Saturday, March 28, 2009

Great Ways to Slash Your Electric Bill

I've seen and heard many comments lately about how impossible it is to save money, especially since people "can't save money on food, gas or utilities".

I beg to differ.

Over the next few days I'll be posting a series of blog updates on different ways to lower your electricity consumption and reduce that monthly bill.

First however, let me lead with the results. Here is my electricity usage for the month of February in 2007, 2008 and 2009 (in kilowatt hours per day, or kWh):

'07 - 9.9 kWh
'08 - 9.3 kWh
'09 - 4.5 kWh

That's right - I cut my electricity consumption in half, and my goal in March is to creep below 4.0 kWh. Two notes - this is in a month where I'm not running my AC and I heat my home with gas.

How did I do it? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Composting Made Easy (and Cheap!)

Vermicomposting is the art of using worms to break down organic matter and create nourishing, high-quality compost.

Here is a link to a nifty little page showing you how to start composting at home for a minimal investment (less than $10).

Monday, February 02, 2009

File Your Taxes For Free

Did you know that large tax preperation companies have parterned with the IRS to file your taxes for free (as long as your adjusted gross income is $56,000 or less in 2008 - which applies to more than 70% of US taxpayers).

Check out the IRS website for details and to find a list of tax providers!

Interested in free state income tax filing?  Check out this website to find out whether your state supports free e-filing.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Credit Cards For Your Retirement

Especially in these tough economic times, rewards cards are a popular way to earn cash rebates, gift cards or other free stuff in return for paying the bills that we have to pay anyway.

But how about rewards cards that deposit your savings in a brokerage or IRA account?

It's in an interesting idea, and since the money is staying with the institution offereing the card, the rebates are actually fairly high - 2% cash back on all purchases.

Interested?  Check it out:

Fidelity Investments: the Fidelity Retirement Rewards Cards (AMEX).  Users earn 2% cash back on all purchases, with no limit on points.  All rebates are deposited in a Fidelity traditional, Roth or SEP IRA.  You're still limited to regular contribution limits though.

Nest-Eggz: the Next-Eggz card (Visa). Users earn 1% cash back that can be directed to any retirement or investment account.

Schwab: the Schwab Bank Invest First Signature (Visa).  Users earn 2% cash back, deposited into a Schwab (taxable) brokerage account.

Of course, as with any benefits card these rebates are only worth it if you pay your balance IN FULL each month.  It makes no sense to pay 17% interest in order to get 2% back!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How to Make Money Blogging

All right. Let's get down to brass tacks. The real question is: how do you make real money at blogging?

Well, not easily. The only real way to earn money through blogging is by selling advertising.  Do you see the adwords links on the right hand side of the screen? Well, try clicking on one of those. Come on- try it. Every click generates a tiny, tiny bit of revenue. It's called Google Adwords, and it's revolutionized the online marketing industry. 

Want to make a go of it? Well, there are three rules to producing a good quality weblog that people might be interested in reading:

  • You need dedication. Go two weeks without posting and you've lost your audience completely.
  • You need talent. Write with wit and humor. Dense prose? Dry words? Fageddaboutit.
  • You need to pick a theme or a niche that is useful to your audience and that they'll keep coming back for.
One good way to do all of the above is to start blogging about something you enjoy.  Do you like going to farmer's market?  Start rating your area's farmers markets and interviewing organic farmers.  Biking?  Review trails and post your miles on a specialized Google map.  Frisbee golf? An updated listing of events and games would do.

It's important to try and find a niche that others aren't exploiting.  You can do video game reviews, but so do a million other people and they've got an awful big head start.

One good sign that you've found a empty niche is not being able to find what you're looking for on the internet.  In other words, if you can't find something then other folks have the same problem.

That being said, blogging is easy to get into. Visit and you can get rolling in a few minutes. Also, for a few other practical tips, check this out... Good luck, blogger!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Simplest Way to Improve Your Gas Mileage

There have been many newspaper articles, spirited discussions and television stories on the future of energy and the automobile. I have heard about hybrid cars, fuel cells, solar powered vehicles, light rail systems, biodiesel and power beamed by lasers. And yet how much of this has practical use right now?

You can improve your mileage significantly by following two simple rules. First, obey the speed limit! The faster your car goes, the more work the engine has to do. Second, watch for stop signs and speed limit changes so that you can slow down a little bit before you have to. By not leaning so heavily on the brakes, you also improve your gas mileage by up to 5 miles per hour.