As a busy mom, I often (unintentionally) skipped meals in the daily rush. If I was running to work out or meet friends or grab kid 1, I would frantically search my cabinets for something healthy and filling to eat on the go. I usually came up empty handed and scarfed down a few bites of cottage cheese before running out (and still feeling hungry). Wishing I had had time to make a smoothie or protein shake, I'd leave the house raiding my kid's snacks. While normal people buy something out and about, I would only do that when really desperate because I'm frugal (eating out is expensive!) and a control freak about my food.
My husband is a long-time consumer of Soylent for breakfast and lunch - an inexpensive liquid meal replacement that has a perfectly proportioned nutritional composition and vitamins - suggested I do what he does. While I loved the idea of a complete meal replacement, I was not a fan of the ingredients in Soylent. For example, it primarily uses soy protien and I prefer whey.
Then, my husband introduced me to Ample - a meal replacement similar to Soylent - but with ingredients he knew I would resonate with. While more expensive than Soylent, Ample is comprised of high quality proteins, healthy fats, probiotics, and organic greens (among other awesome ingredients). It was love at first taste. It also only takes 5 seconds to prepare - I add cold almond milk and shake and am done. It is also safe for nursing and pregnant moms - so I drank it all throughout my pregnancy with Sloane. It literally kept me fed, healthy and checked all my meal-need boxes. I currently subscribe to the 600 calorie bottles and happily grab a bottle whenever I need high quality calories but don't have the time or energy to prepare something. I look forward to having these for lunch when I start my new job in the Fall.
Have you tried Ample? What do you think about it?
One of the biggest expenses to hack while traveling is housing. While previously there was the potential to Airbnb our home to offset the costs, the changing laws in NYC quickly made that undoable. Further, our new condo strictly prohibits subletting of any kind. So this presented a new challenge - how do we travel without spending a ton on housing? We could always use our points or open a new credit card -- but we typically like to reserve those for flights. So while that is an option, I was curious to see what else we could do.
Fortunately, I stumbled onto a new hack: house-swapping. This is perfectly legal in NYC and in accordance with my condo rules ('friends' can stay but no money can be exchanged). Our first opportunity came earlier this year when a friend reached out and asked if we were interested in swapping homes with a Parisian family they knew. We had never 'done' Paris and the timing was perfect. This would be the last international flight before baby girl arrives in March 2018. So we agreed. We emailed and FaceTimed with the family (who seemed awesome) and set up the exchange of keys on both sides. They were super cool and we all had an AMAZING experience. Their home was fantastic (a 2-story townhouse set up for kids in a great location in Paris ) and our condo was perfect for them. From now on, we are going to try and swap all over the world. I'll keep you posted with where we end up next.
When we moved into our new place, we discovered that the dishwasher was broken and the washer/dryer unit stunk. Our first order of business was to replace them with high quality machines. This, of course, meant that we were going to have spend some major money. While the below hack(s) don't mitigate the fact that washer/dryer units and dishwashers are expensive, there are some ways to get a good deal and not spend a ton of money upfront.
After extensive research, and much to my husband's chagrin, I decided I wanted cover my apartment in Bosch appliances ($$$$). NYC Condo living usually means ventless/electric dryers so I picked the the 24" Bosch 500 stackable washer and dryer. These typically cost $1,079 each unit.
So I was looking at $2158.
For the dishwasher, we have an 18" opening so until we renovate our kitchen, I decided to stick with that size. I chose the 18" Bosch 300 series which costs about $719.
Total cost was estimated to be $2877, not including tax, delivery, installation, removal of old appliances, and the warranties.
So how did I hack this?
Step 1: Call for comparison prices.
Most major sellers have a "price match guarantee" like Best Buy (where we ultimately purchased from). So I picked up the phone and called both big and small companies until I hit the most competitive price. The lowest price I was quoted $999 per washer/dryer and $679 for the dishwasher ("the contractor price"). I immediately asked for that quote in writing (a MUST). With this quote in hand, I had some negotiating power across different sellers.
$2877++ versus $2677++
(savings of $200 ).
Step 2: Get all the costs upfront so you can compare apples to apples.
After getting the reduced quote, I asked the company what other charges there were considering I needed delivery and removal. The company, though they gave me great prices on the items, had a $150 delivery and removal charge for each set (extra +300). The same delivery charge was quoted by several other local companies. Best Buy, however, offered free delivery and $15 for removal of the old appliances (same with Lowes).
$300 versus $30
(savings of $170)
Step 3: Check out store credit cards for 0% financing deals.
Once I had the base price of my items (which I could use for price matching) and I had identified the cheapest way to get my items delivered, installed and the old ones removed, I started researching financing options. While we could pay for the items upfront, I didn't want to. Especially if I didn't have to. I called around to different companies. I found that while most retailers offer 0% financing for 6 months, maybe 12 months depending on your credit score, Best Buy offers 18 months at 0% financing. Plus they offer in store cash back credit of 5%.
$2700 upfront versus $35/month for 18 months.
Also Best Bey charges warranties based on the total cost of the items - so their warranty prices are competitive.
Best Buy ended up being the winner with our total cost coming to:
$999 X 2
$679 X 1
$15 X 1 (we ended up selling the washer/dryer unit on Craigslist).
= $2692 + tax + warranties
But because we opened our Best Buy credit card, we only pay $35 month for the next 18 months (we'll pay the balance at the end so as not to incur interest).
Further, we earned $150 in Best Buy "cash" which will be useful when we buy a receiver for our sound system.
Bonus Pro-tip: Look for Rebates:
After we purchased our items, I did a quick to see there were any manufacturer or other rebates for our items. As turns out ConEd was offering a rebate for select items. Our dryer and dishwasher happened to be included in that list. So we earned a bonus of $85.
What was your appliance hack?
I make several hundred dollars a year, at least, in cash and goods off of junk mail. In September alone, I made $550. How? By actually reading it and taking advantage of legitimate offers. There are so many promotions giving financial incentives that, to me, it is worth it to pay attention. I literally read almost every piece of junk mail (both snail mail and email) to see if there are any interesting deals.
For example, my health insurance sent out this email:
Is it a terrible email? Totally but $250? From my health insurance? Tell me more.
As it turns out, all I had to was enroll in a simple health and wellness program that asked me to get an annual physical done (something I do anyway), complete some online tests (that took me 20 minutes), and submit a form to their (admittedly horrific) platform.
Cool. Done. +$250
Later I go this email:
$250 from a bank? My husband and I both have "loans" from Citizen bank because of our upgraded iPhones (most people who purchase a new iPhone are allowed to take a 0% interest loan for the lifetime of the iPhone loan). So I called. Turns out, all I had to do was open a bank account, deposit $500 and make a monthly deposit ($1 is sufficient), and after 90 days, $150 would be deposited into my account ($250 is for business clients). After the money is received, I'm allow to withdraw and close the account at no penalty.
Cool. Sounds great. Jeff and I both signed up. Took us 30 minutes.
Total earned since September 1: $550.
New offers come in all the time, ranging from money towards groceries (like from HelloFresh, Fresh Direct), promo codes for $10 or $15 off an order (Google Express does this every so often), to straight up cash bonuses. So before deleting or tossing out that junk mail, read it quickly to see if the offers are worth the effort.
What are your favorite junk mail offers you get? What has been your biggest savings via an mail or email promotion?
After my bi-annual closet purge, I am usually left with a pile of clothes, shoes, and accessories - some nice, some hideous, some in new condition, some clearly used. So what to do?
I have 3 options:
1) Donate for Tax Credit. If I'm out of time, impatient, and just want the stuff out of my apartment, I will opt to take the clothes to a local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or a Green Tree Textiles drop-off site. I get a receipt, jot down an approximate donation value (pennies on the dollar) and hand off to my husband for when he files taxes. This is the easiest option but also has the least return.
- Super fast and easy disposal of unwanted stuff.
- Tax write off is a plus.
- Happy the items will be put to good use or recycled responsibly.
- They take anything and everything so this is a great repository for my old, ugly items.
- You make next to nothing.
- Getting the items to any of the above mentioned locations can be a hassle - especially for those without a car.
- The nice items yield far less then they are worth.
2) ThredUp. I have mixed feelings about sending my items to ThredUp. It is an online consignment shop akin to Buffalo Exchange + Second Time Around. In short, you request a pre-paid mailing bag that you fill and drop off at USPS (they claim you can schedule a pickup but USPS is so unreliable in NYC that it usually results in a bag sitting in my lobby for a week+ and then me dropping it off in the end). ThredUp accepts gently used women's and kid's clothes and accessories and pays you directly for the lower cost items accepted and consigns, on your behalf, higher end goods.
- It is super easy to get your clothes there (except dealing with USPS *fist shaking in the air*)
- They have a huge market place so instant customers for your consigned goods. You can also manage the price and request the item(s) be returned (for a fee) at any time.
- They pay you outright for your low end items accepted. You can get store credit or paypal after about 2 weeks.
- They donate anything that doesn't get accepted (which is great for people who don't have cars to drive to a local thrift store - like us).
- It's kinda expensive - the initial processing costs $12. Since they don't pay much, you might not make much after the upfront cost.
- It's risky if you don't pay an extra fee to get your rejected items returned. This makes me a little nervous with items that I know are worth something but am not certain will be accepted.
- You don't get as much money as you would if you sold directly to a buyer. ThredUp will give you pennies on the dollar anything they buy directly. You can, however, make a decent amount via consignment.
- You can only send labeled items.
- You can only send relatively new items (no vintage).
- Dealing with USPS. Don't.Get.Me.Started.
- You have to wait up to 2 weeks for your money.
3) Poshmark. I'm relatively new to Poshmark so for those not in the know, Poshmark is a C2C marketplace where you quickly and easily list items for sale (mostly clothing, shoes, and accessories but I've seen random stuff like toys and household items as well). You set the price, snap a few pics, and up it goes to the Poshmark sales platform. If someone is interested, they might negotiate or buy outright. Once the sale is made, you print a free shipping label, Poshmark takes a cut, you pack your item and into the mailbox it goes.
Sounds so easy right? It is and it isn't.
- You can make more money selling directly than through Thredup. For example, I had an older pair of Frye Harness boots and based on the condition, Thredup would have rejected them. Instead, via Poshmark, I made ~$15.
- You have complete control over your items and don't have to worry about something being rejected and donated never to be seen again.
- It is super easy to use. You can literally list something in under 5 minutes.
- Shipping is simple - you can print at home, tape it to your box, and drop it in the local mailbox (means I don't have to deal with USPS AT ALL. Major bonus).
- Money comes through almost immediately. No two week wait here.
- You can sell unlabeled and vintage items (something ThredUp does not take).
- It takes work to get followers and make sales. You have to spend some serious time following a bunch of people, sharing and re-sharing your items or other people's items. While there are a massive amount of people on Poshmark, you still have to hustle to make sales. This can be a major deterrent for anyone who doesn't have the patience to deal with it.
- Items can stagnate. Because it takes time to build up followers, it can take weeks and weeks to sell something (if at all). If you are eager to move product, Poshmark might not be the best option.
- Sometimes you have to deal with spam or annoying low ball offers. Par for the course with online public spaces but no less irritating.
Overall, all are solid options and I typically do a combination of the three. I dump my ugly stuff at donation and then take a stab at selling on Poshmark. Anything that lingers for 3-4 weeks, I usually add to my ThredUp bag and drop it (begrudgingly) at the post office.
When you get rid of clothes, what do you do?
Feedback on ThredUp or Poshmark? Let me know.
As a family of 3 in New York City, one of our largest expenses are groceries. Groceries in the city are way pricier than in other parts of the country (boy, do I miss Jewel-Osco). We spend, on average, about $9,000 a year (or $750 a month) on food purchased from FreshDirect and other local stores.
One of the ways I hack this expense is by using the right credit. We exclusively use our Blue American Express because this card offers a whopping 6% on groceries (up to $6,000, max $390). When we had a car, we used it for gas (3% cash back) as well. 1% is earned on all other purchases. Each year, I make about $420 off groceries alone. FYI there is a $75 annual fee but it is quickly offset by other purchases. Interested in signing up? Email me and I'll send you a referral link so you can earn: $150 back after they spend $1,000 in purchases on their new Card in their first 3 months of Card Membership. They will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit (I get $50 per referral). Using the right credit card for the right purchases (or at the right time) is the key to many of my life hacks.
I've wanted a Canada Goose jacket for years but baulked at forking over $850. But I figured out a way to get buy one for a steal. Some of it was luck, but some of it was a hack. I finally purchased my Victoria Canada Goose Jacket in Military Green.
To start, I only purchase big ticket items from reputable sites with great warranties. Last year (when I wasn't ready to pay $800+ for a jacket), I bought an exclusive branded jacket from backcountry.com (Basin and Range) that had a lifetime warranty for $260. Unfortunately, 8 months later, my jacket started to rip at the seams. I contacted the company, sent the jacket back and was given a $260 credit on their site.
Having bought Jeff a Canada Goose jacket that was still in pristine condition, I finally went for it.
The ticket price was $850.
I had a ~$260 credit
Lesson #1 - only buy where you get a warranty
I paid out of pocket ~$590
But used Ebates for the purchase which offered a 4% cash back bonus (~$30 cash back)
Lesson #2 - make sure to use ebates before buying big ticket items.
Being inspired to check the backcountry link again (for some reason), I saw that all the Canada Goose jackets had been marked down 20%.
I called the company, told them of the mark down, and they credited my card the +$185 difference Lesson #3 - make sure to check the purchase website after buying the big ticket item. If the price has changed, demand a credit. And also, try only buy from websites to honor that.
Total cost of the jacket = $375.
Sadly, I returned the jacket because it didn't fit well and ended up with Long Bear Parajumpers Jacket (but because I bought (+30 cash back)-returned-bought (+30 cash back)-returned-bought (+60 cash back during double bonus cash back promotion) via ebates, I save an additional $120 on the price of the jacket. I also keep checking back to see if the price gets marked down further so I can call and get the difference credited back.
Bonus lesson - every time you buy through Ebates, even if you return the item, you earn cash back.
Want more hacks? Follow me on instagram @globalnomaddy
Want me to write about a topic? email me or leave a comment below.
Since January 1, 2017, I've made $157.66 shopping online buying items I needed, or returning items and buying a different size (like the purchasing and returning and then purchasing again of a winter jacket from Backcountry.com). Each shopping trip is a chance to earn money, even if you return the item in the end.
Since 2011, I've made $629.
By using a site called Ebates.com. Many of you probably know it already but if you don't, sign up (use my referral link, please - you get something and so do I) and start making money on purchases you were going to make already. Not only does Ebates give you cash back, it alerts you of sales and coupons on a variety of awesome sites (like Carters, Nordstroms, Macys, Expedia, and so many more).
Ebates.com acts as a referral site to online retailers and when you click and purchase through their site, ebates shares the referral bonus - so they get money and you get money. Total win.
However, it is often easy to forget to check ebates before you make a purchase so be sure to install the plug-in (it blinks if you are on a site that gives you cashback via ebates) and never miss a chance at saving/making money again.
Want more lifehacks? Follow me on Instagram @ globalnomaddy
What topic(s) should I write about next? Leave a comment below!
We take 2-3 international trips each year and people often wonder how we afford it. Our biggest savings come from airfare because we usually fly (coach) for free.
Through amazing credit card deals. While this strategy is not for everyone, it has worked amazingly well for us.
In the past few years, my husband and I signed up for the American Airlines Platinum Select card when the bonus was 50K miles each. And the American Airlines Executive card when was the bonus was 50K miles each. And the Chase Sapphire Reserve when the bonus was 100K thank you points and the Chase Sapphire preferred when the bonus was 50K thank you points. We also then use the cards to maximize the miles/points offered. For instance, the Reserve gives you 3X points on each dollar spent dining so all our meals/take out go on that card.
It is important to note that the cards usually require you to spend $3-4K within the first 3 months of opening, so I recommend staggering them and/or opening them right before you have to pay a large sum for something. In our case, our son's childcare could be paid via credit card so we opened one right before the amount was due hitting that card's minimum right away.
You also have to pay the balance in full each month. If you don't, you don't get the bonus points/miles.
While some of the cards have hefty annual fees, we find that they are often off set by the travel credits (like the Chase Sapphire Reserve - read about me signing up here). If the fees aren't offset or we find the card is not worth it after we earn our miles, we close the account. You don't lose your miles and I recommend trying to transfer the credit line to another card under the same bank (you can do it with the Sapphire cards, for instance).
Most importantly, we found that signing up and/or closing 1-2 cards every year or every other year does not significantly impact our credit scores.
With all that in mind, if you do it correctly, you can rack up some serious points and a LOT of free travel. Between 2014 and 2016, we earned over 210K+ miles on American Airlines and 275K+ thank you points. We flew to Europe 3X in 2016 and 1X in 2017 (and it is only April). We still have well over 250K thank you points so we are set for at least another year or two.
When spending our rewards, we found we could stretch our miles by flying off season. For example, we spent 50-60K miles each on round trip tickets to Italy (flying in) and Switzerland (flying out) in December/January. Or our trip to Vienna in March was also 50-60K miles each. Thank You points are just like cash credit so you can use them to pay for inexpensive flights or hotels via the Chase portal site. So again, you can maximize them buy flying when tickets are cheap.
All in all, this is one of our greatest life/travel hacks so keep an eye for amazing credit card deals.
keywords: travel hack, airfare, credit cards, cheap tickets, travel for free
One of my greatest lifehacks is to not settle for broken products (I know, I write about this a lot). Anytime something fails - not as a result of my/kid's fault - I don't hesitate to contact the company to see if they are willing to replace it for free. Almost all the companies I have contacted have (save for rugsusa.com - so I won't buy from them again) - which is amazing. Before getting my PhD, I spent a few years in the manufacturing industry so I know all about quality control. Products get made, pass QC, get sold, and yet, aren't up to standard. When that happens, I generally find companies will gladly replace them because (1) they want to keep the customer happy - happy customers = repeat purchase(s) and/or telling people in their networks to buy them. (2) They want to protect their reputation - bad products may not be representative of their image and can damage their brand.
So when something breaks, it can't hurt to ask.
Recently, I noticed the rubber sealing rims in Jack's glass storage container lids were moldy. Finding no effective way to clean them, I emailed the Wean Green company and explained my problem. Without hesitation, customer support mailed me 2 new starter kits (seen here on amazon) because they didn't want me to have a subpar product - super awesome. I love when companies take care of their customers. I'll def buy from the again and tell you to too.
Keywords: warranty, amazon, food storage,