Monday, June 11, 2018

Irony: The portal for letting student loans know you’re poor requires an up-to-date computer

I’m trying to do my yearly renewal where I let the student loans people know that I can't afford to pay the things. My computer is 11 years old. It only runs really old versions of browsers. Only one browser can connect to (the others bring up security errors). Only one will connect to the They are two different browsers. The site requires you to log into the IRS page directly from the student loans page. When I copy the long IRS URL into the browser that does open IRS pages, it says I am only allowed to access that page directly from Argh!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Who needs an instacart code?

Get $10 off your first order and I get $10 off. Clickedy click

Friday, June 8, 2018

I got a bunch of Swagbucks from TaskRabbit without spending money

I went to the TaskRabbit website to hire a bunny to do a home repair I didn’t have the tools for. I was using my computer at the time, so the browser bar popped up to activate Swagbucks. The rabbit I selected didn’t have the right tools either and canceled the task. I selected another rabbit whose profile also listed them as doing such things, and they also canceled saying they don’t have the tools. The rest of the available bunnies were all very expensive, so I ended up buying some tools.

A few days later I see that I was awarded 1000 Swagbucks for each canceled rabbit. Um, OK! That nearly pays for my tools. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Free $100 Postmates delivery credit for you and me

Use code 9HNYH and we both get $100 in delivery credit. Their delivery fees can be super high, especially during prime hours, so this is really useful. They deliver from cheaper places than many of the other apps too, which is nice. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

$20 off TaskRabbit, first-time users only

Use this code and get $20 off.

I've had hit-and-miss success with TaskRabbit. I wouldn't rely on it if you absolutely need something done at a particular time, as they don't provide you with a replacement if your person doesn't show. I hired someone once to do setup for an event, they didn't show, didn't respond to my messages, and all TaskRabbit would do was give me a $25 credit. Infuriating. But I've had great luck with using them for things like electrical and plumbing work that didn't need to get done at a particular time. There are a lot of tradespeople on there who aren't licensed in this state or have let their license lapse, but absolutely know what they are doing and are perfect for small jobs that don't require a license or permits. I also used it once when I needed something business-related dropped off and needed it to look a little more professional than just sending documents in a cab.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

You can still get $25 for that survey on your health insurance

Ha. I just got an e-mail from JOANY saying I'm one of their top referrers for the healthcare survey. Woohoo!

If you have insurance you purchased through your state's marketplace (so, not straight Medicaid/Medicare and not through your employer), you can take this survey and get $25. They will ask you to text/email/upload a picture of your card, so you will need to have an insurance card of a type of insurance sold through the marketplace.

After you've taken it and they've paid you (it takes a few days, and they pay via PayPal), you can refer your friends and get $25 when they take the survey as well.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Amazon gift card for parents of infants

MIT wants to study the brains of infants  Looks fun, gets you an Amazon gift card. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Swagbucks: What's worth it and what's not

So, I went back and looked at my last post on this topic, and it's actually pretty much the same still. Surveys are super hit-and-miss. I try one every time I'm bored, and if it's legit, I keep going, if not, I don't. The Reddit Swagbucks forum also is usually up to date on which things are working and which aren't. 

Definitely go to my post linked up above and check out the tips for how to run the Swagbucks TV app on your phone while you go do something else. 

If you don't have Swagbucks, go here to learn how it works and to sign up under my referral link so we both get free stuff. Then refer your friends so you get more free stuff. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Whoa, a free $35 just showed up in my account

I just logged into Perk, which I hadn't done in some time, and found that I had 36,000 points, or $35 in Amazon gift cards. There isn't any recent activity showing except for my points for having logged in, but I clicked around and found "my team," which is showing me people who signed up under my referral link and are earning me points. I've posted my link here and on a couple forums that do referral trains, so, thank you, people who have signed up using my account. If you aren't using Perk, click on the "PerkTV" tag below this post, and it will show you my posts explaining how it works. Click here to sign up using my code, and we both get free stuff. Like Swagbucks, Perk is one of those things where some of the tasks are worth it, and others are a huge waste of time that only make money for the site and not for you. Check out the PerkTV forum on Reddit for tips on which things do and don't work well.

At the moment, the best one is the Perk Pop Quiz app. Download the app on a mobile device, set it to "lightning mode," so the trivia game will just run on a loop without you attending to it, and leave the device while you do other things. The game will just run and you'll get 1-2 points for every game you "play" (because the games run ads that make money for Perk, of course). There's also the PerkTV app, which runs videos in a similar fashion. It will work for a time on my devices (old iPhones and iPods), then will go through periods where all it does is crash or freeze up. You can run the videos on a computer too, though mine is too old and just overheats and freezes. The site used to run on a lot less bandwidth, and I'd leave my computer, my phone, and some old iPods running it all night.

The $35 has motivated me to get back into running Swagbucks and Perk on my devices. I'm going to get back into the hang of running Perk overnight on my phone and seeing if I have any old iPods that still work and will run the apps. Tomorrow I'll post about farming Swagbucks on a mobile device.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Updated eBay first class postage rates

Like I talked about before, eBay charges the buyer the retail first-class postage rate based on the weight of the item, and charges the seller the commercial rate when the seller purchases the shipping through eBay.

The postage rates have gone up a bit since I initially posted about that, but the same idea still applies – if you charge the lower commercial rate for shipping, your listings look much more attractive. Especially when you get above 12 ounces or so – I think amounts under $5 tend to seem trivial to people, while amounts over $5 seem more substantial. I'm much more likely to bid on something charging $4.38 for shipping versus $6.70.

Just remember: eBay charges you, the seller, 10% of what you charged for shipping AND what you charged for the product in their Final Value Fee. So either add 10% onto what you charge for shipping or make sure the additional 27-50 cents is reflected in the price of the item, along with also remembering to include the PayPal fee.

I just made $25 net selling some random worthless crap I had lying around my house – some 1970s coins I found in change, an airline toiletry kit someone gave me, some drawer pulls, some discontinued IKEA picture frames, a passport wallet, and a halloween decoration. I shipped the stuff using eBay shipping and printed it out on my printer, so I can just drop it in any mailbox or drop it off on the post office counter without standing in line. I packaged it with boxes, envelopes, and bubble wrap saved from things I've bought in stores or ordered on Amazon. All I paid for was tape, which I got from Dollar Tree. It took me under a minute to list each item and about two minutes or so to prepare each one to mail. I also listed another few items that didn't sell, but you can list hundreds of items per month for free*, so no worries.

It's a seriously easy way to make money, once you get the hang of it. And it's generally non-taxable income if you're selling your own possessions and are averaging a net loss overall (meaning if you sell mostly your own clothes and books and things, the few items you do flip for more money end up being cancelled out by all the times you sell a shirt that was $30 new and went for $5 on eBay). It's more money in your pocket though, since most of us would usually just donate all the things in our house that we're done with.

*The base amount is 50 free listings per month, but every time I list items, eBay suddenly sends me an e-mail offer giving me 100, 200, or 500 free listings during that month.

Monday, April 9, 2018

So BookScouter is pretty cool

I actually found out about Bookscouter from an annoying ad that covered up most of an article I was trying to read. Hey, sometimes there's a silver lining, right? I have this collection of books of various sorts that I've been selling over time on Amazon Marketplace – both books my family and I are done with and books people have given us to get rid of because they know we do Amazon/eBay/etc.

So, the way it works is you enter books you have, and it checks several book buyback companies and tells you if they're buying it and what they're paying.

The book buyback companies all generate a pre-paid shipping label to ship the books. You just put them in a box and drop them off at the post office, UPS, FedEx, or wherever it says to. They all pay you via PayPal, within about 10-14 days of entering the books on the site and packaging them up. is by far the company that is looking for the most books. They were buying about 80% of the kids' books I tried, 50% of the nonfiction/text/professional books I tried, and about 20% of the bestseller/mass-market books I tried. Their prices are really good for things like kids' books and bestsellers. They gave me 26 cents each for a whole bunch of board books, paperback early reader books with like eight pages, and mass-market paperbacks. A number of the textbook and professional books were only a bit more than that, around a dollar each or so. I also check the used prices on Amazon, and if it's going for more than $4 or so (pretty much the minimum to make a profit), I list on Amazon. SellBackYourBook also has one of the lowest minimums to meet to create a shipment – $7.50 – so it's probably the best one for regular people cleaning out shelves or freebies.

Powell's offers the best prices by far, often 50% or more of list price. Their condition guidelines are extremely strict though, and they aren't buying a lot of titles. Check there though if you have unusual books, expensive books, or books in really nice condition. I didn't end up selling anything to them.

These are the ones I ended up using. The were each 2-3 books. Most were textbook-type books as one might guess (not as in the ridiculously expensive textbook-only books used in math and so forth, but as in books on education and psychology and such that are fairly pricey, but have a market outside of universities), but they also randomly took a board book copy of I Love My Hair as well, so, yeah, it can be pretty random. They accepted all of my books (in decent condition, but certainly with scuffed corners and sometimes even more wear).

Ez Book Recycle Inc. is That shipment was 12 books of all sorts, ranging in value from $0.07 to $6.96. They accepted them all.

Textbook Rush was for 14 books, ranging from $0.10 (paperback short kids' books that I honestly would probably have no problem recycling if I didn't have a donation box going at the time) to $6.96 for a scholarly type book. They accepted everything.

CKY Books was for 20 books, mostly older scholarly, religious, nonfiction type books. One was rejected for having a tear on the dust jacket.

So, yeah, $65 for 51 books that I acquired for free. Honestly, I probably would have gotten only slightly more on Amazon, and it would have taken me a year or more before someone bought all of them. I didn't have to provide customer service or package them other than just shoving them in a reused Amazon box and slapping on the label. I do still have books listed on Amazon; I wasn't going to sell back books for $1-5 that are going for $10+ on Amazon. But for most of the books someone might be looking to get rid of, BookScouter is definitely a way to do it.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Monday, April 2, 2018

Free Little Caesar’s Pizza today

Little Caesar’s is giving away lunch  There’s one in Roslindale if you aren’t familiar.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Dollar Tree has a blog about being cheap, and it's pretty cool

It has ideas, a lot of which use their products and several of which that don't. Much like Dollar Tree, some of the stuff is tacky AF, and other stuff is pretty great.

Speaking of Dollar Tree, they are still really the best place to buy most school/office supplies, cleaning supplies, and bins and stuff for organization.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Income-based Hubway is back and has some changes

Hubway once again has an income-based plan. It's now $5 per month instead of $5 per year, but if I'm reading this right, it's not as bad as it sounds. It looks like they only charge your card during months that you take out a bike. So for $5, you can take a bike out as many times as you want (under 60 minutes) during that month. Much cheaper than the T or rideshare, and for trips within the city, biking will usually get you places faster than other modalities.

Also, they're only letting people sign up online if they have an EBT card. Anyone using WIC, Masshealth, SSI, etc. needs to sign up in person. I'm guessing though that if that's a hardship, you can probably talk to someone about e-mailing your documentation. No mention of free helmets anymore, but Amazon has several for around $15-20 each, which is not a lot to protect your noggin.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

FYI: PayPal credit doesn’t go on your credit report

The interest rates are ridiculously high if you don’t pay it within the six-month no-interest period (around 20% APR seems to be the usual), but they give just about anyone credit, and it doesn’t show up on any credit report. I’ve used it a few times recently when I’ve needed to pay folks like lawyers and contractors. To use it with people like this rather than an online store, you just have to ask them to send you a PayPal invoice, and then it will give you the option to use PayPal credit if you’ve already applied.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Fancy Pants is closing. 50-80% off everything.

Fancy Pants is closing! See the details on their Facebook page here.

We've been big fans of the place for many years. We've sold a lot of used kids' clothes and toys to them and have shopped there regularly. I'm quite sad to see it go, and hope they're able to reopen somewhere else at some point.

I went on Tuesday and they still had a lot of things left. I got some baby items and such to give to people. I got pretty much an entire wardrobe including a jacket and shoes for about $100 for a kid who suddenly has nothing that fits. There were also a ton of books if people need them; they generally only stock really young books -- just picture books and board books -- but the selection is good and they're at least 50% off their usual prices, which are decent to start with. 

Oh, and they have a good selection of (mostly new!) winter hats and gloves all winter, which I've always appreciated about them, since most stores stop selling winter things in about October. There was still a lot of winter stuff left on Tuesday. I got a bunch of fleece balaclavas (is that the right word? Bank-robber masks, not gross Russian desserts) for $3 each since we are crazy and bike all year round when possible. 

They're open until the 22nd, so hit em up soon. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Check your phone number here to see if you can get $1200

If your phone number is on this list, DISH Network owes you $1200 for unscrupulous telemarketing tactics.

None of our family's numbers were on the list unfortunately, but this one is definitely worth checking out. Who doesn't want a free $1200?

Friday, September 22, 2017

Thursday, July 20, 2017

$25 via PayPal for taking this survey. Must have insurance through the connector.

I just did this survey. You must have insurance through your state's connector (not straight Masshealth/Medicaid, not insurance through an employer or school) and you must text or upload your insurance card. It took about five minutes. They send you $25 via PayPal, and I get $25. Then you refer your friends, and you get $25 each time they take it. It's pretty sweet. Their Facebook page is here if you run into any troubles and want to contact them.

EDIT: The study paid me. It's legit. They sent me an e-mail asking me to upload a screenshot of the connector page to confirm current enrollment, but after that they approved it. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Happy 7/11

Gotta love free Slurpee day. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

More random free money

I went online to check the interest rates on some credit cards that don't have balances, to see which would be best to float some expenses for a few months.

Two of them, both Chase cards, gave me things saying I had some sort of points to redeem. I figured these would get me stuff like $5 off coupons, but whatever, those are useful. 

Turns out one card's points were redeemable for $30 direct deposit and one for $40. I'm not sure what the points are or how I got them, but hey, free money. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Attention! Some class action checks don't look like checks


This check came today, to compensate me for having been caused severe emotional damage. Or something. 

The postcard you see on the left showed up like that, with my address on the other side. Looks like junk mail. Fortunately, it was clear who it was from, so I opened it up and got the check out. But be on the lookout for checks that don't look like checks. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Old Navy is 30% off online only right now

Check it out. There's also a lot of stuff marked down. Like, swimsuits, because they're already out of a number of sizes and colors. In March. While it's snowing.

Monday, March 13, 2017

There are a lot of good class action suits up right now

This site and this one both have lots of good ones right now -- Method, Ecover, Seventh Generation, Quorn, several other food products that don't require proof of purchase. Head on over, and rack up some free money!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

There sure are some crazy mofos on eBay

Someone bought something after business hours last week. E-mailed me the next business day stating it hadn't been shipped, asking "is there a problem???" My policies say I ship within two business days. It was still the first business day. Also, if they had used their adult words and just told me they really needed it quickly, I would have happily upgraded the shipping.

Speaking of, I've discovered that most buyers don't read the seller's policies or read the description of the item. Part of this is due to eBay hiding the description. On mobile you have to click into it, and on the computer you have to scroll all the way down. So when I'm selling anything with an open package, not in package, doesn't include accessories, scuffed, ripped, blah blah blah, I've been putting it in the title and then printing out the packing slip and enclosing it. (I don't usually include packing slips; hardly anyone seems to.) So then they get the packing slip right with the item, and they see that the item they bought is "Ralph Lauren hoodie with wear on cuffs," and they're less likely to complain.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Has anyone gotten their MA or federal tax refund yet?

Both of mine are saying they were received mid-January and are being processed. I know federal refunds with EITC or child credit can't be disbursed until after February 15 this year. Not sure what's going on with MA refunds. Last year I got state on February 2 and federal on February 10.

I'm thinking that federal will be about 15 days later than last year, since they're operating off of February 15 instead of February 1, so I'm expecting it any day now. I don't know what's going on with the MA refund. I hope this doesn't mean I got audited or some crap.

Which reminds me...I'm not sure I ever posted about that time I did get audited by the state. I can't find it through a search, and I don't seem to have a "MA DOR is a trainwreck" tag. Anyway, I got audited, sent in all the stuff. In addition to W-2 and 1099 work, I had done an odd job for someone one time, the person paid me about $1000, and I declared it and paid taxes on it. The DOR kept insisting I didn't have a record of the income, and the record of the income showing up in my bank account wasn't enough. I had to talk to several people on the phone and explain to them that if they weren't satisfied with my documentation, I could just delete that income and they could give me a bigger refund. It took probably 10 people before one finally got it. Amazing. OK, I'm making a tag for DOR just to be safe. I'll probably need it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Good Neighbor Energy Fund, for people who make too much for fuel assistance

I just got a call from the Good Neighbor Energy Fund, asking me if I wanted to apply, since we have done so in years past. For the past few years, we've qualified for fuel assistance, but Good Neighbor is a great program if you make too much for fuel assistance. The website has the income limits listed right up front on the page, so if you didn't qualify for fuel assistance and still need help, check it out. It works basically the same way, where you bring in your documentation and they pay the utility company directly. It's administered by the Salvation Army, which, yes, I know is problematic in many ways. The people who administer the program are much much more user friendly than the people at ABCD fuel assistance.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Swagbucks has this new MyGiftCardsPlus thing that gives you free money

I just signed up for this and got 975 Swagbucks ($11.08 if you redeem in batches of 2200 SB for $25 Amazon gift card).

The deal requires you to buy a $50 gift card. They have a ton of options, though most of them are things like mid-price/high-price chain restaurants where we wouldn't generally be spending money. They do have several places where most people would spend money regardless, like Lowe's, Home Depot, clothing stores, etc. I noticed that the GAP gift card earns you a larger number of Swagbucks than Old Navy, even though you can use the gift cards at both places since they're the same owner. So I bought a $50 GAP gift card, because I typically spend that much at Old Navy a few times a year.

If you haven't checked out the huge Old Navy clearance section at South Bay mall, do it! It's the biggest one I've found so far. Women's and men's is in the back corner of the store, and kids' is in a separate section in each kids' section. Old Navy tends to sell things for a very short time before they're out of season or out of style, so there's always a lot on clearance. The stores have more than the website does, because they also seem to move things to clearance as soon as they're low on certain sizes or they want to take down the display. If something stays on clearance very long and they're down to only a few of them, they'll often mark them down to a couple dollars. The stuff is often cheaper than thrift stores, and you can get things that wear out quickly and don't usually make it to thrift stores, like tanktops and leggings. 

Also, Old Navy is one of the furthest ahead in terms of seasons; right now they mostly have swimsuits and sundresses. This means that the place is pretty useless if you suddenly need snow boots or swimsuits during the correct season, because they'll likely all be gone, but it means things go on clearance before you actually would need them. We've gotten coats and gloves at a major discount when they clear them out in October or so, and swimsuits when they clear them out in about May.

So, get yourself a $50 GAP gift card (plus $11 in Amazon money), and go check out the Old Navy clearance section. And if you don't have Swagbucks yet, click the Swagbucks label to find all my past posts, which explain how to use it and contain my referral link so we can both get extra free stuff. Thanks!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Make a lamp shade for your thrift store lamp for about $2

So, a few days ago, I was trying to figure out what to do with a broken IKEA floor lamp. Could the pieces be recycled, or could someone use it for something? The hollow threaded part that connected the bottom section of the, uh, stalk? Stem? Post? Pole? to the base (I think this part is called a nipple. Seriously.) had broken off and broken in half, and of course it was an unusual size, because IKEA. I actually had a package of these in graduated sizes, because I once fixed a ceiling fixture I got from a thrift store, so 1) I was able to try them and see that this fixture was in between two adjacent standard sizes and 2) while they were no longer in the original package, I'm pretty sure they're called nipples. Hurr hurr.

I eventually realized I could just take out two of the three sections and make a table lamp. How would I do that though, when the post sections are threaded onto the cord? Oh, easy. Unwire the whole thing, reassemble, and then rewire! Some friends on social media were placing bets as to whether it would work and whether they would need to call 911. Assholes.

It did work, and on the first try. But then I needed a lamp shade. Of course lamp shades often cost more than the lamp, when we're taking about basic stuff like this, and thrift stores never have shades because lamps last longer than the shade. I started looking around for something I could make a lampshade out of. I was thinking I could probably use poster board and reinforce it with coat hangers or something, but then I saw this wastebasket that I got for a dollar at Dollar Tree.

The lampshade was the perfect shape and size, was lightweight, and the mesh made it even easier to sew fabric to it than it would have been with a cardboard shade. So, what I did was:

1) Cut the bottom out of the wastebasket. I guess you could actually leave it on if you like, as it wouldn't be in the way and light can of course pass through it. I cut mine off because lampshades don't typically have a top, and it made it easier to attach fabric later on. I used wire cutters. Heavy-duty scissors or a utility knife would work well too.

2) Find something that has a hole in it that is slightly larger than a lightbulb base. This seems to be the most secure way to attach a lampshade to a lamp, and is what IKEA lamps use. It also allows for any type of bulb. I used a closet pole socket like this one, since I had one lying around in a drawer. Mine were cheaper, I think $1 for the pair. You could also make something similar out of a fairly sturdy piece of plastic, like a plastic lid out of the recycling. It just needs to fit around the bulb and be able to have holes drilled in it. The closet rod hardware was perfect, since it already had three holes. If I were building it from scratch, I'd probably put four so it would be easier to get it centered and taut. 

3) Attach the middle part to the basket. I used wire to do this. The wire I had is thin craft-type wire, so I twisted it and wrapped it until it was fairly rigid. If I were purchasing wire, I'd probably use something a bit heavier, but not quite as hard to bend as, say, a coat hanger. The basket made it easy to get centered and level, because I could just count how many diamonds down from the edge and count how many diamonds were around the basket and divide by three. Measuring would also work, but that would involve getting up and finding one more thing, so I didn't do it.

4) Find fabric to cover the basket with. I unfortunately didn't take measurements or photograph every step, but you'll need roughly a foot by three feet maybe of fabric. If you wrap it around the basket and it fully covers it, you're good. Any material should work. If you aren't the type to own fabric waiting to be used for projects, use a good part of a worn sheet/blanket/pillowcase, or a shirt you don't need any longer.

5) Attach the fabric to the basket. The easiest and most secure way by far is with a needle and thread. Wrap the fabric around the basket so it covers the whole thing, trim it so you have a seam that runs straight up the shade (parallel to the pole), and then sew it to the basket. This part will be hidden, so no need to stitch neatly. Then, once one end is attached, stretch the fabric all the way around until it overlaps where you just sewed. Trim it so you have a straight edge with about an inch overlap. Fold the fabric under to make a nice seam. Then stitch through all three layers of fabric and around the basket wires. I did one diagonal stitch around each diamond.

6) Next, trim the top and bottom of the fabric so it barely overlaps the basket. If your fabric has pretty much no stretch to it, overlap about half an inch. Fold the fabric over the basket. Go around the edge and stitch it so the basket is between both layers of fabric, stretching it taut as you go. A whipstitch/overcast stitch/whatever you want to call it (shown in the picture) is going to work best at holding the fabric taut and looking the best. The sewing involved here requires really no skill; it's basically the same as those wooden sewing cards my kids had when they were preschoolers. The equipment needed is just a needle and thread, found in any drugstore sewing kit. If you're really opposed to sewing though, it should be possible to do this with hot glue or duct tape or something, or ribbons covering the edges, or whatever works for you.

Have I mentioned that the cat is an asshole?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Banana French toast

This was a surprisingly easy recipe I invented. Fair Foods gave us two bunches of slightly bruised/browning bananas and a loaf of what I thought was sandwich bread when I took it, but ended up being cranberry walnut bread. None of us are particularly crazy about the nuts-and-dried-fruits category of foods, so I tried to think of things I could do with it. I figured it would be improved if it were sweet, and this led me to French toast.

I knew bananas are often used by themselves as a binder/thickener in a lot of vegan cooking, so I figured this would work. I blended the bananas using an immersion blender, then added some vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. If using fresher bananas, you'd probably need to add some liquid to get it to a thinner consistency, but this was correct since these were rescued bananas. I then soaked the slices of bread in the stuff and fried them in a nonstick pan with a little oil. The result was normal textured French toast with a bit of a banana/fruit/nut flavor. We served it with maple syrup (Amazon has the best prices usually, FYI) and everyone enjoyed it. It's probably one of the simplest things I've ever cooked. Will definitely make again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Heads up for people who use the MA DOR free webfile for income tax

Apparently the state's own tax website is no longer active. They now are publishing a list of sites that will file your taxes for free based on income.

OLT will file them for free if you make between $13,000 and $62,000 AGI. However, if you've already filed your federal taxes elsewhere, you can't use this site; it only will file federal and state at the same time. You can pay $7.95 to file your state return alone on this site though. If you make more than $62,000 AGI, I'm not sure why you're reading my site*, but they will file it for $7.95 for state and $7.95 for federal.

1040NOW will file just the state return (or both, if you don't file federal elsewhere) for free if you make under $32,000 AGI. Be sure to use the link with "freefileMA" in it.

MA Department of Revenue doesn't list them, but Turbotax will also file for free if you are eligible to file 1040A or 1040EZ (income under $100,000, don't itemize deductions, no self-employment, no unusual credits or deductions besides the common ones like Earned Income Tax Credit and child credit.)

If you google free e-filing and your situation, you will find more companies that do free e-filing for students, people with disability income, military families, or whatever your case may be.

You can also print out the form and mail it for free. It takes longer to get your refund, but it's free. If you want to make sure you don't make any errors, most of the commercial tax websites (TaxSlayer, etc.) will let you do everything but file the return without paying. You can let it do all the calculations for the credits and everything and then transfer it to a paper form.

(*That's a joke. I realize of course that there are people with high incomes on paper who are supporting relatives, have high disability expenses, are trying to save a failing home business, and so forth.)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

About that "Save $70 by opening a credit card" thing

I've been getting this Amazon promo every time I buy something, and have been ignoring it. First, I already have the Amazon Store Card, which I got about a few years ago. It gave me $50 off my first purchase, which is why I opened it, and no interest for six months on purchases over some amount, which I also why I purchased it. (At the time I needed car seats that would fit three-across in a compact car.)

I was assuming this offer was the same thing, and would reject me since I already had one. But then today I went to purchase something and a full-screen ad came up on the way to checkout, showing an image of an Amazon Visa Card, with an actual credit card. (The store card only works on Amazon and is a floppy membership-type card with no chip or strip, since you wouldn't be swiping it anywhere.) Hey Amazon, good advertising there. This actually got it through my thick skull that it's a different product, and I applied.

I was approved in 60 seconds, and it credited the $70 to my Amazon gift card balance without me having made the purchase yet. Even better, since this means I can just take the free stuff and throw the card in a drawer when it gets here and never use it.

For reference, if you're wondering if your credit score is sufficient, I have a lot of debt, but no negative items. I generally qualify for store cards with a low limit, but my unused Visa/Mastercard accounts also send me letters saying they're lowering my credit line due to high amount of total debt. I got the lowest interest rate they offer and a limit in the mid-four figures, so I'm thinking this card is probably a good one for people without great credit to try.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Trying out this Wikibuy thing that supposedly gives you better prices than Amazon

I accidentally stumbled across this on one of those sponsored Facebook posts, and it looks worth giving a try. So far I've installed it and poked around a bit. I haven't found a price that's better than Amazon, but I haven't had it installed very long. So far it seems more legit and less gimmicky than things like the Swagbucks toolbar. I'll update once I've used it more. Does anyone else use it and have any reviews or tips?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Oh, or, instead of getting $5 free, you could get $30 free

So I did the Dollar Shave Club Swagbucks deal, and it worked flawlessly -- $1 was charged to my debit card, I got credited 600 Swagbucks three days after I did the deal, and the razor and cartridges showed up today, which is six calendar days after I placed the order.

I decided to look on eBay and see whether people buy these razors and cartridges. (Helpful hint: If you want to know what people are actually willing to pay for something on eBay, rather than what people are trying to make you think it goes for, go into the sidebar and select "sold listings only.") Yeah, so, the starter package ("The Executive" razor plus four six-blade cartridges, in a carton with some shaving product and some leaflets) sells for $20-$25. Dayum. Yes, I sure would like that much free money.

Just listed my Dollar Shave Club starter package on eBay. I'd suggest ordering one and selling it on eBay even if you don't do Swagbucks. Because dayum.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Donating used items helps low-income families. So why are so many low-income folks against it?

From Vox: "A lot of the advice I hear about what to give, and what not to give, is well-intentioned, but it's rarely informed by the experience of the people who actually rely on thrift stores to keep their closets stocked and their budgets balanced."

As someone else who does a lot of shopping at thrift stores and on eBay, I will say that this is largely on point. Yes, people like me will buy things that you think should be thrown out rather than donated. I have no superstitions about using something that may have touched who knows what; we wash everything. And stuff that's got some slight wear? It's going to get that way anyway the first time it's used.

The one thing I think this article does get wrong though is the suggestion that it's mainly wealthy people who think no one wants something slightly worn. As a long-time resident of a mixed-income, racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood, I actually notice that my friends who tend to be the most meticulous about things needing to be new and flawless are people who have grown up in intergenerational poverty.

I get why this happens. I've written before about how my family, despite being poor, has enough educational and other privilege that people think "resourceful" and "hippie" when they learn that we eat a lot of rice and beans and most of our belongings are from thrift stores, rather than thinking "can't afford hats and gloves for their kids" or "better call child protective services." A lot of families don't have these same protections as we do. I absolutely get why people without a lot of privilege feel the need to clothe their children in new and spotless garments and to go into debt to have brand-new matching furniture sets in every room. Many people, unfortunately, need to live in such a way that no one can question that they can provide for their families properly. My poorer friends who do shop at thrift stores, barter, hand items down among their families, and so forth tend to be people who have more protection against potential bias, generally through things like education, housing stability, and participation in community organizations.

What I don't really get is people's tendency to shun being a part of people reusing items even on the giving end. I frequently observe friends of mine living in poverty stating that they absolutely won't donate used items to charity, typically because, "that's nasty." Stacks of brand-name, barely used clothing and shoes go into the trash. Even some of my friends' teens, who love to make money selling electronics and similar things locally or online, want no part in the reuse of clothing or household items. Now that know firsthand that people will buy absolutely anything on eBay, I wonder if I would get anywhere letting them know they can make money with the clothing they would ordinarily throw away.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Dollar Shave Club offer on Swagbucks: One razor plus $6.81 Amazon money for a dollar

I just did this offer. I'm getting one razor shipped to me for $1 (paid by credit/debit card), and 600 Swagbucks (worth $6.81 on Amazon if you redeem in batches of 2200 points for $25) credited to my account within 3 days. After the free trial, Dollar Shave Club doesn't actually seem to be a good deal, so I'm going to cancel; I'm only in this for the better-than-free deals, obviously.

If you need a Swagbucks account, this is a good time to sign up using my link. We both get even more free stuff than usual, since they're doing a promo right now. And then you can get your friends free stuff, and they can get their friends free stuff, and since this is a damn pyramid scheme like all of these things are, the people who wait too long don't have anyone to refer to get free stuff. But even without referrals, anyone can still do deals like this razor thing, so go do it!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Ship Goodwill donations for free if you can't drop them off

I'm not sure how green this actually is, in terms of using up a box and taping it up and printing a label and all that rather than just walking over and dropping off donations in overflowing trash bags like we tend to. But for people who live in rural areas, or who can't always leave loved ones to do errands, or aren't physically able to get out as much as they'd like, Give Back Box sounds pretty great. It's definitely better than tossing perfectly usable items in the trash, which I see far too many people doing.

How it works is: You put your things in any box you have lying around (they're partnered with businesses like Amazon and REI that are specifically encouraging people to use their boxes for this purpose, but it can be any box), print a label from their site, and arrange for UPS/USPS to come get it. It then gets shipped to Goodwill.

In terms of Goodwill Industries, I am aware that the charity is problematic in some ways. Their stores are run as a sheltered workshop program, which means that individuals with significant disabilities are paid less than minimum wage to sort, tag, wash, and display merchandise. Employees with a higher level of independence get paid minimum wage to work the cash registers and interact with the public. Some disability advocates believe that no one should be a subminimum wage, even people with severe disabilities who aren't able to work without constant supervision and assistance, who would be watching movies all day in an adult daycare program if sheltered employment wasn't available. Other advocates have raised concerns that Goodwill continues to pay some folks a subminimum wage even after they've progressed and have demonstrated that they can complete a typical amount of work with minimal extra support. Be aware though that a hoax post is going around stating that Goodwill is a for-profit company and the CEO makes $2.3 million per year, and this information is not in fact accurate. They are a nonprofit and Charity Navigator rates them highly.

In the Boston area, if you are able to donate in person, or you have a donation large enough for them to send a truck, I would suggest donating to Boomerangs. They support the AIDS Action Committee and are completely legit. Their website also has a list of charities where you can donate items that thrift stores don't take. But if you have a smaller amount of items and would otherwise be putting them in the trash, please check out Give Back Box and help those items get reused by struggling families instead of ending up in a landfill.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Taxpayers claiming EITC won't see refund until late February

From the IRS website:

"The IRS reminds taxpayers that a new law requires the IRS to hold refunds claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until Feb. 15. In addition, the IRS wants taxpayers to be aware it will take several days for these refunds to be released and processed through financial institutions. Factoring in weekends and the President’s Day holiday, the IRS cautions that many affected taxpayers may not have actual access to their refunds until the week of Feb. 27."

Well that's annoying. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Graze box: It was free, but eh

My Graze box showed up today. I got this through a Swagbucks deal in which I paid $1 shipping for a free trial of Graze, then earned a couple dollars' worth of Swagbucks.

The concept is really more of a novelty than utilitarian. The snacks are small, definitely more of a tasting than an actual snack. I was thinking they'd be nice to take for lunch on the go or send with the kids when they don't have time for real meals between activities (like I often do with homemade muffins or energy bars I get with coupons), but they're not substantial enough even for that. The snacks list the calorie content, and most are not even 100 calories.

I haven't tried the snacks yet, but they look good. They're basic enough I can't imagine they'd be bad; mostly assortments of dried fruits and nuts and things. One of the ones I was sent is a "flapjack," which is their term for something like an energy bar, only shaped closer to a square than a bar. I also got a Tom Yum dried-soup-in-a-cup-type thing, which sounds promising. So, sure, it was a fun little thing to receive, considering it was free, but overall I'm not impressed. In fact, given that the actual subscription is quite expensive, it seems downright frivolous. You can get normal portions of wholesome snacks at Trader Joe's or from Annie's or whatnot for a lot less money.
Box pictured here with junk mail for scale. See? SMALL.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

MA DCF foster adoption subsidy payment schedule 2016-2017

I scanned this and am posting it here for other families who foster, have guardianship of relatives, etc. DCF typically is almost a year behind in posting it on their site. As of today, they still have last year's up. I couldn't find my paper copy and tried to google and see if it was posted anywhere. I found a ton of people looking for it, but didn't actually find it.

So, here it is, the 2016-2017 MA Massachusetts DCF Department of Children and Families Foster Care and Adoption/Guardianship Subsidy Payment Schedule, which runs from July 2016 through June 2017 and includes the dates for foster payments, adoption subsidies, guardianship subsidies, clothing checks, and holiday bonuses from the aforementioned Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. (Hey, just trying to make this findable on The Google, OK?)

Click here to see it full size.