How to Save Money in College: Students can Achieve Financial Freedom by Saving Money in College

Compare Credit Cards

© DontSpendMore.com

How to save money in college

Average student loan debt increased to $30,000, reports the US News. The numbers were based on a report provided by the Institute for College Access and Success. Average debt amounts ranged from $2,500 to $71,0001 The numbers tend to be higher for private colleges and top-ranked institutions with higher tuition costs. In addition to actual student loan debt, college students also accumulate a large amount of debt on credit cards and other loan instruments, including help from family members.

Even with a well-paying job, it could take years to repay these loans and become completely debt free. What college students don’t recognize is that a lot of this debt can either be minimized or avoided. Consider this: If the average debt is $30,000, you need to either save an extra $7,500 every year (of a four-year degree program) or earn an extra $7,500 every year in order to come out debt free. That works out to an extra $625 in way of either increased income or lower expenses.

Be sure to use that amount to setup a debt repayment account or a savings account. Don’t touch it for any other purpose if you are truly serious about coming out of college debt free. It might sound like a sacrifice now, but you will thank yourself later.

Another alternative would be to secure financial aid, scholarships, grants, tuition waivers, or other arrangements that would allow you to study without paying a single dime — yes, there are plenty of programs that allow you to do that.

Not sure if you can save that much as a college student? Read our entire post How to Save Money in College: Students can Achieve Financial Freedom by Saving Money in College and you will come away with some creative ways to save money in college.

[You can also read our post on ways to pay for college.]

Here are some best ways to save money in college

Money Management 101

A complete money management guide is beyond the scope of this article, but we will provide some basic ideas to help you manage the money you will be saving by following our tips.

1. Earn as much interest as possible. Setup savings accounts, Certificate of Deposits (CDs), and credit union accounts that will offer you some interest on your savings and make it a habit to deposit your monthly savings in these accounts. Do not touch the money until you graduate — and that too to repay your debt.

2. Create an automated savings schedule. Many banks will allow you to automatically deposit a pre-determined amount in your savings account. As soon as you receive your pay check, the pre-designated sum will be transferred to your interest-bearing account. This will keep you on track and prevent any lapses.

3. Steer clear from the debt trap. It might be tempting to use your credit limit to buy those fancy shoes or that game you just can’t resist, but eventually these small purchases will add their way and put you in “debt prison” for a very long time to come. Sure, you need to build your credit and use that college student credit card once in a while, but be sure to pay it off as soon as you can. This will not only prevent debt accumulation and credit issues, it will also save you a bunch on interest rates and exorbitantly high financial charges levied by credit card companies.

4. Use credit cards that offer incentives. There are plenty of rewards credit cards that offer either cashback or points or incentives in some shape or form. Use these cards for larger purchases. Be sure to track your points or rewards balance as they do have an expiration date. As pointed earlier, steer clear from debt but if you do have a little debt, transfer the balance to either a 0% APR or low APR credit cards and reap the rewards of a lower interest rate for the initial balance transfer. Again, be very careful because once the “honeymoon phase” is over, your interest rate will jump to a very high amount. Don’t be tempted to sign-up for additional cards just to keep transferring balances. Ultimately, you will end up in debt prison. You can research and compare credit cards here.

5. Use a debit card. Despite the lure of rewards points and other incentives, credit cards do have a tendency to be mis-managed. It is much easier to keep your finances in track by using a debit card. It works just like a credit card, but restricts your purchases to the amount you have in the bank.

6. Setup automatic payments. Utilities, phone bills, and other recurring expenses — all of them need to paid every month. If you skip even one payment deadline, the fees, interest expense, and penalties could have a huge impact on your finances. Free automatic bill payment services are provided by most banks and credit card companies and it takes just a minute to sign-up.

7. Learn to differentiate between needs and wants. Needs are something we can’t do without (such as food, water, shelter, clothes, and the like) whereas wants are items that we desire. The needs have to be taken care of first while the wants can wait a little. When you learn to differentiate between the two, you will make wiser spending decisions and save a lot of money every month.

8. Create a simple budget and stick to it. Account for the inflow of money (such as money from allowances, waiting tables, working at the library, etc.) and outflow of money. Make sure the outflow is lesser than the inflow. Go through your spending patterns with a toothcomb and throw out as many expenses as possible. Anything unnecessary could wait until you are out of college.

Create a budget and try to find creative ways to outperform your budget goals. When you achieve a victory and beat your budget, reward yourself with a small incentive, such as a movie ticket or game ticket. If you don’t meet your budget, don’t hesitate to create a small dis-incentive, such as cutting away on cell phone minutes or “cook at home nights” for the next seven days.

9. Maintain a log. If you don’t maintain receipts, spending logs, and other information that will help you track your income and expenses, you are never going to make progress on the money saving front. Don’t be misguided to keep everything in your head. There is enough text book material to store there. Let the log do its job.

10. Document everything. Have a shoebox to store all receipts, pay stubs, logs, spending spreadsheets, and other documents. They might help you at tax time and if you end up starting a small business (we’ll get to that a little later in our post “How to Save Money in College”), you can use the documents to claim expenses as well.

saving_money_in_college

Money saving tips for college students: How to save on living and food-related expenses

11. Room and board. Living in a dorm is one option to save money as a college student, or you could consider sharing a small studio apartment with a friend. Both parties will save on living expenses — almost half. You can also look for jobs in the college dorm itself. Some college dorms will waive your living costs and save you thousands every year in exchange for some dorm maintenance duties.

In recent years, a lot of college students are opting to stay with parents or family members to cut on living expenses. Some students have managed to live in a car or van and save money that way, but we don’t recommend that. College education could be an intense endeavor and it is important that you to stay healthy in order to focus on your studies.

12. How can college students save money on food expenses. Eating healthy is important during every stage in life, but even more so during college. Unhealthy eating could not only harm your health, it may even impact your grades and overall performance in college. There are several ways to save on food expenses. First, create a healthy and balanced meal plan and follow it to the T. If you need help choosing the right foods, please visit ChooseMyPlate.gov for free tips and nutritional advice.

Cooking on your own is best. Once in a while, you can take advantage of free meal opportunities offered through food tasting events, on campus food fests, and the like. If there is a restaurant you particularly like, speak to the owner to offer some service such as maintaining their website/Facebook Page, or performing some small administrative tasks in exchange for free meals. Waiting at the restaurant is another option to get free meals. If your parent or family member is a member at one of the large wholesale outlets, ask them to buy an extra membership card for you. You can buy your food supplies from there and also take advantage of free samples that are handed out on a regular basis.

Other options to save on food could include places of worship, food banks, soup kitchens, and non-profit initiatives that cater to low income individuals.

Junk food, sodas, chips, and other food items that are absolutely discretionary could cost you your health and wealth. Avoid them.

13. Collect coupons. There are plenty of coupons on campus, but you could also speak with neighbors, friends and relatives, and others who regularly throw away coupons they don’t need. If you can save even $50 by collecting coupons, you are adding an extra $600 to your piggy bank account.

14. Cut travel costs. The easiest way to slash your travel expenses is by living close to campus. You eliminate the need to travel, save time, and eliminate the need to own a car (that just gets rid of gas, insurance, maintenance, car payments, and a host of other expenses). Public transportation is also an effective way to get from A-B. Many cities have special plans for students. And why not bike to school? It is good for health, environmentally-friend, and, hey, very cool!

15. Entertainment expenses. Many young adults express regret for having splurged on entertainment expenses. Sure, you need some way to entertain yourself, vent the stress associated with college life, and, of course, have fun. For starters, there are plenty of entertainment opportunities on campus itself. Movie nights, dance galas, sporting events — there are plenty of ways to take advantage of the best of college life. Besides entertainment opportunities, college campus have many programs that will challenge, involve, and motivate you to progress in life. If you are busy, entertainment expenses will automatically go down.

No need to cut down on healthy fun. Just make sure you know what you are doing. Avoid bad choices and, especially, intoxicants.

16. Choose your friends wisely. What do friends have to do with saving money? This may sound like an old grandma’s advice, but your friends will determine how your life will turn out. If you opt to hang out with big spenders, you will not only do poorly in school but will also come out with a huge debt burden.

17. Brand names versus generic. Expensive clothes and the latest accessories might impress some friends, but they will also drain your wallet. If you look at many expensive brands, they are often manufactured overseas. Should you bear the responsibility for a brand’s marketing expenses and image building exercises? You decide.

18. Save on utilities, phone, and Internet. When you choosing your living area, make sure there is plenty of natural sunlight in your room. This way, you can cut on electricity costs during the day time. There are plenty of small solar-powered appliance for less than twenty bucks. These could save you on utilities, especially electricity.

Own a cell phone? Consider purchasing one of the prepaid plans. There are plenty of cell phone plans that offer you unlimited minutes, data, and text features for under twenty bucks. If a parent, sibling, or family member is subscribing to a new cell phone plan, they will receive a free or low-cost phone. Perhaps, their earlier phone could be passed on to you. Hey, it stays within the family!

Another option would be to add your name to a family plan and pool cell phone usage. Everyone saves this way.

Depending on what’s available you may be able to do away with Internet subscription altogether. Your college campus or a local public library might offer Wi-Fi. There are plenty of cafes and fast food joints offering the same as well. Why pay for a land line. A low cost cell phone plan is all you would probably need.

Save on educational expenses

19. Consider renting text books. Law school was expensive and text books were a huge cost driver. I found a way to economize on reading materials in one of several ways:

(a) Rent books;

(b) Purchase used books — If you keep your eyes open, you might find a bargain online or on campus. At times, I have had great success with used books. Once, a $200 book (same edition) was available for $9;

(c) Borrow from the college (or school) library;

(c) Share your book with a college buddy;

(d) If you own a book and don’t need it anymore, sell it away.

20. Print on campus. Saves you a bunch on paper, toner, and other expenses.

21. Avail of student discounts. From newspapers to shopping outlets, students have an edge when it comes to saving money. Make best use of all student discounts available to you.

22. Find ways to save on classes. Ask your financial aid office if there are any tuition waivers available. Never compromise on education, simply find a more efficient way to do things. Consider this example: You can get certain classes waived if you pass certain exams. Often, the exams cost much less than a full semester of class. Ask your dean to advise you on these matters. They understand. Remember, they were students too.

23. Learn comparison shopping. Shopping around pays. From student loans to everyday expenses, a little extra effort will save you a lot of money in the long run.

24. Use the campus gym. You don’t have to pay for it.

25. Take advantage of programs. Regularly fill out applications doled out by FAFSA, private foundations, grant-giving intuitions and the like. Some will require annual applications but they will save you a lot of money.

25. Work with a professor. Many professors receive grants for their research and academic pursuits. In exchange for part time work, you may be able to make extra money and also earn scholarships and the like. Not to mention, networking opportunities and the potential to advance in your field of interest.

26. Use the 99 cents stores for basic needs (not food, though).

27. Setup a registry. Parents and family members often wish to provide you with gifts. Ask them to buy you a wish list item from your registry instead. Text books, food items, toiletries — anything you need. Cash is a very welcome option as well.

Earn while you learn

28. Take up a job that will allow you to study and work at the same time. Remember, your primary goal is to study so be careful in that department. On campus jobs, internships, work-study opportunities – there are so many opportunities for those who seek them.

If you are the entrepreneurial type, try your hand at a small-scale business such as fixing computers, baby-sitting, cleaning, tutoring, gardening, or any service you feel capable of providing. If you do things right, you might build some equity in the business before you graduate — not to mention “brag rights” for your resume. If you decide to engage in a business, be sure to seek out professional assistance from a tax expert and an attorney.

Small mistakes on the tax or legal front could cost you much more than you earn. If you don’t have the resources to pay for such expert, seek out a local non-profit organization’s help. Family members might be able to introduce you to their friends and associates as well.

In addition to traditional jobs, you can also freelance on sites such as Elance to make some extra money and also gain valuable experience. If you write well or an expert in a particular field, consider participating in competitions that offer cash prizes for “best entry”.

Most important: Ask for expert advice from family, professionals, and on campus resources. Help is always a phone call away and most individuals love to help students. You should not feel any shame in seeking assistance from all available resources.

1. US News

Restaurant Tips Reach a Tipping Point

© DontSpendMore.com

 restaurant_tips

From New York to California, restaurants are adopting a “no tipping” policy. Establishment owners have cited various reasons for doing away with the tips altogether. No doubt, the policy change has generated substantial publicity for the businesses and social media is lighting up with savory comments for and against the “no tipping” policy.

Until recently, many restaurant employees would receive lower wages with the promise that the tips generated during the shift would cause the wages to jump substantially higher. Restaurant tips have motivated wait staff to provide better service in the hopes of receiving a generous gratuity. This was a win-win for both business owners and front line staff. Owners benefited from satisfied customers while employees went home with a fatter pay check.

The problem with the policy is not only an extra burden on customers but also a cold war styled territorial dispute between servers, at least in some establishments. In fact, some employees had boiled the process down to a science. Flower in the hair, red dresses, blond hair, smiley faces on checks … these were some factors that generated higher tips, at least from men. 1

That is about to change, though.

A new breed of employers is favoring higher wages and a more stable paycheck over restaurant tips and gratuities. A major change is sweeping restaurants nationwide and from East Coast to West Coast, establishments are doing away with restaurant tips. New York-based Restaurant Riki cites Japanese customs for its no gratuity policy, while Sushi Yasuda chases customers to return what was left behind. According to some business owners, the idea of rating server performance with tips was downright condescending.1

Restaurant tips are disbursed individually to the server or added to a common pool that is distributed to all servers at the end of the shift.

The eateries that favor a no restaurant tips policy try to make up for the difference by offering staff higher wages and a more stable takeaway. The policy is receiving mixed reactions from guests. Some prefer not having to do the extra math after a wonderful meal, while others are concerned about the impact on service quality. This is a major cause of concern for frequent guests who often build a personal rapport with their servers.

On the flip side, a sluggish economic recovery is forcing patrons to lower their tips, especially for unemployed folks who have no choice but to eat out while interviewing and traveling.

How to tip at a restaurant

Despite the shift away from restaurant tips, many owners will still consider redistributing the tips to employees or giving them away to charity.

At a surface level, restaurant tips may sound like a simple issue but many guests are still not sure about the amount they should be leaving aside as gratuity. A good restaurant tipping guide would spell out the tip percentage to 10% to 20%, but we have seen ranges as low as 5% as well (especially if the service is extremely poor or unreasonably rude).

Not all restaurants allow customers to do the math, though. I once visited a Malaysian restaurant in Flushing, NY. While the service was good and the food was descent, the check had a pre-calculated gratuity added to the bill. I had no discretion to tip more or less. When questioned, the disgruntled server simply asked me to pay up. No option, apparently!

Here are some ideas if you consider tipping:

(i) If you decide to leave your server a tip, cash is preferable because it can be used right away. Credit card payments are not bad, but there is generally a lag period before the server gets paid. There is also the issue of a portion of the bill going toward credit card processing fees (can range between two percent to five percent, depending on the merchant service being used).

(ii) Generally, the total is based on pre-tax amount and is computed without considering discounts.

(iii) How satisfied were you with the service? If the drinks were on the table within two minutes of seating and the server was providing refills before asking, you are receiving exceptional service.

(iv) Give consideration for local cost of living. If you live in an expensive city, a higher tip is probably a good idea.

(v) The server’s personality and needs are also given consideration, at least by some guests. Students often resort to waiting tables to make their way to college. Giving them an extra hand does not hurt.

(vi) Some restaurants make their wages public. If you are aware of the wages being paid, you will be in a better position to judge the amount you need to add as gratuity.

Restaurant Tipping Chart

Level of Service and Restaurant Tip Percentage

Exceptional Service – 20%

Good Service – 15%

Average Service – 10%

Extremely Poor Service – 5%

1. CBS News

2. Image Credit: Elviz Low via Creative Commons

What does Google know about you? How to Delete your Web History on Google

(C) DontSpendMore.com

remove_google_history

Google is synonymous with the Internet. Over the years, Google has served countless searches and has made online searches easier and faster. What many people don’t know is that Google does store your Web history and while the history is very secure and is accessible only to you, many still feel uncomfortable knowing that someone has stored all the searches they made.

Whether you were searching for the cute next door neighbor or an extremely personal and sensitive issue, the search data may be stored in Google’s ginormous data universe.

Want to control your Web history?

First, no one can access this data, except you. But if you still want to delete the data from Google’s servers, Google offers users the option to do so. You have one of three options:

(i) View and download your Web history

(ii) Archive your data

(iii) Delete it permanently … and guess what … from the beginning of time. Perhaps, Google considers itself to be synonymous with the beginning of time.

So, here are the step-by-step instructions

View and download your Web history

Curious about what you were searching after that strange overnight party in 2008? Well, now you can refresh your memory. Simply visit https://history.google.com/history/

Once there, click on the Settings tab on the top right of the screen. If you wish to download the data, click on Download and it will let you select the dates you are interested in and download the results. Once the results are ready, you will receive a link via e-mail.

An important caveat: Don’t download this data if you are on a shared computer.

Delete your data permanently

Not comfortable with the data sitting on Google’s servers? No problem. Google offers you the opportunity to make a squeaky clean start. Click on the settings button, choose remove, and select the dates you want to delete the data for.

Voila!

The screen also allows you the option to turn the Web history feature off.

Image Credit: Creative Commons, Patrick Barry



Share Article

Alternative Energy Sources: SunPower, Solar, Hydro, Wind, and other Renewable Energy Sources for Home

Wind Power

© DontSpendMore.com

Alternative renewable energy sources could save you a bunch

The average American pays anywhere from $100 to $200 on electric bills alone. The cost is expected to escalate as major utility providers face increased cost burdens.1

Utility bills hurt! Ouch! In addition to depleting your wallet’s hard-earned resources, our current reliance on non-renewable energy sources has two major undesirable effects: Global warming and an unprecedented annihilation of natural resources.

Imagine living in a room full of Carbon Dioxide. As your thoughts rage toward gasping a breath of fresh Oxygen, imagine a scenario where the entire world is encased in a bubble of Carbon Dioxide. That is exactly what the current energy resources are doing to our planet. The process of extracting and using them causes high levels of Carbon Dioxide to be emitted into the earth’s atmosphere.

Fortunately, there are plenty of renewable alternative energy sources (energy sources that can be renewed) that we can tap into. At a commercial level, many alternative energy sources are available but if you are looking at powering your home, there are a few you can easily tap into:

(i)      SunPower or solar energy sources

(ii)    Wind powered energy

(iii)   Nuclear energy for civil, energy-related use

In addition to their abundant natural occurrence, these resources are renewable and cause no known harmful effects to the earth’s atmosphere. What’s better? You can actually wish your utility provider “good riddance” once and for all. In fact, many homes are installing solar-powered cells on their roof tops for precisely that reason. Others are signing-up with utility providers that tap into these natural resources.

Nuclear energy and wind-powered energy are difficult for an average home owner to harness—unless, of course, you have a large property that is regularly graced by high speed winds that could power wind mills. So, which alternative energy sources are easier for an average home owner to tap into?

Sun power or solar energy.

sunpowerSolar energy: Harnessing the power of the sun

Of the contemporary alternative energy sources, solar power appears to be the most promising. In fact, solar power is so easily accessible, small appliances, such as flash lights and hurricane lights, are hitting the market, with solar-powered batteries. In future, we will probably use most of our home appliances powered by sun (solar) energy exclusively.

You don’t have to wait, though. Many home owners are opting to install solar-powered panels on their roof tops and these individuals are generating their own electricity without having to pay a provider.

Some DIY (Do-it-Yourself) property owners are installing their own panels (not recommended unless you know what you are doing) and there are plenty of resources to guide you through the process. Others are hiring experts to do the installation work. Irrespective of the approach you decide, the most critical component of the process is to ensure the solar panels receive adequate sunlight are not unduly obstructed.

As adoption of solar energy increases, the overall costs have dropped. Despite the price reduction, it could still cost thousands of dollars if you choose the professional installation route.

Is sunpower for everyone?

If you are paying a few hundred dollars every month in electric bills, you may stand to gain from installing solar panels. The system would pay for itself within a few years. Furthermore, many companies allow you to install the alternative energy resource for $0 down. Many states offer incentives for the adoption of solar energy as well. You have the option of leasing the solar system (versus owning it yourself), if that is the way you choose to go.

How much does a solar panel really save you every month?

The answers vary and depend on your consumption needs and other factors, but optimistic estimates provide a near fifty percent (nearly half) savings every month.

Alternative Energy, Renewable EnergyWhat are some of the pros and cons of solar energy as an alternative renewable source of energy?

Pros of solar energy

Some of the commonly-known pros of solar power as a renewable energy source include:

(i)      The ability to go off-grid. You can install solar panels and quit depending on utility suppliers once and for all. An off-grid lifestyle is making a strong comeback these days and solar powered energy is probably the easiest way to break dependence on grid-based energy supply.

(ii)    Huge environmental impact. Using alternative energy resources reduces Carbon Dioxide emission into the atmosphere, minimizes pollution, and cuts global warming.

(iii)   Cost savings. Depending on your location and energy consumption patterns, sunpower energy could save you fifty percent or more every month. If you live in a remote location, the cost savings add up even further.

(iv)  Accessibility. No matter where you are located, you can harness this renewable energy resource as it depends on availability of sunlight.

Cons of solar energy

Despite the positives, some drawbacks exist and cons of solar energy include:

(i)      Initial cost outlay. Solar panels or cells cost dearly and the initial installation cost could run into thousands of dollars.

(ii)    Availability of sunlight is a cause of concern. If the location where the solar panels are installed do not receive adequate sunlight, the production of natural energy could be diminished. Furthermore, since the panels are dependent on naturally-occurring sunlight, there could be some hours during the day when electricity production could be impacted. Weather fluctuations have an adverse effect on energy production as well. Additionally, weather fluctuations and pollution levels have an impact on energy production as well.

How can you tap into other forms of renewable energy?

Unless you live in a large area where you can install a small-scale, wind-powered electricity production plant, wind farms offer the next best alternative. They offer similar advantages to solar power, and initial costs are a concern as also the potential damage to wildlife.

Sources:

New York Times

How to Live in Your Car or Van and Where can you Sleep in your Car Legally

© DontSpendMore.com

car_dweller_statisticsDespite rapid economic growth, homelessness has been on the rise and has, in fact, grown exponentially in the past few years. At any given point of time, over 600,000 people1 across US are homeless — yes, in the richest country on this planet. Many seek refuge in homeless shelters, some end up on the streets, and still others choose to live in their car or van.

Of the last category, there are many who opt to live in their cars out of choice, either for the sake of adventure or to save up on some extra cash. There is also a substantial percentage of car dwellers who are in the first six months of being homeless. “The chronically homeless don’t have cars,” says Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.1

As exciting and economical as living in the car sounds, there are various pitfalls and technicalities that warrant careful research and planning.

(i)      How to live in your car or van? and

(ii)    Where can you sleep legally in your car?

Let’s start with the first question.

How to live in your car or van?

IMG_1016If your car or van has enough leg room, you are probably good to go and may be able to live in your car to tide out a temporary difficulty (or passion for adventure). Not everyone folds up a sleeping bag in their car, though. Many have gone to the extent of buying a larger-sized van (an old one would cost a thousand bucks) and giving it a makeover with some basic amenities. That may not be an option for everyone, though, so we have prepared some tips if you need to live in your car during an emergency. We are not going into legalities yet, and the question “Where can you sleep legally in your car?” will be addressed in the latter half of the post.

There are obvious pros and cons to living in a car or van.

Pros

(i) Save $12,000 to $36,000 annually, especially if you live in an area plagued by escalating rents. If you live in Manhattan (average rent is $4,000 or $48,000 annually) or the down town area of a big city, the rent numbers would be much higher.

(ii) Have the freedom to move wherever you want.

(iii)   Live closer to work (if employed).

(iv) Feed your nomadic cravings and change neighborhoods frequently.

(v) No leases, no landlord hassles.

 Cons

IMG_1015(i) It may be illegal in your state or local area. It would be a good idea to get some legal advice on the legality of living in a car. If the legal fees are prohibitive, seek out a local non-profit legal help organization that might be able to provide some guidance, and, probably, safer alternatives.

(ii) Living in car may not be safe for obvious reasons.

(iii) The noise might be a big turnoff, especially if you are forced to park in a noisy zone.

(iv) Temperature extremes might be a problem.

(v) The lack of adequate ventilation (especially in winter) could be hazardous to health. This might be true even if you are cooking in your car.

(vi) You will miss the comfort of home and also experience difficulty with your social life.

(vii) The police might question you frequently and may keep a closer watch on you, especially if they suspect something.

 So how exactly does one live in a car?

 Cooking

That probably is the most important question, especially if you are unemployed while car dwelling. Cooking on a budget may be a major concern, but those who live in cars do one of the following:

(a) Find a cost-effective way to eat outside. There are plenty of restaurants that provide economical meals or you can speak with the owner to check if she/he disposes a lot of meals every evening. They might be willing to pass on some of the “unspoiled food” they might have to waste anyway.

(b) Non-profit organizations. Check with a local shelter, food bank, or soup kitchen if you could avail of free or low-cost resources for healthy meals.

(c) Buy food that doesn’t need much cooking. Boiling water would suffice for an oatmeal-banana breakfast. Boiled eggs would work too. Cereals, food bars, pre-mixed soups, fruits, vegetables, and many other healthy choices require minimal cooking.

(d) Cook in the car. Yes, that would be an option (with discretion and caution, though). You can purchase a one-stove propane burner that could be used to cook basic meals. Be careful with the fire and ensure adequate ventilation before, after, and during your meal preps. You may want to drive to an area that will not draw much attention as well.

 Personal business

Many van-dwellers/car-dwellers opt to use fast food restaurants (and there are plenty of 24/7 food joints), gyms, college campuses (if you are a student), public libraries, and other public places to take care of personal business (especially showers and rest rooms).

Charging cell phone and other small appliances

You have the option of charging your phone using the car charger and if you want to conserve on your car’s resources, public libraries and many public places, such as airports and stations, allow patrons to charge cell phones, small rechargeable batteries, and other small hand-held appliances.

Internet access

If you own a smartphone already (and many may not), you can access Internet from your phone. If that is not an option, fast food joints and some libraries offer free Wi Fi access (with restrictions).

Managing temperature extremes

If you live in a geographic zone prone to extreme temperature fluctuations, a small battery-operated electric fan could help you during the summer months. During harsh winters, car heating, portable heating devices, publicly-designated “warm zones”, and other similar areas might be a better option. Dress in multiple layers and do your best to stay warm. Never brave extreme winters, though. It could be lethal. You may want to contact a local shelter or non-profit organization to avail of a better option.

Is it legal to live in your car or van?

This is probably your biggest concern. Many have escaped legal scrutiny by constantly changing parking spots, but it would be a good idea to check local laws and ordinances. Some localities expressly bar car dwelling for a period exceeding a few hours, while others require you to live in a home or shelter.

Apart from the legality of dwelling in a car, there are other considerations. For instance, if you are changing in your car and someone files a complaint, you could be cited for indecent exposure, if the local permits such a charge. There are parking violations, trespass laws, and other similar concerns that merit due consideration as well.

If you cannot afford to speak with a lawyer, check with a local legal help society, bar association, or non-profit organization. Some state bar associations have pro bono programs that could address your question. Some law schools have legal clinics as well.

If you determine that is legal and safe to live in your car, here are some additional tips that might help:

(i) Find multiple areas to park your car. At least seven (and more, if possible) “safe spots” for you to pick and choose every single day. The key is to keep moving.

(ii) Don’t keep your engine running at all times. It is expensive and might draw undue attention to your lifestyle.

(iii) Don’t risk extreme temperatures. Have a plan for days when temperatures drop or rise to extreme levels.

(iv) Keep a radio and pay attention to news announcements, emergency announcements, and weather forecasts. Keep regular tabs on Internet weather reports as well.

(v) Seek help from non-profit organizations, places of worship, shelters, food banks, soup kitchens, government bodies, and other benevolent organizations.

(vi) Always have a flash light handy. Keep solar-powered appliances when possible. Solar-powered lights, flash lights, and other small appliances could be your best friend.

(vii) Never neglect your health. If you feel car-dwelling is taking its toll on your health, quit immediately and find an alternative. Life and health first.

(viii) Avoid altercations and confrontations. Being nice pays.

(ix) Keep in touch with your social circle. Let them know where you will be each day.

(x) Have a plan to socialize and stay in touch with your loved ones.

(xi) Find other individuals who follow a similar lifestyle and learn from their experiences.

(xii) Negotiate with local establishments to check if you can perform small services in exchange for permission to stay on their parking lot on certain days. Both parties benefit in this manner.

(xiii) Don’t hesitate to ask for help. People are often kind and will do their best to help out when possible.

Where can you sleep in your car legally?

There are many places where you can sleep in your car legally. The answer to this depends on our discussion on “is it legal to live in your car?” Notwithstanding your findings, many cities have specially designated areas for camps, excursions, RVs, and other outdoor activities. Subject to local restrictions and laws, these areas are generally safe bets for short-term stay overs. You may be able to park your car or van in these areas legally, if these areas expressly permit such activity.

Some other options that car dwellers have resorted to include:

(i) Parking on college campuses, especially if you are a student. Some campuses bar such activity so you may have to check with campus parking regulations.

(ii) 24-hour establishments, including gym parking lots, store parking lots, and other areas. If these places have a large area, you might be able to park your car for several hours without issues. You will have to be discrete, though, because security may patrol these areas on a regular basis.

(iii) Camp grounds and beaches (if allowed).

(iv) Shelters and tent cities.

(v) Highway stops and truck resting areas.

(vi) Public parks

(vii) Paid parking areas

(viii) Places of worship. In fact, you can speak with your local place of worship or church if they would be willing to permit you to stay in your car. You can offer to do small services, such as securing the area during the night or performing small chores in exchange for this favor. They may have you sign a waiver or other legal form for protection.

Sources:

  1. USA Today

Would You Live in a Cave to Save Money? Extreme Ways to Save Money

(C) DontSpendMore.com

It would be wonderful to make six- or even seven-figure salaries, but when that may not be possible the next best bet would be to save as much as possible. Clipping coupons, car-pooling, lunch bags, cooking at home, and other time-tested strategies are very popular, but now there is a daring breed of individuals who would go to the extreme to save some extra cash — and in some cases, survive without having to pay any bills whatsoever.

Living close to nature would be perfect, but an isolated cave dwelling is not for the faint hearted. Yet, many have adopted this lifestyle. Some have gone to the extreme of giving their caves urban makeovers and have incorporated modern, solar-powered urban amenities in their naturesque homes.

The following are true stories of individuals who went to extreme lengths to save money.IMG_1015

A rent-free lifestyle is van-tastic

We are not talking about recreational RV lifestyles, many van owners are converting their large-hearted vehicles into everyday living quarters. While large-sized RV-type vans and Ford Econolines are obvious choices, Toyota, Nissan, and other minivan owners are converting their vehicles into makeshift homes as well. A little creativity, some basic amenities, and proximity to gyms (for showers) and public bathrooms is all it takes to make this way of living work.

Sure, there are temperature extremes, security risks, street noises, and other concerns but the lure of saving anywhere from $12,000 to $36,000 every year in rent alone is reason enough for many daring van dwellers.

How do they make it work?

Cooking

One burner propane stoves help with basic cooking. Food choices that allow minimal cooking, and, of course, economical restaurants.

Charging

Public libraries, free Wi-Fi access, and places that allow you to charge your phones and small appliances.

Personal Business

Gyms for showers, fast food joints for rest rooms, cat litter boxes, bottles (for emergency nature calls)—necessity is truly a mother of invention for a van dweller.

Lighting

Solar-powered lamps and flash lights.

Temperature control

Car cooling/heating, battery-powered fans, and similar devices.

Parking

Camp grounds, 24-hour shopping areas, publicly-designated parking areas, and street parking.

Laws

Local ordinances vary, but living in a car, except in designated areas, is generally not encouraged. There are many stories of individuals who have escaped legal scrutiny. The regulatory environment is becoming tougher, though, as rising unemployment rates have forced many individuals to adopt this lifestyle as the only resort. Some counties have regulations that prohibit car owners from staying in their cars for more than six hours at a time. Police scrutiny has increased in neighborhoods where van dwelling is likely to occur.

In fact, one Duke grad lived in his van to complete his education debt free. His social experiment did draw some scrutiny subsequently and laws were eventually passed to prevent students from living on campus, but that did not deter this enterprising young student to pursue his choices. You can read more about his “van days” here. Ken used the campus gym ($34 per month) for showers and for the purpose of collecting water for drinking and cooking.

If you decide to adopt this lifestyle, be sure to ensure adequate ventilation. Poisonous gases can quickly accumulate in small spaces.

Walk to work, become a social media hero, win a new car

Many of us walk to work daily, especially if we are fortunate enough to live close to work but in the case of a dedicated Detroit man, Mr. Robertson, his walk wasn’t just the customary few blocks. He walked 21 miles on a daily basis—every single work day. It wasn’t that he didn’t have access to public transportation. To the contrary, the bus routes simply did not have stops close to his house, leaving him to walk nearly twenty miles (both ways). Twenty miles! That’s more than what I would walk every month — and this gentleman was 56 when the story was covered. That’s motivating.

Mr. Robertson’s unwavering commitment inspired a highly-publicized crowdsourcing campaign that ultimately raised $350,000 toward a new home for him. A suburban car dealership decided to donate a car for his commute as well.

Despite his new-found fame, Mr. Robertson did not give up his $10.55 per hour job. You can read more about his inspiring story here.

Study in an Ivy school — tuition-free

Doesn’t always work (and is probably illegal), but that did not deter Mr. Dumas, 28, from attending classes and networking at some of the nation’s most prestigious schools, including Yale. He would literally show up for lectures, participate in classes, and genuinely contribute toward project discussions as if he were actually enrolled and registered for the courses. His enthusiasm was contagious and no one suspected his unique experiment.

Not only did Mr. Dumas accumulate a vast body of learning from the world’s most sought-after professors, he also managed to make valuable connections that, hopefully, will do him good as he progresses in his career. The Atlantic covered his unique story in full detail.

Forget shipping; now, you can live in shipping containers

Let’s admit building materials have become expensive. The cost of building strong, durable exteriors is not only prohibitive, it is causing a new generation of home builders to look at reasonable alternatives. From reconstructing dumpsters to converting shipping containers into homes, the trend is picking up nationwide.

If you own some land (or can rent it), a shipping container can be purchased for as little as $2,000. One shipping container can provide enough room for an entire family, but if you are picky about space and need more, you can buy extra containers. Add more rooms or inexpensively build a multi-storey dwelling. Looking for more ideas? Look at some eye-catching homes built by creative homeowners.

If you consider that a mobile, pre-built home costs tens of thousands of dollars, a container home doesn’t sound like a very bad alternative.

Fire your utility company; hire Mother Nature instead

Creative lifestyles appear to be on the horizon these days. Escalating utility costs, multi-layer taxes, and a preference for living a completely natural lifestyle appear to be the primary reasons why a rising breed of naturalists are adopting off-the-grid lifestyles. Despite their natural lifestyles, they appear to be holding on to some of their urban comforts. In fact, their approach is a unique blend of urban comfort and natural living.

For off-grid home dwellers, solar panels and wind energy appear to be popular choices for generating electricity without the help of hyper-expensive utility service providers. Some families take this concept to a much higher level, though, and have adopted lifestyles completely in harmony with nature. Natural septic tanks, organic home-grown food, natural heating and cooling sources — there are so many ways to go completely off-grid. In case you are interested in learning more about the science behind off-grid living, HowStuffWorks has some great tips on the subject.

Grow your veggies on your own window sill

Love your fruits and veggies but don’t like the grocery bills? Your background or even your own window sill (if you live in an apartment) could replace your walk to the grocery store. In fact, urban farming is the new craze these days. Not only are these fruits and vegetables cheaper to cultivate, they are healthy and sans any dangerous pesticides or chemicals. Sure, you need to consider local weather conditions to adapt your produce, but if you are dedicated enough you could grow not only for your own needs but also supply extra produce to local stores or sellers at the local farmer’s market.

I tried growing some tomatoes once. The squirrels did take a bite (literally) out of my hard work but the results were encouraging and I had enough left over for a freezer full of lycopene-rich vegetables. After a season of dedicated monogamy with pasta sauce and tomato-flavored food, I was a little bored, though, and decided to call it quits on the home-grown produce craze. I may have given up a little early, but there are others who are capitalizing on the ability to farm in-house, even on a commercial scale.

In fact, a New York restaurant decided to conduct a very successful experiment. The restaurant grew its own produce on a Manhattan terrace and used the fresh products as ingredients in exclusively organic à la carte menu. Now, if you can grow your commercial-scale food requirements on Manhattan’s skyline, you can pretty much replicate the experiment anywhere.

cave_life_modernSo easy, even an urbanite can do it; cave dwellers face foreclosure too

Forget the controversial punch line that lighted up many social media discussions. We are not talking about cavemen, but the very opposite here. Some daring urban dwellers decided to resort to natural habitats to save a bunch — and then some more.

The Shangaiist covered the story of a caveman — actually, a 35-year-old Chinese national who decided to live in the cave for six months so he could save enough for his family. There was another story of an American who lived in the cave for ten years. Now, if you are thinking this style of living was foreclosure-proof, think again. The Sleepers family was in for a hard surprise when they discovered their 17,000-square-foot home is up for auction.

Dumpster diving for food and business

One morning, I left for work at 4 AM and was surprised to see a group of elderly people on bicycles. At first, I thought they were on their way to a biking event or an exercise class, but I was surprised to see them stopping in front of every home. These seniors would dive into recycled trash to find cans, water bottles, and other recyclable treasure. After collecting their treasure, they would visit the local supermarket and deposit their digs in exchange for cash. A few-hour shift on a lucrative route would earn them an extra $20 to $30 per day — add to that benefits of exercise.

Homeless people often resort to the dumpster to find food for their next meal but there was the story of a man who would actually dive into dumpsters to find electronics. In fact, he is not alone. There is an entire breed of technically-savvy individuals who dive into the dumpsters of big retailers to find electronics (and parts) that they later sell or auction in exchange for thousands of dollars. The shift is hard, though, and often requires 2 AM commutes. Not to mention the hazard of contacting unwanted germs, diseases, and injuries that could result from the hazardous venture.

One more reason to thoroughly sanitize your digs from online auctions. For all you know, they might have been sourced from commercial dumpsters.

Collecting neighbors’ coupons

Those annoying magazine inserts, coupon leaflets, and store flyers that you throw away are actually sought-after commodities by passionate coupon lovers. These are individuals who offer to collect their neighbors’ newspapers and other material just in order to get more coupons — and it works.

The neighbors benefit from not having to take care of their unwanted items while the collectors get coupons worth hundreds of dollars for less than a few hours of work every month. Not bad.

One man’s throwaway is another man’s food

Some years back, a local television channel interviewed a unique family. This family had started a foundation that would collect leftover food from restaurants. After collecting a substantial amount, partner airlines and transportation companies would provide logistics to enable delivery of usable food items to needy individuals in developing countries.

There are many individuals who receive food supplies from local restaurants and bakeries who are finding it difficult to manage their excess food.

Food joints and sample giveaways

Those little sample giveaways you were avoiding are actually a source of full meals for many cost-conscious consumers. An elderly gentleman in Queens, NY, regularly visits different wholesalers every week. Every single day, he visits one discount wholesaler. His motivation? Free samples. Hot dogs, pasta, ice creams, cookies, samosas, you name it … at least one meal a day is arranged through free samples.

If his strategy piqued your curiosity, how would you react to those who source their daily supplies for sugar ketchup, napkins, and other items from generous fast food joints? On every visit, they collect extra sugar packets and ketchup pouches. Eventually, there is a cumulative effect.

Forget apple picking, go Metrocard hunting instead

New York has a Metro Card program that allows you to swipe your card in lieu of tokens. The cards come in many dominations and the unfortunate math behind these cards is that sometimes you will have $0.50 left on the card after a few swipes. Since you can’t ride for that amount, passengers often toss these cards away as trash. This is where card hunters come in. They pick up a large stack of these cards and often visit the counter to combine many cards for a larger amount.

Sometimes, an hour of work (on a good day) could net you $20 in fares. Every day is not good for business, though, and like any business card hunters have their peaks — not to mention competition.

Penny clinchers

Ever seen a determined person picking up a penny from the road? If you walk a block around Manhattan, you are sure to find at least a few dollars’ worth of pennies.

In case you are wondering — what did they do with the extra savings? Some went on to build their dream homes or get a college degree without loans, while others just used their nomadic lifestyle as an opportunity for more adventure and fun.

What do you think about their choices? Which strategy do you think is the craziest? You be the judge and let us know in the comments below.

Author Information

Nimish Thakkar is the founder of DontSpendMore.com. (c) DontSpendMore.com, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Types Of Wireless Data Plans

By David

In these days of ever advancing technology, it seems like we use our cell phones for accessing data often times even more than we talk on them. This is especially the case for smartphones which are built almost exclusively to take advantage of all the new options available to consumers through their wireless data plans. If you are looking to start using these new features you will first want to know what kind of wireless data plans are available.

Click here to compare cell phone plans. Free phone with activation. All major carriers.

Pay Per Plans

These are your most basic types of wireless data plans and they typically come with a basic cell phone plan by default. If you do not have a data plan or service attached to your monthly cell phone plan, than more than likely, you currently have a “pay per” plan. These types of plans simply require that you pay a predefined amount for each MB of data you use through the cellular network. These plans are great for those that almost never use data, as the cost for one or two MB of data over the course of a month is far less than that of a 500 MB plan. These plans are also helpful for those that do almost all their data streaming through a Wi-Fi connection, as this generally does not incur data charges and thus makes having a plan unnecessary. Still, if you use a great deal of data outside of a Wi-Fi area this is going to be a costly plan to have.

Limited Data Plans

Limited wireless data plans are those that cost a certain amount each month in exchange for the use of up to a predetermined number of MB each month. These plans are typically less expensive than a “pay per” plan if you use a fair amount of data outside of a Wi-Fi area. There are different levels to limited wireless data plans that will be predetermined by what your company wishes to offer. Often times, they will be available in increments of 500 MB, with each higher level costing just a little bit more. There is a limit to how high a limited data plan will go however. Once the price of the next level would be equal to or greater than the carrier’s unlimited plan, nothing is offered higher as it is just smart to go for the unlimited plan at that point.

Click here to compare cell phone plans. Free phone with activation. All major carriers.

Unlimited Data Plans

Unlike the limited wireless data plans, an unlimited plan will not restrict the amount of data you use on your phone. These plans are great if your data use is simply through the roof and you use it all the time for most everything regardless of where you are. These plans are usually expensive, but worth it if you need the data, and they typically have a limit placed on speed. For the first several GB you will be able to get the fastest speeds, but the connection speed will be reduced after that.

Now that you know about data plans, you can decide which type is best for you.

Click here to compare cell phone plans. Free phone with activation. All major carriers.

Ways To Send A Text To A Phone

By David

If you are trying to send some sort of text information to someone and all they have is a phone, it can be important to know how you can go about sending a text to a phone. Thankfully, there are a few different methods for doing this that are pretty easy, and just as convenient, depending on what type of information you are trying to send.

Click here to compare cell phone plans. Free phone with activation. All major carriers.

Use your phone

The easiest and probably the most familiar method of sending a text to a phone is by using your own mobile phone. To do this, just access your texting application, select the “compose” button, pick your recipient, and enter your message. Using this method, you can also include picture, sound, and video files to help get your message across. It is important to note that with this method, normal texting rates will apply, so make sure you have got the extra domestic messages available before you commit to sending a message this way.

Use your email

Assuming of course that the intended recipient has an email account linked to their phone, another great method for sending a text to a phone is through your email account. Using email will allow you to send the message from either your phone or your computer, whichever is more convenient at the time, and it allows you to include files of any variety — though file size limits may apply. To do this, simply login to your email account either on your phone or your computer, select the intended recipient from your contacts or enter their address manually, enter a subject and your message, attach any files you wish to include, and send the message off. It should arrive within minutes and is an easy way to transfer files from your computer to your phone and vice versa.

Use an application

If you want to try a method for sending a text to a phone aside from those presented above, there are many types of applications that will allow you to send text messages to a phone from either another phone or from your computer. These applications come in two main types; VoIP and instant messenger. Using a VoIP application, you will be able to send a text message from your phone or your computer to someone else’s phone using their phone number, but from your computer. However, you may not be able to include files with the text message depending on the application you use. The other type of application is the instant messenger which will allow you to send a text message from a phone or computer to another phone through the application, though the recipient must also have the application in order for this method to work. The advantage of the Instant messenger is that it will allow picture, audio, and video files to be transferred through it as well.

Now that you are aware of the methods for sending a text to a phone, figuring out the best method for your particular situation should not be too difficult.

How To Send A Text Online

By David

With the high level of inter-connectivity in our modern society, it is no surprise that our technology has become more connected as well. Systems that used to be independent like phones and computers are now highly interrelated entities. This allows users to benefit in a number of ways including being able to send a text online.

Click here to compare cell phone plans. Free phone with activation. All major carriers.

Email

One of the oldest and most tried and true ways to send a text online is through the use of your email. Most people these days have an email account, and many have that email attached to their mobile phone allowing them to receive updates and messages without ever needing to sit down at a computer. This allows others who prefer to use a computer or perhaps do not have a phone to continue to communicate effectively with those that do. The disadvantage of this method is that it requires the recipient to have their email attached to their phone in order to receive the message on their mobile device.

Instant Messenger

Another widely used method to send a text online is through the use of an instant messenger application installed on your computer and/or phone. Originally, these programs allowed users to communicate in real-time via text messages through their computers. Now, these programs have developed in terms of functionality and complexity, allowing users to text, talk, and even video chat with their contacts from either their computer or their mobile device. The one disadvantage to this method is that in order to make it work, both parties must have the program installed on either or both their phones and their computers. Still, for keeping in touch with close friends and family, it is hard to find a better option.

Click here to compare cell phone plans. Free phone with activation. All major carriers.

VoIP Application

One of the newest methods available to cellular users to send a text online is the voice over IP or VoIP application. These applications include an online account as well, and offer things like calling and texting through your data plan. There are also other features such as call forwarding and a single voicemail box for all your phones. Using one of these applications, it is possible to send and receive text messages to and from a phone through your online account. This allows those without a phone to continue texting as though they had a phone without any issues. The major advantage of these programs over the other potential methods to send a text online is that it does not require participation from the recipient to work. This means that those you intend to message will not have to furnish additional information to you or download and install any apps. These programs simply use your contact’s phone number to send a text to them like normal.

Now that you are familiar with the primary ways to send a text online, you can decide which method is going to work the best for you and your social groups, implement it, and start messaging back and forth right away.

Click here to compare cell phone plans. Free phone with activation. All major carriers.

How To Send A Text Message

By David

If you are a brand new cell phone user or just taking your first steps into the world of texting, you may be unsure as to where to begin. To help you get started, here is a short and simple three-step guide to show ways to send a text message.

Click here to compare cell phone plans. All major carriers. Free phone with activation on select plans.

Open the texting app

Before you can learn how to send a text message, you will have to locate and open the texting application. Do not worry too much as this application is preloaded onto every phone and is typically available from the home screen. You will want to take a look at your phone’s home screen and see if there are any applications that look like an open envelope. If you find you have two different ones that simply means you have an email application as well. Of the two, the one that is yellow is the one you want to select. Just scroll to it using your phone’s direction keys and hit select or for a touchscreen phone just touch the icon to open the application. Once the application is open, find the button that says “compose” (sometimes in the menu) and select it to open a new text window.

Choose the recipients

The next step in learning how to send a text message is to choose the people you want to send the message to and enter their information. If you have the intended recipients as contacts on your phone, you should be able to simply enter their names and select them from a dropdown list that will appear listing all those from your contacts that you might be thinking of based on the first few letters you enter. If this is the case, just select their name and you are ready to go. If they are not in your contact list, you can enter their phone number manually and can usually save this information to your contacts after you have sent the message.

Click here to compare cell phone plans. All major carriers. Free phone with activation on select plans.

Typing your message

The final step to learning how to send a text message is to compose your message and send it. This is done in the large dialog box located below the dialog box where you entered the recipient’s information. Simply select this box and begin typing your message using the keypad (if using T9) or your keyboard (if your phone has a physical or touchscreen keyboard). Getting the hang of using your cell phone’s text input method takes a little getting used to, but once you get going, you will be amazed how quickly you can type messages. Once you have entered your message, you are ready to send it. Take a look at the screen and locate the “send” button. Simply select or tap that button, and your message will be sent to your intended recipient.

Now that you have learned how to send a text message you can start texting all your friends and family about anything and everything, helping you stay in touch without requiring long drawn out and often times lengthy conversations.

Click here to compare cell phone plans. All major carriers. Free phone with activation on select plans.