Posted on 5/23/2013 13:01 EST
We've compiled a list of eight cheap camping tips to use this summer. Why? Because camping, believe it or not, can cost as much as hotel/motel stays. In an ideal world the outdoors would always be free, but it's not. So if you want to spend time with Mother Nature, here's how to do so on the cheap.
Photo by Dmitry Naumov/Shutterstock
This is especially true if your family is new to camping -- no reason to invest in an activity before knowing it will be a winner. Search Craigslist and Freecycle
(a site where you give and get stuff for free) for major purchases, such as tents and camp stoves. Check seasonal deals on sites like Amazon and Overstock.com or go to Retail Me Not to find coupon codes for camping gear. For cheap cooking supplies, sift through yard sales and thrift stores. And always ask family and friends about borrowing their supplies before making any purchases.
Use solar lights.
Flashlights are so last century. An eco-friendly
and cheap camping tip we found at Thrifty Fun
calls for solar lights. Charge while the sun is shining and use at night to save both money and energy.
Use a shower curtain as a tent tarp.
Another cheap camping tip with a conservation angle comes from Dave's Journey & Adventure
. This veteran frugal traveler's suggestion: Turn old vinyl shower curtains into tent tarps instead of throwing them away.
Become a card-carrying member.
Sign up for a membership with a campground chain and get loads of discounts. For example, KOA offers a value card that saves members 10 percent every time they camp at one of its properties. Members also earn points that can be redeemed for rewards and savings for each stay at KOA. Campgrounds come with amenities such as Wi-Fi
, cable, fire rings, and food service.
Thousand Trails, a chain of RV resorts and campgrounds, charges a $525 annual fee for up to 30 nights of camping (after that, a $3 daily usage fee applies). Most sites provide electrical, water, and sewage setups. No RV? Thousand Trails offers rentals on cabins, cottages, yurts, etc.
For RV owners, a $44 membership with Passport America's Discount Camping Club is a cheap camping tip that saves 50 percent at more than 1,800 participating campgrounds in North America.
Be vigilant: Check frequently for camping deals on e-commerce sites such as Living Social and Groupon.
Photo by smereka/Shutterstock
Campers who can do without the amenities can try camping for free. Boondocking.org
offers a user-compiled
database of areas where setting up an RV or tent is a no-cost
adventure; not surprisingly, there's an iPhone app that can come in handy. Other free-camping
websites to explore include Freecampsites.net and Freecampgrounds.com.
Avoid overpriced eats.
Campgrounds restaurants are expensive. Instead, pack frozen meals in a camping refrigerator or cooler and bring along plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits and other snacks. And always stock lots of liquids, especially water -- no need to pay for pricey bottled water.
Camp with friends.
If friends also enjoy camping, embark on a multi-family
vacation. Take as few vehicles as possible and share gear.
Forget about the weekends.
Setting out in an RV or pitching a tent during the week (Sunday through Thursday) is a cheap camping tip that may take some planning but will lessen the budgetary stress. Delaware state parks, for example, offer a $2 discount on weekday nights at a tent or RV site and $14 off on weekday rentals of cabins and yurts.
Posted on 5/23/2013 10:32 EST
This week's top picks for health, fashion and beauty deals include a hair care sale, a health magazine subscription and a Burberry fragrance.
1. Hair Care Sale with prices 25% Off
Get 25% off select hair products when you buy two or more. Choose from many brands and product types for men, women and kids.
Hair Care Sale
(Amazon - 25% off)
2. Health & Fitness Magazine Subscription 53% Off
3. Burberry Fragrance 51% Off
Choose from twelve available scents in eau de parfums and eau de toilettes for women and men. Shipping is free.
(Groupon $32.99, 56% off from $75.00 - $42.01 savings)
Posted on 5/22/2013 15:12 EST
Mosquitoes and fleas and wasps... oh my! Insects are a major drawback of the summer months but there are simple and cheap ways to repel bugs naturally. We've compiled a life of tips and DIY projects that can minimize the ick factor this season.
DIY bug repellent.
To cut costs, repel bugs naturally by making your own bug spray and lotion. Aside from the gratification of doing it yourself, you're sure to benefit from the chemical-free
Photo by Gucio_55/Shutterstock
Ingredients needed for a bug-repellent lotion bar include coconut oil; shea, coconut, or mango butter; beeswax; dried rosemary leaves; dried whole cloves; dried or fresh thyme; cinnamon powder; dried catnip; and mint leaf. The instructions at Wellness Mama are a bit time-consuming, but don't let that deter you.
An easier (but possibly less effective) way to keep the bugs away is DIY bug spray, with directions courtesy of the same site. Simply boil a cup of water and add a tablespoon each of peppermint, spearmint, catnip, and lavender and a few cloves. Once the mixture has cooled, strain out the herbs and add a cup of witch hazel or rubbing alcohol and pour into a spray bottle. Store the brew in the refrigerator.
Need a quick fix way to repel bugs naturally? Mix vanilla and witch hazel and use as a spray; apply lavender oil to your skin; rub any type of mint (peppermint, spearmint, catnip, etc.) leaves over your body.
Homemade citronella candles.
Barbecues are a summer essential, but mosquitoes can turn this pastime into a nightmare. Rather than rushing to the store for an antidote, repel bugs naturally with DIY citronella candles. To get started you'll need safe-to-melt
wax, crayons, containers (for melting the wax), wicks, citronella oil, spoon, thermometer, old jars, letter stickers, and hot glue. To make
the citronella candles, heat water to 140 degrees, add wax and stir (adding in crayons gives the wax a nice color), add then citronella oil. Attach a wick to the bottom of each jar and pour in the melted wax (leave some wick showing), and let cool.
Create a wasp trap.
A little creativity (with a soda bottle) can save you lots of money and keep you from getting stung. To make
a wasp trap, slice off the neck of a plastic soda bottle, turn it upside down, place the inverted neck into the opening, and secure in place with duct tape. For bait, mix sugar and water and smear petroleum jelly or cooking oil along the steep inner sides of the trap. Hang it from a tree and watch the wasps swarm its way.
Use household products to get rid of ants and fleas.
Inevitably, ants find their way through every crevice in your home every time summer rolls around. To repel these bugs naturally, sprinkle cinnamon over the areas they seem to be coming from, along the back edges of kitchen counters, and around the cabinets. If cinnamon doesn't do the trick, try this recipe
: 1 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons boric acid, and 3 cups warm water. Combine the ingredients in a jar, put some cotton inside the lid of a jar and saturate it with the mixture; leave on the counter and the ants will find it, drink up, and bring the "goodness" back to their nest.
Repel fleas naturally from carpet and upholstery by sprinkling on some baking soda before vacuuming. If you own a pet, bathe it in sea salt water dressed up with rosemary and skip the pricey flea medications.
Avoid salty or high-potassium foods and drink apple cider vinegar.
If you eat foods containing large amounts of salt and potassium, your body will produce more lactic acid and a scent that attracts insects. Staying away from salty and high-potassium
foods repels bugs naturally and helps make mosquito bites a thing of the past.
To deter ticks and mosquitoes, down one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and include garlic in your diet. The addition of vitamin B1 to your morning routine might help repel pesky bugs, as well.
Posted on 5/22/2013 11:37 EST
This week's top picks for family and kids deals include a pet products sale, a baby book bundle and puppy training pads.
1. Pet Products Sale with prices up to 60% Off
Sale is for today only: enjoy prices up to 60% off on pet supplies and products from brands like PetSafe, Drinkwell, Greenies and more.
Pet Products Sale
(Amazon - up to 60% off)
2. Baby Book Bundle 70% Off
This bundle includes eight baby books that teach kids about basic concepts such as the alphabet, shapes, farm animals and pets
Baby Book Bundle
(Groupon $23.99, 70% off from $79.60 - $55.61 savings)
3. Puppy Training Pads 50% Off
These highly absorbent pads simplify your puppy's potty training while eliminating odor and bacteria.
Puppy Training Pads
(Groupon $19.99, 50% off from $39.99 - $20.00 savings)
Posted on 5/21/2013 14:03 EST
Summertime: The weather can sometimes bring delight and sometimes bring sweat and sunburn. Trading a spring jacket for a sun hat helps ward off those twin evils. Any cheap hat with a wide brim can help keep the sun off your face, but we looked for additional features such as breathable fabric and UV protection. Here are some of the best sun hats for men, women, and children for $25 or less.
Henschel Aussie Breezer
Best Sun Hats for Men
Henschel Aussie Breezer
This American-made hat earns a very high rating on Amazon, where buyers say they often get compliments on the style. They credit the so-called CoolMax band with keeping moisture at bay and the mesh crown with keeping their heads cool. While this particular Breezer hat is made with cotton twill, you can find one with UPF 50+ fabric for greater protection from ultraviolet rays and slightly more money. Reviewers praise the quality construction and generous 3-inch brim. Several mention that the hat is highly packable, although a couple warn that if you crush it down too small, it may not quite return to its original shape.
Outdoor Research Transit Radar Cap
Price: starting at $25
This is a cap-style hat, rather than a wide-brimmed sun hat, with almost exclusively positive reviews online. The cap shields sensitive scalps from the sun with an ultraviolet protection factor, or UPF, of 50+. At the same time, mesh panels on the side allow for ventilation and prevent overheating. Reviewers appreciate the air circulation, as well as the lightweight, wicking fabric, which stretches to fit the head comfortably. Several also mention that the folding bill makes for convenient for storage and washing.
Best Sun Hats for Women
Hat.a.girl Ribbon Crusher Travel Hats
Price: starting at $12 on sale
Shoppers have declared these hats both adorable and durable. They come in a variety of styles with wide brims ranging from 4 inches to 7 inches. They're designed to be crammed into a bag or purse without ruining their shape. One reviewer notes that the flexible brim can be bent to better block the sun or slightly change the look. These bargain hats also offer UPF 50+ coverage. In general, buyers say they live up to their promise of being protective and chic at the same time.
Scala Collezione Wide-Brim
Scala Collezione Wide-Brim Cotton Hat
This sun hat has won over more than 150 reviewers on Amazon with its comfortable, practical design. It comes in more than a dozen different colors, from aqua to walnut; some shoppers seem to have bought one for every occasion and outfit. An inner drawstring makes the one-size-fits-all hat easy to adjust. The fabric is 100 percent cotton with UPF 50+ sun protection. Several buyers comment that the 3-inch brim provides just enough shade to keep the sun off your face and neck without getting in the way. Many reviewers also note that it's easy to bend and retains its shape nicely, so it works well for travel.
Best Sun Hat for Kids
Sunday Afternoons Kids' Play Hat
Price: starting at $19
This highly protective hat keeps little ones shielded from the sun with a UPF 50+ rating, a 2.5-to-4-inch brim, and a veil that comes down in the back to protect the neck. It's unisex, available in 12 different colors, and sizes range from infant to youth (5 to 9 years). Parents rave about this hat in reviews on Amazon, claiming their children wear it without complaint. They also testify to the hat's durability, saying it stands up to daily use and lasts until kids outgrow it. It's made of nylon/polyester fabric that's water and stain resistant and designed to lay flat or roll up for packing. Mesh sides provide ventilation and a chinstrap holds the hat in place but breaks away for safety.
Posted on 5/21/2013 9:42 EST
This week's top picks for home and garden deals include a Cuisinart skillet sale, a portable closet and an ER Complete DVD set.
1. Cuisinart Skillet Sale with prices 25% Off or More
Kick-off healthy summer cooking with a Cuisinart skillet at a quarter off or more! Choose from many styles and colors.
Cuisinart Skillets 25% Off or More
(Amazon - 25% off or more)
2. Portable Closet 39% Off
This 48-inch portable closet has a a steel-tube frame and breathable cover with hanging rod and four shelves. It is available in blue or black with free shipping and returns.
(Groupon $39.99, 39% off from $66.00 - $26.01 savings)
3. ER Complete 15 Seasons DVD Set 78% Off
Deal for today only: ER complete season series 1-15 DVDs at 78% off retail with free shipping.
ER Complete 15 Seasons DVD Set
(Amazon $149.11, 78% off from $678.82 - $529.71 savings)
Posted on 5/20/2013 12:25 EST
Cooking al fresco is one of the great delights of summer and cries out for cheap meats for grilling. Although you can cook just about anything over the coals, the centerpiece is usually a piece of meat.
Rib steak and T-bone are made for grilling but priced above many consumers' budget constraint. Cheaper cuts of beef, along with budget-friendly pork and poultry, are not only fine but potentially glorious. In a search for the best cheap meats for grilling we informally surveyed a random group of butchers and ardent outdoor cooks who pointed us to cuts that please the palate and reduce the cost of feeding a crowd.
Photo by AdStock RF/Shutterstock
A grill aficionado who hails from South America, where grilling is very serious business, says the meat should be as plain as possible but accompanied by spicy and flavorful side dishes and dipping sauces. Many cheap meats for grilling are tough, though, and require a soak in a marinade. But don't view this as a deterrent because many pricier cuts of beef don't take to a grill preparation.
(What is a marinade? Answer: A liquid containing acid, such as vinegar or wine, and other flavorings of your choice that tenderizes the fibers of tough cuts of meat. Bathe the meat for several hours, preferably overnight, lift out and grill. Marinating favorites include London broil, flank steak, and skirt steak, all cheap meats that are excellent for grilling.)
Even if you can afford filet, cooking it over hot coals is like throwing away your money, one butcher says. The lack of fat ensures it will dry out and lose flavor before reaching medium-done. A better bet, he says, is sirloin. In fact, all the butchers we spoke with agree that sirloin is the best all-around cheap meat for grilling, and the more marbling in the meat, the better it tastes. Granted, sirloin is not the cheapest of cuts ($6-$7/lb in our upstate New York market), but as one butcher points out, there's no waste at all. Rub it down with salt, let it sit for a bit, and then throw it on very hot coals for about 10 minutes, total. To reduce your cash outlay, cut it into chunks and skewer it, interspersed with plenty of vegetables.
Two beef cuts that didn't make an appearance in our 2012 post on cheap cuts for barbecuing popped up in this year's research. The first, suggested by a butcher in western Massachusetts, is flat iron steak. The cost is either equal to or slightly less than that of sirloin. It's very thin and looks a bit like flank steak but is quite tender and does not require marinating beforehand. The Grilling Companion also raves about this cut and suggests cooking it over medium-high coals for about seven minutes, total.
The other beef cut we're adding to the suggestion box, courtesy of a Virginia grill master, is London broil (about $4/lb in our local market). This is one of the cheap meats for grilling that can be tough and requires a marinade. London broil is relatively thick, so cutting it into thin slices post-grill delivers lots of bang for the buck. Chowhounders recommends grilling for seven minutes a side, or until it reaches an internal temperature of about 140 degrees (F). Let it rest, cut across the grain, and enjoy.
Buy a whole chicken rather than parts because you save nearly one dollar a pound ($1.49/lb versus $2.19/lb at a nearby market) -- and it takes just minutes to cut up. But if you must buy parts, avoid chicken breasts ($3.19/lb split and $3.49/lb boneless in our area). Why? A Brooklyn butcher
says they generally lack succulence and flavor. Thighs, which are cheaper ($1.99/lb) and tastier, are preferable. Our correspondent in southern California says chicken is a good cheap meat for grilling and is made more flavorful with a teriyaki or other marinade, which keeps the lighter meat from drying out altogether.
A New England grill devotee suggests buying a whole turkey if you will be feeding a crowd. Just cut it up and pretend it's a giant chicken, but brine it first to keep it moist. Another expert recommends an injection technique instead, and provides more information than you probably need about how to smoke a whole bird in your grill.
Pork is a super-cheap
meat for grilling and currently super hot. There is almost no part of the pig that doesn't make contemporary chefs drool. Pig roasts, during which the entire animal is roasted in a pit, are fashionable everywhere these days. It's unlikely that you'll be keeping a whole pig in your house, so the very cheap butt ($1.99/lb in our upstate New York market) or shoulder (often called Boston butt and priced at $1.29/lb) are worthy substitutes. Since you probably don't have a pit either, you can slow cook it on the grill (hewing close to the barbecue style) with the coals on one side and the meat on the other.
Several butchers we spoke with caution that pork tenderloin ($3.99/lb in the nearby market) is not a good choice for the grill because in the absence of a bone it dries out easily. On the other hand, there's no waste, and the extra money you're shelling out goes right into your mouth. One survey respondent prefers the tenderloin for this very reason (and for the relatively speedy cooking) and says applying a spice rub and letting it sit a while, then wrapping in bacon and basting copiously while grilling keeps the meat quite moist.
Corn, the un-meat.
When casting about for a side dish to accompany these cheap grilling meats, don't neglect corn, especially come July. A grill fest without corn on the cob just doesn't seem right. Most grill chefs suggest leaving a few layers of the husk (silk removed, as much as you can) and putting it right over the coals.
Posted on 5/17/2013 14:17 EST
Mid-May is the perfect time to hunt for an apartment or a temp job. Learn to unlock the mysteries of price matching and use it to your advantage. Beach season is almost here so get ready with cheap beach gear and while away the hours with the ebook of your choice.
Photo by Yellowj/Shutterstock
For shoppers curious about price matching, trying to decipher the often cryptic fine print can be daunting. But don't be discouraged. We researched the policies of eight popular nationwide retailers and unveil the mysteries of how to price-match
New Blog Posts:
Real estate season is in full swing and like many, you may be on the prowl for a new abode. Learn tips and tricks for navigating what can be confusing terrain.
In a career-oriented
society such as ours, temp jobs are often frowned upon. But for many people they can actually be a boon. Found out how a temp position can work for you.
Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner and so is the kickoff for beach season. We reveal our top cheap picks for basic beach necessities that should suit everyone under the sun.
Does price matching seem like a foreign concept? It shouldn't. Learn how to take advantage of competitive price matching policies to save time and score the best deal.
The big debate is raging: can readers really save with ebooks as opposed to the paper variety? We compare the pros and cons of each.
Posted on 5/17/2013 10:08 EST
Print books may not be dead yet, but ebooks are undoubtedly the future. They're space-saving, environmentally friendly, and often cheaper than their dead-tree counterparts. Ereaders and tablets are more affordable than ever. So, is it time for budget-conscious consumers to dump print and go all digital? Probably not.
Photo by Willy Deganello/Shutterstock
The price point for ebooks has been in flux. Apple, one of the largest ebook sellers, is headed to court in June over an alleged price-fixing scheme. A Justice Department lawsuit accuses Apple of conspiring with publishers to put pressure on Amazon and up the cost of a new ebook from a standard $9.99 to $12.99 or $14.99. Still, ebooks are often cheaper than their paper cousins. While the Kindle edition of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is going for $12.99, the bestselling hardcover costs $16.25 on Amazon. Overall the average price of a top-25 ebook has fallen in recent months, according to Digital Book World, and seems to be stabilizing around $8.
Many classics and pre-1923 titles that have moved into the public domain are available for free from major bookstores and websites that specialize in free ebooks, such as Project Gutenberg. Public libraries now offer ebooks that you can "borrow" for several weeks (plus, no late fees). Members of Amazon's Prime program have access to an ebook lending library and one free book a month.
At one time the question of ebooks vs. books was meaningless for frugal shoppers because ereaders were priced out of reach. No longer. Dedicated ereaders from the likes of Sony, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble cost as little as $70. Many book lovers now use tablets, which are more versatile but lack the specialized screens that make ereaders easy on the eyes. Cheap tablets have proliferated and now start at $159. Either way, if you buy a lot of books, it may not take long to make the upfront investment worthwhile.
Photo by Ermolaev Alexander/Shutterstock
Another factor to consider in the books vs. ebooks debate is that digital books can't be resold. While that's not a big deal for a romance novel, it can make a huge difference if the book in question is a college textbook. With textbooks often priced in the hundreds of dollars, students spend an estimated average of $1,200 a year on course materials, according to the College Board. Often there isn't much difference in the price of used books vs. ebooks. By way of example, we found a first-year chemistry textbook for $150 in a digital version while a used copy was available online for $160. It's almost a no-brainer for the non-chemistry major who won't need the text again: Drop $10 more and resell the book when the course is finished. For more information on digital textbooks, read Cheapism's guide to college textbook websites.
For books that are several years old, prices drop dramatically for both electronic and physical copies. Just as books can be found at garage sales and used-book stores or online for a few dollars, a number of ebooks sell for $1.99 on Amazon. With the difference amounting to only a dollar or two, the decision comes down to the reader's personal preferences. Keeping a digital library on your device (or in the cloud) and accessing a variety of titles from a small, light device can be convenient, but some still prefer the experience of turning pages.
The book business is certainly moving in a digital direction, but most people are hybrid readers, consuming some books digitally and others on paper. With no obvious cost savings either way, it makes sense to choose either side or straddle both realms -- at least for now.
Posted on 5/16/2013 8:08 EST
The best way to get a good deal is to shop around, right? But running from store to store can gobble up time and gas. That's where price matching comes in: Top retailers from Best Buy to Walmart have pledged to match competitors' prices, so you can get the best deals from around town with only one stop. Problem is, these guarantees are far from straightforward. Cheapism recently examined eight retailers' price-match policies and found scads of rules and exclusions. Here are seven things every bargain shopper should know about price matching.
Photo by Yellowj/Shutterstock
1. Most policies require the competitor to be a local store, but what qualifies as "local" may be up for debate. Retailers tend to leave it to store managers familiar with the area to decide what lies within the same market or within a "reasonable distance." Best Buy sets a specific radius of 25 miles, while JC Penney in Alaska will match the prices of any similar store in the entire state.
2. Some retailers match local competitors' websites, but many policies exclude online pricing. Only Target and Best Buy have agreed to match online prices at select retailers, including the likes of Amazon, even if there's no corresponding store nearby. Thanks to recent policy changes, shoppers can scan items at Target or Best Buy with the Amazon app on their phones to find out if they can get a better price without ordering online. One catch with online price matching is it doesn't extend to marketplace items listed by third-party sellers.
3. Each retailer has its own rules about what qualifies as proof that another store is offering a lower price. A print ad with the competitor's price clearly displayed is the only verification accepted everywhere. A photocopy, picture, or mobile version of the ad may not work. Walmart doesn't officially require any form of proof (an employee can call the other store to verify your claim), but shoppers suggest bringing in an ad to minimize the wait and hassle.
4. The item you're buying and the item offered for less at the other store must be identical in every way -- brand, style, color, condition, size, weight, and, perhaps most notably, model number. Retailers such as Home Depot, Lowe's, and Best Buy sell many high-priced appliances and electronics with store-specific model numbers, which rules them out for price matching.
5. Certain sales and promotions are excluded. You won't get a retailer to match another store's going-out-of-business or clearance-sale prices. Limited-time promotions, rebates, and offers of free products or gift cards with purchase are also unlikely to be eligible. One exception: Walmart will match buy-one-get-one-free offers as long as the ad lists the price of the item. In general, an ad must specify a price in order for a retailer to match it; just a percentage or dollar amount off isn't enough.
6. You may be able to request a price match for something you've already bought, depending on how long it's been. Many retailers offer price adjustments even after purchase. However, Best Buy and other stores award partial refunds only if a customer sees they've dropped their own prices, not if a lower price turns up elsewhere. Some policies include a specific time frame for price adjustment -- Target allows seven days, for example -- but often the decision is left to a store manager.
7. In general, price-matching policies are subject to employee interpretation, which can cut both ways. At JC Penney, Cheapism found that managers seem to have a lot of authority to match competitors' prices, so it may not hurt to stretch the limits of the store's policy. At Walmart, on the other hand, shoppers complain that employees deviate from corporate policy in denying customer requests. In either case, it helps to know the fine print going in. Cheapism's comparison of stores that price match highlights important features of each policy and offers some store-specific money-saving tips.