Should I Install a Low-Flow Showerhead to Save Water?

From your cable and Internet bill to utilities like heat and electricity, there are a lot of costs that must be added into your monthly budget (as I discovered upon moving into my first apartment). There are always ways, however, of cutting back on those expenses. You can save water and lower your water heating costs by installing a low-flow showerhead.

What is a Low-Flow Showerhead?

In short, a low-flow showerhead is one that comes with a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute or less. While this still seems like quite a bit of water, these showerheads can actually decrease your shower water usage by about half.

A regular showerhead has a water flow of about 3.8 gallons per minute, so if you took an eight minute shower, you would be using approximately 30 gallons of water. But with a low-flow showerhead, you would only use about 20 gallons.

With this fixture, you’ll also need less energy to heat your shower, reducing your power bills.

How do Low-Flow Showerheads Work?

With a low-flow showerhead, it may not feel like you’re using less water, but you are. The showerhead restricts water flow while still maintaining a strong pressure, giving you the experience of a normal shower.

Aerating showerheads mix air in with the water stream. This maintains strong water pressure while still using less water than a traditional showerhead. However, because there is air combined with the water, the temperature may not stay as hot for as long as traditional showerheads.

A non-aerating showerhead doesn’t use air; instead, it pulses to keep the pressure strong. The water with a non-aerating showerhead tends to be hotter because there is no introduction of air.

How to Measure Your Current Flow Rate

In order to discover whether you would benefit from a low-flow showerhead, it’s important to figure out the flow rate of your current fixture. Turn on your shower and let the water run into a bucket for 10 seconds, then turn it off.
Measure the amount of water that’s in your bucket, then multiply that figure by six. The number you end up with will be your water flow per minute, or gallons per minute. If your shower is releasing about 3.8 gallons or more per minute, think about replacing your current showerhead with a low-flow fixture.

Here’s another helpful rule of thumb: If it takes fewer than 20 seconds for your showerhead to fill up a 1-gallon bucket, you could benefit from installing a more environmentally friendly fixture.

Which Low-Flow Showerhead is Best for Your Bathroom?

If you’ve chosen to get a low-flow showerhead for your bathroom, then you must decide which type you would like. You could opt for the traditional stationary model or a handheld showerhead that’s attached to a flexible hose.

While handheld models may offer convenience, they’re typically a bit more expensive than the stationary fixtures. However, a handheld showerhead may be slightly more environmentally friendly than the traditional model because there is less distance between the showerhead and your body.

Other Green Bathroom Ideas

Installing a low-flow showerhead isn’t the only way you can go green. Here are a few other bathroom ideas that may lower your overall energy costs:

Use Green Cleaning Products: Some bathroom cleaners contain harsh chemicals, which is why it’s more environmentally friendly (and often cheaper) to just make your own.

For instance, a tub cleaner can be made using 2/3 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup vegetable oil-based liquid soap, 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Mildew can be removed by mixing 1/2 cup vinegar with 1/2 cup borax.

Rethink Your Towels: Think about swapping your current regular cotton towels for towels made from organic cotton. This material requires the use of fewer pesticides, natural dyes and softeners, making it better for your skin and for the environment.

Bamboo towels are another eco-friendly choice, as bamboo is a fast-growing sustainable alternative to cotton, not to mention it has antibacterial properties.

Fix Leaks: A simple leak in your tub or sink might not seem like a big deal, but you may actually be losing a lot of water. Talk to your landlord about the problem and get it fixed as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can put a bucket under the leak and use the collected water to hydrate your houseplants.

Replace Your Shower Curtain: Many shower curtains are made of polyvinyl chloride, otherwise known as PVC plastic. The material actually releases chemical gases, and it can’t be recycled. Instead, opt for a PVC-free shower curtain. Hemp shower curtains, for instance, are resistant to mold and mildew.

Take Shorter Showers: A low-flow showerhead can only do so much to save water when you’re taking extremely long showers. Do your best to cut back on your bathing time by creating a five-minute playlist of a song or two. This way, you’ll know exactly how long you have before you should turn off the water.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Dealing with medical debt

A father holding his son on his shoulders.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

According to a 2018 Consumer Reports survey, almost 30% of insured Americans had medical debt sent to collections in a two-year time span. That number might sound high, but there are many reasons why medical bills go unpaid long enough to end up in collections.

For one thing, healthcare expenses are often costly and unplanned, leaving people struggling to pay their bills in a timely manner. And close to a quarter of people surveyed told Consumer Reports they didn’t realize there was even an amount due to be paid.

If you are dealing with medical bills in collections or
are worried about a medical bill making it to collections, find out more below.

According to a 2018 report, almost 30% of insured Americans had medical debt sent to collections in a two-year time span.

When Does Medical Debt Go to Collections?

First-party medical creditors—this is the organization that provided the healthcare service or the agency contracted to handle billing on its behalf—can typically send you to collections at any time. The key is that they must follow their own policies consistently.

In most cases, first-party medical creditors will send you
at least one bill. Some may send multiple bills over the course of several
months. At some point, if you don’t pay those bills, the account will go to
collections. When that happens, it can be reported to the credit bureaus as a
medical account in collections.

How Do Medical Bills in Collections Affect Your Credit?

There’s some good news: the 2017 changes to the credit reporting rules offer some provisions to help protect your credit from unplanned medical bills. Specifically, there’s a waiting period before medical debt can show up on your credit report and reporting on medical debt is removed from your credit report if it has been paid or is being paid by insurance.

The credit bureaus must wait at least 180 days after a medical debt is reported to them before they add it to your report. That provides up to 6 months for you to dispute medical bills, work with insurance companies or settle the debt with the creditor, if you choose, before it impacts your credit score.

In addition, if a medical debt does appear on your reports
after the 180-day period but has been or is being paid by insurance, then it
must be removed from the reports.

If medical bill collections do end up on your credit
report and they are not paid by insurance, they may remain for up to seven years—even
if they’re paid. However, they may not impact your score as much as other types
of collections. Both the FICO Score 9 model and VantageScore 4.0 weigh medical
debt less heavily than some other kinds of debt.

What Can You Do About Medical Debt in Collections?

Just because medical bills don’t necessarily have the impact on your credit score that other debts do, it doesn’t mean there’s no impact at all. Consumer Reports notes that almost one-fifth of Americans say their credit has been negatively impacted by medical bills in collections. Try some of the steps below to help resolve the matter and positively impact your credit history for the future.

Almost one-fifth of Americans say their credit has been negatively impacted by medical bills in collections.

Know What Your Insurance Covers

Start by ensuring that you really do owe this money.
Review the explanation of benefits, also called an EOB, provided by your
insurance company. You should receive an EOB statement from your insurance
company anytime a provider bills medical expenses to your insurance. (Keep in
mind that an EOB is not a bill.)

In most cases, insurance companies don’t allow the full
amount a provider bills it for. Your EOB will show:

  • How much
    of the bill was allowed and how much was disallowed.
    Your provider must
    write off disallowed amounts and typically can’t bill them to you if they
    agreed to accept insurance payments.
  • How much
    of the bill was paid by the insurance company.
    This is the amount you do
    not owe and do not need to worry about.
  • How much
    of the bill is the patient’s responsibility.
    This is the amount you do owe,
    according to your insurance. If you’re being billed by the medical creditor for
    more than this, it could be a mistake.

If you don’t think you owe the amount being sought, you may choose to dispute it. Ask for documentation proving that you owe the amount. If the account is being reported on your credit report, consider sending a dispute letter to the credit bureau in question if you believe there is an error in the reporting.

Negotiate with the Service Provider

Once you understand how much you owe, you may choose to
reach out to the provider to negotiate. You may be able to get a discount,
particularly if you didn’t use insurance and you can pay a large sum toward the
amount billed.

Negotiation with providers may work better earlier in the game, so it may be helpful to not put off this step. Make sure you know what you might owe and how you can pay it even before services are rendered, if possible.

Suggest a Suitable Payment Plan

If you receive a medical bill and you can’t pay it all
at once, you may ask for a payment plan or suggest an arrangement. If you can
pay the bill off in a short period of time, such as a few months, many medical
providers will not send you to collections.

Use a Credit Card Only If You Must

Paying for medical debt with a credit card converts a bill with little to no interest to one that might come with a large amount of interest. Only use a credit card to pay medical bills if you have no other options.

Consider Seeking Debt Settlement

If the account has already gone to collections, you may
try negotiating a settlement. In some cases, the older a debt is, the less
likely the organization is to collect it. This could make it more likely to
accept a smaller amount to consider the account paid in full.

Make sure you have the ability to make an immediate payment if you do negotiate a settlement. You may ask for the collections account to be deleted from your credit report in return for making the settlement payment, but not all collection agencies can or will do this. However, they do have to mark the account as paid, which looks better on your credit history than an unpaid account.

Whatever you do when settling a debt, get it in writing. You might need to demonstrate there was an
agreement later.

Work with a Medical Billing Advocate

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by medical bills and all
the information that comes with them, you might consider working with a medical
billing advocate. These individuals help you understand your bills, appeal
costs to hospitals and ensure your insurance company covers everything it
should. That can help reduce the total cost of your medical expenses.

Regularly Check Your Credit Report

Staying on top of your credit report by checking it
regularly is important, especially because you might never see a notice in the
mail about your debt going to medical collections. When you review your credit
regularly, you can respond to and handle negative items quickly and
proactively, giving you a better chance at protecting or positively impacting
your credit in the future.

Reach out to the credit consultants at Lexington Law if you want to learn more about your credit report and how you can work to improve your credit.


Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.

Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

Finding the Best Cheap Exercise Equipment

There’s no need to spend all your money on a high-performance exercise bike or a gym membership when there are so many inexpensive great home gym equipment options — many of which are available online.

We researched the least expensive treadmills, indoor bikes and rowers on the market, and found some home exercise equipment that won’t cost you a mortgage payment. We all want to be fit, but quite honestly, we can think of way more fun uses of our money. Add a yoga mat and some weights, and possibly a pull up bar and you’ll have a complete home gym. We also have suggestions for buying outside the box. As in cheaper than retail.

Retail Alternatives for Good Deals

Let’s start with the ways you can buy home exercise equipment for lower than retail, even if this way is the most unpredictable. You can’t always get what you want, when you want it.

We penny hoarders understand that shopping retail is usually the most expensive way to make a purchase. So make sure you’re also checking out sites like Craigslist, Marketplace or Nextdoor before you buy home exercise equipment at retail rates.

There are also spots like Global Fitness  and Primo Fitness that specialize in selling refurbished exercise equipment online.

I found my Peloton for $1,800 on Craigslist and the seller gave me the mat, weights, heart monitor and cycling shoes for free. Add in the fact that I tossed the Peloton into my trunk (no shipping fees!) and I didn’t have to pay sales tax. I saved at least $500 on the deal.

You can also get less expensive home exercise equipment on Facebook Marketplace. A search for Horizon T101 treadmills there found them as low as $200. Make sure you try the equipment before buying, as conditions can vary greatly.

Not in the market to buy anything yet? Try using stuff around the house as exercise equipment.

And here’s an easy way to build a cheap home gym.

A Survey of Retail Exercise Equipment

If you’re ready to buy new but still want to save money, you can find some of the better home equipment on the market mostly through Amazon. Keep your eyes on Horizon Fitness, too, for sales.

Basic Treadmill:
Horizon T101

While many inexpensive treadmills may break after a few runs, this one is made to last, according to fitness experts. It comes with a lifetime warranty for the motor and for the frame, and it comes with a one-year warranty for parts and labor. So you can bet it’s built to withstand the toughest, longest workouts from the most dedicated fitness pro. The Horizon T101 folds and has wheels, so your gym can double as your living room. It has a 10 percent incline and nine programming options, so the content is very substantial. Tons of extras are built-in, including Bluetooth speakers, a USB charging port, a tablet holder and a cooling fan. Keep in mind, however, that the cushioning is nothing extraordinary — so if you have bad knees, you may want to get a different tread.

Get it here: $999 (but it’s usually on sale for $699) at HorizonFitness.

Treadmill with Classes:
NordicTrack 6.5 S

NordicTrack offers tons of classes via the iFit training program ($15 per month) and it’s less than ¼ the price of the Peloton Tread. This is the least expensive NordicTrack option, but it still offers live and more than 16,000 on-demand workouts. It comes with a one-month subscription to iFit, which offers fitness classes for any level. This model has a 10 percent incline, and it folds. The iFit membership is optional, so you can use the treadmill without the program, but one of the biggest benefits is the iFit.

Get it here: $668 at Amazon.

Pro Tip

Pair your treadmill or bike with the Peloton app ($15 per month), and you’ll get that high-end instructor experience.

Budget Indoor Bike:
Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor Cycling Bike

This is your basic indoor exercise bike so don’t expect it to come with classes, a fan, a tablet or even a tablet holder. But at less than $300, you can be guaranteed a solid indoor bike that is durable and smooth. Plus, many people have added a cadence sensor, a tablet, a tablet stand and an app to turn it into a Peloton dupe.

Get it here: $298 at Amazon.

Bike with Accessories:
Yosuda Indoor Cycling Bike

This quiet bike is easy to assemble (it takes most people about an hour). Plus it’s quiet and comes with accessories including a tablet stand, an LCD monitor and a water bottle holder (these are all accessories that most people add to their indoor bikes). This is a sturdy bike that has two rolling wheels, so you can move it easily throughout your home gym.

Get it here: $450 at Amazon.

Rower with Classes:
Women’s Health Men’s Health Bluetooth Rower

This smooth rower has 14 levels of resistance, and it will measure your watts, calories, time and distance. For an extra $15, you can access trainer-led workouts and personalized programs through the MyCloudFit app, which should increase your strength training and your cardio. The rower itself is practically silent, and the seat is comfortable. You’ll have to assemble it, but it should take less than an hour to do so.

Get it here: $399 at Amazon.

Low Frills Rower:
Stamina ATS Air Rower

This is a quality rower that comes with an LCD monitor, a three-year frame warranty and a one-year parts warranty. This doesn’t have too many extras, but it’s sturdy, durable and gets the job done. Plus, it will fold so it’s great for tight spaces.

Get it here: $329 at Amazon.

Basic Elliptical:
Ancheer Elliptical Machine

The sturdy elliptical has 10 levels of resistance, along with a back-lit touchscreen that tracks your calories, time, speed and distance. Assembly for this piece of equipment is simple, and this is a great machine to use while watching TV or reading.
Get it here: $380 at Amazon.

All-Around Elliptical:
Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Elliptical Trainer

With 16 levels of resistance, seven workout modes and 24 exercise presets, this will feel like you’ve got a gym in your home. It’s totally silent and has a 16-inch stride, which is a decent length for a person of average height (if you’re tall, you may want to choose an elliptical with 20-inch strides). This elliptical doesn’t fold, but it has wheels so it’s easily movable.

Get it here: $530 at Amazon.

Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Tips for Helping You Declutter Your Room of Shame

There’s a fun game of cognitive dissonance many of us play when it comes to messes in our apartment. For me, it’s something of an object permanence issue: As a child, I briefly believed that I turned invisible when I closed my eyes, and as an adult, I tend to treat rooms I’m not looking at as a problem for Future Michelle.

Young woman laying in a pile of clothing and shoesYoung woman laying in a pile of clothing and shoes

Take, for example, the spare bedroom in my first apartment. It was going to become an office “once I got around to it,” but in the meantime, I used it as storage – where “storage” translates roughly to “place I put random junk.” This seemed like a sustainable model for maybe a month. I admitted it was a problem at three months, at which point I closed the door and resolved to “dedicate a weekend to it.”

I pretty much ignored the room for the remainder of my lease, thinking of it only when I pushed the door open to toss in some other item for which I had no real use. Each visit back into my spare bedroom filled me with an increasing sense of dread, slightly hampered by a noncommittal promise to myself to declutter it as soon as I could.

Now I live in a much smaller apartment, and every time I agonize over my lack of space, I mentally kick myself for not taking advantage of what I once had. For those who are currently living with a room of shame, there is hope – here’s some advice for getting to the other side of your mess:

Step 1: Admit It

You can’t deal with a problem until you acknowledge it’s there. Maybe you’ve already done this, deep down in your heart, but you’ve been pretending things are fine: They’re not. Things have snuck up on you, and now the room is totally out of control. Admit that it’s time to take back your life.

Step 2: Call in Reinforcements

Even the strongest people can’t take on everything alone. Ask your closest (and least judgmental) friends to help you handle your disaster room. Depending on whether your mess has been in or out of sight, you may need to admit your problem to them as you have to yourself. There’s a good chance they’ll tell you it’s not that bad. They’re probably being polite, but you’ll feel better about it anyway.

If things have gotten completely out of hand, consider hiring a professional organizer. Not only will this person be able to help you declutter the room, but he or she will empower you to avoid clutter in the future.

Step 3: Plan Your Approach

Unless you have a ton of storage space somewhere that you’ve been ignoring in favor of your room of shame, the odds are good you’re going to be throwing a lot of stuff away. Come up with three piles – keep, donate, and toss – and get heartless with your junk. Unless something has serious sentimental value, get rid of it if you haven’t used or looked at it in the last year.

Figure out what you’re going to do with the things you keep. Maybe you already have some designated places for these items that you just haven’t been using. If not, you’ll need to figure out where everything goes – don’t fall into the “I’ll just stick it here” trap that got you into this mess in the first place.

Step 4: Do the Work

It’s easier said than done, I know. Clear a day or two out of your schedule and formally announce that these are the days you’re working. Take pictures of the disaster before you start to clean, and if you’re feeling particularly brave post them online. Adding a caption, “After pic to come,” will give you plenty of motivation to follow through.

You may need to block out additional slots of time after the Big Day to do a finer sorting of your items. For example, you might find a place to put all your random documents and letters when you’re cleaning, but you should also spend some time actually organizing the papers themselves. That said, feel free to post your “after” picture once the room looks great.

Step 5: Bask

Once you’re all done, bask in the glory of your own achievements. Smile at all the comments your friends and family left on your after pic. Invite people over and experience the pure joy of hearing, “Wow, your apartment is so well-organized! I wish mine looked like this.” Sit alone in your apartment and marvel at how much space you suddenly have. This is your time. Enjoy it.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

How to Clean Your Cleaning Tools

Your cleaning tools help you get your apartment spick-and-span, but they won’t be as effective if they’re dirty. You may not have considered tidying up your tools–they clean, so why clean them?–but doing so is worth your time. Your supplies can harbor bacteria, dirt and debris when not properly cared for (eww!).

Everything from vacuuming to sweeping will be more effective when your cleaning tools are in better condition. With that in mind, you may be wondering how to clean your tools. Here’s a guide for all the supplies you use most:

Broom cleaningBroom cleaning

Broom

With all the dust and dirt your broom picks up, it can get messy. Fortunately, getting it to shine isn’t too challenging.

Every week, bring your broom outside and knock it against a wall or railing to loosen the dust. You can also comb the broom or use a vacuum hose to clean the bristles if there’s too much dust or hair to shake off.

Once a month, soak the broom in a solution that contains warm water and dish soap. Rinse the broom and let it dry before you use it again.

Mop cleaningMop cleaning

Mop

Take a look at the kind of mop you have. If it has a removable cotton head, you may be able to wash it with your laundry–nice, right? Sponge heads should be cleaned like a sponge (see below).

Also, make sure to clean the handle with an antibacterial wipe.

Clean vacuumClean vacuum

Vacuum

Because every vacuum model is different, no single cleaning process will work for them all. As such, you should check your machine’s user manual to see specifically how to clean the vacuum. However, there are a few things that help, no matter your model:

  • Empty the dirt container into your trash. Some vacuums have bags, while others have a plastic cylinder. Either way, clearing the dirt keeps the vacuum from getting clogged and losing suction.
  • Check the bottom of your vacuum and its attachments for hair or strands caught in the spinning pieces. Clip them with scissors and pull them out, as the vacuum won’t be able to suck them up.
  • Run a clean, soft dishwasher through each opening, oftentimes coming out another
  • If vacuum isn’t like that can try canned air
  • Wash outside with mild soap and water and dry
  • Rotate your filters (hand wash if possible with warm soapy water)

brushbrush

Brushes

You probably use scrubbing brushes to clean dishes, your toilet, or shower. No matter what kind of cleaning brush it is, here’s how to clean it:

  • Use a pen to pick out hairs and other debris that’s caught in the bristles.
  • Fill a bucket part way with warm water, then pour a cup of your favorite cleaning solution into the bucket.
  • Stir and dissolve the powder.
  • Add your brushes, face down, to the liquid.
  • Let them soak for 30-60 minutes.
  • Leave them out to air dry.

Do this procedure every month to keep your brushes in clean condition. Also, rinse them in between uses to help the clean last longer.

Sponge cleaningSponge cleaning

Sponges

If you’re used to throwing out dirty sponges, this will be a wonderful change– you won’t have to spend money to replace them all the time.

You have a number of options for cleaning your sponges, so pick from these methods:

Dishwasher

The lucky renters out there who have dishwashers can use the appliance to sanitize cleaning tools. Simply put your sponges inside in the silverware rack and run the machine on the sanitation mode. If you run it on regular, you won’t end up with a clean sponge.

Soak in cleaning solution

Similar to your brushes, you could also let your sponge soak in a mixture of water and cleaning solution or bleach. Make sure to wring it out when you’re done.

Microwave

Not only can your microwave cook, but it can also clean. First rinse the sponge with water to remove food markings. Then, put the sponge in a bowl of water and microwave for three minutes. Remove the sponge with tongs (it’s going to be hot) and run under cold water. Warning: do not use this method if  your sponge has metal or foil parts as they can damage your microwave.

Even with regular cleaning, you still need to replace your sponges after a while. When the scrubby side is worn down or the sponge is falling apart, it’s time for a new one.

Cleaning dirty ragsCleaning dirty rags

Cloths and dishrags

Wash regular cloths in the washing machine with some baking soda to cut through deep stains. Wash them separately from clothing or anything you value, as the dirt and grime from past use can rub off into other fabrics.

If you have rags with grease stains, try washing them with a can of coke. Just pour a full can into your washing machine along with laundry detergent and run your machine on a heavy duty cycle. The phosphoric acid in cola dissolves grease.

Cleaning microfiber clothsCleaning microfiber cloths

Microfiber cloths

If you have a microfiber cloth, you generally use it for easy jobs, like cleaning glass or mirrors, or dusting. Don’t use them for really dirty jobs. Why? Because the way you have to clean them won’t cut through the grime.

These cleaning tools use static charge to draw particles to them, and you want to maintain the charge. To do so, rinse in the sink, scrubbing with your hands, then throw in a delicates bag. Place the bag in the washing machine alone (no other clothing) and add a bit of detergent. Avoid fabric softeners, which reduce static. Once clean, place the bag in your dryer without a sheet– this will help the cloth retain its static charge.

Duster cleaningDuster cleaning

Dusters

A feather or wool duster mostly needs a good smack. Take it outside and shake it or hit it against a wall or railing (like a broom) to knock the dust loose. Make sure you’re outdoors, or else you’ll fill the room with dust, which you’ll need to clean with the duster, leaving you right back where you started.

If it’s more than a simple shaking can solve, soak it in warm water mixed with a few drops of dish soap. Swirl it around, rinse, and then hang to dry. Once it’s dry, carefully fluff it up, making sure not to rip anything.

Cleaning a washing machineCleaning a washing machine

Washing machine

Your big appliances need to be cleaned, too. Don’t forget them just because they’re stationary and blend in with the furniture.

Run one cycle with the machine full of warm water mixed with a quart of bleach (and no clothes!). If you don’t have or don’t want to use bleach, a quart of white vinegar will work as well.

Dishwasher cleaningDishwasher cleaning

Dishwasher

Your dishwasher needs the occasional clean, just like the washing machine.

You need to clear out the drain first. There’s likely to be food residue in there, but sometimes bones, pieces of plastic or glass, and other debris can get in there and cause some damage. Remove anything you find in there.

Once you’ve cleaned the drain, get a large cup or bowl (dishwasher safe, obviously). Fill it with white vinegar and set it on the top rack. With nothing else in the dishwasher, run it for a cycle on the highest temperature setting.

Taking care of your cleaning supplies will help them last longer and help you do a better job of getting your apartment sparkling clean.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

How to Get a TV for Cheap – 7 Ways to Get Deals on a New Television

TVs and many other electronics are interesting because as quality has steadily improved over the years, prices have dropped. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price index for TVs decreased by 94% between 1997 and 2015.

In other words, TVs become more affordable every year despite continuous upgrades and new features.

However, if you’re buying a new TV, you still need to be somewhat price-conscious. The latest plasma or LCD TV models still set you back several hundred dollars or more. Like other major purchases, it’s important to ensure you buy the right TV that has the right balance between price and features.

Thankfully, there are several ways to get the best deal on a new TV to help keep costs down. As long as you give yourself enough time to shop and keep these strategies in mind, your next TV upgrade shouldn’t drain your wallet.

The Best Ways to Save Money on a New TV

Buying a new TV isn’t going to be cheap. Ultimately, screen size, features, and brand influence prices the most. If you’re set on a specific size and type of TV, your savings will only go so far.

However, there’s no reason to pay full price for a new TV, regardless of the size and type you buy. Implement one or more of the following money-saving tips the next time you decide to upgrade your TV to keep more money in your wallet.

1. Shop Online

It might seem daunting to buy a new TV online. After all, you probably want to see it in person to help visualize what it would look like in your home.

However, one of the easiest ways to save on a new TV is to buy online. Shopping online saves time, and if you use shopping browser extensions, it’s easy to comparison shop to ensure you’re getting the lowest possible price.

For example, extensions like PriceBlink tracks product prices across thousands of retailers. If you’re shopping for a new TV, PriceBlink notifies you if there’s a better deal on a different website for instant savings.

To take your savings further, use extensions like Capital One Shopping and Honey. Both extensions automatically apply coupon codes at checkout to help you save money.

Plus, you can earn free gift cards with both extensions for shopping at specific retail partners. If you’re buying a high-ticket item like a TV, a single coupon code can go a long way in your efforts to save money.

Finally, online tech deal sites are also worth checking to find low prices on TVs and other electronics. For example, websites like Newegg and SlickDeals often have TV discounts that can shave off a significant portion of your price tag.

Buying a new TV online is also less stressful if you do your research. Room size matters for screen size, so measure the area you plan to set up your TV to gauge if you’re buying the right size. TV buying guides can also help you decide on your screen size based on how far away your seating is from the TV and how crowded the room is.

Finally, read reviews for any TV you’re considering. If you’re concerned, you can also check out the TV you’re considering in-store before placing your order online.


2. Use a Cash-Back Credit Card

Buying a new TV is a considerable expense. Additionally, if your new TV purchase is part of a home improvement project or move, you probably have other major expenses alongside your new tech.

Using a cash-back credit card for everyday purchases is a savvy move. However, for large expenses, credit cards are even more lucrative.

Plus, credit cards often have introductory bonuses if you spend a certain amount of money within the first few months of becoming a cardholder. If you take advantage of a bonus while TV shopping, you’re making the most of your money.

Several popular cash-back credit cards worth considering include:

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited: No annual fee; earn $200 when you spend $500 within the first three months; 5% cash back at grocery stores; unlimited 1.5% on most other purchases; up to $500 in purchase protection for 120 days. Read our Chase Freedom Unlimited review for more information.
  • U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card: No annual fee; earn $150 when you spend $500 within the first three months; 5% cash back up to $2,000 on two categories of your choice, which can include electronics; 1% to 2% cash back on everything else. Read our U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card review for more information.
  • Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi: Requires a Costco membership; 4% cash back on first $7,000 in eligible gas purchases; unlimited 3% cash back on travel and restaurant spending, unlimited 2% cash back on Costco purchases; unlimited 1% cash back on everything else; purchase protection against loss or damage for up to 90 to 120 days. Read our Costco Anywhere Visa Card review for more information.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is ideal if you want to take advantage of an easy $200 sign-up bonus. However, depending on how expensive your new TV is, 5% cash back from the U.S. Bank Cash+ card and sign-up bonus might earn more.

Finally, shopping at Costco to save money is already a smart move; if you do electronics shopping at Costco, sweeten the deal by signing up for their Anywhere Visa card to earn 2% cash back.


3. Tread Carefully with Extended Warranties

Extended warranties are protection plans you can purchase to cover damage and defects. You commonly find extended warranty plans for consumer electronics, vehicles, mobile phones, and even home warranty plans.

On paper, extended warranties might seem like they’re worth it. After all, if you buy a new TV or other expensive product, your first instinct is to insure yourself against damage and disappointment down the line.

However, according to Consumer Reports, extended warranties for electronics are almost never worth the cost. We tend to overestimate the likelihood our tech products will fail, and there are several other considerations to keep in mind:

  • Manufacturer Warranties. Tech products usually have some form of manufacturer warranty to protect against defects. Most warranties last for 90 days, which might suffice for protecting your purchase against defects and damage.
  • Store Policies. Big box retailers generally have lenient return policies that cover product malfunctions or defects. Some stores even let you return products without any real reason, provided they aren’t damaged. For example, Walmart lets you return TVs within 30 days and provides a refund for damaged or defective products. Therefore, extended warranties aren’t needed to protect yourself against out-of-the-box defects.
  • Term Length. Companies sell extended warranties to profit, which isn’t in customers’ best interests. Many extended warranty plans last one to two years, but the bulk of technical issues you encounter will probably occur long after this time frame. In other words, extended warranties on electronics is buying protection for the least risky period of ownership.

If you want to maximize your savings when buying a new TV, you should almost always skip the warranty.


4. Consider Older Models

Like most tech products, TVs improve every year with the release of new models. Resolutions of 4K become 8K, screen sizes get larger, and picture quality sharpens. For true technophiles and cinema lovers, the latest models are undeniably a cause for excitement.

However, part of TV shopping involves considering the diminishing returns on your spending. Do you really need the latest TV model, largest screen, and sharpest resolution that’s on the market? Depending on your room, viewing habits, and budget, buying an older TV model is often how you get the most value.

Even buying a year-old model can make a significant difference on price. Plus, modern TVs have come a long way compared to their heavy, clunky predecessors. Smart TVs that are a few years old still work with streaming services and devices.

Until a truly revolutionary line of TVs release, slightly older models will suffice for most viewers — and can save you hundreds of dollars.


5. Shop at The Right Time

For major purchases, timing sometimes means a significant difference in savings. Retailers price products differently based on demand and season, and TVs are no different. Therefore, if you’re planning to spend a few hundred dollars or more on a new TV, it might be best to hold off.

Historically, TV deals are most popular during two events: Black Friday and the Super Bowl. Black Friday is especially popular for TV shopping because almost every major retailer will offer a discount on electronics. Super Bowl deals are less common, but they’re worth keeping an eye on.

The best way to take advantage of a sale is to research presale prices at least a few weeks before the sale begins. Retailers are crafty, and sometimes your sale price is actually the same or more expensive than regular pricing because retailers first raise the base price to make a “sale” seem more appealing.

If you shop on Black Friday for the holidays, this is especially important because these faux sales are rampant. Following the price of the TV you want in the month leading up to Black Friday can help you spot a real bargain.

If you’re buying from Amazon, you can use the CamelCamelCamel extension to track Amazon prices and view price history for millions of products. Similarly, Honey and Capital One Shopping let you set up price tracking alerts on products to receive notifications when a product you’re interested in drops in price.

New TV models usually release in spring, so this is another ideal time to buy older TV models. Ultimately, if you give yourself enough runway, you can buy a new TV at a low price point for easy savings.


6. Use Reward Websites and Apps

Comparison-shopping websites or daily deal websites are useful for finding discounts. However, sometimes cash-back reward websites offer the greatest chance to save.

Rakuten is one popular option that pays you cash back for shopping at their partners. Creating a Rakuten account is free, and you simply visit Rakuten before shopping online to find opportunities to earn cash back.

In terms of TVs and electronics, notable Rakuten partners include:

  • Best Buy: Up to 1% cash back
  • TV Store Online: 7.5% cash back
  • Staples: 2% cash back
  • Office Depot: 2% cash back
  • Overstock: 4% cash back

Cash-back rewards are subject to change. Luckily, Rakuten partners with thousands of retailers, and there’s always an opportunity to earn cash back on your next electronics purchase. Rakuten also has online coupon codes, although cash back is where the platform shines.

If you can’t find deals on Rakuten, various reward apps are also worth trying. Apps like Drop pay you in free gift cards for shopping through the app at specific partners. Drop partners with plenty of big box retailers, making it easy to find TV deals.

Similarly, Dosh is another rewards app that automatically pays you cash back for shopping through its partners. Once you link your credit and debit cards to Dosh, you never have to worry about preselecting offers before shopping, and Dosh also partners with plenty of major U.S. retailers.

If you combine these rewards with shopping at the right time of year and other savvy tricks, you can get a new TV for much less than full price.


7. Consider Cheaper Brands

With electronics, you largely get what you pay for. Whether you’re shopping for noise-canceling headphones, a laptop, or a new TV, going for the cheapest option sometimes has consequences for performance and longevity.

If you’re buying a new TV for your home theater or family room, spending more on a premium brand and model might be worth it. However, if you just need a TV for watching the hockey game in your garage or for sending with your kid back to college, you don’t need to splurge on a leading brand.

Cheaper TV brands like Vizio and Insignia can get the job done without draining your wallet. You can also shop for refurbished electronics if you find a reputable seller and understand the warranty that comes with the TV.


Final Word

Like most electronics, TVs feel like something we need to update every few years. New models come out, screen sizes get larger, and it seems like upgrades are an inevitability.

There’s nothing wrong with buying a new TV or even splurging on a recent model with the latest specs. However, you should never pay full price for a new TV, especially if you’re on a tight budget and are trying to maximize your savings rate.

Additionally, consider the diminishing returns on your spending before making your next upgrade. New TVs are a luxury, but there comes a point at which spending more doesn’t necessarily increase enjoyment.

Source: moneycrashers.com

It's Time for a Spring Cleaning of Your Mind

After a long, hard year, your mental closet’s looking pretty cluttered. Give your professional life a much-needed reset with this four-step spring cleaning to clear your mind of unnecessary stuff and make way for the things that bring you success.

By

Rachel Cooke
April 12, 2021

Team Renewal session here.

Ready to spring clean your mind? Awesome. Let’s do this!

Set yourself up for success

This exercise can deliver a little value or a ton. If you’re here for a ton, then let’s start by setting you up for maximum success.

A great setup means focusing on three key factors: 

  1. Mindset. Look at this as that opportunity for renewal. Not only is it a chance to let go of anything that isn’t functioning anymore, it’s also an opportunity to dial up the things that are working. The process should feel like a gift, not a chore. Tell yourself this until you believe it.
     
  2. Time. Give yourself time to be reflective. You don’t want to race though this exercise. It should feel thoughtful and intentional. I typically set aside two to three hours, sometimes in a single block, or sometimes in smaller chunks. Whatever works for you is great.
     
  3. Space. Try to clear a space in which you’re unlikely to be distracted. Move physical clutter and ask anyone (big or little) who shares your space to steer clear of you. This isn’t a meditation retreat. Nothing has to be perfect. But try to separate yourself from “real life” as much as you can. 

Now you’re ready. So let’s get you renewed.

Run your renewal

The process I use, both for myself and with my clients, is comprised of four components.

1. Celebrate (and clear out) the past

A great renewal begins with a letting go of what’s non longer serving us. It gives us a clean slate. But letting go can be hard. So I’ve borrowed an insight from Marie Kondo.

A few years ago her “magical” KonMari method of home organizing took the world by storm. And one of the unique tenets of her method is the idea of honoring the past, expressing gratitude for what has served us.

In this HuffPo interview, licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Yuko Hanakawa, explains that “By treating your items with respect, kindness and gratitude, you are enhancing the spirit of the given item. … From that perspective…you are respecting the spirit of the items that you’re letting go of with gratitude, instead of getting rid of them with negativity or force.”

I’ve adapted this concept into my own process. This spring renewal process is about, in part, letting go of things no longer serving us. Instead of items we express gratitude to the projects, practices, and habits that helped us get to where we are but are no longer serving a purpose.

So, honor what’s served you previously—find a way to express gratitude for it getting you thiss far. And then find a way to let it go.

For me, in past years, I’ve celebrated but let go of:

  • Working with an amazing coach who had supported me … but who I’d outgrown
  • Reading every how-to book on starting a business … because mine was finally started
  • Offering free introductory sessions to new clients … which I no longer needed to do because I was succeeding

I was able to appreciate the value each of these had delivered for me. Then I thanked them for their service and let them go with grace.

2. Define your Secret Sauce

Now that you’ve cleared out space in your intellectual closest, the next step is to identify what makes you truly stand out.

You want to be clear and purposeful so you can choose a handful of things you really want to dial up.

For me, there’s a lot I can do. I’ve built training programs on various leadership topics and I’ve done it well. I’m a good teacher. But I’ve realized I’m an excellent facilitator. 

I don’t want to just be good; I want to shine. We all deserve to shine.

I can teach a team how to do a thing. But what I really love is facilitating the dialog that enables the team to decide the right thing for them and their organization.

Whether it’s about defining an operating model or determining how best to lead their teams through change, I love providing a framework and then facilitating the build of a powerful action plan.

This is an important insight for me. It helps me focus on which projects and clients to pursue, and which to refer to my amazing colleagues. 

I don’t want to just be good; I want to shine. We all deserve to shine.

So what about you? What do you do well, and what do you do that really knocks people over? Figure out a way to dial up the latter. What do you need more of in your life?

3. Identify detractors

Now let’s identify anything that distracts you from focusing on your secret sauce.

I’m not talking about the quick breaks you take to call a friend or watch a cat video. You deserve those. I’m talking about things you do as part of your workday that are inhibiting, not delivering, value.

Are you spending too many hours a week in meetings that don’t really require you? Managing a dashboard no one looks at? Do you talk too often to a colleague who is grumpy or cynical and might be bringing you down?

Think long and hard about where you’re spending your time and what activities may be keeping you off-purpose.

For me, as my business began to grow, I realized I was spending too much time on administrative work. I finally hired an accountant and am now on the hunt for a virtual assistant. Getting clear on what holds you back can really help inform your choices on how best to move forward.

4. Commit to habits and practices

Finally, it’s time to reflect on what you’ve learned, and to establish some new practices that will keep you on purpose and on track.

Maybe you commit to declining one meeting per week (to start) and see how it feels. Or you decide to repurpose your old “commute time” as listening-to-a-business-podcast time. Maybe you set aside some time each week to network, or an hour a day to walk. Or maybe you start and maintain a Bullet Journal to keep you focused.

This is not an exercise in goal-setting. Your focus should be on specific practices—things you can see (and satisfyingly check off!) once you’ve completed. them

There are no right or wrong answers, as long as you’re making choices with purpose and intention.

Here are some of the practices I’ve personally committed to over the years:

  1. I do quarterly check-ins with each member of my secret circle of mentors
  2. I send a relevant article per week to a past or current client. This keeps me top of mind while adding value for them
  3. I do monthly progress checks against my goals to determine where I’m on track and where I need to make change
  4. I do a weekly personal celebration by listing everything I accomplished that week that left me feeling proud. Celebrating myself keeps me motivated.

And there you have my four-step process for my intellectual spring cleaning. It leaves me refreshed and revived every time.

I hope you’ll take advantage and run your own.

Oh, and a little insider secret: mental spring cleaning works in any season. Any time you’re feeling the slog of overwhelm give this process a try. And let me know how it goes!