I read an interesting article on Marketplace.org about several bloggers who went a year without buying any new clothes.  No used clothes, either, although they could buy all the underwear, shoes, and accessories they wanted. So, that got me to thinking, could I go a year without buying new clothes? The answer for me is probably no. And I don’t really buy that much, but there are some times when I do need to buy new clothes.

When I Buy New Clothes
I do tend to keep my clothes for a long time. I have t-shirts and jeans that I’ve been wearing for four or five years. Some items are probably six or seven years old. However, clothes do wear out. If I had committed myself to not buying new clothes for a year, I could do it, but I’d probably be at the store buying a few new things on day 366!

I buy a couple new shirts and maybe a new dress or skirt at the start of each summer to freshen up my wardrobe. I also buy a couple new shirts and pair of pants at the start of each winter. I buy new pajamas once a year, once I’ve worn holes in the old pair.

I buy new gym shoes every six months, but otherwise I tend not to buy shoes often. Accessories are pretty minimal, too. Usually I buy them at the same time as the new clothes.

I already know that next summer I will need to buy new crop pants. I have been looking for three years already for the perfect pairs, but I’ll finally have to get serious next summer because the pairs I have simply won’t make it another year.

Special Events
What would the bloggers have done if they were asked to be in a wedding? Sure, you can avoid buying a new formal dress for most events if you already have one, but most bridesmaids are expected to wear a specific dress. Maybe that shouldn’t count for this purpose, since bridesmaid’s usually have no say in the matter!

Weight Loss or Gain
If you lose or gain more than ten pounds, you’ll either need to buy some new clothes or get your old ones tailored. Even at a ten pound gain, you’ll need new pants or you’ll look terrible. Losing ten pounds shouldn’t make your clothes look terrible, but more than that calls for some interim upgrades if you plan to keep losing.

The Changing Body
I technically still wear the same size I did in high school, but there’s absolutely no way I could wear those clothes. And not just because they were horrible 80s pegged jeans and cropped shirts. This may be more true for women than for men, but the body changes over the years. Even if you weigh the same at 40 as you did at 18, the way you carry the weight has changed. Clothes, especially jeans, start to conform to the body, and you may find that your really old clothing puckers in odd places.

I think if I made a pledge, I might be able to avoid new clothes for a year, but it would be tough. How about you? Could you go a year without buying new clothes?

Last Friday, NPR’s Marketplace had an interesting report on the true cost of all our modern necessities. Taken individually, we don’t really think about what all these things cost us, but taken together they add up to quite a bit of our budget. So, how did we get here and do we really need to be here?

Life in a Simpler Time
People like to hearken back to a simpler age, the 1960s, when talking about how a family could afford to live on one income, and yet they puzzle over the fact that a TV or refrigerator cost ten times more (when inflation is factored in). How could these families flourish on less income and still buy these things?

It’s simple – they didn’t buy as much stuff, and they didn’t have as many supporting expenses for that stuff. Back then a TV cost $300-$500 (more if you wanted color), which was a much larger chunk of the average $5500 income than a modern $300 TV. But, they only had one TV. And they didn’t have cable. So, they paid for the TV and the electricity to power it, and that was it. Since there were only a few channels, they didn’t watch as much of it, either.

Where the Money Goes Today
Household Incomes are ten times higher than the 1960s (although really, they’re only double when adjusted for inflation), yet TVs cost about the same as they did back then. The difference now, is that most families have two or three of them, plus cable, a DVR or two, and DVD player or two. Then you need stuff to watch on that, so add on a movie subscription, too.

Or, let’s look at telephones. Again, most families only had one. It had a cord and they probably rented it from the phone company. Long distance was expensive, so they didn’t make many of those calls. I can’t find an exact cost for the average phone bill, but let’s just go with “less than now.”

Flash forward to today. In addition to a home phone (if you have one), there are cell phones for every member of the family. Some of those have data or texting plans.

Of course, you also need to add in internet access and computers with which to access them.

Want music? Well, then, you’ll need an MP3 player and maybe a CD player.

What My Family Spends on New Necessities
Just as a real life example, here’s what my husband and I spend on our “necessities” for one month:

$88.40 for cable with DVR (one TV, one Premium channel, one upper tier package)
$66.33 for home phone and internet bundle (no long distance or other frills)
$95 for two cell phones (no data or texting plans)
$9.99 for Real Rhapsody (music)
$19.99 for Blockbuster Total Access (3 movies at a time)

Our total is $279.71 per month.

Of course, we get reimbursed $90 a month for our phones, although that’s taxed, so we’ll call it $75 a month. That brings us down to $204.71 a month.

Additional Costs of the New Necessities
Since we’re spending all this money to entertain ourselves and stay connected, we have to earn at least $2456 a year to pay for all of it, on top of our actual necessities like food and shelter. We probably need two incomes to pay for all our new necessities, so that also means daycare, extra commuting costs, as well as less time to enjoy all those modern benefits.

I’m not suggesting that we give up our cell phones and broadband access, I am suggesting however, that we all take a hard look at how necessary the things in our life are and what we can cut. If we had to, we could cut Real Rhasody and Blockbuster easily. We could also reduce our cable bill. The home phone I insist on keeping because we live in earthquake country and landlines/corded phones have never failed me in a major earthquake.

What could you cut?

Some online banks let you create what they call sub accounts in your master savings account. Essentially, these allow you to make one deposit and then divide the money between several uses for easier tracking. If your online bank allows this, then simply label the subaccounts things like vacation, property tax, homeowner’s insurance, etc. Figure out how much you need to contribute to each account, then make one deposit and divide it.

Other online banks don’t allow subaccounts, but you can still allocate your money in your personal tracking.

Create a SubAccount Tracking Document in Excel
I use Excel to track our annual or semiannual bills, how much we’re allocating each month, and how much we have in the account total. If we’re able to pay a bill out of our checking without dipping into the subaccount, I just start that cell over at one month’s balance, or zero if I simply reduced that month’s savings deposit accordingly.

subaccounts starter tracking

Here’s a sample account. You can see that I’ve labeled the months in the columns, and put the accounts in the rows. I also noted the current balance of the subaccounts after the month’s deposit is made and the available balance, which is the difference between the starting balance plus deposit, and the withdrawals and earmarked funds. At the bottom, I list the monthly contributions to each account and the month’s the bills are due.

How to Track SubAccounts
Here are step-by-step instructions for updating the sheet once a month.

subaccounts in action

1. After the interest is applied and you’ve made your monthly deposit, log into the account. You’ll see the starting balance and the interest. Add these two together and enter that number as the starting balance for the month.

2. Enter the amount of your deposit.

3. If you made any withdrawals (or expect to), either for bills that were due from subaccounts, or for items that weren’t in the subaccounts, note it in the withdrawal column.

4. Add this months’ contribution to last month’s balance for each subaccount. This is your new balance.

5. If you paid any of the annual bills this month, subtract the bill amount from the subaccount balance. If you were able to pay it without using the subaccount funds, simply add that money to your available balance. If you paid it from subaccount funds, subtract that amount from the subaccount balance and note it in the withdrawals column.

6. If you still made the full deposit, divide it accordingly among the accounts. If you reduced your deposit by this month’s contribution for the bill you paid, don’t add money to that account’s balance.

7. Repeat next month.

Here are April and May in action. Let’s say I had to pay the earthquake insurance in April. I noted the amount ($1150) in the withdrawals. However, I made the month’s full deposit, so I allocated a portion of that to the earthquake insurance subaccount ($115). Then in May, I made all the deposits as usual.

Once you get the hang of it, it’s a matter of minutes to update the sheet. Then you’ll never have to worry about using earmarked funds if an emergency comes up.

Bargain hunting is a real fun. You won’t be able to save a fortune by collecting and using coupons but you will save a precious penny and what’s more important you’ll make a smarter shopper: by learning how to find and organize coupons you’ll broaden your outlook:

  • You get to know more places where you can buy anything you need;
  • You become aware of broader product range and less popular manufactures;
  • You learn to compare prices and estimate what the offer is really worth;
  • You make contacts with people who shop online and know a lot; etc.

There are plenty more benefits, however there are a few issues as well. The worst thing that may happen to you when hunting for freebies and bargains is getting scammed. The two things that may happen after that are:

  1. Your private information can be stolen (and used to send you spam for example);
  2. Your money may be stolen (which is actually worse).

This post looks at 3 effective ways to research any product or deal reviews to keep your privacy and money safe:

Twitter search

Twitter is a widely popular site where people come to share opinions on anything, including shopping. Using Twitter search you can find conversations about any product or special offer you want to research. One trick that always comes in handy is using sentiment search to find negative reviews or bad experience shared:

! Use a smiling icon in your search that reflects negative emotion :(

Example: [:( amazon]

Trusted sources

The best advice I have ever got regarding online shopping was that I only need to use trusted sources of deals and freebies to keep myself safe from scam. I know there are quite a few but here’s what I am personally using (and tested by experience):

Buxr.com is an online community where shoppers meet to exchange deals and freebies they came across and had some luck with. The resource have three huge advantages:

  • Deals are submitted by real shoppers who also review each others’ submissions;
  • Submissions are pre-moderated (administrators check deals before publishing them);
  • Members rate deals, so you can easily identify most useful and trusted ones:

ListFreeSamples: you won’t find actually reviews at this site but I had to mention this one for one reason that it only uses official sources of freebies and deals; so if you are serious about your privacy, this resource should be in your list:

Specialized forums

There are a few useful specialized forums which will help you check if the merchant you are considering has ever been involved into scam.

Scam.com is one of those places (and actually one of the best of them). It is very active and has a huge database of scammers in a number of categories (MLM / Pyramid scams, Internet scams, etc). The forum has a robust search feature for you to quickly look through the mentions of the offer or seller’s name:

And how do you try to keep your privacy safe when shopping online? Please share your thoughts!

The guest post was provided by Ann Smarty, a search blogger and online shopper. If you are looking for guest posts, create your profile at Ann’s forum called My Blog Guest – the place where bloggers and guest posters can meet to exchange posts and help each other.

Today we have another guest post from Bradd Libby. His post discusses reducing oil consumption by driving slightly less each year, but you could also extend it to reducing spending without suffering. Just spend 2% less each year. Total up ALL your spending, including necessary expenses, and then aim to spend just 2% less in 2010. For example, if you spend $100,000 a year, reduce that by $2,000. It sounds huge as one big number, but it’s really just $5.60 a day. You can do that with relatively small changes like scaling back your cable bill, eating dinner out one less time a month, skipping night at the movies a month, packing your lunch three times a week, etc. Take that savings and put it in a savings account to watch your money grow.

Small Reductions Add Up
Back in the mid-1990′s I attended a presentation by a NASA astronaut who had flown on the Space Shuttle to grow particular kinds of silicon-oxygen-aluminum crystals that are commonly used in oil refining. Due to inefficiencies in the refining process, most of the crude oil that gets used to make gasoline never actually becomes gasoline. The purpose of the trip to space was to grow the largest, most-perfect crystals possible so that we could better study back on Earth how they work. Even if we could only find a way to reduce the waste by 1%, the astronaut explained, the benefit to humanity would be worth the billions of dollars in research effort.

I’ve never run the numbers, but I’m sure he’s right. People currently use about 80 million barrels of oil a day, about 1/4 of which is used in the U.S. and about half of American consumption is to power vehicles, so any small percentage change is large in absolute numbers. And there’s no question that, one way or another, those figures must decrease in the long run. Even President George W. Bush, in his 2007 State of the Union address, halfheartedly called for the U.S. to reduce its gas consumption by 20% over the next 10 years. So, billions are also being spent for research on (and purchasing of) hybrid cars and other alternative-fuel vehicles.

All of this concern with researching new technologies had me wondering if there’s an easier way to reduce gasoline consumption – one that could use presently existing technologies and one that work to reduce demand, so that it could be used even if the research efforts don’t pan out. And if they do pan out, all the better.

Drive Just a Little Less Each Year
So, I’ve come up with this billion-dollar business idea which I’m throwing out for free to anyone willing to try: have each vehicle drive 2% fewer miles per year. Develop a website in which vehicle owners can sign up and pay a yearly fee to be a member. Like TerraPass, they’d get a sticker to put on their car showing that they’re part of ‘The 2% Solution’. They’d also get an allotment of 15,000 miles that they’d be allowed to drive. They simply enter the mileage on their car at the start of the year and then agree to not drive more than their allotment each year. (How this would be enforced I’m not certain – maybe from your car’s inspection report each time it has an emissions test, or maybe just from the honor system.)

The next year, the allotment would drop by 2%. So, 15,000 miles the first year and about 14,700 the next year. 14,406 the next year and 14,117 the next year, and so forth. It’s as simple as that. One interesting thing about this idea is that it’s not very hard to achieve. If the average person commutes to work 250 days a year, then they could comply with a 2% reduction in driving just by carpooling, biking, or other forms of not-driving only 5 work days.

A person whose round-trip commute is about 40 miles (about 10,000 miles per year just to get to work and back) who telecommuted only every other day and made no other changes to their lifestyle would reduce their annual driving enough to comply with their driving allotment for the next 20 years.

Another interesting aspect of this scheme is that it actually gets easier to comply as time goes on. In the first year, you’d have to reduce your driving by about 300 miles (or one 5-hour car trip), but in the second year, you’d only have to reduce by 2% of 14,700, not 2% of 15,000. So, by the 20th year, you’d only have to cut out 200 additional miles, and in the 35th year, only 150 additional miles.

I’m thinking that there could be a ‘mile exchange’ board – sort of a voluntary cap-and-trade system – so that if you hit your allotment and needed to drive more, you could buy extra miles. If you drove a less than your allotment some month or year, you could offer to sell miles and make a tidy profit.

For some people, it would be like a game. A scoreboard could show which members reduced their driving the most. Monthly and annual lotteries could be held with prizes given away for the top travel-reducers. (For people who ditched their cars entirely, well, they could be entered in the lotteries for free.) For others, continuous improvement in one’s environmental habits would just become a new lifestyle. No need to replace America’s fleet of cars. No need for hydrogen-powered cars. Just drive 2% less each year. Part contest. Part game. Part exhange board. Part environmental lifestyle. All for a good cause. The 2% Solution.

Expand the 2% Solution to the Rest of Your Life
And this idea could be applied to all sorts of areas of life beyond driving. Your monthly electricity consumption. Pounds of trash you produce per year. Percentage of food products that are locally grown, etc. After a few years, you could write a book about the website (“The 2% Solution: How I Started a Website that Solved America’s Energy Crisis, Made a Fortune and Saved the Earth from Global Warming”) and get millions of dollars from a publisher. Just be sure to give me proper credit…and feel free to send me some of the money.

Bradd sells traditional-style birth announcement cards at OMGbabycards.com.

Recently, a few economic naysayers have leaped ahead of those warning about a recession, and are now warning about a depression. They’re not talking about a situation akin to the Great Depression of the 1930s – current US banking and market regulations prevent that severe a disaster – but rather a depression similar to the one Japan suffered following the collapse of its real estate and credit speculation bubble of the 1980s. Their economy suffered deflation and falling wages throughout the 1990s and still hasn’t recovered.

I’m not sure things will get that bad – Congress and the Fed know what happened to Japan and they don’t want it to happen to us. However, they’re slow to act, so we can’t rely on them completely.

If you’re concerned about the possibility of a depression rather than a recession, here’s how to prepare for it:

Pay Off Debt
At the very least, pay off your high-interest debt. Personally, I wouldn’t focus on paying off a mortgage unless you’re meeting all of your other savings and retirement goals, but get those credit cards paid off now. As we’ve seen with the current credit crisis, when banks lose money one place, they try to make it up somewhere else, usually with variable interest credit products. Don’t let them milk you dry!

I wouldn’t worry too much about federally subsidized student loans, either. Those have very generous deferral terms if you lose your job or suffer an extreme financial hardship.

Shore Up Your Emergency Fund
If you don’t have an emergency fund, start one now. Aim to save at least three months’ living expenses if you work in an in-demand field like nursing, and up to six months’ living expenses if you work in a discretionary spending area, like retail or entertainment.

Build Your Network
Don’t just build a network of colleagues in your own field – in an extended depression, you may need to transfer your skills to a new area, so make friends with people in fields where you can use your skills. Especially concentrate on people-oriented businesses that can’t be outsourced.

You should also build your network of friends. During a depression, you’ll come to rely on each other for moral support and sharing goods and food. Make friends with your neighbors now so you’ll have access to their canned goods later (and vice versa.)

Learn to Prepare Food at Home
If you don’t like cooking or your idea of “dinner” is opening up a box of Hamburger Helper and adding some meat, it’s time to learn to cook. Once you start, you’ll discover that it’s really not that hard and usually it’s cheaper, too.

Learn to Shop Wisely
If you don’t already use coupons or look for bargains at the grocery store, learn to shop wisely. See my series on eating well for less for tips for doing just that. But in a depression, you may need to go further. Become friends with generics and store brands of comparable quality and safety. Visit your nearby 99-cent store. Although they’re also raising prices, you can still stock up on staples for much less.

Plant Some Food
If you have a garden, it’s time to make room for food. In addition to herbs that can add freshness to that 99-cent canned stew, plant hardy vegetables native to your region and native fruit trees. Although there are initial start-up costs, once your food is growing, you should see some savings.

Learn to Live Below Your Means
All of the above can be summed up as: learning to live on less. Even if you can spend more, that doesn’t mean you have to. Instead, send your raises directly to savings and learn to budget your money to have something left over every month. That will make it easier to cut back further if a depression occurs.

Keep Your Car in Good Condition
By this I mean a car you own, not a car you lease. A car you lease could quickly become a car you no longer have. But if you keep your paid-off car in good condition, it will serve you well during a serious downturn.

Buy Classic Clothing Styles and Keep Them in Good Condition
Don’t worry about buying the latest trendy thing and instead focus on high-quality classics, and then keep them in good condition. I have shirts and jeans that are more than five-years-old that are still in good condition and still in style. A classically-cut white shirt never goes out of style. A good men’s suit is always in fashion. When it comes to trends, stick to the affordable accessories to dress up your classics. Even high-quality clothing is affordable if you own it forever.

Avoid Super-Aggressive Portfolios
Unless you’re young and single, don’t put the bulk of your investments into a really aggressive portfolio or stock in the hope that you’ll hit it big. Instead, take a balanced approach with index funds, bond funds, and international funds. If you’re youngish and want to take more risk, you can also build a position in a growth fund.

Vote Wisely
Finally, vote for politicians who are more concerned with the needs of real people, not lobbyist groups and big corporations. If a depression comes, it’s the people who ultimately bear the brunt while hedge fund fat cats glide around the Mediterranean on yachts.

Now as you look at this list, you might be thinking: shouldn’t I be doing all of this anyway? Yes, yes you should. Being frugal is always a good idea, even when the economy is flush, because you never know when your personal economy might go down the tubes.

Do you have any other ideas for preparing for a depression? Tell me in the comments, or post it on your own blog and link back to it here.

A decade ago, sample sales were known only to fashion insiders and were a great way to score amazing deals on last season’s clothing. Now that the sales are announced far and wide on the internet, they’re not such a great deal anymore, although it is still possible to find good deals if you know how.

Bridal Sample Sales
Bridal sample sales are one of the best ways, after eBay, to score great deals on wedding dresses. However, you have to be pretty strong to survive one of these things. Most large cities have bridal sales at some point because the store owners need to move the older gowns. You should be able to find one near you.

If you plan to shop at a bridal sale, follow these tips:

  • Bring the shoes you plan to wear with the dress
  • Wear the undergarments you plan to wear with the dress
  • Arrive very early to get in line
  • Check the bridesmaid’s dress samples if you want a simple gown
  • Check gowns carefully for unrepairable rips or irremovable stains in prominent places. Hems can be fixed, but the middle of the skirt can’t.

If you find a beat-up gown, but are good at sewing, it can be a good starting point. My cousin scored a dress with a beautiful skirt for $100. The bodice was trashed, but she and my mom sewed a new bodice in matching fabric for less than another $100.

Clothing Sample Sales
There are three types of sample sales: designer, store, and warehouse. The designer sales happen mostly in New York and Los Angeles, where most of the design houses are located. If you can get into one of these, you can indeed get good deals.

Store sample sales can be hit or miss. Although they’re less crowded, often the items are very dated or worn-out. The popular sizes are already gone, too. If you have to pay a fee to get in, I wouldn’t bother. Instead, I’d become a good customer and ask the staff to call me just before they have a sale

Finally, there are the massive warehouse sales. These can happen anywhere and several companies host them. You usually pay an entrance fee. Although they feature clothing from numerous designers, the styles are usually a few seasons old and the quality isn’t always the best. Some of the items are genuine samples, which means the sizes may be off or the size-runs may be limited.

How to Shop Wisely at Sample Sales
It’s easy to blow a lot of money on stuff you’ll never wear at a sample sale. To avoid that, and also to ensure you get the best deal, follow these tips:

Arrive early. Get to the sale a few hours, at least, before the opening time.

Arrive with a plan. If you’re going for jeans, don’t stop to look at the tops first. Head directly for the item you want.

Pre-shop. A few days before the sale, visit a store to try on clothes from the designers you’re interested in. This will give you a better idea of their size run so you don’t buy a medium only to get home and discover that it fits like a small.

Wear easy to remove clothes and shoes. There may not be changing rooms, so bring easy to remove clothes and shoes.

Set a budget. Don’t just bring a credit card and figure you’ll know when to stop. Give yourself a budget and stick to it.

Skip sales with high entry fees. If you have to pay a fee of more than $5 to get in, don’t bother. The clothes inside may not be worth the money you paid just to look at them.

Instead of dealing with sample sales to save on last season’s hot items, I buy classic clothes at discounted prices that I can wear forever. It may not be the most fashionable way to shop, but it’s the most hassle-free.

A few years ago I was watching Clean Sweep when I made a horrifying discovery: makeup lasts a maximum of three years. Most products don’t last nearly as long as that. Shortly after that, I started to clean out my makeup case. Some of my products had been there for more than ten years.

Here’s a quick review of the shelf lives of various products. Remember this next time you shop – unless you can use it up within the allotted time you’re better off opting for a cheaper drugstore version. That way you won’t waste as much money when you have to throw it away with half left in the container.

Makeup Shelf Life Times
The following list reviews major product categories with shelf life times and info on how to find out how long it’s been in your makeup box.

Mascara: 3 Months
Mascara is an ideal environment for bacteria, which can easily be transferred to your eyes. Throw out your mascara every three months to avoid eye infections.

Liquid Eyeliner: 3 Months
Once again, liquid eyeliner is moist, which makes it prime territory for bacteria that can transfer to your eyes.

Moisturizer: 12 Months
Some of the essential oils or natural components break down quickly, so moisturizer that’s more than a year old may not be as effective.

Nail Polish: 12 Months
The chemicals start to break down after about a year, which could cause the color to change. You’ll also notice that the polish doesn’t hold together well or apply smoothly.

Oil-Free Foundation: 12 Months
These foundations tend to dry out faster than cream or powder foundations. The oils on your fingers can also introduce bacteria into the liquid. Use a sponge or brush to preserve it. Storing it in the fridge can also extend its life. When the color changes, it’s past its prime.

Concealer: 12-18 Months
Stick concealer lasts longer than liquid concealer, but both become lumpy after 12-18 months. Lumpy concealer won’t cover as well, and may contain bacteria from your blemishes. You may also notice color changes.

Cream Blush: 12-18 Months
Cream blush will dry out after about a year. It may also start to change color or not go on as smoothly.

Cream Eye Shadow: 12-18 Months
Like all other cream products, it dries out over time. It may also harbor bacteria. Never use it while you have an eye infection to avoid contamination. You should apply it with a clean brush to extend its life.

Cream Foundation: 18 Months
Cream foundation will dry out after about a year and a half. It may also start to change color or not go on as smoothly. If you apply it with your fingers, the oils on your skin could also introduce bacteria into it.

Lip Gloss: 18-24 Months
Lip gloss dries out fairly quickly because it’s thinner and contains less fat than lipstick. If it becomes clumpy, dry, or changes color, throw it out.

Blush and Bronzer: 2 years
Powders last longer, but the oils in your skin will alter the texture and make it more difficult to apply after a couple years. You may also notice changes in color.

Lipstick: 2 years
After two years, the fats in the lipstick will start to break down, which will make it dry, crumbly, and probably change the color. To make it last longer, apply it with a clean brush. Never use lipstick when you have a cold sore or share it with someone else.

Lip Liner: 2 years
Lip liner can last up to two years if you sharpen it regularly to prevent bacteria build-up and avoid using it when you have a cold sore.

Powder: 2 years
Powder tends to get clumpy after more than a couple years because it mixes with the oils in your skin over time. If you take excellent care of it, it can last up to three years.

Powder Eyeliner: 2 years
Powder eyeliner will last longer than cream or liquid liner because it doesn’t dry out, but you should always use a clean brush to avoid contaminating it with bacteria. If they’re in stick form, sharpening them regularly prevents bacteria growth. If the color changes or it becomes hard to apply, throw it out.

Powder Eye Shadow: 2 Years
Powder eye shadow lasts as long as powder eyeliner if you always use a clean brush and avoid using it while you have an eye infection.

Perfume: 3 Years
Cheaper perfumes and eau de toilettes may only last two years, but good perfumes should last up to three years. You can extend the life slightly by storing them in the fridge. If the color or scent changes, throw it out. If you’re not sure how old it is, check the stamp on the bottom. The number at the end is the year it was bottled, for example, a number ending in 6 means it was bottled in 2006.

If you’re not sure how old your makeup is, check the consistency. If in doubt, throw it out and start fresh. Mark the date on the label with a Sharpie so that you always know how old your makeup is.

In addition to using a Goodyear card to reduce my car expenses, I have a few other ways of keeping my car costs down. As I mentioned yesterday, Goodyear sometimes offers a “12 months same as cash” offer. I learned Saturday that they’re offering it now through April 5. The manager made sure to remind me that the finance charges will apply if I don’t finish paying the bill before the 12 months was up – that’s what I call good service.

And now, without further ado, here are my nine tips for reducing your car expenses.

Follow the Recommended Maintenance Schedule
Although auto shops want you to change your oil every 3,000 miles, most newer cars don’t need service nearly that often. My eleven-year-old car requires service every 5,000 miles or four months. Because I only drive 8,000 miles a year, I go in for service every four months, more often if your dealer recommends it because of where you live. To keep your car in good condition, I would use the lower of either the mileage or time recommendation as a guide for service. By going three times a year instead of four, I save $20 a year on maintenance.

Don’t Delay Tune-Ups
When I was younger, I delayed my 30,000 mile tune-up because I was poor. I later learned that delaying my tune-up and other maintenance probably actually added to my car expenses because the car ran less efficiently. I don’t delay my tune-ups anymore.

Buy Tires at Costco
If you have a Costco membership, then this is the best place to buy your tires. Not only are they discounted, but they have an insanely good warranty (for free). I’ve tested the warranty several times, because I have very bad luck with tires. I’ve gotten a nail stuck in my tire, and they replaced it with a new tire for $1. I had a tire that was losing air, and they replaced it for free. The downside is that there can be a long wait, so if you get your tires on a Saturday, I recommend arriving the minute the tire shop opens, and then going inside to do your Costco shopping (with a list, of course.)

Keep Tires Properly Inflated
If your tires are under-inflated, you’ll burn more gas. If your tires are over-inflated, you have less control of the car. Accidents are costly.

Don’t Get Service at the Dealer
My husband insists on getting service at the dealer, even though his car is out of warranty. I insist he’s throwing money away. We haven’t worked that one out yet, but I always go to Goodyear. They know how to work on most cars and have the same equipment. What they don’t have are overpriced factory parts and overpriced labor. I save at least 50% on tune-ups, and nearly 70% on struts, brakes, and other routine maintenance costs. I also save on major service. For example, this weekend I took my car in because it was making a bad sound. They said I need to replace the wheel hub bearings, at a cost of $831.40. Toyota would charge me $1260.

Get a Second Opinion
If a mechanic recommends a major service that doesn’t sound reasonable to you, take it to another mechanic to have it checked out. You could just go in and say you hear a strange sound from under the car and see what they recommend. Just make sure it’s a mechanic with a good reputation for honesty. I want to get a second opinion on my wheel hub bearings, although it seems reasonable that a car with 116,000 miles might need that. I was considering taking my car to Toyota, but they want to charge me $99 just for the inspection.

Keep Your Car At Least Ten Years
Of course, this only applies if you have a good car. My first car was a Pontiac built by Isuzu. It was also a former rental. I will never buy any of those again. I only kept the car for five years because by the end it had developed the annoying habit of stalling at on-ramps and red lights, and overheating the brakes. It was replaced by a brand new Toyota. (I had a friend at the dealer who got me a very, very good deal and financial help from my Dad.) The loan has been paid off for six years now. I haven’t had any major issues, like the transmission or the engine blowing.

Replace Old Gas Guzzlers or Cars that Break Down Often
If you have an old car that is unreliable or guzzles gas, then I would consider replacing it with a late-model used car that gets good mileage and has a good safety and reliability record. Personally, I would stick with Japanese cars. I’ve compared gas mileage between Japanese and German cars and Japanese cars definitely get better mileage. I haven’t considered American cars. I know it seems counter-intuitive to save money by buying a different car, but if your car is in the shop every other week, belching smoke, or only gets 15 miles to the gallon, you’re spending far more to keep that car than you would if you bought a more reliable, fuel-conscious car.

Buy Late Model Used Cars
Late model used cars tend to be leased cars. They’re better than rentals because leases have to be return in excellent condition and have mileage limits. I might consider buying my next Toyota or Honda new, because they hold their value well, but if I can find a good former lease, I’ll buy it. By buying a car that’s a few years old, you not only avoid the immediate loss in value, but you also have lower insurance and registration costs, both of which are car expenses you don’t consider on a daily basis but that do add up.

If you use these nine tips to reducing car costs, you could save thousands of dollars in maintenance, insurance, and car payments. Do you have other tips to reduce car expenses?

I drive a Toyota with over 100,000 miles on it and it still runs great, but obviously a car with that many miles has also needed a lot of routine maintenance over the years. I’ve had to replace the tires, brakes, struts, belts, starter, and a few valves and sensors. Nothing major or unusual, but auto repairs can get expensive even if you expect them.

A few years after I bought my car, I discovered a great way to manage my car repair and maintenance expenses: the Goodyear card. After I took my car to Toyota for my 30,000 mile tune-up, I never made the mistake of getting maintenance at the dealer again. I’ve only visited them for recalls, dealer specific license plate screws, and brake lights (which they swapped out for free. Sometimes it pays to be a girl.)

Instead, I go to Goodyear. In addition to selling tires (which I actually get at Costco), they license Goodyear Gemini repair shops. I’ve found that Goodyear mechanics are reasonably-priced and honest, unlike Midas or Jiffy Lube. The card includes discounts and an interest-free billing program.

Working the Goodyear Card Billing Cycle
If you use your Goodyear card, you get a discount on your oil change. Just mention that you’re a cardholder when you bring the car in. You also usually get “90 days same as cash” terms on all repair bills. That’s either two or three billing cycles, depending on when you got the service and when the payment is due. For a very large charge, I once got “12 months same as cash.” Some of my statements have also included coupons for that deal. Here’s the trick: the interest does accrue from day one (and it’s a high rate), but it isn’t applied if the balance is paid off within 90 days. All the interest is added on day 91.

To stretch out your payments into equal amounts without earning interest, look at the charge date and count 90 days forward. Now check the bill due date. Let’s say you got service March 1. That means the last payment must be received by May 28 to avoid interest. If your bills are due on the 22nd, you can pay one third in March, one third in April, and one third in May. On the other hand, if you made the charge March 21, then the last payment would be due June 19. That means you can pay half in April and half in May.

Certainly, if you have the cash to pay the whole bill, you could do that, but if they’re going to let you pay over time for free, why not let the money sit in your savings account a little longer?

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