5 Things You Can Stop Paying For That Will Save You Money

Things You Can Stop Paying For

In today’s day and age, there are certain services and items that we can all stop paying for right now. Technology and access to the internet have completely changed the way we communicate and find entertainment. Some of these resources are even free! So, if you need to tighten the purse strings a bit, take a look at how much you spend on the following things each month. Chances are that you could eliminate many of these expenses and save yourself a ton of money.

5 Things You Can Stop Paying For Today

1. Music

Music is one of my greatest passions. I love finding new music, supporting local artists, going to concerts, and organizing my playlists. Although I don’t spend nearly as much for live music these days, I am constantly looking for ways to support my addiction without breaking the bank.

There are a MILLION options to explore new music: Spotify (my personal favorite), Pandora, YouTube, Grooveshark, 8tracks, and Soundcloud just to name a few. By all means, continue to buy albums and support these people. But also remember that when you play their songs to completion on sites like Spotify or Pandora, these artists are receiving money through royalties. You can still support your favorite bands and singers using these convenient apps.

2. Books

Can you remember the last time you physically went into a library? Yes, they still exist. Libraries are amazing and full of amazing resources. One cool trend popping up in Atlanta is roadside libraries. If you have seen them, they look like birdhouses, but they are full of books! You drive up, drop off your books, and pick one to read. It is a great idea and definitely builds a sense of community. If you don’t have these available in your neighborhood, you can create your own. If you don’t want to build a road-side library, that’s fine. You can set up a book exchange in your office, neighborhood, or social circles instead.

If you are more interested in e-books, there are also a ton of free resources online. This list not only directs towards the best sites, but can even help you choose titles tailored to your tastes.

3. Fast Food

This is a convenience for which  you pay a premium. Fast food is usually more expensive than cooking at home, and very rarely healthy. Furthermore, you pay even higher prices if you order through food delivery services. A little foresight and meal planning will help you cut this unnecessary convenience out of your life for good. Do yourself and your wallet a favor and make fast food one of the things you can stop paying for.

4. Cable

cut cable

I was once the type of person who religiously watched my favorite TV shows each week, anxiously waiting for new ones to be released. However, after cutting the cord, I’ve found a million other uses for my time. I can honestly say I’m a much happier person because of it. Instead of going home from work and vegging out on the couch, I do more meaningful tasks such as: cooking, walking my dog, gardening, or catching up with friends. It is so simple and so fulfilling. I do not miss the tube at all. However, I still subscribe to Netflix, I can get my fix of TV if need be. For $8.99 a month, the basic membership gives me access rather than spending $100+ for cable packages.

5. Gym Membership

This has been the hardest for me, but the extra work I’ve put in so far has been worth the savings. Not only do I save on membership fees, but also on the commute time and gas money. I am fortunate to have a gym at my office, but without this I would still be able to stay fit. There are so many resources and free exercise routines available online that you can still get a full workout at home. Simply look up your favorite activity on YouTube. I bet you will find a dozen free channels to get your started. Whether you enjoy yoga, jazzercise or free weight training, there is certain to be something out there for you.

The Budget Breakdown

My savings this year from the changes I’ve made: (January – March)
Cable ($360) – Netflix ($36) savings = $324
Spotify Subscription savings = $30
Books (I was a frequent Amazon book buyer) savings = roughly $50
Fast Food = roughly $40
Gym membership savings = $180

That is over $600 in savings for almost three months. The savings speaks for itself, but I am also living a much more fulfilling and healthier lifestyle. However, it can be a struggle to get started. But, the only way to get a handle on your finances is to tackle the problem head on. First, you need to collect all your financial information and sit down to balance your books. This means calculating your total take-home income after taxes. Then, you need to add up all your monthly expenses and subtract it from your income. Creating a budget does not need to be another tedious task. You may be surprised when you look at your daily expenditures and find even more things you can stop paying for.

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How to Use Home Appliances Efficiently

How to Use Home Appliances Efficiently

Modern homes come fully equipped with the latest appliances and technology to make our lives more convenient. These devices can save you valuable time normally spent doing household chores. However, if you do not use your home appliances efficiently, you could be costing yourself more in the long run. Although convenient, many of these large appliances consume large amounts of electricity. Here are some tips to help you cut your energy expenses by ensuring you use your home appliances efficiently and adopting environmentally responsible practices at home.

Washer and Dryer Energy Efficiency

Your laundry room is the perfect place to start evaluating your appliances’ energy consumption. Since your washer uses both water and electricity, it is doubly important to use this home appliance efficiently. A few minor adjustments could have a major impact.

Washing Machine

First off, make sure you fill your washing machine to capacity. Since it uses the same amount of energy, you can maximize efficiency with full loads. If you do not have enough to fill the drum, then reduce the settings to the appropriate size so you use less water and fewer kilowatts. Furthermore, consumer reports estimate that washing your clothes in cold water actually saves you about $60 each year. In addition to eliminating the electricity required to heat the water, but it also keeps your colors more vibrant.

Dryer

Although your washing machine requires a lot of energy to run, your dryer is one of the worst culprits of wasted wattage. I have been line drying my clothes for years now for several reasons. Not only is it free, but it is also environmentally friendly. When the weather does not cooperate, I use a drying rack or hang them up. On rainy days, you can use a fan to speed up drying time.

However, if this is not an option for you, there are things you can do to ensure that your dryer is running at its optimum performance settings. First, be sure to run the spin cycle before putting your laundry in the dryer. Also, clean the lint trap between loads so your appliance does not have to work harder than necessary. Additionally, adjusting the heat from the high to the medium setting can actually cut your energy usage in half. You can also take advantage of the residual heat by doing several loads one after another. The dryer is already hot, so it will need less energy to heat up for the next load.

Another way to further save on electricity is through smart sorting practices. Avoid overloading your dryer. Otherwise it will take longer to complete the load. When laundering bulky items, throw in a dryer ball to separate them to help them dry faster. The less time your dryer has to operate, the more money you save.

Refrigerator Efficiency

Like your washing machine and dishwasher, your refrigerator has the same energy consumption no matter how much is in it. So, it makes sense to maximize it by keeping your fridge well stocked. Another way to cut your energy costs is to check that your refrigerator and freezer are set to the recommended temperatures. If they are too cold, it greatly increases their kilowatt consumption.

Manufacturer settings recommend keeping your fridge between 35 and 38 degrees, and your freezer between 0 and 5 degrees. Studies show that lowering the temperature by 10 degrees below these levels can increase energy consumption by 25 percent. Since it runs 24/7 this is one example of how you can use home appliances more efficiently to save on your monthly bills.

Appliances for Cooking

Your oven is another major contributor to high energy bills. To reduce your electric bill, you can turn to other kitchen appliances that require less electricity. Cooking in the microwave reduces energy consumption by 30 to 80% depending on the model. You can also find recipes for your slow cooker, crock pot, or toaster oven. Since they are smaller, they are more efficient than your oven.

However, there are things you can do to make sure not to waste energy when you have to use your oven. For example, cover your pots and pans with a lid when cooking on the stove top. If you cook without a lid, it requires about 60% more energy. Another way to maximize your oven’s energy output is to cook several meals at the same time. Since it is already preheated, it requires less electricity to heat up for each meal. Just like your dryer, you can take advantage of the residual heat to cut your energy costs.

Home Appliance Standby Settings

One way many people waste energy without realizing is by not unplugging appliances and other electronic devices. Even when appliances are switched off, many of them go into standby mode. Though they are not active, they are ready to be instantly reactivated with the touch of a button. Using standby mode still draws power when they are not in use.

Most frequently used electronics like TVs, computers, and gaming consoles usually have standby options. So, it is best to unplug them when you are not using them. Also, don’t leave chargers plugged in once you have finished using them. If you have a difficult time remembering to do this, you can consolidate your electronics and appliances into a single power strip. It is easier to remember and more convenient since you are able to switch off several appliance at once. With the flip of a switch, you are can use several home appliances more efficiently at the same time.

Regular Maintenance of Home Appliances

This last piece of advice may be the most important. Regular maintenance of your home appliances ensure that they are performing at their optimal efficiency. Be sure to clean the coils inside the fridge, empty lint traps, clean dryer hoses, and remove calcium buildup from spray arm inside the dishwasher.  Failing to clean them could lead to costly repairs over time.

If you decide to go one step further, you can invest in upgrading your outdated appliances with ones that are more energy efficient. This does not mean you need to go out and buy brand new appliances though. It could be something as simple as replacing old light bulbs with energy efficient ones. Although, if it is time to upgrade your larger home appliances, shop around for ones that are Energy Star certified.

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Setting Up a Home Office and Classroom

Setting Up a Home Office and Classroom

After nearly a year, many Americans are still adjusting to working and attending classes remotely. However, many of us struggle to stay focused when we work from home. My family has also faced many challenges as we transitioned to our home office and classroom. The are many suggestions to improve your productivity from home. Here is how our household has tailored these tips to work for us.

Setting Up a Home Office during the Pandemic

Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, I taught English in Southeast Asia. However, circumstances changed and I returned to the United States to be closer to family. Not only did my place of residence change, but I also changed jobs when I came home. I was still teaching, but no longer in the classroom setting. Now, I was working with private student remotely. Unfortunately, this did not provide enough stable income to support myself.

In an effort to reduce my exposure to the virus, I researched other online employment opportunities, I returned to the world of freelance writing. Even though I was only working part time, I needed to create a professional environment. Studies have proven that having a dedicated office space increases productivity when working from home. Luckily, my roommate had already set up a home office. She had created a well organized and professional setting. My desk is strategically placed in a quiet area of the house, away from the heavily trafficked areas. More importantly, it is away from my bed and other lounge areas so I stay motivated and task-oriented. It was the perfect solution for my strange new life.

Struggles to Increase Productivity While Working from Home

The transition to working from home was much smoother than I had anticipated. However, it also highlighted some of my negative habits. My greatest struggles are dealing with distractions and sticking to a schedule. I like having the flexibility. But, having too much freedom allowed me to procrastinate more, and thus, get less done in a day.

It took me twice as long to finish assignments because I was constantly distracted. My phone behavior was the main culprit. I was constantly checking messages and notifications, scrolling through social media, or chatting with people. I took frequent breaks rather than completing tasks from start to finish. As an added means to distract myself, I would switch between professional and household tasks during working hours. Previously, my solution was to work late at night when everyone went to bed. However, this led to poor sleeping habits that further affected my productivity.

To put myself back on track, I created a weekly schedule. There were specific days only for work and others for household responsibilities. I made daily efforts to adhere to it and discipline myself to stay focused. Not only did it improve my work habits, but it also made it easier to find time for personal goals. Knowing my availability helped me maximize my time.

Remote Learning for Students

As the pandemic continued, the next major decision was whether remote learning was the best option for my nieces. Over the summer, local school districts spent more time arguing about mask mandates and sports participation than developing an online curriculum. We were concerned their education would suffer because of it. So, we decided they should attend in person.

Each one went to a different school and had their own measures in place to ensure the safety of students. We added more decontamination measures including immediate disposal of old masks, changing when they got home, and daily laundering. Furthermore, they each carried PPEs on their person and washed their hands constantly.

The private high school had stringent social distancing measures that seemed to be working. Unfortunately, the elementary school had grown lax in enforcing them. It was disconcerting to hear  about their daily “mask break” and sparked another family meeting as the number of cases continued to rise. Both girls were feeling more anxious attending classes in person. They were worried that other students were not being as cautious which detracted from their lessons. Therefore, we all agreed it was better to set up a home office and classroom for them to attend lessons online.

Setting Up a Home Classroom

Since I had already set up a home office, creating a remote classroom was much simpler. The first step was to clean their room to make a dedicated work space, just as I had. Each one had a desk in their room which was quieter and more organized than the common areas. We also learned their class schedules to ensure they stayed on task and accounted for their time.

The first semester was a learning experience for everyone.  They each had different study habits and learning styles. While my elder niece can self-motivated and manage her time very well, the younger one needed more guidance. When she wasn’t physically in the classroom, she was less likely to ask for help. Her grades started to slip and she became more reclusive. She said she felt less motivated and overwhelmed as the material got more difficult. Oftentimes, we forget that mental health is a crucial component when working from a home office and classroom.

Making Adjustments Along the Way

As we begin our second semester of remote learning, we have implemented new strategies. The biggest change was adhering to a strict schedule. We now mimic the routine they had when attending classes in person. Every morning, they get up and come to my house. There is a desk for each of us in the home office as well. Furthermore, we mirror the teacher’s schedules and use planners to track homework. Being more organized allows them to have more control over their time and feel less overwhelmed.

There is also a more interactive atmosphere since we are all working simultaneously. Some would argue that social stimulation is just as important as the content of the lessons. Since we all share the same work space, I can better monitor her habits and make suggestions to help her improve. As an added bonus, we use time during lunches and classes she can’t participate in to review homework. Although the semester has just begun, there are already significant improvements. I truly believe that with self-discipline that we can all be just as effective working remotely.

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