How to Save

The Best Things to Buy in May

Posted on Monday, May 2nd, 2016 at 7:00 am
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There are plenty of sales to take advantage of in May, besides just Mother's Day gifts. Here are a few tips about where to find the best things to buy in May.May is the month when the mattress sales, and Mother’s Day sales, happen. You are probably aware of those opportunities to save some money. Other great deals in May are less well known, and might surprise you. Here are a few tips about where to find the best things to buy in May.

Cookware
There are a lot of people who graduate, or get married, in May or June. In both situations, people are about to embark on a new life – which very likely involves moving to a new place. People typically want new cookware to go with the new chapter in their lives.

The best place to shop for new cookware is a department store. Do your shopping early in May and you might end up with more savings than usual. The store could have a cookware sale and a Mother’s Day sale going on at the same time. Make sure to use your store credit card, and to check for coupons, for additional savings.

Shop the Thrift Stores
Most people are done with their Spring Cleaning by the time the calendar turns to May. A big part of Spring Cleaning is getting rid of things that a person no longer needs. Plenty of those items end up in thrift stores or consignment stores.

May is a great month for finding gently worn used clothing at consignment and thrift stores. The price will be much less than if the clothing was brand new. Thrift stores are also a great place to find unique paintings for an extremely low price.

New Carpet
According to Carpet Professor and Consumer Advocate, Alan Fletcher, one of the best times to buy new carpet is between May 15th and June 10th. It is one of the slowest periods in the carpet business.

Smart shoppers might be able to take advantage of the carpet industry’s slow time and negotiate a great deal on brand new carpet. Not every carpet dealer will be willing to negotiate – so you may want to shop around for one that will.

Star Wars Items
People who are huge fans of Star Wars know that “May the Fourth” is “Star Wars Day”. Say “May the Fourth” out loud, and it sounds a lot like “May the force” (as in “May the force be with you.”) Stores that sell action figures, toys, posters, Star Wars coffee mugs, or Star Wars clothing will have a sale.

ThinkGeek is a great place to start if you like to shop online for Star Wars items. Don’t forget to check your local toy stores and the department stores that might sell clothing with Star Wars characters on it.

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Which States Eat the Healthiest at Work?

Posted on Wednesday, April 20th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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Which States Eat the Healthiest at Work? | FreeCoupons.comDo you bring a healthy lunch with you to work, or do you visit the nearest fast food restaurant on your lunch break? Those who started off the year with the good intention of changing to a healthier diet may have stopped working toward that goal by now. A website that focuses on catering put together information that shows which states eat the healthiest at work.

A company called ezCater took a look at its nationwide ordering data from 2015. It is the only nationwide marketplace for business catering. Based upon this, they were able to figure out which states ate the healthiest while at work.

A color coded map appears on their website. The states that were colored the darkest green are the ones where people at the healthiest at work. The lighter the color green, the less healthy a state’s workers ate at work. At a glance, you can see how well, or how poorly, your state did.

According to ezCater, these are the “Clean Eating Capitals”:

* Rhode Island (259%) – Ordered healthy food at 2.6 times the national average
* Washington State (almost 259%) – Kept it healthy twice as often as the country overall
* Massachusetts (176%)
* Oregon (162%)
* California (153%)

According to ezCater, these are the “Less Healthy Locales”:

* Vermont and Wyoming each had the lowest percentage of healthy orders.
* Mississippi (10%)
* North Dakota (13%)
* South Dakota (13%)

It was also possible for them to figure out the healthiest eating cities. The top five were: Houston, San Francisco, Chicago, Cambridge, Massachusetts and New York City. The cities that ate the least healthiest at work were: Greensboro, North Carolina, Nashville, Louisville, Kentucky, and Raleigh.

What does it mean to eat healthy? Health.gov has put together some Dietary Guidelines key recommendations.

A healthy eating pattern includes:
*A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups – dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
* Fruits, especially whole fruits
* Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
* Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
* Oils
* It also includes limiting saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium.

They suggest a healthy eating pattern, rather than recommending a specific menu, for good reason. It allows individuals to have more than one way to achieve a healthy eating pattern. The pattern can be tailored to the individual’s socio-cultural and personal preferences.

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Millennials are Better at Saving Money than Their Parents

Posted on Monday, April 18th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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Millennials are Better at Saving Money than Their Parents | FreeCoupons.comMillennials had the misfortune of growing up at a time when the economy was absolutely dire. Good paying jobs required a college degree, and many young people ended up with expensive student loan debt. Despite this misfortune, a study shows that Millennials are actually better at saving money than their parents are.

A study was done by Bankrate, which has over three decades of experience in financial publishing. They are the Web’s leading aggregator of financial rate information, and they continually do surveys that relate to finances.

The study done by Bankrate found that Millennials are better at saving money than any other age group is. It found that 62% of Millennials are saving more than 5% of their income, and that 29% are saving more than 10% of their income. The same survey also found that 50% of older adults (defined as age 30 and up) were saving more than 5% of their pay.

One of the reasons why Millennials are better at saving money than their parents are is because of the Great Recession. They watched their parents struggle to pay mortgages and other bills, and decided to take actions that could help them avoid going through the same financial struggles if another recession happens. What are they doing?

Making a Good Savings Account
Millennials who are employed are opening savings accounts. They are regularly adding money into it. The money in the savings account is intended to grow and be used in case of an emergency. Or, it can become sort of like a retirement fund.

Avoiding Credit Cards
Millennials feel very uncomfortable about the idea of ending up with credit card debt. In order to avoid racking up an expensive credit card debt, they do one of two things. Some entirely refuse to get credit cards.

Others limit themselves to only one or two credit cards that they use responsibly. In other words, they don’t spend much money on their credit card, and they pay off the entire balance every month (to avoid interest payments).

Paying Down Student Loans
It is easy to see why many Millennials are uninterested in credit cards. Their generation has the highest amount of student loan debt. It makes no sense to take on more debt if you can avoid doing so. They make efforts to pay off their student loan debt. They are very motivated to become debt free.

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New Rule Could Help SNAP Recipients Eat Healthier

Posted on Wednesday, April 13th, 2016 at 2:31 pm
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New Rule Could Help SNAP Recipients Eat Healthier | FreeCoupons.comIt costs less money to buy processed food than it does to buy fresh, healthier, food. That makes it difficult for people who are low-income to buy produce for their family. People who live in “food deserts” also have trouble finding fresh food. A new rule could make it easier for SNAP recipients to eat healthier.

What is SNAP?
SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It was once called “food stamps”. It is a program run by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This is why the Farm Bills in Congress can affect the SNAP program (and its recipients).

The purpose of the SNAP program is to assist low-income individuals and families who are struggling to buy food. There are financial eligibility requirements attached to the SNAP program. SNAP covers breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, meats, fish and poultry, and dairy products.

What is a “food desert”?
The USDA defines a “food desert” as: “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.” This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and other healthy food providers.

People who live in “food deserts” might not have a car. They can’t simply drive to the next town in order to find a supermarket. They end up buying their groceries at convenience stores (which do not typically stock fresh produce).

What is the new rule?
The USDA proposed rule would require stores that accept SNAP to offer a broader variety of healthy food choices. SNAP retailers would be required to offer seven varieties of qualifying foods in four staple food groups for sale on a continuous basis, along with perishable foods in at least three of the four staple food groups.

The staple food groups are: dairy products; breads and cereals; meats, poultry, fish; and fruits and vegetables. Stores would need to sell at least six units within each variety for a total of at least 168 required food items per store. The USDA will accept public comment on this proposed rule until April 16, 2016.

How can this rule help people eat healthier?
The proposed rule would make it much easier for people who are low-income and eligible for the SNAP program to find fresh, healthy, food. It will enable individuals and families who have access to a working refrigerator and stove at home, and who also have access to pots, pans, and clean water to cook with, to eat healthier.

The rule does not specifically state the price that stores can charge for the fresh produce. If stores price the healthy foods too high, SNAP recipients still won’t be able to purchase them.

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When Buying a New Car Won’t Save You Money

Posted on Monday, April 11th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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Piggy BankHow long should you keep your vehicle? There are those who buy a new car every year or two. Some people believe that buying a new car can save you money. That’s not true in every situation! Here are some clues that buying a new car won’t end up saving you money after all.

Is your car paid off?
Your current vehicle needs some repairs that are more expensive than you can comfortably afford. This is the point where some people get the idea that buying a new car is the solution to the problem.

Take a moment to consider if you can afford to make monthly payments on a new car while still paying off the old one. Selling your current car in the hopes of getting enough for it to buy a new car is not a realistic expectation.

New cars require maintenance, too.
All vehicles require a certain amount of maintenance. Buying a new car does not mean you won’t have to spend money to keep it running. Some people are of the mistaken impression that a brand new car won’t need to be taken into the shop for a “checkup”.

Lack of regular maintenance can cause parts of your car to wear out and need replacing. Those that skip it or put things off for too long are not going to save money. They are going to end up with a very expensive car repair!

Consider the insurance costs
Some car insurance companies will charge a higher premium on certain kinds of vehicles. The reason has to do with risk assessment. The insurance company will generally believe that a person who drives a mini-van is going to be a safer driver than a person who drives a sports car.

Many people assume that buying a new car won’t change the cost of their insurance premium. You could end up with a more expensive premium than you have right now, especially if you are going from a mini-van to a sports car. On the other hand, you might end up saving money if you trade in the sports car for a family friendly vehicle.

Your car has been totaled
When we think of a car that has been totaled, it often means the car is damaged beyond repair. In that case, you will need to buy another vehicle (despite the expense).

Sometimes, an insurance company will declare a car to be totaled when it is still safe to drive. A minor fender bender could cause a ding that the insurance company feels would cost too much to repair (compared to what your car is worth). In some states, you can still drive that car on a salvage license.

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Things to Know About the DARK Act and GMO Labeling

Posted on Wednesday, April 6th, 2016 at 9:21 pm
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Tips for Shopping at Your Local Farmer's MarketYou may have seen people posting their thoughts about the DARK act on social media. Those posts were in reference to a bill that was making its way through the U.S.Senate. The bill involved rules about how GMOs are labeled on food packages. Here are the things you need to know about the DARK act.

The DARK act is not the actual name of the bill.
The bill was subtitled “National Voluntary Bioengineered Food Labeling Standard”. If passed into law, the bill would enable food manufacturers to decide for themselves whether or not they wanted to let consumers know that GMO foods were included as ingredients in a package of food.

People who dislike the bill started calling it the DARK act. It was an acronym of “Denying Americans the Right-to-Know” Act. People who were opposed to the bill felt that it would undercut state laws that mandate GMO labeling.

What happened with the bill?
The bill passed through the United States House of Representatives in the summer of 2015. It was sent to the United States Senate and passed through the Senate Agricultural Committee in March of 2016. The United States Senate took a vote on the bill, but it did not pass the Senate.

In the United States, a bill must pass through the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate, and then be signed by the President of the United States before it can become a law. This means the DARK act will not become a law. It also means that states that have passed laws that require the labeling of GMOs still stand.

What is a GMO?
GMO stands for “genetically modified organism”. It is an organism that has had its DNA altered or modified in some way through genetic engineering. The biggest use of GMO technology has been in large-scale agricultural crops. At least 90% of the soy, cotton, canola, corn, and sugar beets sold in the U.S. Have been genetically engineered.

The Non GMO project says that most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. It points out that Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union have restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science says “The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: Consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GMO crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.”

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Saving Tips for Parents

Posted on Monday, April 4th, 2016 at 7:50 am
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Saving Tips for Parents | FreeCoupons.comFrugal families tend to seek out ways to save money. This is especially necessary for families who are low-income or those that have lots of children. Here are a few saving tips for parents who need to stretch their dollars a little bit farther.

Look for Free Fun
It is possible to keep your kids entertained without having to spend a fortune to do it. Public parks are great to play in on days when the weather is nice. The public library will have a kids section filled with books geared for readers of different ages and abilities.

There might be a free (or very inexpensive) after-school program that your kids can attend (such as the YMCA or the Boys and Girls Clubs). Some bookstores will hold a weekly story time that kids can attend for free.

Hand-Me-Downs are Great!
A really easy way to save some money on children’s clothing is with “hand-me-downs”. The oldest (or largest) child outgrows a t-shirt, sweater, or pair of jeans. That child’s younger (or smaller) sibling might be able to wear it – especially if the clothing is still in good shape. Some families include cousins in the “hand-me-down” clothing pass.

Another option is to shop the local thrift stores or visit the consignment stores that carry children’s clothing. Yard sales or garage sales are also great places to find inexpensive kids clothes. The clothing you find probably won’t be brand new. But, it might be in good condition and it will be less expensive than what the department stores sell the same items for.

Generics are as Good as Brand Name
Your favorite grocery store probably has at least one “store brand”. Often, the store brand (or “generic” brand) has the exact same ingredients as the popular name brand. Test this out the next time you shop for cereal. You can save some money by purchasing the “store brand” and still get the same quality.

Make a Budget
Have you ever wondered where your money goes? The first step in saving money is to make a budget. The next step, sticking to that budget, is more difficult. It is worth the effort to learn how to spend within your budget. Being intentionally conscious about how much money you are spending tends to make people less interested in wasteful things like “impulse buys”.

Plan Your Meals
A meal plan can help you figure out what foods you should buy at the grocery store this week. It also makes many people more motivated to eat the food they brought home and to cook their own meals. This can reduce food waste because you use up the food you spent money on.

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BlueShield Unveils HealthyLife Rewards

Posted on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016 at 2:17 pm
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BlueShield Unveils HealthyLife Rewards | FreeCoupons.comIt has become a trend for health insurance companies to offer incentives that are designed to help their customers stay healthy. This is good for the insurance company, because the healthier a person is, the less expensive it is to cover their health care costs. It can also be good for the customer – especially if the incentive involves a way to save money on groceries.

BlueShield of Northeastern New York has unveiled HealthyLife Rewards. It is described as “a digital nutrition program powered by NutriSavings that provides educational tools and incentives to more than 50,000 subscriber households in the Capital Region”. NutriSavings “connects employee’s healthy shopping decisions with financial incentives to empower a healthier, wellness-focused workforce.”

Who can access the HealthyLife Rewards program? The first thing to realize is that it is only being offered to people who have BlueShield health insurance. Right now, it is only offered to “commercial BlueShield of Northeast New York subscribers.”

HealthyLife Rewards offers the following benefits:

* Earn more than $500 by purchasing foods featured on the NutriSavings website.

* Discover the nutritional score of your favorite products and learn healthier alternatives.

* Save on healthy foods while getting meal ideas and creating grocery lists.

People who are eligible for the HealthyLife Rewards program must register for it online. They can then go online to the NutriSavings website to access discounts on various healthy foods at participating grocery stores. The person also needs to use the HeathyLife Rewards program loyalty card at the checkout. This process enables the customer to earn a potential $500 annual cash back rewards.

Each food item is scored based upon its nutritional value. An average score for each shopping trip is calculated. Individuals who are part of the program can deposit their rewards into their checking account, or redeem as cash, at any time.

UnitedHealth Care did something similar. Their program was called Healthy Savings. It also offered discounts on healthy foods. Their program gave customers a card that was automatically stocked with digital coupons for a variety of healthy foods.

These types of incentive programs are very different from the previously offered incentive programs that focused on weight loss. Instead of looking at a number on a scale, these new programs offer savings on healthy foods. The groceries purchased as part of these incentive programs can help the customer, and his or her family, to stay healthy.

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Reducing Food Waste Can Save You Money

Posted on Monday, March 21st, 2016 at 7:00 am
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Trash BagCoupons are a quick and easy way to lower the cost of your groceries. Special sales, offered to customers who have the store’s loyalty card, also provide good deals. Reducing food waste can help you save money on groceries. Not only can this help you stay within your budget, it also is good for the planet.

Shop Smarter
Some food waste happens because people failed to plan ahead. They go out to eat instead of using the fresh produce they bought from the grocery store (which is left to rot in the refrigerator). Or, they bought way too much food and some of it went bad before it was eaten. It doesn’t matter how much money you saved on that food if it all went into the trash.

One way to reduce food waste is to plan meals ahead of time. Buy only what you know, for certain, that you actually need. Make it a priority to consume the food you have at home before going to a fast food place. Pack a lunch to take with you to school or work.

Consider Frozen Produce
Fresh fruits and vegetables are tasty. They are a healthy choice. The problem is that they can go bad rather quickly, especially if the produce was not properly stored.

One way to get around this problem is to buy frozen produce. It is going to last much longer than fresh produce can, and that gives you more time to eat it. Frozen produce often has a higher vitamin content than fresh produce does.

Understand Expiration Dates
People often misunderstand what the sell-by date actually means. It does not mean that the food becomes unsafe to eat on that date (or in the few days following it).

Instead, the sell-by date tells manufacturers the date that they should take the food off the shelf. The result is a lot of wasted food that is still perfectly safe to eat. Grocery stores throw away produce that has not gone bad.

Families throw away foods that are past the sell-by date but are still good to eat. Before you throw food in the trash, check it over carefully. Food that has a bad smell, visible mold, or strange appearance should be thrown away. The rest could be just fine!

Find Ways to Use Up Food
Bananas that are starting to turn brown are a key ingredient for banana bread or banana muffins. Bread that has gone stale can be used to make croutons, french toast, or bread pudding. Before you food away, take a minute to consider ways to use it up.

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Ugly Groceries are Good for You and the Planet

Posted on Wednesday, March 16th, 2016 at 7:02 pm
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Ugly Groceries are Good for You and the Planet |  FreeCoupons.comMany people who are shopping for groceries seek out the most beautiful produce they can find. They avoid packages that have been slightly damaged in favor of pristine ones. It may come as a surprise that ugly groceries are good for you and are also very good for the planet.

In Canada, a supermarket chain called Loblaws has started selling ugly fruits and vegetables. They launched a Naturally Imperfect line that offers misshapen, blemished, imperfect apples and potatoes to consumers.

The funny looking produce is just as healthy as the ones that look perfect. Loblaws offered these less than lovely foods to consumers for a lower price than what the perfect ones cost. It turned out to be a success, so Loblaws is going to expand its Naturally Imperfect line with more types of misshapen but healthy produce. Some other Canadian grocery stores have started offering ugly produce, too.

A grocery store in Denmark called WeFood started selling foods that are expired or that have damaged packages. WeFood is a “social supermarket” (which means it serves low-income people). The decision to start selling foods that other grocery stores would throw away turned out to be a hit with customers.

WeFood sells things like treats for a holiday that happened last week. They also sell things like boxes of cereal that have a rip, or a bag of plain white rice that was mislabeled as basmati. WeFoods also sells foods that are nearing their expiration dates. There isn’t anything wrong or bad about these foods, and customers can purchase them for a lower price than usual.

Ugly groceries are good for you. The most obvious reason is the ugly groceries – unusual looking produce, or food that is inside a slightly damaged package – cost less than their lovely counterparts do. It is an easy way to save money on quality foods. People who are low-income need to stretch their dollars, and ugly groceries are a way to do it.

Some people worry that food that is near its sell-by date has gone bad. This is a mistaken belief. In reality, the sell-by date was designed to tell grocery stores how long to display a product for sale. The sell-by date does not have mean the food automatically goes bad after that date has passed.

Ugly groceries are also good for the planet. Funny looking vegetables, that are perfectly healthy to eat, often get thrown in the trash instead of sent to the supermarket. Grocery stores generally throw away food that is past its sell-by date, but is still safe to eat. This leads to a lot of food waste that can easily be prevented.

Photo Credit: Russ on Flickr

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