Why We Don’t Clip Coupons

During the ‘depths’ of the recent recession, it became almost an obsession with some people to try to use coupons to get ‘something for nothing’. These ‘extreme-couponers’, as they were dubbed would spend precious hours every week clipping coupons and looking for printable coupons online in order to save a few cents or a few dollars here and there. My wife and I, for the most part, simply don’t clip coupons. Yes, we live simply and yes, we look for sales. But, coupon clipping is just not part of our shopping strategy, and here are 3 reasons why.

1.  The Opportunity Cost of Clipping Coupons

Wikipedia definesopportunity costas “the cost of any activity measured in terms of the value of the next best alternative forgone (that is not chosen)”. So what does that mean in layman’s terms as it relates to coupon clipping? It means that if the value received from a. an activity (time spent coupon clipping) is trumped by the value of b. an alternative activity (working to earn cash, or quality leisure time), then choosing option b. is more advantageous and less complicated in order to live ‘simply’. Basically, we feel the time investment isn’t worth the value we receive.

2.  Coupons Are For Brand Name Items

Often, coupons are for brand name items that cost more in the first place then their no-name counterparts. So, if you use that $1 off coupon for brand name dish soap and the no-name brand is $1.50 less already, how much have you really saved? We’d rather avoid the hassle of coupon clipping and go for the off brand product which in most cases is just as good a value.

3. Coupons Encourage More Spending

Most coupons are along the lines of ‘buy one, get one for 50% off!’. What if I only need one item in the first place? Now, with a coupon, the manufacturer has successfully convinced me to spend 50% more than I initially planned to spend. You’ll see this a lot with retail shoe stores. If a shoe manufacturer with a retail outlet can sell a second pair of shoes to you for half price and still make a profit, you know the markup on their shoes is pretty high.

 

Reader Response: Do you use coupons as part of your saving strategy? Why or why not?

 

 

 

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My AT&T Adventure – How I Made $170/hr

I’ve used AT&T’s mobile phone service since 2009 on a 5 phone family plan. Their coverage area is great (for the most part, unless you live in rural North Carolina or Montana) and the per phone price for 700 shared minutes and unlimited mobile to mobile calling is hard to beat. However, you’ve got to watch your back (er, make that your bill) with these guys. The nickel and dime approach to additional fees is downright annoying at times. Yes, there are those pesky 911 and government tax fees that keep rising, but I’m talking about other little annoying fees, like data usage billed by the kilobyte for cell phones that don’t (or shouldn’t) have data access.

Lately, I was noticing that my bill was slowly creeping higher each month, with no additional services being added to my lines. So, yesterday morning, I gave them a call and spent exactly an hour and ten minutes talking (with many repeated questions and statements) to someone who’s first language was quite obviously not English. Through the course of the conversation, I was able to negotiate the removal of some ‘errant’ data fees as well as a $150 credit for my troubles. The total amount credited towards my bill was $170.07.

Not bad for an hours work, right?

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OBI 100 Internet Phone Review – How to Save $400 a Year

Several weeks ago I was at my mom’s place, and realized she still had a land-line that was costing her almost $400 a year. Personally I’ve never had a land-line. A Skype connection or my cell phone has been enough to meet all my voice communication needs. However for most people who grew up before cell phones and Internet, the idea of ‘cutting the cord’ so to speak, doesn’t sound like a good idea. So, rather than nix the land-line altogether, I began researching options that would enable her to keep her familiar land-line phone equipment. After about an hour of browsing Amazon and other review sites, I settled on the OBI 100 Internet Phone.

How Does the OBI 100 Internet Phone Work?

The OBI 100 Internet Phone, is a fairly simple $40 box you can pick up from Amazon with their free super saver shipping. Essentially, it connects your standard phone line equipment to your Internet connection enabling you to make free unlimited voice calls using any number of supported VOIP (Voice Over IP) services. The biggest advantage of the OBI 100 over other devices, is that it is not tied to any one service. Because it utilizes open standards like GV and SIP, you can pick from a host of Internet phone services, including: Google voice, Callcentric, Sipgate, Vitelity, Voip.ms and more. Unlike many other Voice Over IP solutions, you don’t need to use a computer in setting up this device. All you need is a high-speed Internet connection and router, a cordless or corded analog phone and your chosen VOIP service.

Using Google Voice to Make Free Calls

The Voice Over IP service I chose to use, is the Google Voice service which enables you to make free calls anywhere in Canada or the United States. After receiving my $40 packet in the mail, I unwrapped it and began plugging wires in. It was trivial to set up. Here are the steps I followed:

  1. Used a network cable to connect the OBI 100 to the router.
  2. Connected my mom’s wireless phone base to the OBI 100 device.
  3. Signed-on to the OBITALK website and set up the account connecting it to my mom’s Google Voice account (the instructions on the OBITalk website were excellent).
  4. The last step in the setup process was to make a test call by dialing **9 222 222 222.

The whole process took less than 15 minutes and I was able to save my mom right around $400 a year.

How have you used technology to save on your communication bill?

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40 Day Blogging Fast

That’s how long it’s been since our last post here on Live Well Simply. It was somewhat unintentional. Blogging took a back seat to travel, work and moving. 🙂

During the last 40 days, the blog’s Alexa Rank took a dive to 700k and ad earnings were equally low with Amazon pulling in a mere $1.20 and Google’s ad network pulling in a slightly better $21.47 for the month of September. I’ve determined that these “income sources” are really just a good way to make my blogging and web development projects a zero cost way of having fun, ie they pay all my hosting and domain bills. The ‘real’ money is in creating genuine value for folks through my day job and small business venture(s).  That doesn’t mean I’m going to quit blogging. I don’t blog for money, but rather I enjoy blogging here on Live Well Simply as a means of sharing all the little ideas I discover to live better, more efficient and healthier lives.

The promised series on home buying is coming. I just have it on the back burner as the dust is still settling on our recent move. The next blog post will be about a nifty little device I used to bring my mom’s home phone service bill from $40/month to $0/month.

Stay tuned.

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How to Avoid Street Cleaning Fines if You Live in the City

I live in the city. Every other week, a little white car travels down my street followed by a street cleaning truck. The ‘officer’ in the little white car gets to write out a $20 ticket for every vehicle parked in the street cleaner’s way (yes, there are signs, but humans forget). After paying one or two or maybe a few more tickets, I started researching ways to be reminded about the street cleaner and found this free service. If you live in a city where the privilege of off-street parking is simply not available, or costs extra, here is the best way to avoid street cleaning fines.

Use TowMinder to Avoid Street Cleaning Fines

TowMinder is a free street cleaning reminder service. The guy who developed this website experienced the same ‘pain point’ as I (and I’m sure millions of others) experienced. To sign up, you simply have to fill out the form with your cell phone, cell phone company, and the street cleaning days for your street. Whoila! You now will get a text message to remind you to move your car, hopefully saving you pocketfuls of cash over time.

If you find this service helpful, please share this post with family and friends, using the social sharing buttons on the left and subscribe today for more free ways to save money and live simply.  Cheers!

 

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Free Museum Admission – At a Museum Near You!

The Smithsonian Magazine is opening the doors of participating museums across the US for their annual Free Admission Museum Day on September 29th, 2012. Each ticket is good for one person plus a guest. All you need to do is fill out their ticket application form, and they’ll email you the ticket to print out. Unfortunately there’s a limit of two people per household who are allowed to get a ticket. Additional people are required to pay full admission.

In spite of the two person limit, this is a great opportunity for folks to go to their favorite museum gratis! I’m marking it on my calendar, so I don’t miss it. My memory is a little too short at times. 🙂

So, head over to the Smithsonian’s Museum Day, and find a museum near you.

 

Hat Tip: My Money Blog AND Five Cent Nickel

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On a Budget? Four Cheap Vacations to Take this Summer

Whenever the warm summer season rolls around, I always notice people’s dispositions changing. All of the sudden, their stresses leave them and a sense of excitement and adventure swoops in to replace their once-negative emotions. Many people look forward to the end of the cold fall and winter months so they can finally experience their much-anticipated summer vacations. I should know; I’m one of them!
When I was growing up, my family would take summer vacations together every year. At the time, I had no idea know how fortunate I was to travel so often. The privilege of being able to visit different states and different countries every year was something I didn’t appreciate until much later in life. As I became an adult and had a family of my own, I quickly discovered we wouldn’t be able to afford to take luxurious vacations that often. However, I never let that affect my intentions to have fun with my family during the summer season. For those of you who are looking for cheap vacation plans for this summer, perhaps you should consider one of these four suggestions below.

Camping

Camping is a great way to relax with your family without shelling out too much cash. Most camp sites or national parks cost less than $20 to camp out on each day, and as long as you pack efficiently, you shouldn’t have to spend extra money on anything else except food. My family typically hikes and fishes during the day and cooks together at night whenever we all go camping together. It’s the perfect way to get everyone together without putting too much pressure on our finances.  To find some of the best camping grounds or reserves near you, I recommend checking out Reserve America.

Hometown Vacation

A lot of people spend a lifetime living in one town without really knowing that much about it. Especially for those of you who live in a metropolitan area, taking a vacation where you live is a great way to have some cheap fun. You won’t have to splurge on a plane ticket and you’ll be exposed to things you didn’t even know existed right around you. For those of you who don’t know where to begin in planning your home vacation, try looking up parks, drive-in theaters, historic buildings, museums, hiking grounds, popular shops, concerts, comedy shows, and numerous other things in your town that you normally wouldn’t have time to check out.

Culinary Road Trips

Growing up in Central Texas was amazing. Every summer, my father would pack up our small mini-van and we’d drive to the best barbecue restaurants within an hour or two from our town. Though it was glutinous and unglamorous, we had the time of our lives eating brisket, beef ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, and other meaty dishes. Search through apps like Urban Spoon or Yelp to find out which areas around you have the best-rated restaurants you can check out for a day.

Home Swap

Although I’ve never tried it, I have friends who swear by home swapping. There are a handful of services you can sign up for that will match you with safe individuals you can switch homes with for a designated period of time, and it only costs a very small fee. Home swapping will provide you with a home away from home, and it’s the best option for people who want to leave the country or travel for an extended period of time without putting a huge dent in their wallet.
One of the greatest excitements of summertime is the opportunity to take a vacation or two. Living on a budget can make it difficult to get away, but with alternatives like these, you’ll be able to bask in all the summer fun without going broke in the process.

Nadia Jones is an education blogger for an online education website and a freelance writer on all things academia. Nadia uses the written word to share her knowledge on accredited online college education and the latest news in the educational world. Though Nadia’s mind is always preoccupied with topics of education, she spends her downtime volunteering with middle school students and pitching for her adult softball team. She can be reached at [email protected].

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Top Frugal and Simple Living Blogs of 2012

Simple living blogs and personal finance blogs first started popping up online around 2006. Or, maybe that is just when I first started discovering them. Regardless, over the last few years this niche area of blogging has become extremely popular with literally thousands of blogs starting and just as quickly fizzling out after a few months. Listed here are a few of my favorite simple living blogs that have continued to evolve and produce great content over time. The best blogger in the world is someone who either can tell a story exceptionally well, or provide incredibly useful information in an easy to read format. Most of the writers of these blogs can accomplish both.

Our Top Ten Favorite Simple Living Blogs

1.  Zen Habits

Started by Leo Babauta, in early 2007, this blog focuses on creating long term habits of simple living and an organized, purposeful life. Apparently, I’m not the only one who found Leo’s writings to be engaging, thoughtful and so elegantly simple and useful. The blog enjoys a readership of over a quarter million subscribers!

2.  Being Frugal

This blog was started just a few months after ZenHabits. While it doesn’t have quite the readership that Zen habits enjoys, Being Frugal has a couple of great articles I like to refer back to on occasion.

3.  Frugal for Life

With a ‘go live’ date of November 4th, 2005, I think Frugal for Life wins the prize for oldest blog in this list. It is a smaller, pretty simple blog focused on practical ways to save money and live frugally.

4.  Frugal Dad

Frugal Dad’s insights on family, career and money are wrapped in highly engaging infographics. They’ve really carved out a niche here and I have been guilty of examining one of these for up to five minutes at a time, taking it all in. 🙂 If you like to see boring financial, social and cultural data spiced up in an easy to read chart, head over there and subscribe to their RSS feed today!

5.  The Frugal Toad

Using an animal as a mascot for your brand or website has always been a great idea; but, a toad? Yep, but don’t let the name fool you. This blog is packed with great tips for saving money and good quality writing.

6.   Living Well on Less

Started in mid-2008, Living Well on Less has become a perennial fixture among simple living blogs. The only part that surprises me somewhat is how few RSS subscribers they’ve managed to garner in that length of time. Maybe they need a bright orange ‘subscribe’ button to let people know about it. 🙂

7.  Loving Simple Living

This blog, out of all the ones listed here, wins the prize for the best design. From the themed title across the top to the graphic animation showing off the best articles, the look and feel of this site says ‘professional at work’. It makes me want to go re-design Live Well Simply right now. 🙂

8.  The Simple Pastor

Phil Whittall, a pastor in the UK blogs about simple living with a purpose and examines some of the reasons to live simply as Christians, following Jesus’ example. The purpose for simple living is different for everyone, but as Christians, simple living frees up resources to create an impact on our world through missions, church and social aid.

9.  Christian Personal Finance

While focused more specifically on personal finance from a Christian perspective, Bob also writes about simple living and frugality. With over 26,000 subscribers, I’d say there is definitely an audience who enjoys his writings.

10.  Mnmlist

I like Leo’s writing style enough to list two of his blogs (the first one on this list is also written by Leo). As far as design goes, Mnmlist is the most, shall we say, “minimalist” approaches to web design out there. With no ads or graphics and lots of white space, this blog has a calming effect on web-weary readers. It’s worth checking out.

 

 

 

 

 

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Google High Speed Internet – Free Internet Service Courtesy of Google

Google, known mainly for its search engine and excellent email service has decided to go after the lucrative home entertainment and communications market by rolling out a High Speed Internet Service called, ‘Google Fiber’. At this point, the service is only available in, of all places, Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas. But, who knows, maybe your city will be next?

So, how does Google provide their high-speed internet service and what does it cost? Here’s a screenshot from their website.

There are basically 3 pricing options:

  1. Pay nothing to install. Then pay $120/month for Gigabit (yes, that’s 1,000Mbps!) internet + TV (not sure what content Google will be making available)
  2. Pay nothing to install. Then pay $70/month for just the Gigabit internet. This is enough bandwidth to run an entire corporation’s internet connection, in case you wondered. 🙂
  3. Pay $300 to install Google Fiber at your house. Then pay nothing, nada, zero for 5Mbps down and 1Mbps up speed! This is the level of service that Comcast currently charges at least $35 month for! Sign meup.

Google’s plans for world domination, or at least internet world domination, are pretty obvious. Along with the screaming fast internet service, they will be offering the following hardware components to fill all your computing, entertainment, and communication needs:

  • Google’s new Android tablet, the Nexus 7 (which will double as the remote for your TV).
  • A TV box that will provide you with access to live TV, on-demand shows, and other Internet content (think Netflix, Hulu, etc).
  • A Network Box. Essentially, a Gigabit speed wired + wireless modem to connect you to the Google powered high speed internet.
  • The Storage Box will provide you with 2 Terabytes of local storage to store all your digital content, from movies and TV shows to your own photos and home videos. Of course, this local storage solution will integrate with ‘Google Drive’, Google’s ‘cloud services’ for automated backup of all your priceless digital treasures.
  • And last, but not least, Google is offering their ill-fated Netbook, known as the ‘Chromebook’ as an optional $299 add-on.

For now, Google hasn’t unveiled any plans to roll out their fiber to highly populated areas like Seattle, New York or L.A. But, knowing Google, if this Kansas City experiment proves profitable, we will be seeing more of this type of service in a city near you.

What do you think? Would you sign up, if Google came to town? Sound off in the comments below.

 

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