Archive for the ‘Hacks and Tips’ Category

February 18, 2017

Brilliant Airport Hacks That Will Save You Time, Money, and Stress

This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more details.

Getting through the airport these days can be quite a hassle. Long lines, TSA agents barking orders, grumpy fellow travelers, it’s enough to make you want to stay home. As someone who travels quite frequently, I’ve got the airport thing down to a science. Follow my tips and your airport experience will be much less stressful.

A TSA Pre membership is $85 for 5 years. When you have TSA Pre, you don’t have to remove your shoes, light jacket, or belt. You also don’t have to take your liquids or laptop out for screening. The lines are often much shorter and move more quickly. However, there are a few downsides – Having a TSA Pre membership does not guarantee you will get TSA Pre on your boarding pass every time and some airlines and airports don’t allow their passengers to use it at all. You can find a list of TSA participating airlines here. You can search for airports with TSA Precheck here.

2 Free Months of Clear Clear is another great service that allows you to breeze through security. Users typically get through the screening process in 5 minutes or less. With more people using TSA Pre, Clear is perfect for people willing to spend a little more money to make their airport experience more palatable. Membership is about $15/month and you can get 2 Months Free (14 months for the price of 12). Clear operates in 16 airports throughout the country, with more locations being added regularly. Already have TSA Pre? Clear works in conjunction with it!

Reserve your parking spot in advance. I’ve nearly missed a flight due to full lots! And it really stinks if you have to park in a premium lot because there are no economy spaces available. Parking should not cost as much as your airfare!

Airport Parking Discounts

About Airport Parking – Up to 70% off regular parking rates – Up to 70% off regular parking rates

Park ‘N Fly – Save 10% off posted rates

ParkSleepFly – Stay at an airport hotel with Free parking and airport shuttle

The Parking Spot – Mobile-friendly and printable coupons

Airport Parking Discounts

Note where you parked and send it to yourself in a text message or snap a photo with your phone so you can easily locate your vehicle when you get back.

Snacks are expensive at the airport and some airlines don’t serve food. Bring your own from home.

Don’t wear a belt or footwear that is difficult to get on and off. Don’t wear boots that will set off the metal detector.

Many airlines have digital boarding passes which you can display on your mobile device. A big time saver in most cases…unless you have limited cell signal or are having trouble locating it in your inbox. Screenshot your boarding pass so it is readily available. No signal or WI-FI required!

Take everything out of your pockets and put it in your purse or carry-on BEFORE you get in the security line. The fewer things you need to do in line, the better!

When you get through the security checkpoint, don’t get in the first screening line, as it is usually the longest. Head over to one in the middle.

Use a backpack at the airport Avoid using luggage and roller bags. If I’m only going to be gone for a few days, I can get away with carrying just a backpack and a purse. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane, i.e. coat, boots, sweater, etc. and pack the smaller stuff, i.e. sneakers, flip-flops, t-shirts, etc. Stretch your wardrobe by packing 2 tops for every bottom. No one will notice (or care) that you wore the same jeans twice.

If the airline has open seating, choose a seat that is closest to the front of the plane so you can get off sooner when you land. Not having a roller bag will help tremendously. I often fly on Southwest and am usually able to snag a seat in one of the first 5 rows, even with a B31+ boarding position! When you don’t need overhead storage, you have a lot more options.

Bring headphones. While it’s nice to have a friendly conversation with a stranger once in a while, sometimes I just want some peace and quiet. If you’ve ever sat next to someone who wanted to talk to you the entire flight, I think you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Some people can’t take a hint and will still keep talking, even if you are reading a book! I’ve found that if you pop in a pair of noise-canceling earbuds, it’s like having the plane all to yourself. They will also drown out the guy behind you who doesn’t seem to know what an “inside voice” is and the crying baby at the back of the plane.

Opt to fly out of smaller airports, if possible. They are less busy and lines are usually much shorter. For example, instead of LAX, use Burbank or Ontario, instead of San Francisco, use Oakland.

Do you have any tips for getting through the airport more efficiently? I’d love to hear them!

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February 8, 2017

26 Things that are Killing Your Food Budget

Food Budget Killers
This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more details.

According to the USDA, Americans spent $1.46 trillion on food and beverages at grocery stores and other retail outlets in 2014 alone. That amount is expected to be even higher in 2017, due to livestock diseases, major weather events, and shocks to global food markets. Price inflation for food is outpacing every consumer spending category, with the exception of medical care and housing.

While we can’t do much to control food prices, there are many things we do to sabotage our own food budgets, including dropping $200 at the grocery store, then buying a pizza on the way home.

Food Budget Killers

Using coupons. Yep, I said that. Using coupons can be a money waster. Especially when you take into account that most coupons are for highly processed, overpriced foods. If the product is something you would never buy in the first place, you’d save more money by not buying it at all.

Following recipes exactly. You want to try out a new recipe you found scrolling through Pinterest. It calls for buttermilk, but you don’t have any. So you rush out to the store, buy a quart, use a cup, and the rest goes to waste. Sound familiar? Instead of throwing away money on stuff you won’t use, look for ways to substitute using items you have. Google is a great resource. There are endless articles on ingredient substitutions for everything from poultry seasoning to buttermilk. What’s Cooking America also has a handy chart on their site. (Tip: for each cup of buttermilk you need, substitute 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to measure 1 cup.)

Wasting food. estimates 70 billion pounds of food gets wasted in America each year. That translates to up to 40% of food grown, processed, and transported in the U.S. never being consumed. Sure, not all of that reaches our refrigerators or pantries, but it’s worth taking a hard look at our own habits to see where we can make a difference. Don’t buy perishables in bulk, freeze what you can, get creative with leftovers, and “shop” in your pantry instead of hitting the store. “Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story” is a great movie that is available for Free on Amazon Prime Video.

Assuming the sell by date is the “eat by” date. There are three buckets dates on food fall into: “Sell By”, “Use By”, and “Best if Used By”. Don’t buy food from a store past the sell by date. However, food in your fridge or pantry can still be edible days, or even weeks, after the sell by date, depending on what it is. Use by is the last day that a food manufacturer will guarantee a product’s quality, but it doesn’t mean the food is unsafe after this date. Best if used by indicates the flavor or quality of a food may not be as good after this day, but it may still be fine to eat. The USDA says, “Food products are safe to consume past the date on the label, and regardless of the date, consumers should evaluate the quality of the food product prior to its consumption.” (Tip: It never hurts to do the sniff test, especially with meat and dairy products.)

Tossing food before it is spoiled. Bananas a little too brown? Make banana bread! Bread a little too crusty? Make bread pudding or croutons! Even stale cereal, such as corn flakes or Chex, can be crushed up and used as breading for fried chicken.

Assuming the larger item is the better deal. Pay close attention to the cost per unit in small print on the price tag. This will tell you exactly how much you are paying, in this example, per ounce, and allow you to compare with pricing on other brands and sizes.

Not using the store’s loyalty rewards card. All those discounted price tags you see on the shelves are probably only offered if you have a shopper loyalty card. Don’t have a card or forget to swipe yours? Be prepared to pay full price.

Assuming you have to buy 2 when something is priced 2 for $5. This is a very common upsell tactic to get people to spend more money. Oftentimes, the sale price is the same whether you buy 1 or 2. Check your store’s policy.

Buying produce that is not in season. When produce is in season, it’s cheaper, fresher, tastes better, and has more nutrients. It’s also more likely to be locally grown, making it a better choice from an environmental standpoint.

Buying meat that is not on sale. Grocery stores regularly have specials on different cuts of meat. Plan your weekly menus around what is on sale. Stock up and freeze meats your family consumes regularly when the price is right.

Eating meat with every meal. Vegetable based proteins are more affordable, healthier, and take less of a toll on our environment. They are also easier on your bank account. According to, vegetarians can save at least $750 more per year than meat-eaters. Cookie + Kate is one of my favorite vegetarian food blogs. You’ll find a ton of great recipes there!

Not reading the weekly sale ads. When you’re in the market to buy a new car, you look around for the best price and possibly save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Why not do the same for groceries? Over the course of a year, you can save about the same amount! In most cities, grocery ads are delivered with the postal mail on Tuesdays and the sales run Wednesday-Tuesday.

Not knowing the average price of items you buy most. Just because a store says an item is on sale doesn’t mean it is the best price. Knowing how much things cost on average will help you determine which sales are good and which are all hype.

Being brand loyal to a fault. Whether it’s the store or the products you buy, keep an open mind and try new things. In the process of saving money, you could also discover a new favorite.

Buying dairy products that are displayed in the front row. Grocery stores place the items expiring soonest in the front. Reach around to the back and grab the milk that is fresher and will last in your fridge longer.

Buying pre-sliced fruits and veggies. A ready-to-go fruit or veggie tray can run $10 or more. Take a few minutes to wash and slice the stuff yourself and you will pay a fraction of that.

Paying more than $2 for a box of cereal. Here’s where it makes sense to clip coupons. Stacking a manufacturer’s coupon on top of a cereal that is on sale will almost always get you under the $2 mark.

Ignoring the store’s salad bar. If you’re making a Greek Salad and only need a few kalamata olives, don’t waste money on a whole jar. It’s cheaper to buy the few you need from the store’s salad bar.

Avoiding the bakery’s “day old” rack. You can save 50% or more on rolls, baguettes, french bread, and other bakery items by scooping them off the day old rack. Just be sure to give them a little squeeze first to make sure they are still fresh enough and use or freeze them the day you buy. Shop early for the best selection.

Grabbing a huge cart. You are more likely to fill a big cart with items you don’t really need. Keep impulse buys to a minimum by using the smallest cart to get the job done.

Not watching prices at the register and checking your receipt. ABC News reported supermarket scanner errors cost consumers up to $2.5 billion per year! The most common problems are sales not being programmed into the register and stores that charge tax on non-taxable items.

Shopping without a plan. Having a list isn’t enough. Know what you are going to make with those items before you put them in your cart.

Spending too much time in the store. The longer you’re there, the more you’ll buy. Try to get in and out in as little time as possible. Take your list (organized by department), a pen to cross things off as you grab them, and hit the ground running.

Taking kids with you. I know. This one isn’t always easy. When mine were little (I had 3 under 5 at one point), I would go grocery shopping when my husband got home from work. As they got older, I would go while they were at school. It’s easier to stay on budget when you don’t have little munchkins begging for stuff that isn’t on the list and you won’t have to offer up food bribes in exchange for them being good.

Bottom line. It’s your money. Be mindful of where you are spending it and do all you can to keep more of it in your wallet!

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February 6, 2017

Every Kid in a Park Program : 4th Graders and their Families get Free Access to hundreds of parks, lands, and waters for an entire year

Every Kid in a Park Program

The “Every Kid in a Park Program” gives 4th Graders and their families Free access to hundreds of parks, lands, and waters for an entire year. The pass is for U.S. fourth-grade (or home-school equivalent) students. Simply show the pass to a ranger when you enter. If there is no ranger, leave it on the dashboard of your car.

What the Pass Covers

If you visit a site that charges entrance fees per person, the pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults for Free.

If your group visits a site that charges vehicle entrance fees, the pass admits all children under 16 and all adults in up to one passenger vehicle.

If you arrive at a site on bicycle, the pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults on bicycles.

What the Pass Does Not Cover

The pass doesn’t cover things like parking fees, camping, boats, and special tours. Also, some sites are managed by private operators. They may not honor the pass. Check with the site ahead of time to find out.

The pass doesn’t cover fees for local, city, or state parks and recreation areas unless they say that they accept this pass.

More Good Things to Know

Students can’t transfer the pass to anyone else.

Electronic versions of this paper pass are not accepted. It must be printed out.

If you lose your pass, get a new one by visiting the website and signing up again.

The pass is for the 2016 to 2017 school year. It expires August 31, 2017.

Paper passes can be exchanged for plastic passes at certain sites.

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January 25, 2017

6 Ways to Prevent Package Theft and Stop Porch Pirates

6 Ways to Prevent Package Theft and Stop Porch Pirates
This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more details.

According to, in 2015 alone, an estimated 23 million Americans had packages stolen from their homes. That number is likely going to rise as more and more consumers are enjoying the perks of online shopping.

How can I protect myself from porch pirates?

One of the best ways to prevent porch theft is knowing when you are going to receive a package and making arrangements so that the package is not left there for a long period of time.

Amazon When you order from Amazon, you can opt to receive text messages letting you know when a package will arrive and when it has been delivered.

The United States Postal Service has a program that allows you so see when a package is coming to you, get text alerts whenever there’s a tracking update for your package, and schedule a redelivery of your package online if a delivery attempt is made when you aren’t home. If you’re going out of town, you can put all your mail on hold. They’ll keep it for you at your local Post Office and you can pick it up or they will deliver it all when you’re back in town.

UPS My Choice is a free program that will send you delivery alerts via text, phone or e-mail the day before a delivery. If you won’t be home at the time of delivery, you can request packages to be held for pickup at a UPS facility. For a $5 per package fee, you can have the item delivered to another address or choose a new delivery date that fits your schedule. A Premium Membership ($40/year) gives you unlimited free deliveries to another address, unlimited free deliveries on another day, plus other benefits. UPS My Choice

FedEx Delivery Manager is a Free program that allows you to hold your delivery at a local FedEx location, give specific instructions to FedEx for deliveries, customize delivery times, request delivery to another address, request a vacation hold, sign for a package remotely, and receive delivery notifications.

It’s also good to make a pact with a neighbor or two to help each other with collecting packages if they are delivered when no one is home.

Upping the Ante

But what if package theft is rampant in your neighborhood and being proactive is not enough? Front porch security cameras are very popular right now, with many featuring apps that allow you to see (and even speak to!) anyone on your front porch in real time.

Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell The Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell allows you to see, hear, and speak to anyone at your door from your smartphone, tablet or PC. You’ll get instant alerts when visitors press the button on your doorbell or trigger motion sensors. Infrared night vision ensures you can protect your home, even when it’s dark. It conveniently sets up in minutes with the included tool kit and installation guide.

This Utah man had such a problem with package thieves, he set up his own sting operation, setting out fake packages, and catching the porch pirates on video. This might be a good idea if you suspect the pirate is someone who lives in your neighborhood and you can ID them.

What should I do if I suspect a package has been stolen?

1. Make sure your package really is MIA. Last Christmas, I sent a friend a pair of shoes. When I got the delivery confirmation, I asked her if they fit and she told me she hadn’t received them yet. I went back and forth with the store via email, only for her to find them in her MAILBOX the next day. Moral of the story – not all packages are placed on the porch. Check everywhere!

2. If you have determined that the package is indeed missing, contact the store you ordered from to see if they will work with you on getting a replacement.

3. Contact your local police department on a non-emergency line to report the missing package.

4. Report the issue to your local shipping agent. It is important to know that shipping agencies such as UPS, USPS, and FedEx are typically not responsible for stolen packages, unless they are insured. However, if they are alerted to incidents like these, they may take precautions to leave your packages a little less out in the open.

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January 24, 2017

Hot Deal Alerts from MyBargainBuddy

When you sign up for my email newsletter, you will get the best deals and freebies delivered straight to your inbox. However, putting them into an email takes time. If you really want to make sure you don’t miss out on anything, you should also connect with me on social sites!

I post deals on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest first, so if you use any of those sites, be sure to like/follow MyBargainBuddy!

Special note for Facebook users – Liking my page doesn’t guarantee you’ll see all my posts. You also need to “follow” me. To do this, go to my Facebook Page, click the follow button, and select “See First” under the “In Your News Feed” section.

By default, Facebook displays what it determines are “Top Stories” in your news feed. What they think is important might not be what you think is important. You can change the view by going to Facebook, clicking the 3 dots next to News Feed in the left column, and selecting “Most Recent”. This is how I have my preferences set up. It presents a better balance of posts, with much less focus on negativity. Using the app or mobile site? Follow the instructions here.

January 18, 2017

Put the Squeeze on Your Energy Bills

This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more details.

Energy bills can really take a toll on your budget, especially in the coldest and warmest parts of the year.

I’ll be the first to admit, sometimes it’s easier just to crank up the thermostat a bit and not think about it. But when the bill arrives, I always get a sinking feeling knowing I could be paying less.

According to, as much as half of the energy used in our homes goes to heating and cooling. So it makes the most sense to try to make the most changes in those 2 areas.

When it’s cold

Instead of turning up the heat when you’re feeling chilly, put on a sweatshirt and warm socks. Laying on the couch? Grab a blanket! You can save around 10% a year on your heating bill by turning your thermostat back 10°–15° for just eight hours per day.

Use a programmable thermostat that allows you to automatically adjust heat while you are away. Unless you have pets and your house gets really cold, your furniture doesn’t care what the temperature is. I should add that if you live somewhere with freezing temps, you should always keep your thermostat at 55° to protect your pipes.

Make sure your HVAC filters are clean. Furnaces use less energy when they don’t have to work so hard to pull in air. Added benefit – You’ll be breathing cleaner air! FiltersDelivered always offers free shipping and you can get 15% off with coupon FV15.

Heat rises – if you have a ceiling fan, turn it on low and run it clockwise to help circulate warmer air.

Water heating accounts for about 18% of the energy consumed in your home. Setting the temperature on your water heater to 120° will save energy and prevent accidental burns. If you can afford it, upgrade to a tankless water heater. It saves energy by heating water as you need it. Another perk – you’ll never run out of hot water!

When it’s hot

Invest in a whole house fan. When the temperature outside is cooler than the temperature inside, open your windows (this is a very important step – skip it and you will have big problems!), and turn on the whole house fan. Cool air will be sucked in through the open windows and the hot air inside your house will be vented out through the attic.

If a whole house fan isn’t in the budget, grab some box fans. And I don’t mean those little dinky ones that are made specifically for windows. Get a few nice, big 20″ old-school box fans. Place them in open windows facing in toward the house. This will help pull cooler outside air in. This is most effective in bedrooms and other small rooms.

Have ceiling fans? During the summer, they should be set to turn counter clockwise to improve cool air distribution.

Close registers in rooms that aren’t being used and don’t need to be cooled.

Again, make sure those filters are clean! FiltersDelivered always offers free shipping and you can get 15% off with coupon FV15.

Don’t heat up the house by cooking in the oven. Fire up the grill, use the crock-pot, or make a stir-fry on the stove.

All Year-Round

Washing laundry in cold water can save about $60 per year.

Only run the dishwasher when it is full and use the shortest cycle possible to get your dishes clean. Pre-rinsing before you load the dishwasher is key!

Save $25-$75 per year by turning your computer off every night (assuming you still use a desktop).

Unplug electronics when not in use. Even if they aren’t on, they are still using energy.

Installing high-efficiency shower heads can save as much as 15,000 gallons of water per year. As an added bonus, that’s 15,000 gallons of water that don’t have to be heated!

Want even more tips? Check out Consumers Energy’s free online brochure, “More Than 100 Ways to Save on Your Energy Bill“.

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