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landscaping toolsWith winter coming to an end and warm weather closing in across the country, homeowners are beginning to think about landscaping ideas for the spring season. Even if yard work isn’t your ideal past time, a little bit of effort is needed to ensure that your property is up to par the others on your block.

There are two major downfalls of landscaping: the necessary physical labor, and the cost of supplies. Outside of hiring help, there is nothing you can do about the sweat equity required to landscape your yard. Fortunately, there are ways you can save on the cost of supplies.

Ways to Save on Landscaping Supplies

1. Buy In Bulk
This is a lesson I learned the hard way last year. Week after week, I would head to the local Home Depot and purchase a couple of bags of mulch at $5 a pop. At the time, I saw nothing wrong with this. But toward the end of summer, I was struck by the realization that I had purchased in excess of 30 bags.

Shortly after realizing my mistake, I called a couple landscaping companies in my area. Both of them told me they could deliver mulch, in bulk, at a fraction of the cost of big box stores. After receiving a quote from two companies, I found that I could definitely save by purchasing in bulk. And not only do they offer mulch, they have great deals on top soil as well! As you can imagine, this spring, I will be having one batch of mulch delivered to me rather than paying more to haul individual bags from the store to my home.

If the prices sound great, but the quantity is more than you really need, consider buying in bulk and splitting the cost, and product, with the neighbors. Personally, I’ve ordered bulk quantities of mulch and top soil with neighbors and it’s worked out great.

Other products you can buy in bulk from a landscaping company include wood chips and nuggets, hay and straw, gravel, pine needles, and coco bean shells.

2. Check For Town Freebies
Did you know that some townships offer free landscaping supplies to residents? They do this for two main reasons:

  1. Landscaping benefits the aesthetics of the entire town, not just the person who is putting in the work.
  2. Townships do not want to get stuck with excess supplies. If not used, some supplies, such as mulch, will otherwise go to waste.

At my old home, I was offered up to three free trees as long as I agreed to plant them on my own. I was more than happy to take advantage of this deal. After all, these trees would have cost me at least $60, if not more.

To find out what your town offers, call your local borough or township headquarters and ask if they offer anything for free. You may be surprised at what you can get this spring.

3. Keep Up With Seasonal Maintenance
First time homeowners may not realize that maintaining both your landscaping supplies, and projects, is a great way to save. I know I regularly made this mistake in my early days of home ownership.

For example, I continually neglected to remove leaves from mulch beds in the fall. While this was no big deal when the snow was falling, by the time spring came around, my mulch was discolored, matted down, and in need of a replacement.

In short, the better care you take of the supplies you buy, no matter what they may be, the longer they will last. By keeping up with seasonal maintenance, you can avoid having to make the same purchases year after year.

4. Search for Coupons
This may not be the most exciting way to save on landscaping supplies, but its definitely something you don’t want to overlook. Some people are under the impression that coupons are only good for grocery stores and department stores. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In addition to coupons for stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, there are often deals for local landscaping companies. For instance, this past week, I clipped three coupons from my local newspaper. All three were from landscaping companies in my area that are attempting to drum up business as spring heats up. They included: “Buy five cubic yards of mulch and get one free”, “Free delivery on gravel and rocks within 15 miles”, and “Free spreading of mulch with a purchase of 10 cubic yards or more.”

Keep your eyes peeled for great deals like these.

5. Compare All Your Options
As noted above, this is one area I totally missed out on last year. Instead of comparing multiple resources, I only purchased supplies from Home Depot. When all was said and done, I probably spent $50 to $75 more than I should have.

In order to ensure an efficient comparison process, do the following:

  • Get It in Writing: Start out by receiving a written quote from your “number one choice.” No matter if it is a big box store or professional landscaping company, the key is to get the quote in writing.
  • Bring Proof: Present your quotes to competitors as you search for the best deal. Many times you will find that a competitor can offer a better price, but only if you can prove what other companies are charging.

Make sure to not only look at the big-name stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, but also your local hardware stores. Recently, I stopped in a small family owned hardware store to see what they had to offer. I was not looking for anything in particular, but I ended up purchasing a 15-foot electrical cord and a gas can. Both products were much cheaper than I could find anywhere else.

Finally, remember that the same strategy applies when it comes to professional landscaping companies. In addition to comparing these companies to one another, you should compare their prices to those of big box, and local hardware stores.

Final Word

If you own a home you should take great pride in its curb appeal. This spring, make sure you have all the supplies you need to landscape your yard with success. By following the five tips you can get everything you want without overspending. Whether you need a couple cubic yards of mulch, or somebody to help you plant a row of trees, when you follow some or all of the tips above you are putting yourself in position to save.

How do you save on landscaping?

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Regardless of where you live or which cable provider you choose to do business with, you probably feel like you’re paying too much and that your cable company is taking advantage of you.

You can find various ways to lower your monthly bill, such as by avoiding hidden fees or even canceling your cable service altogether! If that’s not an option, and you’ve already eliminated hidden fees, then there are three more ways to reduce your bill, just by asking.

Here are three discounts your cable company can give you, but won’t unless you ask:

1. Service Discount — No matter which cable company you work with, your biggest expense is going to be directly related to the service. For example, I used to pay about $75 per month for the basic package and a couple of sports upgrades.

After discussing my options with a customer service rep and asking for a discount, I learned that they could give me a service discount of $5.99 per month. Over the course of a year, this small discount goes a long way and helps make my cable bill more manageable.

Also keep in mind that your cable company will offer service promotions from time to time. This could be anything from small discounts to six months of a free channel package. Keep an eye out for these promotions and, of course, ask about them.

2. Equipment Discount — In addition to the service fees that you pay, you are also being charged for the equipment that you use on a monthly basis. This is the area in which you can potentially save the most money.

My cable bill includes charges for two cable boxes and an Internet modem. I recently realized that I was paying more than $30 per month for this equipment alone. By speaking with a Comcast supervisor, I was granted a $14.99 waiver for one of my cable boxes. This is only going to last one year, but for the time being it is saving me quite a bit.

Another tip for saving money on equipment: instead of calling your cable company, go to a local “hub” and speak with somebody in person. The last time I did this, a supervisor gave me the newest DVR box with all the bells and whistles.

3. Free Upgrades — This doesn’t actually lower your bill, but it will get you more for your money. I have found that this is the easiest of the three to receive since it’s free to your cable provider, and makes customers happy. Not to mention the fact that there is a good chance you will continue to pay for the upgrade after your trial period expires. Some of the free upgrades that I have received include: cable packages (sports channels and premium channels), higher internet speed, and free On-Demand movies.

Final Word
Don’t expect your cable company to give you discounts and free upgrades just for being a good, loyal customer. While this may happen once in a blue moon, you should not rely on it. If you want to receive the discounts and upgrades detailed above, you need to get on the phone, ask for a supervisor, and explain your situation. You may be surprised to find that you qualify for these discounts and many others. There’s no harm in asking!

(photo credit: JVCAmerica)

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extra money making ideasHow to make money while at home is well documented, but what about literally using your home to make money? You may not have considered it in the past, but there are some great ways to use your home, and even your car, to boost your income. Here are 5 tips for making your assets work for you:

1. Rent Out Your Spare Room
If there is a bedroom in your house that isn’t being occupied, why not think about renting it out to earn some extra cash? There are several options here, including taking in a full-time lodger, offering a room to foreign exchange students who are in the area, taking in a lodger during the week, and taking in temporary guests who might stay for a maximum of a few nights. The latter two options can work extremely well if you happen to live near an airport or train station because you can take advantage of travelers who need a place to stay.

How to do it: If your preference is to take in guests on a short-term basis, you can list on iStopOver, which is marketed towards short-term business travelers. Listing is free, but they take a 3% admin fee is someone books your room. For any of the above lodging ideas, you can also use Craigslist. Be wary of anyone that seems suspicious, and meet the potential guest before committing.

Potential downsides: Taking in a lodger can cramp your space, so it’s best to set out ground rules on things like sharing space, rent, and chores as soon as possible. Get this in writing to avoid misunderstandings. For foreign exchange students, you’ll usually have to provide meals.

2. Rent Out Your Parking Space
If you have a parking space that you’re not using, why not rent it out? In areas where parking charges are on the steeper side or in short supply, this can help you earn some quality passive income. While this can be a long-term arrangement, you can also just hire out your parking space on specific days if you live near a popular sporting or concert venue.

How to do it: Join a site like ParkatmyHouse to advertise your parking space. It’s free to register, but they do take a 15% fee once you’ve rented out your parking space and made some money from the service. To avoid these type of fees, putting up an advertisement on Craigslist or in your local paper is another option. You can also use a service like Craigslist to see what other people are charging for similar rental spaces in the area.

Potential downsides: Some people might take the opportunity to park free of charge once they know about your spare parking slot, so keep an eye on your spot to make sure no one is freeloading. Also, make sure to collect money upfront so that people don’t “park and ditch.”

3. Pimp Your Car
Some companies will pay you to display advertising on your car (known as “wrapping” your car). It’s not the most subtle option, but it’s something to consider as long as you don’t mind having the exterior of your car emblazoned with advertising. If you live in an urban area with a lot of traffic coming and going, you’re more likely to be accepted as an advertiser, but a lot depends on the type of demographic that the advertiser is trying to reach.

How to do it: Sign up at Free Car Media to find out if your profile matches the criteria that’s being sought by advertisers. If you pass the test, you’ll be contacted. DrivenMedia offers similar services. If you fit the bill and you’re successful, you can earn hundreds of extra dollars for simply driving around like you would normally!

Potential downsides: Some forms of on-car advertising can be very obtrusive and obvious. You’re not just a regular driver once you agree to the advertising – you’re representing the brand.

4. Rent Out Your Home Office
Got a home office or study that you’re not using during the day? Hire it out to a freelancer who needs a calm environment to work in. Good office space that doesn’t break the bank is often hard to come by, so you might get more takers than you think, especially with people who are just starting a business and don’t yet have their own office space.

How to do it: Ask around and see if anyone in your circle knows someone who is looking for office space, or put up an advertisement in your local paper or on Craigslist.

Potential downsides: Your new office resident will be using your electricity, so account for this in your monthly rent. Also, be sure to set the ground rules for other areas of the house where this person is allowed.

5. Offer Up Your Storage Space
Is there any spare room in your garage that you wouldn’t mind giving up? Make use of it by storing other people’s excess belongings and you could earn some nice side income.

How to do it: Do you know anyone with more belongings than they have space for? Let them know that you’d be happy to hire out your spare storage space for an affordable rate. Or, as usual, you can easily put up an advertisement in your local paper or on Craigslist.

Potential downsides: You have someone else’s stuff to keep an eye on and therefore have an obligation to make sure that it doesn’t get damaged or affected by things like water.

Last Word
Your home and car can be making you a lot more money than you may have previously realized. But before you take the plunge, make sure you understand the tax implications of these side income opportunities. Once you’ve decided which options will work best for you, spread the word as much as possible. And be sure to take advantage of free advertising by having your friends and family pass along the message and using services like Craigslist. You can also take out some inexpensive advertisements in your local paper.

Have you used your home or car to increase your income? Was it successful? If you have any tips that weren’t mentioned in this post, I’d love to hear them!

(photo credit: spentrails)

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Comparing The Tax Professionals: CPA, Tax Attorney, Tax Preparation Pro, and Enrolled Agent

November 10, 2010

Are you thinking about hiring a tax professional? On the surface, this is something that appears to be simple enough. But once you dig deeper, you will find that you have many decisions to make. Most importantly, you need to decide which type of tax professional is best for your situation, what you are trying […]

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How to Negotiate Medical Bills

October 26, 2010

Even if you have health insurance, you still likely receive medical bills from time to time. And of course, if you don’t have coverage, or your policy is not as comprehensive as it could be, you are going to get hit with charges almost every time you receive care. While paying your bill in full […]

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