Steam LogoTo be honest, I’m not sure if I really want to think about how much money I have spent on video games over the last 24 years. I’d say tens of thousands of dollars would not be an unreasonable guess but I really don’t have a clue.  I own nearly every console and handheld made in the last 24 years not to mention more games for each of them than I can even think of!  That’s not even counting my addiction to PC gaming which is where most of my gaming takes place these days.  Not counting games that I have on CDs and various digital downloads, I have 141 games on Steam alone!

While I am quite proud of my collection of video games, there is something I am even more proud of, the fact that I am buying games than ever these days but paying less than I ever have!

How am I managing that when its not uncommon for games to cost $60 these days and that’s not even counting cool collectors editions that and easily push the price over $100?

Well, I am going to share with you all of the tips and tricks I have picked up over the years on how I save a lot of money on video games while having more fun than ever!

  1. Check local circulars

    When there is a game you have been waiting for that you must have the moment it comes out, you are usually going to end up paying full price but that isn’t always the case. The week of a game’s release, check out the circulars for all of the big box stores near you that are likely to carry it like Walmart, Best Buy, Target and others. I often find that the week a game goes on sale, there will be at least one store that has the game for $5 or even $10 cheaper than everywhere else. Sometimes rather than just knocking a few bucks off of the price, they will give you like a $10 gift card with the purchase of the game which is basically as good as cash and you can use that card for your next gaming purchase. Some retailers, even online like Amazon will offer discounts or gift cards like that when you pre-order a game so make sure to look for those deals too!

  2. Steam Sales

    Steam

    Steam

    Steam is my personal favorite method of picking up a ton of pc games for very little money. Valve usually runs several major sales throughout the year like the Steam Summer Sale (during the summer) and the Steam Holiday Sale (end of December into early January) where you can pick of single games or entire collections of games from publishers or franchises for as much as 95% off! These aren’t just old titles either, these tend to be the big new titles that are often major game of the year contenders. While most games are discounted to some extent throughout the entire sale which usually lasts a couple of weeks, there are daily deals which tend to cut those discounts a lot lower and flash sales which happen every 8 hours which are often just as good so make sure to check back often when they have a sale going!

    Of course you don’t have to wait for a major sale to pick up a good bargain on Steam because they also have daily deals, weekend deals, mid-week deals and others that are running all the time and they are a great way to pick up some fantastic games on the cheap! Also, they occasionally have weekends where you can play a game for free (usually the multiplayer part of the game) and then it is also on sale if you like it enough that you decide to buy it. If you are a pc gamer, Steam is like heaven!

  3. The Humble Bundle

    The Humble Bundle

    The Humble Bundle

    The popular Humble Bundle is another fantastic way to pick up a bunch of games for an incredibly cheap price. The Humble Bundle is unique in that it lets you name your own price, get some great games and help out various charities all at the same time. To give you an example, right now they are selling 4 Android games for whatever you want to pay for them. If you pay more than the average of what people are paying for them ($3.69 as of the time that I wrote this), you get an additional 2 games. Also, you get to decide how your money is split up between the developers, Humble Bundle and whatever charities they happen to be donating to at the time (for the sale as of the time of this writing that would be the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Child’s Play charity, both fantastic organizations). The games range from PC games to mobile games so there should be something for everybody at some point. So, if you are looking to score some cool games for cheap and want that warm and fuzzy feeling you get you when you help out great charities, then you should definitely check out Humble Bundle!
  4. Reddit’s Game Deals Subreddit

    One of the best ways to find out about great deals on video games is to check out Reddit’s Game Deals subreddit. The members there are usually on top of great sales all over the internet and in big box stores for great gaming deals that can range from free shipping to free games! I highly recommend checking out that subreddit at least once a day because you never know what kind of crazy deals those guys are going to post and I have picked up some fantastic games based on the sales they highlight and the recommendations of the people posting in the comments.

  5. Xbox Gold and Playstation Plus deals

    There are some people that balk at the idea of paying a subscription fee of $50 every year for things like Xbox Gold and PlayStation Plus but in the long run, they are more than worth in terms of what they will save you. Each premium subscriptions offers discounts for various titles (which changes all the time) that can be quite substantial. For example, as of the time of this writing, if you are an Xbox Live Gold member, you can get the digital download of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag for $40 instead of the usual $60. I don’t pay as much attention to Xbox so I’m not sure how often their sales change, but with PlayStation, their sales change weekly. Often the sales will be available for non-premium members too but the discounts won’t be near as good. However, that is not the best part of getting one of these subscriptions (which you can occasionally find on sale for as low as $30 from various big box stores and online retailers), the best part is the free games! Both services let you download various free games every month which is where subscriptions to these services really show their value. For $50 a year, you can end up with probably around $1000 worth of free games!

  6. Ebay

    I’m generally not one to recommend buying games on Ebay as I have had bad experiences with broken stuff and bad sellers in the past, however, if you are looking for deals on retro games, this is exactly the place to look! While I love shopping in used video game stores because you never know what old NES or SNES gem you my find in them, if they are a more sought after game, they tend to ask prices close to their original retail price which is crazy. You would be amazed at what kind of deals you can score on Ebay in comparison! For example, a few years ago, my local used game store had a copy of the original Final Fantasy on the NES which I really wanted because I loved the game as a kid and no longer have it. Well, they wanted $45 for it which I thought was a little crazy considering there was no box or maps or other paperwork with it. Had they had all of that and it had been in good condition, I would have definitely paid that but no way would I pay that for just the cartridge. So, I went home on and got on Ebay and found the game, with the box and paperwork (kind of falling apart and laminated so not mint but still ok) for just $20. So don’t be afraid to search Ebay as you can score some great deals on there too!

  7. Used Games

    Speaking of old games, don’t be afraid of buying a used game to save a few bucks so long as the place you buy it from has some sort of return policy in case it doesn’t work. I can’t say I do much of this myself as I generally don’t trust how previous owners take care of things however you can save a few bucks off of retail if you don’t mind going used. Personally, I would recommend going used for cartridge games like NES, SNES, Genesis and handheld games because those tend to be stronger and can take abuse a whole lot better than disks (I’d give anything for consoles to go back to cartridges but that is a post for a different blog at a different time) so there is a little less risk involved in my opinion. Just keep in mind that somebody may have sold a game for reasons other than they just didn’t like it so be careful.

  8. Wait until the price drops

    Finally, another great way to save a few bucks is to just wait a while for the price of a game to drop. The prices of games always drop as time goes on, some more than others so depending on the type of game, it can really be worth it to wait. Perhaps the best example I can think of is sports games like Madden where they come out with a new version every year. Instead of buying it the day it comes out, buy it around the time of the following year’s release and instead of paying $60 for the game, you are likely to end up paying $20 or $30. You may be a year behind but other than fully updated rosters, you won’t be missing much as those games don’t tend to change much over the years which is why I only buy them like once every 4 or 5 years. However, there is one thing to beware of, especially with EA games like Madden in that they have the customer infuriating habit of killing off the multiplayer servers after just a year or two (I’ve been bit by this several times myself which is why I generally avoid games from EA whenever possible) so that is something to keep in mind if you decide to wait and buy a game when it gets cheaper.

If you have any other tips for saving money on video games, share them in the comments below so everybody else can take advantage of them! Also, make sure to sign up for our newsletter on the right too so you don’t miss tips like these in the future!

Tesla Roadster.  Source: Wikimedia

Tesla Roadster. Source: Wikimedia

One of the biggest expenses we face these days is filling the gas tanks on our precious automobiles.  Eventually, most of us may move to electric vehicles at some point once things like range, cost and the availability of charging stations allows them to become more practical for the average person, but until then, most of us are stuck giving a considerable percentage of our income to the big bad oil companies.

Over the past month or so, gas prices where I live have spiked at least $.50/gallon (I haven’t kept real good track but it did jump another 7 cents this morning alone) so I thought now would be the perfect time to share some tips on how you can save fuel and money!  These tips should help at least take some of the sting out of the rising gas prices.

Here are 10 tips on how you can stop wasting gas and throwing money at oil companies.

  1. Watch your speed!

    High speeds are one of the quickest ways to use a lot of gas. Once you go above 55 or 60 mph (I’ve heard both cited), for every 5 mph faster you drive, you lose around 10% of your fuel efficiency because of the increased wind resistance. I’m not saying you should impede traffic and drive 60 mph on a 75 mph interstate but I wouldn’t recommend doing more than the speed limit. If you are worried about getting somewhere on time, just make sure to leave a little early and you will save yourself money on gas and speeding tickets.

  2. Don’t idle if you don’t have to

    Idling is one of the quickest ways to kill your fuel efficiency. If you know you are going to be sitting still for a considerable amount of time like when you are waiting in the drive thru at the bank or fast food joint, turn your engine off. You can save up to 19% on your fuel efficiency by turning your engine off when you know you wont be moving for at least a minute (my rule of thumb is 20 seconds). Your A/C or heater will likely stop working when you turn the engine off but you can always roll down your windows or put a jacket on for a little bit.

  3. Drive smoothly

    This is probably the biggest way you can save on fuel and one of the things I probably struggle with the most. If you floor it every time the light turns green (what I do on occasion) or slam on the breaks every time it turns red (I rarely do this), it can hurt your fuel efficiency by as much as 30%. Smooth, gradual starts and stops will save you big bucks and in most cases you still still get where you are going just as quick as you would have otherwise. I will admit that flooring it on green is a lot of fun but it is an expensive habit.

  4. Know when to cruise.

    Cruising and knowing when to cruise can net you a 10% savings on fuel. Using cruise control on the highway is a good way to keep yourself from accidentally accelerating and using that extra bit of gas that you don’t need to use. However, while this is good advice for flat highways, when you are driving in an area with a lot of hills or mountains, forget the cruise control and focus on accelerating uphill smoothly and letting off of the gas and coasting down the other side. Coasting is a great way to save on fuel so do it whenever possible!

  5. Use higher gears

    Cars are typically more fuel efficient in higher gears so once you get to the speed you need to go, pick the gear that runs at the lowest RPM and you will be saving yet more money!

  6. Streamline your car

    Anything extra on the outside of your car is going to kill your aerodynamics and in turn, your fuel efficiency. So, unless you are in the process of transporting that bike, luggage or canoe on top of or on the back of your vehicle, leave them at home until you are ready to use them. And take off your luggage and ski racks too because that will also make a difference.

  7. Carpool

    Why should multiple people going to the same place at the same time driver different cars, each using a bunch of gas if its not necessary? Whenever possible, try to carpool with co-workers and friends to work, dinner or even random errands. If you get them to pitch in on gas, your running around will be cheaper for all of you and while the extra weight in your car will make it less fuel efficient, running one car instead of 4 is still cheaper overall and running one car instead of four will be much better on the environment.

  8. Lighten your load

    You should always try to drive your vehicle with as little stuff in it as possible. Generally speaking, for every extra 100 pounds of junk in your car, it will reduce your gas mileage by 2%. Not only is having an uncluttered car more fuel efficient, it is also a lot more presentable and less to stress out about when you have to give somebody else a ride. So don’t be like me and carry around various game consoles, telescopes, tons of clothes and other things in your car unless you have a pressing need for it.

  9. Keep your windows closed and A/C off

    Similar to the streamlining point, keeping your windows closed will make your car more aerodynamic and thus more fuel efficient. Opening the windows creates enough drag on your car that it can hurt your fuel efficiency by as much as 10% so if the temperature in your car is comfortable with it closed, keep them closed! This effect isn’t really noticeable until you hit around 45 mph so if you are just driving around town, you should be ok to roll your windows down and let everybody around you know just how good your taste in music is. Also, if you don’t need to be running your A/C or heater, leave it off! I’m sure it varies from vehicle to vehicle but Consumer Reports found that running the air conditioner in a Honda Accord going 65 mph killed the gas mileage by 3 mpg which is quite a drop!

  10. Keep your tires inflated

    Finally, keep your tires inflated to their recommended air pressure. When you are driving in the snow, it is a good idea to let a little (not a lot) bit of air pressure out of your tires because it will make them grip better so you are less likely to slide. However, when the road conditions are good, that extra contact with the road will only make you use up more gas so make sure to keep your tires properly inflated and you could see a 3% or more increase in your gas mileage.

Do you have any tips for how people can save even more on fuel? Share them in the comments below! Also, make sure to sign up for our newsletter on the right too so you don’t miss tips like these in the future!

Netflix

Netflix

How often are you involved in a conversation about how much you hate your cable or satellite provider because they are charging you an insane amount of money?

Thanks to the cable monopoly in my town and in many cities, this is a topic that comes up at least a couple times a week.

Did you know there are tricks to cut your bill without cutting the cord?

Are you paying more than you should for what you watch?  Are you the village idiot that is throwing away money on your cable and satellite bill when you don’t need to be?

Even if you think you are getting a great deal, there is a good chance you can get an even better one!

How do you find out if you are spending more money than you should on your television entertainment?

Below I have compiled a list of some tips and tricks you can use to save pockets full of money on your cable or satellite bill.  Some of these tricks have saved my family hundreds of dollars a year without sacrificing a single channel!

9 Ways to Stop Throwing Away Money Like an Idiot on Cable

  1. Comcast

    Comcast

    Bundle with other services when you can:

    Do you have your TV, phone and internet through different companies? Many providers of those services offer two or even all three of those services if not more! To encourage you to give them all of your business, many companies like Comcast will bundle those services and save you money compared to if you had them separately or with different companies. It might save you money to have them under different companies but that is most likely not the case. It is also worth keeping in mind that writing a check every month to one company will save you checks and postage compared to sending checks to multiple companies.

  2. Compare plans on your current provider:

    Whether you have cable or satellite, I don’t know of a single provider that doesn’t offer multiple plans of service. Some are outrageously expensive and others can be quite cheap. Take some time and compare the plans your current provider offers to see if you can get away with a cheaper package. When comparing packages, think more about your must have channels that you watch all the time instead of all of those channels that would be nice to have. If you already have a set schedule of shows that you watch, when are you going to fit in watching all of those other shows on those channels you think you would like to have? Never. So find the smallest package that has your must have shows and go with it.

  3. Downgrade your service:

    This one goes hand in hand with the previous point. There are many times when you get a higher tier TV package just to watch a show and then when the show gets cancelled or goes down hill to the point that you lose interest, many people never think about downgrading back to their previous package.  Are you paying for premium channels you once watched but don’t watch anymore? If you find yourself not watching those premium channels or higher tier channels that you used to, stop paying for them and downgrade to only what you watch!

  4. Compare with other providers but beware of contracts:

    If you are tired of dealing with the crap your current provider gives you or you are just looking to save some money, check out what other providers have to offer. Even in areas like where I live where there is only one cable company, you often still have options with satellite television providers and even some companies you would think are only phone companies. Make sure to use the advice above about looking for what you need instead of what you think sounds nice to make sure you are looking at an appropriate package for you. Also, ask friends or family that use other companies to get a feel for what they are like and find out if you are going to enjoy changing or cause yourself a world of hurt. There are two things to beware of here, contracts and hidden fees. The prices you typically see when you look at other providers are often introductory prices that are only good for 12 months or less but you are required to sign up for a 2 year contract with the rest of the contract going up to a rather crazy price that might make it a bad idea to change. Also, the advertised price for most of the major providers is for a single tv. If you have multiple TVs, you are going to need multiple boxes each usually comes with its own rental fee unless you decide to buy it outright. Whenever I have looked into making the jump from cable to satellite, this has always been a deal killer for me as I have 3 TVs that are used daily.

  5. Hulu

    Hulu

    Use apps and online services like Netflix and Hulu:

    Speaking of getting only the channels that you need, keep in mind that the channels or shows you want to watch are available on other services or devices. Many channels have their own apps on mobile devices that allow you to watch their shows on your phone or tablet whenever you want. This can be a nice substitute but beware as many cable channel apps still require you to have a cable subscription before you can watch their shows. However, there are other alternatives like Netflix and Hulu that have plenty of tv shows and movies you will love to watch for far less every month than your cable bill and with Hulu, you can still watch new episodes of your favorite shows, just a little later than they normally air and with a few less commercials.

  6. Ask for credit for service outages:

    Have you recently experienced an outage with your cable provider? It happens to all of us eventually whether the cable company has issues at their office or a squirrel chews threw the lines up on the poll (don’t laugh, this has happened to me once), sometimes your cable is going to go out. There isn’t much you can do about these outages but you can ask to be compensated for the outage. Any decent cable company will acknowledge the outage and not charge you for the time you didn’t have service. Unfortunately, you are going to have to ask for your bill to be adjusted because they aren’t going to lower it if you don’t complain about it. If you can’t use it, you shouldn’t be paying for it!

  7. Only subscribe during certain times of the year:

    Are you one of those people (like me) who could easily cut the cord completely if it wasn’t for live sports or just certain shows that air only a couple months out of the year? Consider only subscribing to your service on those months where you need the subscription. I know a number of people that only have a subscription during the seasons of certain sports and they save a ton of money that way. Of course if you sign up for a contract you really don’t have that option but if you have a provider that doesn’t require a contract, this could be a great way to save a ton of money!

  8. Threaten to quit:

    This is my personal favorite way to save money on your cable bill. If you see that your cable company is offering a fantastic price to new customers or just some other special, call them up and rant and rave about your problems with them and tell them you want your service disconnected. You will typically be sent to their customer retention people who will offer you a much better deal than you currently have to keep you. They may or may not be able to give you the new customer price but they should be able to reduce your bill quite a bit for 6 or 12 months if not more. Sometimes they will even throw in a better package or premium channels to keep you. I have personally saved hundreds a year this way but there is one thing to beware of. Some companies track people that do this and will only let you do this like 3 times in a row before you have to suffer through the full price for a couple of months before you can do this again. From personal experience, I have found I can do this 3 times in a row on Comcast before they catch on and make me pay full price for a while but your mileage may vary.  This trick is a great way to lower your bill and let the company know what you really think of their service but don’t be too much of a jerk because the guy on the other end of phone isn’t responsible for your problems and doesn’t deserve your rage.

  9. Cut the cord completely

    Roku Finally, if you really want to stop paying for cable, then stop! With options like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Roku and many other services, it has never been easier to tell the cable company to shove it and not give up watching your favorite shows. There are tons of legal options for watching the shows you like for a lot less such as Netflix and Hulu which are $8/mo and Amazon Instant Video which is included with your Amazon Prime account that will let you watch all or at least most of your favorite shows for a fraction of what you are paying for cable. Of course there are less than legal means of watching the shows you want but you really should pay for what you want to watch. If it is worth your time, it is worth your money too!

Do you have any advice for how people can save money on their cable or satellite service? Share them in the comments below!

Make sure to sign up for our newsletter on the right too so you don’t miss tips like these in the future!

McDonald's Restaurant

McDonald’s

Are you tired of feeling guilty after eating fast food?  Do you hate the feeling of regret you have whenever swing by a fast food joint to grab something to eat and try to justify it by telling yourself you just don’t have the time to eat like you should?

Its bad enough you aren’t able to eat as healthy as you want to or should, but you shouldn’t feel guilty for spending more than you should when you eat fast food.

Everybody always says it is cheaper to eat at home than it is to eat at a fast food place (and those people aren’t wrong), but there are ways to leave your favorite fast food joint without spending a ton of money.  The best part is that not only can you spend a lot less than you are spending now, you can still leave feeling full!

To help you make sure you aren’t spending a penny more than you have to on fast food, I have compiled a list of 16 of my favorite tips and tricks to spend less and get the most bang for your buck when grabbing a quick bite to eat.  If you have any that I have missed, please share them in the comments so we can all benefit from them!

16 Ways to save money on fast food:

  1. Coupons!

    Perhaps the easiest way to save money is with coupons. Whether you cut them out of the ads from your local newspaper or take them from the websites of your favorite fast food restaurants, you can score some amazing deals with coupons. Many times you can even score free food with coupons which is a great way to get the best bang for your buck.

  2. Subscribe to e-mail newsletters.

    Speaking of getting coupons from the websites of your favorite places to grab a quick bite, sign up for their e-mail newsletters too! Many restaurants send out coupons exclusively to their e-mail lists so if you want in on those deals, make sure to sign up! Also, many of the major restaurant chains will send you special deals for your birthday like a free desert, so if you want a free slice of cheesecake or something, that is also a great reason (and my personal favorite) for signing up to restaurant e-mail newsletters.  Most places won’t flood your inbox so that shouldn’t be to much of a concern and you can always unsubscribe if they do.

  3. Chick-Fil-A

    Chick-Fil-A

    Buy promotional items like calenders and coupon books.

    Some companies such as Chick-Fil-A sell special promotional items like calenders that feature coupons for each month which are a great way to save on the things you like to eat. Not only are you getting a calender (which you would probably be buying anyway), but you can score some free food and drinks or at least a discount on the stuff you normally eat. I have also seen some restaurants sell coupon books that are a fantastic deal. For example, my local Little Caesars pizza place sells coupon books for $1 with the proceeds going to the local Crime Stoppers (a program the police around here run to let people give tips on crimes anonymously while still offering them a reward). Not only do I get great deals on their food valued at more than I spent on the coupon booklet, but I am also helping out a very good community initiative designed to help fight crime in my city.

  4. Take surveys to get free food!

    When you buy food at a fast food joint and they give you your receipt and ask you to take an online survey, do you do it? Most people don’t and those people are throwing their money away. Not only is it your opportunity to give valuable feedback to the restaurant on how it can better serve you, but many offer free food just to do it! My local Burger King is always asking me to fill out their online survey and as a thank you, I get a coupon for a free Whopper. If you are bored and just surfing the web, why not take a minute and earn yourself some free food? You would be foolish not to!

  5. Take advantage of special offers!

    If you watch commercials on TV or check out the in-store displays for your favorite food quickie joints, you will notice that they are often running some sort of limited time special offer. Paying attention to these special offers is a great way to spend less and get some real bang for your buck. For example, I have seen fast food giants like Burger King and Carl’s Jr. do some great buy one get one free specials with some of their sandwiches. I have taken advantage of such a special at Burger King twice in the past week myself! You may not need two sandwiches for yourself but you can always feed a friend, family member or homeless person (they seem to gather around fast food places like flies where I live) with the second one.

  6. McDonald's Monopoly Game

    McDonald’s Monopoly Game

    Play the promotional games!

    Speaking of promotions that can score you some free food (among other prizes), keep an eye out for the times when restaurants have games that can win you stuff when you buy certain items. McDonald’s is perhaps the most well known for this with their annual Monopoly game where you can collect Monopoly properties to win cool prizes or even win some free fries or a drink. It can pay to play!

  7. Eat from the dollar menu!

    One of the best ways to fill your tummy on the cheap when you don’t have any coupons with you is with the dollar menu. Sure, you don’t get all of the fancy ingredients on your burger like you do with the burgers that cost $6, but if you don’t mind plain old cheeseburgers and smaller portion sizes, make your eyes wander over to the dollar or value menu. Its a much cheaper way to eat than just ordering one of the big combo meals.

  8. Take a limited amount of cash.

    Speaking of spending as little as possible on your food, one of the best ways to do that is to carry small amounts of cash on you. The less you carry on you, the less you have to spend which will force you to buy cheaper items. Of course this trick doesn’t really work if you use plastic for all of your purchases instead of cash but if you are a cash guy like I am, this trick works great! Also, the less you money you have on you, the less the muggers can steal which is an important thing to keep in mind if you live in a bad neighborhood.

  9. Drink free water or take your own!

    Another great way to save money when you eat is by just drinking water. If you dine in, just ask for one of their courtesy cups for water rather than buying a giant fountain drink that will set you back a couple bucks and send your sugar levels through the roof. I have known a number of people that have lost significant weight just by cutting the soda fountain out of their diet so if you are looking shed a couple of pounds, this is an easy way to do it.  If you don’t go inside, and prefer to use the drive through, bring a bottle of water with you from home so you aren’t tempted to buy one of their drinks or bottles of water.

  10. Carls Jr Bacon Swiss Burger

    Carls Jr Bacon Swiss Burger and Fries

    Know what you want before you get there!

    One of the worst things to do when you stop to get food is to not know what you want before you get there. They always say to never go to the grocery store hungry (one of the things I mentioned in my guide to saving money at the grocery store) and to make a list so you don’t buy what you don’t need when you get there. Well, that advice applies pretty well to the fast food joints too. If you get to the cash register or drive though without knowing what you want ahead of time, you will usually end up buying more food than you need and picking more expensive items because they often sound the best. Whether you are looking to save money or just cut back on how much you eat, this is a very important piece of advice!

  11. Buy dinner or desert but never both!

    Along the lines of the last point about knowing what you want before you get to the restaurant, one of the things you need to decide is if you are there for dinner or desert. If you do both, you will end up spending more than you wanted to and consume far more calories than you should. Personally, I would just stick with dinner as most restaurant deserts are ridiculously overpriced although there are times when I would gladly skip dinner and go straight to the cheesecake. Just remember, if you don’t want to feel guilty or like you have overeaten when you leave, stick to one or the other.

  12. Always count the calories!

    A couple of years ago, I let my weight go as high as 235 lbs. I was terrified that my pants were going to pop a button at the worst possible time and that is when I decided it was time to start paying attention to what I eat (my previous philosophy for watching what I eat was to look at it before I shoved it in my mouth). I still eat fast food almost every day like I did back then, but I was able to lose 25 lbs that year just by eating lower calorie items at those same fast food restaurants. I never did any exorcise or anything, I just found lower calorie items on the menus that I enjoyed and switched to eating them. One of the things I also noticed when I started paying attention to my calorie consumption was that the higher calorie items almost always cost more so not only did I lose weight, I started saving quite a bit of money!

  13. McDonald's Big Mac Combo

    McDonald’s Big Mac Combo

    Choose the cheapest item you enjoy!

    Along the same lines as the previous point, try to stick with buying the cheapest item you enjoy. It is fine to splurge on occasion and get one of the fancy $7 burgers but but if there are cheaper items you like, stick to those and that will save you a ton of money in the long run. It is also likely to save you from eating a lot more calories than you need too! In addition, there often isn’t a huge difference between the sizes of the meals so stick with a small or medium instead of a large. If you eat inside, most places offer free refills too so you can easily get the value of a large drink by just refilling a medium drink once.

  14. Buy the kids meals even if you are an adult.

    It may feel a little awkward buying a kids meal for yourself but it is a cheap way to get a complete meal that would cost you a lot more if you ordered off the adult menu. You may not get as much food but at least it can save you money and score you a toy at the same time! I’d suggest comparing this to the value menu as there might be little if any difference other than the toy (which you can always find a kid to give it to).

  15. Split large orders up family style.

    Speaking of kids, another great way to save money is to split up large orders among several people. Whether it is a big bucket of chicken or a pizza, splitting a meal up with others can save you money. Whether you are splitting a pizza or just a large order of fries, it makes sense to just get one order and split it instead of each getting their own and feeling fat from over eating afterwards. We do this often where I work with pizza as it is much cheaper to buy 2 pizzas for 4 people (which works out to around $3.25 per person) than to buy each person their own big order anywhere else and nobody walks away hungry.

  16. Avoid the drive-thru like the plague!

    Finally, one if the biggest ways to save money is by not going through the drive-thru. This seems a little odd at first because the menu prices are still the same but this time I am not talking about saving money on the food directly. I am talking about how much you are wasting in gas while you spend what seems like an eternity in the long line for the drive-thru window. I have found myself sitting in drive-thru for 15 minutes for just one car in the line in front of me to move and I am sitting there with my engine idling the entire time. Doing that is a huge waste of gas (it will kill gas mileage your vehicle gets) and it does nasty things to the environment at the same time. However, if you do decide to go through the drive thru for some reason (perhaps the line inside is all the way out the door), don’t be afraid to turn your engine off while waiting for your order or for the cars in front of you. As memory serves, as long as you are sitting there for at least 10 seconds, you will save fuel by turning your engine off.

If you follow these tips, you can easily save thousands of dollars a year on fast food!

If you found these tips and tricks on how to save money and get more bang for your buck at fast food restaurants useful, please share this article with everybody you know who could benefit from it!

Do you dread wiping the stuff of your PC or even getting a new PC because of all of the time and effort it takes to put all of your favorite programs on the machine?

Having a fresh machine (whether it is new or just a reinstall of Windows) is nice and the speed boost that comes with it is quite enjoyable but it tends to lose a lot of the appeal when you realize just how much stuff you have to install on it.

That is one of the biggest reasons behind why people don’t buy a new computer until they absolutely have to or wipe their hard drives only because something has gone so terribly wrong (like a nasty virus) that they can’t help by wipe it clean and start from scratch.

There should be an easy way to alleviate this dread shouldn’t there?  Well, there is!

There might not be a hassle free way of getting your data back to where it should be (although many online backup solutions make it a lot easier), but there is a way to make putting all of your favorite apps like web browsers (such as Firefox and Chrome), chat clients (like Skype and Pidgin) and media software (like iTunes and Spotify) on the machine in a relatively quick and painless manner.

In the past, you have had to search out all of the programs you want individually to download and install them which would often take hours to do.  Whenever I get a new PC or have to reformat my hard drive, I have always set aside an entire Saturday or Sunday to do it because I know that by the time I install all of the Windows updates, drivers and software, it is going to take nearly the entire day.

Ninite

Ninite

However, it no longer has to be that way!  Thanks to a service called Ninite, you never have to worry about it taking all day ever again!

What is Ninite?  Ninite is a service that lets you download all (well, most likely all) of the software you want all at once and install it with a single installer.  Thanks to ninite, gone are the days of spending a seemingly endless number of hours clicking the next button on a ton of installers.

With Ninite, you select just the software you want, download the installer and it will download and install all of the software for you without you having to mess with dozens individual installers.  Not only that, but it checks to make sure the software is the most recent version and it will install the appropriate version for your machine (32 or 64-bit).

Nearly all of the software you can choose from is free although there is the very rare exception like Microsoft Office which is a trial version and Mozy which is an online backup service you have to pay for.

However, if you are looking for a quick and easy way to install your favorite web browser, anti-virus and anti-malware software, media software, messaging software, office software, online storage software, developer tools, and a lot more, check out the free Ninite service!  It is a one stop shop for your essential software needs!

Whether you need to install all of your favorite programs on a new PC or just get back up and running quickly after wiping a hard drive, this is perhaps the best and easiest way of doing it.

Do you know anybody who would have a much easier time with their computer thanks to a service like this?  Then send them a link to this post and tell them to share it with their friends too!

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter on the right and like Penny Hacker on Facebook too!

Whole Foods in New Orleans by Webkid

Whole Foods in New Orleans by Webkid

Are you tired of coming home from the grocery store and feeling like you have little to show for the money you spent?  That is because you are wasting money at the supermarket!

With prices on food constantly going up (the hot dog buns I buy have doubled in price in the last year), it is easy to feel depressed when you come home from grocery shopping only to find your money didn’t stretch as far as you had hoped it would.

What if I told you that you could fix that?

What if I told you that you didn’t have to feel that way every time you walk out of the supermarket?

You can easily fix this problem TODAY and you never have to feel depressed and defeated when you walk out of the grocery store ever again!

Below is a list of 18 tips and tricks that can help you save big at the grocery store and have more food to show for your money!  Lets start saving!

#1: Never shop when you are hungry!

This should probably go without saying but you should never go to the grocery store on an empty stomach. The hungrier you are, the more everything in the grocery store is going to look good to you and you will just end up buying a lot more food than you went in there for. It is best to go to the store after you have eaten but if that is not possible, just make a list and be sure to stick to it.

#2: Make a list and check it twice.

Santa isn’t the only one who should be making a list and checking it twice. Before you go to the grocery store, make a list of everything you are going there for and stick to it!  Not only will this serve to keep you from forgetting to pick up a key ingredient to the dish you are planning on making but it will help keep you from buying stuff you didn’t go in there for. It is important to get what you are after but make sure you aren’t buying something you don’t need!

Sale Tags by Benrattray

Sale Tags by Benrattray

#3: Pay attention to sales!

When you are making your list of things you are planning to buy when you visit the supermarket, always make sure to check the store’s local circular first to see what is on sale. If you don’t have a brand preference on an item that you need, you may find that another brand is on sale instead of the one you normally buy which can save you a lot of money.

#4: Don’t leave home without coupons, digital coupons and your loyalty cards!

Speaking of saving lots of money, perhaps the easiest way to save money is coupons, digital coupons and loyalty cards. Many stores only offer their sale prices to people who have signed up for their loyalty programs so make sure you never leave home without your loyalty card. Not only that, many grocery store chains work with local gas stations to give you a discount on gas when you buy a certain amount of stuff from the grocery store so the loyalty cards can even save you big bucks outside of the grocery store!  One of the major grocery stores where I live also lets you buy 9 cups of coffee and get the 10th free at one of the local gas station which is nice if you drink a lot of coffee.  However, loyalty cards aren’t the only way to save lots of money as you can easily find coupons for lots of items in your local newspaper (usually on Sundays) and online. Speaking of online, some stores even have their own smartphone apps or mobile websites that offer digital coupons that can save you even more so make sure you take your phone with you when you go shopping.

#5: Stock up on sale items with a long shelf life.

When you find some good deals from your grocery store of choice (and don’t be afraid to go to other stores for more money saving deals), feel free to stock up on the item if it isn’t going to spoil right away and you know you will eventually use it. Canned goods and other non-perishable items like toilet paper are the perfect candidates for things to stock up on when you find a good sale. Just make sure you are going to use what you buy!

#6: Only buy in bulk when you will use it all!

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when it comes to shopping is buying stuff in bulk only to end up throwing most of it away because it didn’t get used before the expiration date. If you are going to buy a giant sack of potatoes or anything else with a short shelf life, make sure you have a plan to use them all before they go bad or they will end up in the trash which is the same as throwing your money in the trash. Buying in bulk can save you a ton of money as long as you make sure that you are going to use what you buy.

#7: Ask for a rain check on sold out items.

How many times have you made it to the grocery store to find the item you wanted that was on sale to be gone or the person that got there 3 seconds before you took the last item? When you encounter this situation, ask one of the employees if you can get a rain check on that sale item and still get the sale price when it comes in? Many stores will do just that and even if they don’t, it doesn’t hurt to ask and it can only save you money!

#8: Beware of the inner isles.

Have you ever noticed how the main things you go to the grocery store are on opposite sides of the store? For example, at my local Safeway, at one end of the store is the fresh produce section while the bakery is on the opposite end. Grocery stores have this type of layout because they know they can get the hungry and weak willed to browse the isles between those sections and end up selling them more food than they had intended to purchase. However, if you stick to your grocery list, this shouldn’t be a huge problem for you.

Grocery Shelf by Heidi Kennedy

Grocery Shelf by Heidi Kennedy

#9: Don’t just buy items at eye level!

If you find yourself in an isle looking to buy a particular item, make sure to look up and down on the shelves for the best buy before you put the item in your cart. Often, grocery stores will put the more expensive items at eye level while the cheaper stuff is higher or lower on the shelves. They may not be the same brand as what you were looking for but if you are a little flexible, you can save big by buying the cheaper brands that aren’t right in front of your face.

#10: Don’t be afraid of buying the store’s brand.

One of the other big mistakes I see people make is they usually reach for the popular brand names and ignore the store brand thinking the quality or taste may not be as good which is often not the case. Store brand items are often little more than re-labeled brand name products so don’t be afraid to compare the ingredients lists as there is often no difference between the two. Also, it is a myth that store brand stuff doesn’t taste as good as the big brand names. Just this week, I bought a 1.5qt container of vanilla bean ice cream that was the store’s brand (Safeway in case you were wondering) and I liked it just as much as the vanilla ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s that I usually buy. However, there was one big difference and that was the price. A pint of the Ben & Jerry’s cost around a dollar more than the 1.5qt container of the store brand ice cream. Not only did I get a lot more, I paid a lot less too!

#11: Compare the unit price of items.

Speaking of comparing prices between brands, don’t just look at the price of an item, look at the unit price too! The unit price which is usually on the side of the price tag will tell you the cost of the item per ounce. Knowing how much you are spending for what you are getting is one of the best ways to compare prices to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck.

#12: Avoid pre-made foods.

No matter what it is, if you don’t do it yourself, you are paying somebody else to do it for you. Pre-made foods can be really convenient if you just want something take home and eat with no more preparation than perhaps throwing it into the microwave for a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, if you don’t take the time to cook something yourself, you are going to end up paying somebody else to do it for you. You can often save yourself quite a bit of money if you buy the ingredients and make something yourself rather than having it made for you. This also has the added bonus of improving your skills in the kitchen too!

#13: Never buy prepackaged salad.

Speaking of avoiding pre-made food, salad is one of the biggest offenders for costing you a lot more money than you should be spending. Pre-made salad can often cost you 3x what it would if you were to just make it yourself. Salad doesn’t take long to make so spend a lot less and just make it yourself.

Cheese Grater by Emj

Cheese Grater by Emj

#14: Avoid grated cheese.

Same thing with as above but cheese is also a major offender when it comes to buying cheese that is already grated. Buy a block of cheese and grate it yourself as needed. It takes only a few seconds to grate the cheese you need so save the money and just do it yourself. Just don’t cut yourself or the resulting medical bills could make grated cheese the cheaper option.

#15: Buy fruit that is not already cut.

Not buying fruit that is already cut feels a bit redundant after the last couple of points stressing that you shouldn’t buy pre-made foods but fruit is a bit of a special case. Not only do you avoid the same costs of having somebody else cut your fruit for you like I mentioned on the points above, but fruit that isn’t cut tends to last a lot longer. If you are going to eat your pre-sliced fruits and veggies right away it isn’t that big of a deal but if you aren’t going to eat them within a day or two, they will end up going bad and end up in the trash while fruit that wasn’t cut yet will last you a few days longer.

#16: Avoid out of season fruits!

Speaking of fruit, if you are looking to save money, it is important to stick to buying the fruits and vegetables that are in season. Buying something like strawberries in the middle of winter compared to summer is going to end up costing you a lot more and they often don’t taste as good when they aren’t in season. Speaking of fresh food that is in season, don’t be afraid to shop your local farmers market. You may or may not save any money, but at least you will be supporting local farmers and local food often tastes better as there is less time between when it is picked and when you buy it.

Spices by Killiondude

Spices by Killiondude

#17: Avoid spice mixes.

Another great way to save money is by not buying pre-made spice mixes. Not only is it cheaper to make the mixes yourself (and you get to try all kinds of cool recipes you find online), but you will often already have some of the spices in your cabinets at home that you haven’t used up yet which you can use to make your own mix without spending more money.

#18: Grow an herb garden.

If you really want to save on what you spend at the store, why not just grow your own stuff? Growing a large garden full of your favorite fruits and vegetables might be a little more work than most people want to put into their food but herb gardens don’t take much work and you can grow your favorite herbs in pots around the house and never have to worry about buying herbs at the store. The more you can grow yourself, the less you will have to buy at the grocery store which means the more money you will save.

Those are just some ways you can save money at the grocery store but when you combine them, you can save thousands at the grocery store every year!

What tips do you have that people can use to save money at the grocery store? Share them in the comments below! Make sure to sign up for the mailing list below so you never miss a way to save money!


Greetings and welcome to Penny Hacker?

What is Penny Hacker you ask?  Penny Hacker is a blog dedicated to helping you save money!

Whether you are looking to save money at the grocery store or the car lot, we will be your source for great tips, tricks, coupons and other ways to help you save money on the things you buy!

If there is something specific you would like to write about to help you save money, let us know through the contact page above!

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