Saturday, March 26, 2011

How I save on gas

Gas prices are on the way up again and it makes me hate going to the gas station to fill up.  The last time I filled up my car I spent about $55 dollars whichinspires me to do a few things to get the most out of my gas.  These are the top 4 things I do to save gas:

1.  Drive slower.  The more expensive gas is the slower I drive.  I’ve found that driving between 55 to 60 mph helps get me some extra miles.  It’s a huge test of patience, so every time I want to drive faster I turn on some slow oldies and think of the money I’m potentially saving by driving like an old lady.

2.  Easy on the acceleration.  This goes along with number 1.  When I see a stop sign, red light, or traffic ahead of me, I just cruise in there.  I try not to gas it and then brake hard once I’m there.  

3.  Carpool.  OK, I don’t really do this, but I swear I’m going to start if gas gets up to $5 a gallon.  Finding a good carpool buddy is hard... I spend an hour in the car commuting, that is 5 hours a week and 20 hours in a month.  If I had to carpool, I’d have to find someone I’d be willing to hang out with 20 hours a month.  This could potentially save the most money though since it essentially cuts my driving in half.

4.  Keep my trunk clean.  I try to keep keep my trunk empty, or at least empty of things that are heavy.  The more that’s in there the more gas I have to use to move the car so I try to keep my cinder blocks at home.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cut hair save money

Since I was a kid I have gotten my haircuts at home. When I was a kid I would sit in the bathtub and my dad would cut my hair into a nice bowl shape with a pair of scissors and an electric shavers. In high school, the bowl cut was no longer in (or maybe it was never cool and I just realized that I should try to not be such a big nerd) and having very short, freshly cut hair was popular. I couldn’t afford to go to Supercuts every two weeks to maintain the freshly cut spikey hair cut, so I started cutting my own hair. I must have given myself many bad haircuts, but over the years I’ve learned the subtle art of cutting my hair and in turn have saved a little money. These are the keys to how I do it:
The first step is to line the floor with newspaper to make cleanup easier. Then make sure you have the right equipment- a pair of scissors, a pair an electric shaver with different guards, and two mirrors. I have had a few different electric shavers and have found that the $30 to $50 dollar pairs work just fine. Once you have these things you are ready to go.
Different people like different styles of haircut, so part of getting the right technique is knowing what kind of haircut you want. For me, I like to cut the back and sides of my hair short and leave the top a little longer. This is a pretty basic haircut since it’s pretty much a shaved head minus the top.
So what I do is use the electric shaver with a short guard on the side and back. I shave until my head starts to curve in and then gently fade the cut as my head curves. I use scissors to cut the top and to touch up the sides. I use two mirrors to see what is going on in the back and gently rotate my head and the mirror to see all the angles.
Three keys:
1. Take your time! Once a piece of hair is cut it is gone until you grow it back. It will take a while to learn the hand eye coordination it takes to cut in places you normally don’t see and touch, so it is very important to be patient with yourself.
2. Practice! All skills take time to learn and practice. Hair cutting is no different.
3. Have thick skin. I probably spent the first few years of my self hair cutting life with awful hair. But I don’t care because I can do it myself now, save money, and look good.
I loosely estimate that I save about $15 every time I cut my own hair and need it done about once a month. So it comes out to about $180 a month. Over ten years that could be $1800.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Good cheap food: Baked Chicken

I found organic, free ranged chicken for .99 cents at my local grocer the other day. I bought two of them and this is what I did with one of them...

Before and after


1 chicken (doesn’t have to be organic or free ranged) about 3 to 4 lbs.
¼ cup kosher salt
3 potatoes
1 eggplant
3 carrots
1 lemon
a little season all


1. The night before the meal, make a brine solution and marinate the chicken in it. All you need to do is fill a large pot with water and the kosher salt and bring it to a boil. Let the solution cool down to room temperature and put the chicken in the pot and the pot in the refrigerator.

2. The next day, chop up the potatoes, eggplant, and carrots and throw them into a pyrex or some kind of cooking pan.

3. Take the chicken out of the solution. Pat it dry with a (clean) towel or paper towel. Rub some seasoning all over it (there are a lot of seasonings and rubs out there... I use this McCormick’s Chicken Rub).

4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the chicken breast side up and bake for about 50 minutes then turn it over for another 20 minutes back side up.

5. When the chicken looks nice and golden brown, it should be ready. Take it out gently, carve it up however you like and add any sides you like. I side of rice and salad is perfect for me.

My chicken ended up costing a little under 4 dollars and I think with the ingredients and sides this meal cost about 6 or 7 dollars total. It ended up being enough for four meals (served two people for dinner and was enough for two lunches the next day).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Extra money: Market Research Studies

One of my favorite ways to make extra money outside of work is doing market research studies. Companies have always been interested in understanding their customers. These days they are putting even more emphasis into knowing the trends, habits, and wants that drive consumer behavior before launching a product or service. As a result, there are more opportunities for consumers like us to offer their opinions in exchange for cash.

I’ve participated in a bunch of different research studies including car studies, food taste tests, audio equipment calibration tests, neuro brain equipment tests and more. From my experience, one to two hours of time can net anywhere between $25 to $200 dollars depending on the type of study. Certain studies will ask you to prepare some “homework” while others will offer raffles for people to show up on time or to fill out additional questionnaires after the actual study. My favorite studies are the food taste tests because I get paid for trying new food.

How to find them

The best way I find these studies are through Craigslist or other local postings. Market research companies like Nichols Research also have Facebook pages where you can updates on the surveys they are doing. There are a ton of other companies that operate locally. Most surveys have pre-screening questions that ask you some basic questions to make sure you qualify for their particular survey.

The key to finding and getting surveys is to be persistent! I check Craigslist a few times throughout the day for studies I may qualify for. You will have to wade through the many egg, sperm, blood donor adds to get to the market research study, but those are interesting to read as well. Side note: I am always tempted to participate in these donor programs, but I am too squeamish to give blood, am weirded out by the idea of having a kid I don’t know about roaming around, and do not possess any eggs...

How to get and keep them

The key is to finding and keeping them always keep an eye out for these opportunities. Some of the studies have follow up studies, for instance food studies will often have one set of flavors one week and another set the next week. Some other studies will have raffles to get people to show up on time and will have additional focus groups after their studies. These are all opportunities to make more!

Beware of scams

When looking at online postings, there is always a small possibility of deals that are just too good to be true. While looking for surveys, I’ve come across adds that ask too little information and offer too much money. Someone offering $300 for 1 hour of your time and asking for just your name, address and phone number with little description of the study is too sketchy for me.