Drugstore Makeup: Just as Good as the Expensive Brands

It’s expensive to be a girl. In order to achieve that flawless complexion that is expected of us, we must purchase everything from foundation and concealer to mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, lipstick … the list goes on. When you’re buying all of these things on a regular basis, your bank account really feels the effects.

Best Drugstore Makeup to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands

I know, it can be tempting to buy the expensive brands of makeup, like MAC, Dior, Clinique, Estee Lauder, and Tom Ford. After all, their advertising can be quite convincing. And magazines and television consistently tell us that in order to look as beautiful as the stars gracing the big screen, we need the expensive makeup brands. That advertising and marketing is a big part of why the makeup costs more in the first place.

Best Drugstore Makeups to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands

But you and your wallet will be happy to know that sometimes it actually is better to opt for drugstore makeup. Here’s the best drugstore makeup to buy so you can save money, but not sacrifice your look:

Mascara

You don’t have to drop big bucks on mascara, because the stuff you’re getting at the drugstore is just as good (if not better) than what you would purchase in a department store. In fact, did you know that the mascara brands sold in drugstores are made in the same laboratories, with the same formulas as the expensive cosmetics?

It’s not worth spending lots of money on mascara because you’ll have to end up tossing it in the trash after just three months. Three months is the point in time when the formula begins to get dried out and isn’t as effective. Plus, old mascara quickly becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to spread bacteria all over your lashes.

Best Drugstore Makeup to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands - Mascara.jpg

I never know what brand of mascara to get when I’m walking through the drugstore aisles. One says it will give my lashes volume, the other says it will give them length. One is black, one is dark brown– there are lots of choices.

What I didn’t know, however, is that the type of wand you select actually matters. The thicker the brush, the more voluminous your eyelashes will be. If you really want to pump up your lashes, go with a plastic bristle brush or a twisted wire brush. For length, the opposite is true. Get defined lashes with smaller plastic or rubber brushes.

Eyeliner

Just like mascara, eyeliner only has a shelf life of three months, so you’ll want to re-stock your liner every three months to prevent the spread of bacteria. Many of the designer brands use the same formulas you would find in drugstores, so you’re not doing yourself any favors by splurging here.

Best Drugstore Makeup to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands - Eyeliners

I feel clueless when I’m looking for eyeliner. There’s pencil, powder, liquid, black, brown, gray, thick, thin– way too many options. In the past, I’ve gone with black pencil eyeliner, but black eyeliner can actually be too harsh for the eyes and make them look smaller. Instead, it’s best to go for a softer, subtler tone, such as brown or gray. You can save the bold black shade for a dramatic look during a night out on the town.

Best Drugstore Makeup to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands - Eyeliner

If you want an eyeliner that produces more sharp and contoured lines, you’ll want to opt for the liquid variety (I still cannot seem to master the cat eye look, but I’m working on it).

Eyeshadow

No sense in shelling out $30 for eyeshadow when there are brands at the drugstore offering you a palette of lots of different colors for way less. You can purchase a combination of browns, beiges, and gold to warm up your eyes, or give them a cool look with a palette of silvers, greens, and blues.

Best Drugstore Makeup to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands - Eye Shadow

Whichever hues you decide to buy, a palette is always the most inexpensive option because you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

I’m living proof that you shouldn’t splurge on eyeshadow. I bought a single container of brown eyeshadow from the MAC store (holy expensive), and my much less pricey L’Oreal palette of brown shadows wins every time. Nobody is ever going to know that I’m wearing L’Oreal and not MAC, unless they ask.

Best Drugstore Makeup to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands - Eye Shadows

Plus, thanks to eyeshadow’s four-month lifespan, you’ll find yourself purchasing this must-have makeup pretty often.

Lipstick

If you’re smart about what lipstick you buy, you can get a great deal without sacrificing quality. You can always tell a good lipstick from a less-than-average one, because the designer brand glides on smooth with a luxurious finish and full color. Be sure to look for a lipstick at the drugstore that combines color with hydrating ingredients.

Best Drugstore Makeup to Buy Instead of the Expensive Brands - Lipstick

Of course, when you’re buying from the drugstore, you’re bound to come across a specific product or brand that you just don’t like. Create a list of all these brands to ensure you don’t keep buying them over and over again. I tend to lose track of which mascaras and eyeliners I’ve used in the past, so having a list to rely on helps. That way, you know you’ll be buying the best drugstore makeup while still saving cash.

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What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment

Furnishing a first apartment is a great feeling, but it can also be an overwhelming process. There are so many options for everything that even deciding on a towel set can seem like too much pressure. Plus, a smaller budget can at times mean refraining from buying some things altogether.

What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment

If you’re on a budget, knowing what to buy first will help you allocate your spending accordingly. That way, you can get what you’ll truly need, then use the rest of your budget on little touches that will turn the space into a home. Here’s a priority list of what to buy when furnishing your first apartment:

A Bed

Your first priority should be a bed, since it’s where you’ll be spending most of your time while at home. In fact, the most essential part of the bed is the mattress. Get a good quality mattress that you’ll sleep well on and be able to keep for several years. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Bed As far as bed frames go, a basic frame is all that’s really needed, but feel free to get something a little more decorative. Though not absolutely necessary, it may make you feel a little more at home in your bedroom.

A Comforter and Sheets

Speaking of beds, you’ll also want to invest in a down comforter and duvet, especially if you live in a cold place. A nice down comforter will last for years, and you can buy new duvets instead of a whole new comforter as your tastes change. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Comfroter and Sheets Plus, stripping off a duvet and throwing it in the washing machine, while sometimes awkward and complicated, is a lot easier and more efficient than trying to wash an entire comforter.

A Couch

A living room without a couch isn’t the most comfortable place to spend time, so make sure to pick one up. Splurging on a pricey couch may seem a little out of reach, so if it just seems like too much, start with a futon. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment -  Couch Futons may not be as comfortable or long-lasting, but at least you and your guests will have a place to relax (and sleep). Box stores like Ikea, Wal-Mart, and Big Lots may have some inexpensive couch options, so if you’d rather buy a couch than a futon, consider starting there.

A Coffee Table

Unless you have room for a full dining table set, a coffee table may be the only eating surface you have in your apartment for a couple of years. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Coffee Table This is one item you don’t have to bother splurging on– look to cheaper versions, since it’s likely to get damaged between now and when you move out.

Kitchen Necessities

There are various kitchen items you should make sure to get when furnishing your new place, and you probably know best what those items are. Take a few minutes and write down a list of your own personal kitchen necessities– the items you use the most, like a tea kettle or microwave, for instance. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Kitchen Necessities Break the list down into categories for items you use to cook (pots and pans, spatulas and food), items you use to eat (dishes, silverware, glasses), items you use to clean (take my word for it, and get plenty of Clorox wipes), and any appliances you use often. I know many people who simply can’t live without a ​slow cooker or have to have a French press. If that sounds like you, put it on your list.

Bathroom Necessities

You may already have some bathroom necessities, but there are a few essentials everyone should make sure they have. The No. 1 most important item is toilet paper, obviously. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Bathroom Necessities You’ll also need a shower curtain and liner, and probably a shower caddy or organizer if you don’t already have one.

Lamps

Especially if your apartment doesn’t have overhead lights, make sure you think about lamps when furnishing your place. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Lamps Place one next to your bed and in your living room, if you have one. That also means buying plenty of light bulbs!

Extension Cords

Extension cords are so necessary and sadly often forgotten about. Buy several, and I can guarantee you’ll find uses for all of them. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Extension Cords Power strips are another good idea, so be sure to pick up a couple, especially if you have a TV and other electronics.

A Wireless Router

Like extension cords, a wireless router isn’t always the first item on a person’s priority list, but it should be in the top 10. You never know how much you depend on the Internet until you have to spend a few days without it! What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Wireless Router Many cable and internet packages include a router rental, so either set up an appointment with your Internet provider as soon as possible, or buy one of your own that you’ll be able to move with you to future apartments.

Hangers

Unless you plan on keeping everything in a dresser (in which case, you’ll need to buy one), make sure you pick up a few packs of hangers. What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment - Hangers You’ll find it hard to settle in when all of your clothes are still boxed up!

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What You Should Buy First When Furnishing Your Apartment

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Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money

If you’re struggling to pay all of your varied expenses while still having some extra cash for decorating your space, you are most certainly not alone. A low salary and the basic costs of living make for a tight budget, with very little wiggle room.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money

One easy way to cut down on expenses, though, is to buy a few subscriptions. Almost anyone can find a subscription that would save them at least a few dollars in the long run. If you’re looking for new ways to save money, check out these 7 subscriptions and memberships that may help you pinch some pennies:

1. Amazon Subscriptions

If you’re an avid online shopper (as many budgeters are), you may find becoming an Amazon Prime member to be very worth the $99 per year membership fee. Amazon Prime offers a whole host of money-saving benefits, including free two-day shipping.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money - Amazon Prime

For those of us who buy enough online that shipping charges easily add up to more than $100 a year, that already makes Prime worth it. But the membership service also includes great perks like access to a number of free streaming movies and TV shows, unlimited music streaming, and free e​-books that you can borrow for as long as you want.

Amazon Prime isn’t the only great subscription from the online company– Amazon Subscribe and Save is another great service that can save members money. The service allows members to have everything from food items to toiletries to other home necessities (think toilet paper and toothpaste) delivered to their house on a set day each month.

The great part is, on top of Amazon’s already low prices, the service offers free delivery, extra discounts, and 15% more deducted from the delivery total if you’re getting more than five items delivered on one day.

2. Magazines

Magazines are probably the first thing you think of when you hear the word “subscriptions.” That’s because magazine subscriptions have been saving people money for years and years.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money - Magazines

If you find yourself picking up a couple magazines here and there throughout the month, you’re likely paying more than you would on a magazine subscription that will only cost you $15-30 a year. The caveat here is to only buy magazine subscriptions if you know you will actually have the time and energy to read them.

3. Netflix

Online TV streaming services are wildly popular for being inexpensive and convenient, with sites like Netflix and Hulu leading the way.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money - Netflix

Thousands of television shows and movies are available at the touch of a button, which means you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want. Streaming memberships can help save quite a bit of money, especially if they’re used to replace an expensive cable TV package.

4. Birchbox

For those who love new beauty products and trends, a Birchbox subscription is a good idea. If you’re already spending a lot of money each month at stores like Sephora and Ulta, a Birchbox subscription may be a good way to limit that expense.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money - Birchbox

For $10 per month, Birchbox sends a selection of exciting sample-sized beauty and lifestyle products, and gives you the chance to try each one out before deciding to purchase it.

5. Warehouse Clubs or Grocery Stores

Bulk-shopping warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club are a proven way to save money if you can afford to buy in bulk and you know how to shop smart.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money - Warehouse Sales or Grocery Stores

Because they offer bulk items, warehouse clubs are a little more cost-effective– if you have roommates, you may want to consider splitting a membership and buying items for everyone in the apartment.

If you don’t have roommates, even a membership card at your local grocery store will likely save you money. Most grocery store chains offer members-only deals or coupons that could end up saving you a lot in the long run.

6. Spotify

​Spotify is the music-lover’s answer to not wanting to buy every new song they like.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money - Spotify

For $9.99 per month, members of Spotify Premium can listen to any song they want at any time, even without access to internet. Members can also create playlists of their favorite songs and avoid advertisements and other restrictions.

7. American Automobile Association

Anyone with a car should consider becoming an AAA member because it’s a great way to save money. AAA memberships begin at $47 per year, which includes 24/7 roadside assistance for things like flat tires and breakdowns.

Top 7 Subscriptions That Will Save You Money - American Automobile Association

The membership is really worth it, for all of the amazing discounts members receive. Being an AAA member can get you exclusive deals on everything from car services to concert tickets, along with the thousands of restaurants, stores, and other companies that offer AAA members lower prices.

Almost all of these subscriptions are a great way to save money, but to limit your spending even more, consider asking for one of them as a gift!

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How to Update Every Room in Your Apartment for $50 or Less

A great way to make your apartment feel like a true home is to add decorations and pretty updates that complement your own personal style. Decorating can get pretty expensive, though.

How to Update Every Room in Your Apartment for $50 or Less

The good news? If you want to spruce up each room in your apartment, there are ways you can do it without having to break the bank. The key to updating your apartment cheaply is to make small changes that add big style.

Make a small touch up here and include a splash of color there, and before you know it the room will look completely different. Here’s how to update each room in your apartment for $50 or less:

The Living Room

  • Dress up your windows: Bright curtains can liven up a space in no time, and they don’t have to cost a lot of money either. Look online or at discount department stores for some pretty patterned curtains that will jazz up the windows and add some color to the white walls.

How to Update Every Room in Your Apartment for $50 or Less - The Living Room

  • Switch out your throw pillows: A couple of throw pillows won’t break the bank, and your plain couch will look super spiffy. Make the room look even more put together by matching the colors in your pillows to those in your curtains.
  • Prettify your coffee table: Use a pretty tray to keep your coffee table organized and stylish. Place some magazines or a coffee table book on the tray next to a small vase or scented candle.

The Bedroom

  • Change your lamp shades: New lamp shades can completely alter the look of a room in an instant. Not only will they add a new style to your bedside tables, but they can also change the quality of light in the room – use them to make the bright light in your bedroom a little softer.

How to Update Every Room in Your Apartment for $50 or Less - The Bedroom

  • Stack some baskets: Tackle clutter and add some decor at the same time by picking up a couple of stackable baskets to keep in one corner of the room. Throw in some blankets or clothes you don’t wear often, or anything cluttering up your shelves.
  • Make your own headboard: A quick search on Pinterest will show you just how many DIY headboard ideas there are out there, and some of them can be created pretty cheaply. Even simply hanging a curtain on the wall at the head of your bed can pull the room together.

The Kitchen

  • Change the hardware: As long as your landlord gives the OK, a great way to change the look of a small apartment kitchen is to switch out the cabinet hardware. For apartments that don’t have very many cabinets and drawers, this can be a super cheap and easy project.

How to Update Every Room in Your Apartment for $50 or Less - The Kitchen

  • Add a rug: Replace your old rug by the sink with something new, colorful and fun. Over time kitchen rugs can become dirty and discolored. You can feel free to clean it thoroughly, but splurging on a new one shouldn’t break the bank either.

The Bathroom

  • Add a coat rack: If you have some extra wall space, hang up a decorative coat rack for your robes and extra towels. The colorful array of towels will add some brightness to your walls.

How to Update Every Room in Your Apartment for $50 or Less - Bathroom

  • Frame some photos: Almost anything looks great in a beautiful frame, so you don’t have to be a professional photographer to make some hangable artwork. Spend an afternoon walking around a park or neighborhood and take some colorful pictures. Print them out at a drugstore, frame them, and hang them on your bathroom wall.
  • Choose a fun shower curtain: The most obvious big change you can make in a bathroom for $50 or less is replacing the shower curtain. Something new and colorful will update the room’s overall style immediately.

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How to Update Every Room in Your Apartment for $50 or Less

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When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money

When you’re trying to save some money on your grocery bill, most people will tell you to buy in bulk. That way, you won’t have to keep running back and forth to the supermarket to stock up on that particular item, and you’re usually getting it for cheaper than normal.

When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money

Grocery stores like Costco and Sam’s Club often encourage you to buy in bulk, but the truth is, there are always exceptions. The following items are a waste of money when purchased in large amounts:

Condiments

Condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard and dressing should only be purchased when you need them, otherwise they’ll go bad before you can eat them.

When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money - Condiments

You’ll save money up front when you buy condiments in bulk, but that money will be lost when your expired condiments end up in the trash.

Health and Beauty Products

When walking through Costco, you can buy virtually anything in bulk, including health and beauty products like deodorant, mascara, sunscreen, foundation, eye liner, etc.

When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money - Health and Beauty Products

It may seem handy to have extras of these frequently used products, but most of them have a shelf life of about one year before they start to go bad.

Instead of bulk buying, it’s best to look for the best sales on the items individually. Oftentimes drugstores will have weekly deals featuring those health and beauty products you use the most. Here’s a quick look at the shelf life of beauty essentials:

  • Mascara: 2-3 months
  • Eye liner: 3 months
  • Foundation: 6-12 months
  • Concealer: 1 year
  • Deodorant: 3 years
  • Lip gloss: 1 year
  • Lipstick: 2 years

Spices

Spices like oregano, chili powder and garlic salt are essential for adding flavor to your dishes. However, if you see a bundle of spices being sold at Costco, you may want to refrain.

When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money - Spices

While spices don’t necessarily expire, they do lose their flavor after about six months to a year. There’s no sense in stocking up on spices if they’re not going to do anything to help your cooking.

There might be some spices that you use on a regular basis, like oregano or red pepper flakes. If you rely on those frequently, it may be OK to buy in bulk. Otherwise, just purchase spices as you need them so you don’t waste your money.

Brown Rice

If you want to keep a whole lot of white rice in your pantry, go for it. Unfortunately, you can’t do the same with brown rice, which has a much shorter shelf life than its white counterpart.

When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money - Brown Rice

But why? Well, brown rice contains much more oil, so it will only be good in your kitchen for six months. White rice lasts a bit longer – I’m talking 30 years. Unless you know you will be consuming a lot of brown rice in a short amount of time, I suggest saving money by purchasing smaller bags of it and stocking up on white rice.

Cooking Oils

Cooking oils are essential for making anything from baked goods to fried chicken, but be careful about how long you’ve kept your oils. The truth is, many of these oils can go bad after just just a few months.

When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money - Cooking Oils

If vegetable oil is unopened, it can last up to six months, but if it’s already opened, toss it after one to three months. Olive oil also lasts for about six months, and should be kept away from any light or heat. It’s best to buy olive oil in the darkest jar possible, as it takes longer for light to break down the product.

If you’re not sure how long you’ve had your cooking oils, look for a change in color or an off smell to tell you whether to keep them or throw them away.

Bleach

Bleach can not only get the stains out of clothing, it can brighten up your glassware, disinfect trash cans, and even remove mold and mildew from shower curtains and grout. Bleach is certainly handy to have sitting around your apartment.

When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money - Bleach

However, after just six months, bleach tends to lose its effectiveness. It’s better to buy a smaller bottle of bleach and only stock up when you’re running low.

Tips for Buying in Bulk

  • Always consider the expiration date. You may be getting a good price, but will you be able to finish all the food before it goes bad? Ask yourself how frequently you would consume what you’re buying.
  • Keep in mind that buying in bulk isn’t always the most financially sound idea. Next time you go shopping, bring your regular grocery receipt and compare prices for products that you most often buy. This will help you figure out where to get the best bang for your buck.
  • Get creative in the kitchen. Buying certain items in bulk can force you to become a more versatile chef. For instance, if you see that a big container of strawberries is on sale at Costco, take them home and experiment with all of the different ways you can use them. Make strawberry ice cream, strawberry shortcake, jam, cupcakes, smoothies, etc.

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When Buying in Bulk is a Waste of Money - You're Not Always Saving Money When You Buy in Bulk!

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8 Foods Not to Buy at the Grocery Store

Groceries make up a large chunk of my monthly expenses, so I’ve learned a few ways of keeping my bill down, like making a grocery list and cutting coupons out of the Sunday paper.

8 Foods Not to Buy at the Grocery Store

There is, however, another way to save yourself some money at the supermarket, and even help you eat a healthier diet: avoiding certain foods. There are foods on the shelves of your local grocery store that could only be interfering with your bill and your health. Here’s what to avoid next time you peruse the aisles of your grocery store:

1. Water Bottles

Sure, it’s convenient to grab a bottle of water when you’re on your way out the door, but buying cases of water each week will only damage your wallet and the environment.

8 Foods Not to Buy at the Grocery Store - Water Bottles

It has been proven that bottled water is no better than the tap water coming out of your faucet, so why pay extra for it?

Plus, these plastic bottles may leach phthalates into the water, which are chemicals found in common personal care products such as hair spray, soap and shampoo. These chemicals could have a direct impact on your hormones.

The alternative? Invest in a reusable water bottle. You can fill it up at home or at a water fountain. You can even purchase water bottles with filters if you’re worried about drinking tap water. You’ll be saving yourself money and doing something better for your health at the same time.

2. Name-Brand Spices

I’m always amazed at how pricey name-brand spices like chili powder, cinnamon and garlic powder are. The good news is, you can still get your spices without shelling out extra cash.

8 Foods Not to Buy at the Grocery Store - Name Brand Spices

The off-brand versions are just as flavorful, making the name-brand varieties kind of a rip off. If you often cook with spices, think about growing your own herb garden in your kitchen, where you can enjoy fresh thyme, oregano, basil and more.

3. Salad Dressing

Salads are a tasty option if you’re looking for a lighter, healthier meal choice. However, those leafy greens aren’t as healthy when they’re doused in a creamy dressing. Instead of buying bottles of salad dressing at the grocery store, make your own!

8 Foods Not to Buy at the Grocery Store- Salad Dressing

A simple vinaigrette consists of only four ingredients: oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. If you’d like, you can include other add-ins, like finely minced garlic, cilantro, mint, sugar or shallots. This dressing will give your salad the flavor it needs without completely undoing your healthy choice of meals in the first place.

4. Cured Meats

As tempting as hot dogs and brats may be to buy, resist the urge. These smoked and cured meats are extremely unhealthy and have been linked to negative health issues like high blood pressure, migraines and even cancer.

8 Foods Not to Buy at the Grocery Store - Cured Meats

Aside from that, they’re filled with grease, added sugars and high fructose corn syrup. If you’re in the mood for meat, opt for meats with lean protein (1/8 inch of fat or less). When eating chicken, fish, pork, turkey, beef, etc., you can always add seasonings to enhance its flavor.

5. Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter

8 Foods Not to Buy at the Grocery Store- Peanut Butter

Many consumers believe they’re purchasing the healthier alternative to regular peanut butter when they throw the reduced-fat variety in their cart. However, it’s much better to stick with regular peanut butter.

Why? In order to make up for the lack of fat, manufacturers add in lots of extra sugar. As long as you’re eating regular peanut butter in moderation, you’re actually taking in protein and good monounsaturated fats.

6. Bottled Tea

Buying bottled tea may be more convenient than making your own, but the convenience might not be worth it.

8 Foods Not to Buy at the Grocery Store - Bottled Tea

The tea you just bought could seem healthy, but it’s actually hiding quite a bit of sugar. In fact, bottled tea can contain more grams of sugar than a can of soda.

Pick up your favorite tea packets from the store and brew them at home instead.

7. Frozen Meals

When you come home at the end of a long day, a frozen meal is easy to pop in the microwave, and there’s nothing to clean up. But if you knew what was in these convenient meals, you may not be as tempted to put them in your cart.

8 Foods Not to Buy at the Grocery Store - Frozen Meals

Frozen meals often contain unhealthy fats, refined sugars, preservatives, sodium, and chemicals. Plus, have you ever actually been filled up by a frozen dish?

Instead, buy foods like chicken and vegetables in bulk and freeze them. You’ll always have food on-hand that you can make at the drop of a hat.

8. Store-Bought Cookies

Decrease your monthly grocery bill by crossing store-bought cookies off of your list. Yes, they’re tasty, but they’re packed with refined sugars and certainly aren’t good for your waistline.

8 Foods Not to Buy at the Grocery Store - Store Bought Cookies

If you’re looking for a sweet treat, bake your own cookies. This way, you can control exactly what goes into them. Try swapping out some of the butter with olive oil to make your treats more heart healthy. You can also replace the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour to add more fiber to your dessert.

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8 Foods Not to Buy at the Grocery StorePhoto Credit: TimGregory ChittimMichelle LeemadreameryHolly ClarkMichelle Matheny

Energy Saving Tips That Won’t Force You to Sacrifice Comfort

Now is the time start thinking about your energy consumption because the weather is getting warmer. The heat of summer will arrive before you know it, which means turning up the air conditioner in your apartment. Whether you’re trying to beat the heat or illuminate your place, you use energy.

Energy Saving Tips That Won't Force You to Sacrifice Comfort

Fortunately, decreasing your carbon footprint doesn’t have to mean sacrificing comfort. Check out these energy saving tips to reduce your environmental impact and prevent your air conditioner from over working:

Install and Use Ceiling Fans

Using ceiling fans allows you to decrease the temperature in your home or apartment by 4 degrees Fahrenheit without losing any comfort. Though it may not sound like much, those 4 degrees can add up when it comes time to pay the bills.

Ceiling fans circulate air, preventing heat from hanging near the ceiling. They also promote ventilation by pushing air out of the window and pulling in cool breezes. If your apartment does not have a ceiling fan, ask your landlord to install one or ask if you can purchase one yourself.

Many apartments already have ceiling fans installed, so make the most of your fan by using it. This spring, dust the blades and be sure the fan works. Then you can turn it on and decrease the air conditioning energy you consume come summer.

Hang Light Curtains

Some energy saving tips don’t require as much planning as others, and curtains are one of the easy alterations you can make. Warm sunlight can heat your apartment as it streams in through your windows, but hanging curtains will reduce that greenhouse effect.

Energy Saving Tips That Won't Force You to Sacrifice Comfort- Hang Light Curtains

You can still enjoy the comfort of natural light by choosing window treatments made of sheer fabric. They help diffuse sunlight while promoting illumination. Keep the curtains closed during the day and increase the temperature on your thermostat to go green. You’ll still feel cool because the sun won’t be heating your apartment.

Prevent Heat Gain

Many apartments have wall- or window-mounted air conditioning units. While these devices do help cool the apartment, it’s easy to seal them improperly. If the unit isn’t airtight, you could be letting hot air into the apartment (which forces your air conditioner to work harder to reduce indoor temperatures). Use caulk to seal the edges around your air conditioning unit, which will prevent heat from outdoors entering the room.

You’ll notice that the room stays cooler longer and that you can turn the thermostat up a few degrees without feeling uncomfortable. Every degree counts!

Lighten Up

Believe it or not, the color of your decor can make your apartment hotter or colder. Dark colors absorb light and bright ones reflect it (a phenomenon known as albedo). Decorate your apartment with bright shades to prevent heat gain as a result of absorption.

Energy Saving Tips That Won't Force You to Sacrifice Comfort - Lighten Up

It’s the same principle as not wearing black in the summer. You’ll feel more comfortable and cool with light colors in your apartment. Pick white, beige and pastels for your warm-weather palette. Cooling your place naturally may help save energy costs because your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard.

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Energy Saving Tips That Won't Force You to Sacrifice Comfort!

Photo Credit: Domiziana S.Wayfair, Marius Kallhardt

Think Outside the Shoebox with These Organization Ideas

So you’ve found the perfect apartment, but you aren’t sure how to make the space work for you. For many renters, the relief that comes after finding a budget-friendly apartment is swiftly followed by the feeling that there is a lack of storage space.

Think Outside the Shoebox with These Organization IdeasIf you feel a little cramped in your small apartment, don’t despair. Check out these effective organization ideas that can help you settle into your apartment more comfortably. All you need are some shoeboxes!

Organize Those Deep, Dark Drawers

Drawers are one of the saving graces of a small apartment—especially when they are extra-long! The problem is, if you have a set of dark, long drawers under the bed or in the closet, it’s tough to find what you’re looking for inside.

The solution? Transparent shoe boxes! Organize the contents of your drawers into different types of items; then put those into clear shoeboxes to make finding everything much simpler.

Think Outside the Shoe Box - Drawer Organization

Pens, papers and crayons might take up one box, electronic devices another. It all depends what you need to store! Just make sure that each shoebox is filled with similar items so that you don’t need to search through more than one when the time comes.

Clean up the Closet

If your socks are falling out of the shelves or dresser drawers, you aren’t alone. Underwear not staying where it should? Again, this is a common problem.

Think Outside the Shoe Box - Closet Organization

To keep everything in your closet neatly in place, try designating 2 or 3 shoe boxes into your dresser drawers or closet space. Once paired, throw your clean socks into 1 one the boxes; underwear into another; bras into the third. Are you a swimsuit hoarder? Toss those suits into their very own shoebox and keep them from mixing into the rest of the clothing.

This way, you won’t have to search through an entire drawer full of undergarments to find what you’re looking for. Keeping small clothing items in shoeboxes will also stop them from migrating into other parts of your wardrobe. This kind of organizational system gives you an ideal place to toss popped buttons, zippers and other clothing items for later repair.

De-Clutter the Kitchen Cabinets

There are so many tiny items floating around in most people’s kitchen cabinets, some only get found before moving house. Between loose tea bags, packets of juice crystals and gravy, stock cubes and the odd Hershey’s Kiss, the kitchen cabinets can become littered with stray items.

For those non-perishable cupboard dwelling packets, introduce a couple of clear or color-coded shoeboxes. Keep it simple, but not too strict: 1 box for savory; 1 box for sweets. Another for all those tricky little bits and pieces that get used only a couple of times a year, say for cake decorating.

Your spice collection can also benefit from the use of a spare plastic shoebox, preferably one that has a solid color. Dried herbs and spices do get stale over time, so it’s best to keep them stored carefully in a dark, cool place.

Think Outside the Shoe Box - Spices

Depending on the climate where you live, the ideal place for a shoebox full of herbs and spices may be the corner of your pantry, a top shelf in the cabinet or even inside the refrigerator. Make sure that the lids of each bottle are tightly closed to ensure the longevity of their contents.

Get Creative with Shoeboxes

Nearly anything is possible in a rental apartment, no matter what the size—especially when shoeboxes are plentiful! If you’re worried that plain shoeboxes aren’t going to fit into your decor scheme, why not fancy them up a bit?

All it takes is a bit of measuring, glue, and some wallpaper or gift paper that you like. Wrap the boxes up neatly in the paper, and you’ve got an attractive theme piece that can be added to every room in the apartment!

Think Outside the Shoe Box - Get Creative

Once you’ve prettied-up your shoebox collection, you can use some boxes to hold useful daily items that have no real home elsewhere. Batteries, spare remote controllers, unmatched socks or gaming controllers can all sit comfortably in their own shoebox, completely anonymous until you need them. It’s a great way to conceal unattractive items within a cute, decorative box!

How do you make the most out of your apartment space? Are shoeboxes a regular part of your routine? Share your ideas with us on Twitter!

Photo Credit: Scorpions and Centaurs, Bill Abbott, Real Simple, Rachel, Angela Mabray

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Think Outside the Shoebox with These Organization Tips

How to Save Money When You’re Short on Time

From cutting coupons to searching out the best deals online, getting creative allows you to save money in almost every area of your life—but when you’re busy juggling work, family and a social life, the task can seem daunting. Who has time to sift through newspapers to save a few cents on peanut butter?How to Save Money When You're Short on Time

Fortunately, there are ways to save money when you’re short on time. We’ve assembled some quick and easy tips for cutting costs that are simple to implement and won’t occupy much of your day.

Rewards Programs

Rewards programs are a treasure trove of savings, from grocery store rewards cards to frequent purchaser cards. When in doubt, if you are offered access to a free rewards program, agree to join. Among money-saving tips, this is about as easy as it gets.
Most rewards programs are tracked via a physical card or your phone number. Whether you save money immediately at the point of purchase or build up to a single reward, rewards programs are simple because the store does the tracking for you while you reap the benefits.

Automatic Bill Payments

Many people don’t realize that agreeing to automatic bill payments can amount to significant monthly savings. For starters, having funds automatically deducted from your checking account means you will never accrue late fees or additional interest because you forgot to initiate a payment. Some lenders or organizations also grant a discount to customers who are signed up for automatic payments.
From your student loans to your electric bill, you may be eligible for a percentage off of your interest rate or monthly dues simply by having your payments taken out on a regular schedule. That makes automatic bill payments a responsible way to keep on top of payments and one of our favorite money-saving tips.

Automatic Savings Transfers

Some banks make it easy to put money into a savings account by instituting “keep the change” programs. These initiatives work by rounding up every purchase to the next full dollar and putting the extra cash into your savings account.
For example, a purchase of $7.50 with your checking account would be rounded up to $8; the actual purchase price is deducted from your checking account to pay the vendor, and in this case, an additional 50 cents would be transferred from your checking account into a savings account.

An automatic transfer program is a reliable, slow-paced way to store away some money that will come in handy on a rainy day. Best of all, you don’t have to take even a moment from your day to manually transfer money into a savings account.

Buy in Bulk

Buying non-perishable items, such as canned goods or shampoo, in bulk stands to result in major savings. Generally speaking, items that are bundled into groups are sold at a cheaper price than those sold alone. If you have extra storage space, there is really no good reason to purchase items piecemeal that could be picked up in bulk.

Stores like Sam’s Club or Costco make it easy to buy items en masse, since they deal pretty much exclusively in bulk products. These stores, however, do charge a membership fee. To avoid the cost of membership and still save money, look to other major retailers for the “family size” of groceries and toiletries. If you don’t have a family to share with, consider splitting a bulk purchase with a friend or neighbor.

Saving money doesn’t have to be a time consuming endeavor. These tips can give your wallet a break without hindering your daily schedule. Always remember that saving just a few cents here and there can really add up over time. Even if the savings you’re offered seem insignificant, you will thank yourself later if you take advantage now.

What are your tips for saving money without spending a lot of time? Tell us in the comments or on Twitter!

Photo Credit: TaxCredits.net

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How to Save Money When You're Short on Time

Creating Your Holiday Gift Budget

With the holidays looming, you might find that your holiday gift budget is a little more stretched than usual. Read on to discover a few common sense tips that will help you save for this special time of the year.

Creating Your Holiday Gift Budget

A Little Preparation Goes A Long Way

By being a smart shopper every day, you will have more to spend when the holidays come around. Here are some easy steps to more savings.

  • When it’s time to go grocery shopping, make a list. Get into the habit of only shopping for the items on your list and leave impulse purchases at the door.
  • Do your online research in advance of a big shopping trip. When you know where the bargains are, you will save yourself a whole heap of time, effort and frustration.
  • Make shopping rewarding. Use store coupons and rewards cards and sign up for email campaigns that will send advance details of sales.
  • Pay yourself first! Grant yourself a weekly allowance and shop for necessary items guilt free. By paying yourself a weekly or monthly allowance you will avoid the very real temptation of a retail therapy blowout.

Basic Steps To Big Savings

There are many small measures you can take to reduce your bills and help you save for the holidays. When you leave your apartment for the day, remember to unplug all electrical items making sure that you don’t spend anymore on your electrical bill than you have to. This tiny step goes a long way to reducing your electric bill over the course of a year.

When you go to work, adopt a “cash free” day where you go about your day-to-day business without spending a single penny. This is easier than it sounds with a modicum of forward planning: plan your lunches around what’s already in the pantry or the fridge, and take a (reusable) bottle of water with you. Then make sure to put away the equivalent money you would have spent into a savings account.

Now that you have adopted basic budget saving tips into your day-to-day life, you will have a clearer idea of how much you have to spend on your holiday gift budget.

Holiday Shopping Tips

When it’s time to go shopping for your chosen gifts, take cash only. This important step will prevent you from being tempted to use credit to make your purchases. Adopt a stealth-like approach to your shopping trip, planning in advance the stores you intend to visit. Don’t be distracted from your mission; instead, make the purchases you have decided upon in advance. If necessary, you can always go back later and buy that impulse present if there is enough left over in your budget.

Use the envelope system for shopping trips. Make out a new envelope for each person on your list and place in the exact amount needed for their chosen present. Then if the product is further discounted at the cash register, you can put the extra money into a contingency fund.

If you choose to do your holiday shopping online from the comfort of your own apartment, keep an eye open for useful promotions such as free shipping codes or buy-one-get-one-free offers.

Finally, if you are forced to put your holiday shopping onto a credit card, it’s always a good idea to put it on one that will benefit you and your wallet. Use cards that offer cash back with every purchase.

For more advice on money matters, follow Apartment Guide on Twitter.

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How to Create a Holiday Gift Budget

Photo Credit: Scott Miller