1. Skip the pricey coffee and make your own! Today’s MoneyMondays tip.

    Try making your own coffee for a week and tallying up what you save. You may never go to that coffee shop again!

    Paper coffee cup with money insideLast year, I tried an experiment where I gave up expensive Starbucks coffee and tried making my own every day. Talk about savings! I went from spending over $20 a week at Starbucks to spending $7.50 - and that was with Starbucks’ Instant Coffee - the savings would be even greater if I made coffee the old fashioned way. 

    I decided to run this MoneyMondays tip again because, unfortunately, I’ve been spending too much at Starbucks again and needed to kick my frugal self in gear, especially with it being the holidays. That coffee money could go to much better use as a gift or two. 

    So here’s my old post. I hope it inspires you (and me!) to save a few bucks.

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    I really should buy stock in Starbucks. I go pretty much every day. That’s not very smart, budget-wise, but it’s just so good! I love iced coffee more than just about anything in the world!

    Last week I went to my local Starbucks and picked up a pack of their new VIA - instant iced coffee mix. Much to my surprise I really liked it. For 6 dollars I got 5 packs of VIA, which makes 5 16oz drinks. I spent $1.50 on a small carton of milk and everyday this week I have had iced coffee that I prepared at the office. 

    So let’s compare:

    • Normally, I spend 4 dollars each morning on coffee: $20 a week
    • This week I spent $7.50 for 5 days worth of iced coffee goodness

    That’s a savings of $12.50 each week and if I stick with it, at the end of the month I’ll have saved over 40 bucks!

    You should try it too, if not the Starbucks instant way (which is pretty good for instant coffee, I must say) then buy a pound of your favorite coffee and brew it yourself. Let me know how much you saved - reply to this post or tweet it using the tag #NDIMM.

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    “MoneyMondays” is a text message campaign powered by Infield Health. Sign up to get tips like these to your phone every Monday! Text REITMM to 69302Remember, standard text messaging rates apply.

  2. Try a furniture facelift! Today’s MoneyMondays

    Looking to spruce up your home décor? Try your local thrift store. A little sanding & painting can revive older items.

    I often get the urge to redecorate my bedroom but furniture is certainly not cheap. One trick I often use is reviving things I already own or items that I’ve found for cheap. Since I moved to Washington, DC in 2006, I’ve gone through 4 different bookshelves, none of which I bought new and all of which I painted! To get the vibrant colors I like and to satisfy my frequent urge for redecoration would cost me a lot of money. Instead, I search thrift stores or sites like Craigslist for items that just need a little work but will save me a huge amount of money.

    I’ve also extended my love of reviving the old to my kitchen. My housemates and I wanted new cabinets, but we can’t afford them right now. So we decided to give the current cabinets a facelift. Here’s a picture of me sanding a cabinet door:

    Photo of Nakia Matthews using a power sander on a cabinet door.

    The only costs for our kitchen facelift are:

    • sander rental ($30)
    • putty to fill in cracks ($15)
    • paint ($25)

    To buy new cabinets would have costs us close to $1,000! But with a little effort and time, our cabinets will be revived while we save up for the new ones.

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    “MoneyMondays” is a text message campaign powered by Infield Health. Sign up to get tips like these to your phone every Monday! Text REITMM to 69302Remember, standard text messaging rates apply.

  3. Be Smart. Buy Used. Today’s MoneyMondays tip.

    Save a bundle by buying used college textbooks instead of new. Online retailers like Amazon also offer used editions. 

    College is not cheap. Even with financial aid, college can really be a burden on your wallet. In my first semester of college my mother and I purchased all of my textbooks brand new. We never made that mistake again! 

    Amazon.com listing for "The Art of Public Speaking"

    Campus bookstores usually offer used versions of most books, but if you have no luck there, look to the internet for used version of the books you need. Perusing Amazon’s list of textbooks you can see the huge savings you get by buying used. For example, The Art of Communication is $89.00 new, but you can get a used copy for $55.00. 

    Another way people are saving with textbooks is buying electronic copies. If you have a Kindle, iPad or other handheld reading device, look for versions of your needed textbooks - another way to save money and lighten the load in your backpack!

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    “MoneyMondays” is a text message campaign powered by Infield Health. Sign up to get tips like these to your phone every Monday! Text REITMM to 69302Remember, standard text messaging rates apply.

  4. If you don’t use it, lose it! Today’s MoneyMonday tip.

    Review your telephone & cable bills. If you see a service you don’t really use or could do without, cancel it!

    Image of paper cable bill being cut in half with scissorsA few weeks ago, I posted about cutting the cord and cutting costs by getting rid of cable TV. Back when I was doing this, I noticed that there were two services that were a part of the internet package that we never used. Many times cable and telephone packages come bundled with services that are free for a few months and it’s easy to forget about them, especially when you’ve never used them! We were signed up for an internet gaming package that I had no use in using and getting rid of that took 10 bucks off the bill.

    It’s also helpful to take inventory of all your services to see if they are really worth having. If you only ever watch HBO once a month, it may be better to have that extra 15 bucks in your pocket! Don’t text very often? Maybe you can forgo the 1,000 text plan and drop down to 500, saving you a few dollars a month.

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    “MoneyMondays” is a text message campaign powered by Infield Health. Sign up to get tips like these to your phone every Monday! Text REITMM to 69302Remember, standard text messaging rates apply.

  5. Today’s MoneyMondays tip - Cut the cord!

    Have a computer and internet at home? Consider getting rid of your cable TV bill. Many TV shows are available online!

    If you ever find yourself looking to save money, a smart thing to do is to take a look at your monthly bills and see which can be reduced or even eliminated. I did this last year and made the decision to completely cut the cord with cable. I didn’t watch much TV as it is, and what I did watch I could easily find online. Eliminating cable TV saved me over $70 a month! Getting rid of cable made sense for me. But it might not be a great option for everyone. Below are some of the things to consider before cutting the cord.

    What do you watch regularly? Many networks, even cable networks, offer their shows online, for free, the day after they air. There are online services, like HuluPlus and Netflix that offer even more options for watching TV shows and movies online, at a fraction of the cost of cable. However, if you watch lots of daily news or local programs, the online route may not be the best for you. You can still cut the cord and watch TV the old fashioned way, with an antenna. Be sure to check out DTV.gov, which gives info on the digital converter boxes that older TVs need to get broadcast signals.

    How do you want to watch? Even though we do lots of things on our computers each day, some might find watching TV or movies on them to be uncomfortable. There are many ways to get online content on your TV - but some require a fair bit of technical knowledge. Make sure you do a bit of research about this before you decide to cut the cord. It might be a dealbreaker.

    What is your internet speed like? Watching TV online is great, but if your internet speed isn’t relatively fast, you’re going to have a hard time watching. 1 Mb/s is a good speed for streaming video on your laptop. 2 Mb/s or higher is recommended for streaming to a TV. You can contact your internet service provider to find out your internet speed or you can do a speedtest online.

    Check out these great articles on cutting the cord to learn more about what’s available online, what devices and methods you can use to view the content, and even to get a glimpse of how much you can save by getting rid of cable TV.

    Cutting the Cord on Cable TV’s Pricey Bill | WalletPop

    Is Getting Rid of Cable TV a Good Idea? | Consumer Search

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    “MoneyMondays” is a text message campaign powered by Infield Health. Sign up to get tips like these to your phone every Monday! Text REITMM to 69302Remember, standard text messaging rates apply.

  6. Know when to spend - Your MoneyMondays tip for May 16th

    Bargain hunting is ok for most things, but remember, sometimes it’s ok to spend the big bucks for important items.

    When money is tight or when we are trying to stick to a budget and save, we can be inclined to look for bargains everywhere. Sometimes, you can get away with this - for example, I have always been a fan of most store brand food items and I have bought second-hand items from local sellers on Craigslist many times.

    There are some things, however, that it may make sense to spend more money on. Items that you will use frequently or things that need to last are the items you should look for quality over cost. I learned this the hard way. A few years ago when I first moved to DC I bought a cheap mattress and box spring set. I was completely turned off the by the prices of most bedding and I figured “How bad can this one be?”. After only a year, my box spring was deteriorating, badly. It was like I had owned it ten years! I made the decision to save up for a decent mattress and box spring later that year and I’ve had it for 4 years.

    Some other things I try not to be too frugal about: one good pair of walking sneakers, a few items of “work” clothing, and my glasses.

    Only you can decide what items should be your “spend” items. Last year, Mint.com’s blog featured and article on “10 Things It Makes Sense to Splurge On" - check it out to see if you agree with some of the things listed.

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    “MoneyMondays” is a text message campaign powered by Infield Health. Sign up to get tips like these to your phone every Monday! Text REITMM to 69302Remember, standard text messaging rates apply.

  7. Free is a great price! Today’s MoneyMonday’s tip.

    Looking to make a purchase? Maybe you can get what you need for free. Try Freecycle - http://www.freecycle.org

    You’d be surprised at what gets thrown away. Freecycle, a nonprofit network, was started in 2003 when a Tucson, Arizona recycling group noticed that many perfectly good and useable items were being sent to landfills. Today, Freecycle has many groups in cities across the US where members can post items that are available for free. 

    Craigslist.org is another place where you can find lots of items for free. (Visit Craigslist.org to find the site for your city.) For instance, when I moved in 2009, I placed an ad on Craigslist for books, hangers, and a chair that I thought would be better used by someone else. I left the items on the stoop of my building and within an hour, people were there to peruse the goods.

    I have also been on the receiving end of freecylcing:

    • I’ve used craigslist to get boxes when I was moving
    • Someone in my old neighborhood left a box of DVDs and Books on the curb and I snagged some great finds

    Of course there are many things that we can’t get via the freecycle process, but it can certainly allow us to save a few bucks here and there!

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    “MoneyMondays” is a text message campaign powered by Infield Health. Sign up to get tips like these to your phone every Monday! Text REITMM to 69302Remember, standard text messaging rates apply.

  8. Less clutter now, tax-deduction later! Today’s MoneyMondays Tip.

    Doing some spring cleaning? Donate your unused items to local charities for less clutter now and a tax-deduction later!

    If you’re like me, sometimes I get so annoyed with closet clutter that I want to throw everything out just to get it out of my way. But, I must say, I try my best to avoid throwing out clothes. Unless the item is completely wrecked (like that shirt I wear whenever I paint a room) it can most likely get good use at one of many local charities.

    Some charities accept donations of clothing, toys and other household items to be given to those in need, while others like the Salvation Army and Goodwill will accept items that will besold. This not only provides the organizations with funds to further their mission and community outreach, but also provides gently used goods at a low cost to the community.

    Whether the items will be given away or sold, there are usually a few common guidelines for donations:

    • Clothing donations should be washed, undamaged, and reasonably wrinkle-free.
    • Items that come in pairs (shoes, gloves, socks) should be kept together.
    • Test electrical equipment and battery-operated items.
    • Include all pieces and parts to children’s games and toys.

    When you drop off your items to the charity of your choice, be sure to ask for a receipt that will allow you to value the items you donated (for example, see the Salvation Army Donation Value Guide). If you itemize deductions on your taxes the following year, you will be able to include your donations (See IRS Publication 526: Charitable Contributions).

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    Sign up for our “MoneyMondays” text message campaign and get tips like these to your phone every Monday! Text REITMM to 69302Remember, standard text messaging rates apply.

  9. The NDI “Film Crew” Hits the Road!

    Elizabeth Jennings interviewing Carol Heuer as Nakia Matthews photographs the interview

    Photograph by Mohammed Kheirkhah

    This week, a few NDI staff members (myself included) spent some time in New Jersey and Vermont, recording the stories of some of the people NDI has impacted over the last five years. Monday, Elizabeth Jennings and I traveled to Totowa, New Jersey to record stories from two participants in our BEST Interns program in New Jersey. Today, Johnette Hartnett is in Vermont to film Cindy Battles, a regular presence on the Real Economic Impact blog (hence the lack of a blog post from Cindy today, too busy being a star!).

    Videographer Mohammad Kheirkhah wires Cindy Battles for a mic

    Over the next few months, NDI will be recording more stories that we will share with you in the coming months. In the meantime, check out our Flickr page for some photos I took during my stay in New Jersey. Feel free to browse through to see lots of photos from various NDI events over the past few years.

    - Nakia Matthews