Mary Cusano
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Commonwealth Real Estate | 508.561.5411 | [email protected]


Posted by Mary Cusano on 10/1/2017

We live in a time when there are countless services from which to choose. From streaming video services, to grocery home delivery, there is no shortage of choices when it comes to finding entertainment and services.

In today’s post, we’re going to talk about some of the ways you can save money each month. Whether you’re saving up for a big purchase, or you just want to spend less on your monthly expenses, this article is for you.

Entertainment costs

If you’re a fan of movies, books, music, or video games, then you likely know how quickly these expenses can add up. New books and movies can cost up to $30. And video games much higher, at around $60 per game.

Monthly services have made these expenses easier to access and seemingly less expensive. However, if you’re paying for Netflix (TV and movies), Spotify (music), Audible (audiobooks), and Xbox Live (games), then you could be spending over $50 per month on entertainment alone. That adds up to around $600 per year.

To cut down on those entertainment expenses you have a few options.

  • Check to see if you qualify for discounts. Many times, customers offer introductory rates, student and senior discounts to encourage people to sign up. If you don’t meet those requirements, check for any coupons that might be available online. If you studied at college at some point in your life and still have access to your .edu email address, you might be able to take advantage of college discounts for a number of services.

  • Get a library card. There’s a lot more than books at your local library. Audiobooks, the latest video games, recently released movies, and even music can all be found amongst the stacks of your local library. Better yet, most libraries are connected regionally. So, if there’s a particular title you’re looking for but your library doesn’t have it, they will ship it *for free* to your library.

  • While you’re at the library… weekend entertainment for the family can be pricey as well. The library has you covered here as well. Libraries often offer free or discounted passes to local museums and attractions.

Slash your utility bills

Utilities can be a daunting bill to receive in the mail each month. You might not know what to expect each month due to fluctuations in usage and weather. That uncertainty is cause for stress for many homeowners.

There are, however, a few ways you can save on your monthly utility bills.

  • Go solar. Solar panels are more efficient and easier to access than ever. Better yet, leasing programs allow you to install rooftop solar without putting any money down. If panels on your roof aren’t your thing, you can look into off-site solar to power your home. It works just like rooftop solar without the eyesore.

  • Still paying for cable? It might be time to cut the cord. You can find most TV shows on Netflix or Hulu these days. And if you pay for cable for the news channels you might be surprised to find that many major stations stream their newscasts live on their websites.

  • Make your home energy efficient. For under $100, you can upgrade your light bulbs, insulate your windows (for the winter months), and purchase power strips that will allow you to turn off several devices at once that might otherwise be using electricity on standby.





Posted by Mary Cusano on 2/12/2017

If money is tight right now, or if you're just trying to live frugally, there are a number of ways to save money without having to drastically change your lifestyle. One of the best way to save money is by going through all of your recurring bills to see where you can eliminate or reduce spending. In our age of user-friendly, advanced technology, there are more services available to us than ever before. You can call an Uber with one tap on your phone or order more laundry detergent by clicking the Amazon Dash button in your cabinet. With services this readily available to us, it's hard not to sign up. Read on to learn how to save some money on your monthly services without having to sacrifice too many of life's comforts.

Utilities

There are countless ways to save on water, heat, and electricity. Yes, you can turn down the heat in the winter time and take shorter showers, but there are less commonly known ways to save as well. For example:
  • Keep multiple electric-powered items plugged into one power-strip and power off the strip overnight. This will stop those items from consuming electricity in standby mode
  • Insulate your windows in the winter time by using caulking, weather stripping, and shrink wrap your windows with heat shrink film to keep the heat in
  • Some Saturday afternoon make a checklist of all of your home's lightbulbs. Then go out and replace them with energy efficient CFLs and LED bulbs
  • Hang clothes on the line in fair weather and wash your clothes in cold water; much of the energy consumed by washing clothes goes to heating the water up first

Monthly services

Remember when there were only a few good shows on TV and paying for cable was the only way to watch them? Now any given household can have Netflix, Amazon Streaming, HBO Go, and countless other monthly services for watching TV. To save on watching your favorite movies and television, try these tips:
  • Ditch Netflix DVD services or expensive premium cable channels and rent from your local library system. Through inter-library loans you can get the newest movies and TV shows shipped to your library for free
  • Cancel your cable bill and try a cheap service like Hulu. If you're worried about missing the news, use websites or news apps on your smart TV to keep up to date on the issues
  • Negotiate rates with your provider. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call to learn about better options. Since many people are taking the internet-only approach, cable companies are desperate to maintain customers
Saving on telephone bills:
  • First, ditch the landline. You probably only get telemarketers calling there anyway; what do you have to lose?
  • Use a family plan and calculate your data usage. Make sure your family is on wifi whenever possible. You can save up to $30/month just by having a lower data plan
  • Negotiate with your provider. Reminding your provider that you have other options when it comes to cell phones can get you a better rate.
General tips and tricks:
  • If you have a student email address (.edu) this can be used to gain discounts from a number of monthly services
  • Ask your providers to apply promotions to your account. If you see that something you pay for is running a deal, call and ask if you can have the rate as well. You're a loyal customer after all
  • If you've built up good credit, look for lower interest rates online. There are apps and websites dedicated to finding you better deals





Posted by Mary Cusano on 5/22/2016

Imagine if you could make your student loan disappear. According to American Student Assistance, a non-profit that aims to educate young people about money say it is possible. Both the federal and state government, as well as some non-profit organizations offer loan "forgiveness" programs. Do the right paperwork and you could be loan free. While there is no single comprehensive listing of loan forgiveness programs, there are programs for some specific professions. Here are a few of those: Law school graduates who become a district attorney or a public defender are eligible to apply for the John R. Justice student loan repayment program. This program pays up to $4,000 a year towards an eligible applicant's debt up to the maximum of $60,000 per graduate. The National Health Service Corps offers an even more generous program for health professionals. This program repays up to $60,000 in debt in just two years for students working in medicine, dentistry or mental health in underserved communities. Graduates who are willing to work part-time on medical research could eliminate up to $35,000 in debt per year with a program funded by The National Institutes of Health. If you are willing to trade a few years of service for loan forgiveness you are in luck. There are various federally funded loan repayment programs for fire fighters, teachers, nurses, librarians, speech pathologists and employees of non-profits.  The programs don't typically ask graduates to work for free but they might receive less pay in order to repay the loan. The value of the loan repayment is likely to more than compensate for the lost wages. Because there is no comprehensive list of forgiveness programs it pays to do your research. There are many organization's websites that can help students find the right fit.





Posted by Mary Cusano on 11/23/2014

Saving money can be hard. It often seems like a daunting task but often it is the little things that make a big difference. Here are five tips to get saving more money now. 1. Pay off your debt. If you have debt try to consolidate it and pay off debt as soon as possible. A strategy to do this would be to consolidate debt to a lower interest rate if possible. Interest on debt can cost you thousands of dollars every year. 2. Pay your bills on time. When you don't pay your bills on time you acquire late fees. The best way to do this is to get organized about your regular bills. If possible, automate your regular payments. 3. Know your bank balance. If you don't keep track of your check book you will probably accrue over draft fees. Be aware of the balance in your bank account and avoid overdraft fees. 4. Avoid ATM fees. ATM fees can really add up. Try to use only those ATM machines where your bank will not charge the fees, or withdraw directly at your bank. 5. Manage your credit. Credit card fees are often hidden costs you don't account for. Look for credit cards with cash back bonuses and reward points. Avoid credit cards with annual fees.




Tags: Save Money  
Categories: Money Saving Tips  


Posted by Mary Cusano on 11/16/2014

Greening up your home is not only good for the environment it is also good on your wallet. According to the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. generates about 208 million tons of municipal solid waste a year, that's more than 4 pounds per person per day. Here are some minor changes you can implement at home that will add up to real benefits. Green up your appliances Replace your old refrigerator and save as much as $150 a year. Appliances are the biggest drain on a home's total energy bill. Replace appliances older than 10 years with energy-efficient models that bear the "Energy Star" logo. Energy Star-qualified appliances use 10%-50% less energy and water than standard models. Take Your Temperature Use a programmable thermostat to keep your home's temperature on a schedule. Program the thermostat in cold weather and keep it higher in warm weather. Set the timer to only change the temperature when you are home. During the colder months, each degree below 68°F saves 3%-5%. You may also want to consider replacing older furnaces. Today's furnaces are about 25% more efficient than they were in the 1980s. Use Water Wisely Save every time you flush by installing low-flow toilets. They use only 1.6 gallons per flush, compared to 3.5 gallons per flush for pre-1994 models. Save water at your faucets by installing aerators. This could cut your annual water consumption by 50%. Let there be Light Using Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) will consume 66% less energy. CFLs may cost a little more but they last 10 times longer than a standard incandescent bulb. In dollars and cents, replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 32-watt CFL can save $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb. Practice Plastic Placement Did you know Americans throw away some 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags? — Plastics (grocery, trash and sandwich bags to name a few) are made from petroleum. Plastics are considered one of the main contributors to global warming. Always make sure to reduce, re-use and recycle your plastics. There are many more ways to live green. If you are looking for more ideas check out National Geographic's Green Guide. Please share your tips for saving money, energy and living green.