-minded people in your area. It’s not only for “Singles in Dallas!” or “Moms Who Scrapbook!”—you can also use it as a way to find locals interested in sports!

Simply create an account, plug in your interests, and watch the suggestions pop up. I’ve found groups as broad as Austinite hikers to niche communities of chicks with afros who love the outdoors. Both are right up my alley!

If you enjoy group activities and find that a support system motivates you to get active, meetups are a great start. The group organizers will inform you of all upcoming activities, and you’ll find running buddies in the process.

2. YouTube Fitness Channels

YouTube is a life changer. Any recipe, home improvement project, makeup review … if you want to learn it, someone on YouTube can teach you. That includes exercise!

There are many vloggers, from enthusiasts to accredited professionals, who dedicate their YouTube channels to fitness and healthy lifestyles. It will take some trial and error to find out which workouts and personalities motivate you the most, but here’s a few that I like as a starting point:

  • BeFit: features top fitness trainers like Jillian Michaels so get ready for a butt kicking!
  • Blogilates: Cassey Ho is bubbly, beautiful, and inspiring. She’s the full package!
  • Ekhart Yoga: They don’t just teach you poses—their videos are full-length, featuring several type of yoga.
  • LEAF tv: General lifestyle channel with a yoga playlist.

If the gym intimidates you, transform your living room into your personal training session! You can watch these full-length workout videos from your mobile devices, laptop, and smart TVs. These people have dedicated themselves to providing a free resource—make use of it!

And since abs are made in the kitchen, subscribe to nutritionists and healthy eaters also. My favorite channel at this moment is Fit Men Cook. Simple recipes, colorfully stunning photos, and everything translated into Spanish.

3. Open Houses

Get a little crafty!

Sign up for newsletters from your local yoga studio, YMCA, university gym, etc. Be on the lookout for open houses and trial classes. Show up! A free hour of Bikram never hurt (OK, it might hurt, but you know what I mean…).

I live close to my alma mater, and I’ve showed up for free classes. Thankfully, nobody ever asked for my student ID; so if you still look like a college kid (or a professor?), test the waters!

***

No excuses, right? You don’t even have to invest money in your health—just your time! It will be worth it in the long run.

How do you stay fit for free? Tell us in the comments!

(Photo: Wikimedia)

A Journey Of Cracked Cellphone Screens And Broken Dreams

Posted on July 2, 2014 by:

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computer game with image of trees and river

Having a cell phone is like playing Oregon Trail, only with less dysentery.

Before last year, I had never had a nice cell phone. I always settled for what was free with my upgrade or a hand-me-down. It never really bothered me.

However, when I last found myself in need of a new phone, Apple had just released the iPhone 5. I was tempted and decided to splurge some of my savings on the latest and greatest.

A friend explained that this would be great for me now and later, because my next contract would likely begin around the launch of the next iPhone in 2 years. There is, however, a major flaw in this plan: it is very, very difficult to keep one cell phone for 2 full years.

***

To me, an apt comparison of the cell phone journey is the Oregon Trail. No, not the migration path of pioneers across the land (that was actually difficult, while cell phone problems fall firmly into the first-world category of dilemmas).

But it is a lot like old computer game version of The Oregon Trail. The stakes are low, but the desire to reach the Promised Land is oh so high. Our phones have become the 21st century wagon train. We do everything we can to keep them rolling.

The End Of The Line

Those of us who have crossed the proverbial Rocky Mountains know all the tricks. Battery life diminishing? Bring a charger everywhere. Buttons not working? iPhones have an assistive touch feature. Possible water damage? Put your phone in a bowl of rice.

But what can you do when the wagon totally breaks down? After many minor issues, my phone recently gasped its last breaths, never to respond to my touch again. So I sought a money-savvy solution. Here are three steps for how you can do the same.

1. Look around your house. Remember the “old” phone you discarded because it wasn’t good enough anymore? Well, when your new phone stops functioning altogether, the definition of “good enough” changes. I looked around my house and found a fully functional iPhone 3. It was battered and worn, but working.

2. Talk with your cellphone carrier. I chatted with AT&T reps online on more occasions that I’d like to admit. However, I learned a lot in doing so. For instance, a trip to their store netted me a completely free SIM card and moving my number to a device I already owned didn’t cost a dime. I can only speak for my carrier, but the important thing is that with research and interaction, you can avoid a huge purchase.

3. Prepare for sacrifices. Moving back a few models wasn’t without its hiccups.  All of my information on the cloud transferred, but I’m still sorting out my music and lost all the notes I had saved (I can live without the latter). But, hey, that pales in comparison to not having a working cell phone. I’m a millennial with a mild Twitter addiction, after all.

***

Without spending any money or renewing my contract, I have a phone that works. And for me the best part of all of this, the wheels are back, the oxen are reinvigorated, and we’re headed to Oregon!

Godspeed on your journey, everyone.

How do you save money when your phone breaks? Let us know in the comments!

(Photo: erikthenorsk)

4 Ways You Can Have A Budget-Friendly Summer

Posted on June 26, 2014 by:

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Flaming grill with burgers and hot dogs

BBQ potlucks: cheaper (and arguably more delicious) than going out to eat.

Summer is my favorite time of the year—and not just because my birthday falls right in the middle of it. The good weather that comes with the endless “summer daze” means more outside events and, with that, endless possibilities for good times.

This will be my first summer in New York City, as well as my first summer as a freelancer. In order to keep up with my loan payments/survive New York, I have to be extra conscious about my spending.

With that in mind, I made a few “suggestions” to myself that I encourage you to follow for a budget-friendly summer.

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1. Get Your Daily Vitamin D

Remember a few months ago, when it was winter and the sun seemed lost forever? Well, now that sun is hanging around until 8 p.m.—and I’ve decided to take advantage of it.

This season, I plan to spend at least 3 hours a day outside. Whether it’s reading, writing, tanning, attempting to skateboard, or listening to music, I make sure I get my dose of Vitamin D. If I can make a day of it, I take a hike, go to a park, or visit a beach.

If the weather is sweet, why not enjoy what you love doing, OUTSIDE. It will improve your mood, and even better, nature won’t cost you anything. Nothing’s worth more than a sunset. Make it a thing to catch it every evening.

2. Always Bring Your “Chalice”

OK—maybe not an actual chalice, a canteen will do the job for this suggestion.

It’s important to stay hydrated during the summer, but you can’t buy something to drink every time you leave the house. Cheap bottles of water add up, as do more “fun” drinks like smoothies. You might feel better after these indulgences, but your wallet will dry out.

So, this summer, I’m making it a point to carry around my own water. If I want a smoothie, I take the time to make it at home. Bananas and papayas are cheap—combining them should give me something that tastes amazing, not something that costs three times as much as the ingredients.

3. Summer Grilling Is The Perfect Excuse To Potluck

Summer is synonymous with barbecues. If you want to save a little cash, as well as enjoy the nice day outside, why not have a BBQ potluck? Someone brings the veggies, someone else brings the steaks, someone else the bread or the chips … Before you know it, you have an epic meal among friends.

It’s only been a few weeks of summer, and I’ve already been to three different BBQ potlucks. The leftovers have been amazing, as these have kept my stomach and my bank account full.

4. Take Advantage Of Your Location

New York is packed this summer with free outdoor concerts, art shows, outside movie screenings, and block parties. It’s amazing all the things that are happening at the same time in this city.

I encourage everyone to look up events in their own town. Whether you’re close to a coast, or in the Midwest, summer festivals are everywhere. Take a moment to research your town’s summer events and plan accordingly. You’ll miss these opportunities come winter.

What are you looking forward to the most this budget-friendly summer?

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)