Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Quickest Way to Save Money

....For all the cheap living strategies out there, there is one sure way to save money, and that is.....

....by actually saving money! Of course, saving is sometimes one of the hardest things to do.  But here are some quick strategies that just might help!

*  See if your employer or bank offers a direct savings option. That means that part of your paycheck will automatically be taken out and put into savings every month - and since you'll never see the money, you'll never miss it! (Well, that's the theory, anyway. :) )

*  Consider opening a savings account at a different bank than your checking account or open one that isn't connected to your checking account. That way, you won't easily be able to draw money out of your savings and instantly into your checking account - and that will help you from spending it immediately.

* If you're someone who keeps track of their expenses, "round up" in your check register. If you spend, say, $43.34 at the grocery store, don't write "43.34" down. Instead, "round up" - write down $44. When your bank statement comes, voila! You will have a bonus amount of money in your checking account.

* Never spend coins. Put all the coins you ever get back after you buy something into a container at home.

...Good luck with your saving endeavors, readers -- and tune in next week for some exciting news about free stuff coming up in July! (P.S. It involves cows and chickens!)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Free Trial Roundup: Stuff You Can Try Out For Absolutely Nothing!

Many companies & services offer free trials for people who haven't used their stuff before. Sure, you only get to use it for a few days for free - but still - that could be a few days of awesome. Here's the skinny on some you might want to take advantage of (and I know you peeps are all smart enough to read the fine print before signing up for anything...but just in case you need a reminder...don't forget to read the fine print about needing to cancel a subscription!)

Movies & TV: 

Netflix - Offers a 30-day free trial of movies (online streaming and by mail) for new users. Info about this offer is on the right side of their main webpage here.

Hulu Plus - Access to streaming episodes of most TV shows (all the ones you can't get on free Hulu) plus movies. Free 30-day trial for college students; free 7 day trial for everyone else. Click here to sign up with your e-mail address.

Crunchyroll - Offers a 14-day free trial of access to 250,000 minutes of Anime and Japanese, Korean, and Chinese drama tv shows as they air. Click here for more about the free trial.


Napster - 7-day free trial of access to the ten million music tracks in their library for new users. Click here to get more info about your options for free trials.

Rhapsody - 14-day trial of access to THEIR library of ten million songs - available to new users. Click here to learn more about the offer.


Gamefly - Free 10-day trial of video game renting (like Netflix, but for games) for new members. Click here and check the free trial option to sign up.

World of Warcraft - Free 10-day trial for new players. Info on the WoW main webpage here. 


24 Hour Fitness - Free 7-day trial pass for their fitness centers nationwide here.

Bally's Total Fitness - Free 7-day trial gym membership.  Click here to see if there's a Bally's near you.

Curves - Free 7-day "guest pass" for women interested in a women's only fitness center. Information on their main page here. 

Gold's Gym - 7-day pass for free. Find a location close to you here. 

Lady of America Club - Free 7-day trial for women who are interested in a women's-only fitness club. Check out this webpage for locations near you.

Here's to another money-saving week, friends!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Fun Without Spending a Cent

Are you beginning to think happy thoughts of summer -- and then having despairing thoughts about your wallet? Never fear, Captain Cheap is here with some summertime adventure ideas a la free!

Part of "Feats of Strength" by Tom Otterness, featured at
Western Washington University
* Go see some outdoor art. Some cities have outdoor art galleries (like Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis) that are free to visit year round. Other cities feature commissioned outdoor artwork spread around the city, in parks and in front of businesses, like the pig statues in Seattle, which you can make an entire day out of visiting. Community colleges and universities also often feature outdoor art on their campuses - search on the websites of schools near you to find out what they offer! 

* Visit a cemetery. As my dad likes to say, you can always "dig up a friend" at a cemetery...and as I have never actually said, but would like to start saying: There might be somebody famous buried right down the road! Check out the location page from Findagrave.com here and click on your state - or country! - to find out what famous/historical people have tombstones near you. You might also consider visiting a military cemetery (such as a Civil War cemetery) if there is one close by - these are often pretty memorable.

You could be on the
other end of this
leash! (picture
courtesy of
* Walk some dogs. Call your local animal shelter and see if they can use dog-walking volunteers (often, they can!) and get involved. You can help a dog and soak up some sun at the same time! If you're more of a cat person, shelters can oftentimes use cat-petters too...but I can't make any promises about that one helping you get in that vitamin D. 

* Visit your local Tourist Information /Visitors' Bureau. I know, that sounds boring, but think about this: These places are often staffed by senior citizen volunteers just WAITING for someone to walk through the door to pass off their wisdom to. Senior citizens who have serious connections -- chances are good they know about festivals going on that you've never heard of (possibly on your very own street) and also where to get the cheapest cup of coffee in town. They might also have information about historical markers in your area -- almost always free to visit -- and hiking trails, complete with maps. There's no requirement that you have to be a tourist to "learn from the locals." 

* And when you get bored of these, there's always these:  Go to a parade, visit a local lake or river, hang out at a town festival, have a picnic, host a barbecue (if you have access to a barbecue - otherwise make your friends host one), fly a kite, take a hike, play frisbee, catch up on summer reading with the library's help, ride a bike, bird watch, or go fishing. 

Readers, here's to another superhero week... of saving dollars in distress!

(Thanks to Mr. Tightwad at the Chicago SouthTown Star for the inspiration to write this post. Chicago-area readers, be sure to check out his awesome cheap summer tips for your area here.) 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Free (or very cheap!) DIY Project written by guest blogger Lisa Lemble!

Free, Elegant-looking Photo and Art frames

Photo courtesy of diyhappy.com. 

For framing small photos, especially cropped 4"x6" prints, a beautiful alternative to buying photo frames is a CD jewel case. Every case has an insert--usually black or white--which can easily be popped out. Then you are left with a case that can both display one or two photos and store additional photos inside.
Here are some of the winning characteristics of CD cases reused as frames:

1. Beautiful. The simplicity of CD cases makes them instant classics. So many inexpensive frames sold in stores have designs or colors that clash with photos. CD cases allow the photo to be the focus.

2. Portable. CD cases are lightweight and fold up securely for travel or moving. This means they are the perfect gift for a family member who travels. Put several photos in each half (the tabs that hold in CD booklets are perfect for this) so they can be rotated occasionally. Just imagine mom or dad arriving in a hotel room and being to pop open their CD case photo frame and put it on the nightstand. The artwork of young children can be but down to size, or one side of the frame can be filled with an infant or toddler's handprint. (You're getting teary-eyed right now, aren't you?!). And if it is left behind by mistake it can be easily replaced.

3. Versatile. Opened up and propped on a shelf or desk with the sides at a 90-130 degree angle gives you a double photo frame. Because they are so lightweight, closed up they can be attached to a wall with that tacky blue stuff used for posters or with glue dots. Posting them on a wall in a series or a pattern can make an incredible display.

Since the cases are three dimensional, small works of art with depth to them can be displayed while being protected. Cut some thin cardboard to the size of the case, use them to make your own collages of found items, then arrange them on a wall. Use them in a narrow floor-to-ceiling spot in your room or apartment.

4 Free. Ask friends or put a request on your local freecycle site. People often have these and want to get rid of them, but can't stand the idea of just putting them in the trash. After all, they should be useful for something, right?

***Here's to another cheap and awesome week, readers! -Captain Cheap ***