Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Roundup of free stuff on the internet

OK, so, some of these aren't what you probably came here for. Sure, learning a language or watching a documentary is cool, but how does it help pay the bills? But hey, we all need entertainment and mental stimulation, and the list does include some deals and coupons and so forth too, so check it out.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Can't afford food? Throw a party!

I'm forgetting where I saw this, and my google-fu is failing me, but one of the lifestyle blogs a few years ago wrote about throwing a party if you're struggling to afford food. And since I can't find it to repost, I'm going to somewhat plagiarize the idea. So, um, if you can't afford food, throw a party. Yes, I know, it sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out here.

First, find an occasion. It can be a holiday, someone who's celebrating something, or just a weekend that you decide to have some fun. Maybe have a theme -- particular music you're going to listen to, or encourage people to dress as superheroes, '80s party, or whatever you like. Look on Pinterest or google for party themes if you need to.

Second, tell everyone to bring a dish. This is the important part. You can have people sign up for things, or give suggestions, or just have them bring whatever. If it's a party that includes alcohol, give the option of bringing alcohol and/or a dish. Make sure you suggest they bring appetizers, snacks, desserts, rather than suggesting it's a dinner party or cookout, so that you don't have people bringing serious food and then expecting to pack up a plate to take home! (If anyone does ask to, just roll with it. You still got to enjoy everyone's company. Let the person make their plate.)

Next, spend a very very minimal amount of money on making sure you have the very basics. Assuming you've followed my advice and have the very basics in terms of glasses and dishes and all that, just use your regular stuff; it's free. If not, go to Dollar Tree and get some plastic plates and cups. Remember, that's the one where everything is truly a dollar, so you can get 20 plates, 16 sets of flatware, 12 cups, and so forth for a dollar per package. You can also get serving bowls and foil pans there for a dollar if you need them. Get some cheap paper table cloths and streamers if you need them too. Use a color printer at your house or a friend's house to make most of your decorations for basically free.

While you're at Dollar Tree, get some snacks. They've got bottles of fizzy drinks and juice drinks, chips, cookies, pretzels, and so forth for, well, a dollar. A lot of them are even brand name. With chips and stuff it doesn't matter, because you're going to put them in a bowl. So, for like 10 dollars (depending what serving pieces you already owned), you have a table, covered in snazzy tablecloth, with a bowl of chips, bowl of M&Ms, bowl of cookies, bowl of pretzels, stack of cups, stack of plates, pile of forks. If you aren't sure what people are going to bring and feel like you need more "real" food, you can make a huge pan of pasta with sauce for like $2. Or a potato salad and/or veggie tray with stuff from Fair Foods.

Oh, your party needs music. If you own a music collection and equipment, perfect. If not, find an online radio station and use your computer or tablet speakers; it will sound good enough. See if you know someone who can bring nicer portable speakers maybe. Depending on your friends' interests, it might need games too. See what you have, or a thrift store has, or ask someone who has a fun game to bring it with them. Video game, trivia-type game, lawn-darts-type game, card game -- these are all big hits.

Now, people show up at your house, each bringing a big pan of food, and some bringing adult beverages unless you don't do that sort of thing. Y'all do your thing, and at the end of the night, they leave all these leftovers at your house! But you don't have to feel like you're a charity case or anything though, because you volunteered your space, organized the thing, and brought people together. You contributed something you're able to contribute to your community (time, energy, your space), and the people who are able to work full-time outside the home brought over spinach dip and cheese plates.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Where is the cheapest place to buy dishes?

I seem to know a lot of people who are using disposable dishes for every meal, because they say they can't afford dishes. When I first started working, I had one set of dishes that I washed for every meal like I was at summer camp or something. I had to wait until I was making decent money before I bought my first big boxed set of low-end dishes from a housewares store, because I wasn't aware of places like Dollar Tree and we didn't have an IKEA here yet.

This inspired me to do a rundown of all the places you can get dishes for the price of a week or so worth of disposable stuff; I think this is a worthy investment not just to save money in the long run, but because having dishes is one of those things that helps us keep up the appearance of someone who has a furnished home where we can make ends meet. But you don't actually have to have a spare hundred-plus bucks lying around to get yourself some dishes.

So, to start with the absolute cheapest: that would be free, right? Try the free section on craigslist, or freecycle, for people who are giving away dishes. Don't worry about them being used; you can run them through a dishwasher if you have one, or boil them in a pot to sanitize.

If no one's giving away free dishes, move on to the cheapest. The absolute cheapest are usually at thrift stores. Goodwill on Harrison Ave and Boomerangs in Jamaica Plain both have dishes for 25 cents to a dollar per piece. Some at Boomerangs will be pricier if they appear to be more of an antique/vintage item rather than a "secondhand" item.

Didn't find anything acceptable there, or don't have the time/desire to piece together your own set? Next cheapest are IKEA and Dollar Tree. IKEA has this set which is a dollar per dish, and this line that's sold separately for 89 cents per dish. If you go with the separate ones, you can buy one size of plate and one size of bowl for now, then expand later to have small and large plates and bowls. They also have 20-piece flatware sets starting at $7.99, which is service for four people. And remember that it has two sizes of forks and two sizes of spoons, so you could actually have up to 8 people using the set before washing it, assuming not everyone will need a butter knife for most meals, but will need a fork. IKEA also has some ridiculously cheap glasses, including sets that are 50 cents per glass. Most of their glasses are 99 cents, including some really cute designer-looking ones. During the spring and summer they also sell plastic glasses that look like glass, which some people might prefer. Similarly, Dollar Tree's dishes are all a dollar per dish. Their flatware is two pieces for a dollar, which means service for four (spoon, knife, fork) would be $6. Glasses at Dollar Tree are all a dollar a piece.

So, yeah, assuming you go to IKEA or Dollar Tree, you should be able to get place settings for about $5 per person. This should pay for itself in about 12-20 meals in which you are no longer using disposable dishes. So, come on, quit looking like you aren't an adult who provides for your family, and go buy some dishes!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Focus groups, anyone?

I'm currently exploring focus groups and medical research as ways of making quick money. Most of the focus groups I've done or am set to do are online or over the phone these days, which is different from when I did a few of them decades ago as a young broke person.

So far I've done them with Recruit and Field, Advanced Opinions, and Focus Pointe Global. None of the studies have required me to go anywhere except for one that required me to snap cell phone pictures in a grocery store. I've also registered with others, but haven't been assigned to any studies with them. Does anyone have any other recommendations for agencies to try?

Also, interestingly, I'm finding that healthcare providers doing studies are much more user-friendly than providers seeing people for regular care, even in situations in which both types of providers would be operating under the same parameters as far as what they're allowed to do. The medical studies folks are friendly in terms of discussing what time and which location would work best, completely accommodating of needing to bring children with you, apologetic if not running on schedule, and just all-around respectful and good communicators. Which is interesting, because I'd frankly be willing to do more jumping through hoops to get paid to have my blood drawn and whatnot. But I'm finding that they treat people a lot better than regular clinics. The whole staff's attitudes are just better. Hmmm...

(By the way, I just made a new category, which I'm calling "IRL income opportunities." This is going to be stuff that can't be done entirely online, because it requires some sort of in-real-life contact with people, but isn't standard 40-hour-a-week job-type work.)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Earning through those Amazon referral links

I signed up for Amazon Associates many years ago, with the intention of posting links whenever I talked about books and other media on a blog I had that was related to an industry I was working in at the time. In five years, I had a single number of purchases made through the links, and this was a networky-type blog that had a lot more readers than this one.

I've recently discovered a better way to use them though. Keep in mind that when people click through to a book or similar, they usually aren't going to buy it right then. They're more likely to wishlist it or flip through the previews and keep it in mind for another time. However, there are other times when people's tendency to click through and buy it right away is much higher; these tend to be when there is a sale (which will presumably end soon), or when the person needs a particular item right away. I've had much better luck with the Amazon links when I've posted them here to notify people of slashed prices on items than when I've posted them just in the context of a product that's neat.

The other place I've had good luck with them is when people ask on forums where to buy something or what kind to get. Now, like any sort of money-earning venture, please don't be an asshole about this. No one likes it when people are trying to sell them stuff, spamming them, or otherwise acting slick. Besides, you'll make more money and have better karma if you just are nice, with money as a secondary gain. But wait, what site are we on? So yeah, I'm not suggesting you just don't post links that earn you money. But wait until someone online asks what to use for something, what type is good, where there are good prices, etc. Make sure it's something where you would otherwise give the advice without any financial incentive (see "don't be an asshole" above). Make a normal reply where you tell them what kind you have, what works well, whatever the case may be, and link to the product on Amazon (with your affiliate link embedded). Same for if someone asks where to get something, provided they haven't said they need it right this second or need to try it on -- in other words, a situation in which Amazon would be an appropriate reply without the monetary incentive. Even in 2016, there are a lot of people for whom online shopping doesn't occur to them for something like, say, a spice or other specialty grocery item. Once you point out that they can have Amazon deliver it in a day or two, they may well go with that instead of trekking to a specialty shop.

Another don't-be-an-asshole caveat: I would suggest that you limit this tactic to discussions on blogs and forums and things, and don't do it with friends, family, or online friends with whom you have some sort of ongoing relationship. It just seems like using people, and seems like most people's friends would trust them less if they knew there were strings attached to their recommendations. But if you can post a helpful, genuine link in a discussion somewhere, and you make a few cents off of it, this doesn't seem unethical.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How to earn with Perk

So, Perk is pretty much only profitable through running their apps many hours per day. I wouldn't bother with any of their other activities. The rules say you can have up to 5 devices running on one account/one IP address. To maximize your earnings, use 5 devices. If you're using phones, they don't need phone service to run the apps, just wi-fi, so you can start your farm by having your friends give you outdated phones and iPods they aren't using. Or, you can get going on whatever device you have access to, then buy more as you earn. It looks like the cheapest phone at the moment that will run the apps is a ZTE Whirl. You can buy it for $4.99 (free next-day shipping if you buy five of them!) at the StraightTalk website. Or if the only money you have is Amazon gift cards, they're $15 on Amazon. Which, still, that's a pretty amazing deal for a mobile device. If you give up on doing Perk, for $15 you have an MP3 player, web browser, game player, etc.

The app that racks up points the fastest seems to be the Pop Quiz trivia app. It will run on any android or iOS phone or iPod, but not tablets unless you know how to hack such things to run a phone app. To get it to run passively, go into the menu and choose "lightning mode," then start up a game. You won't get as many points as if you play the game and get some correct, but if you set it to run 24/7, that's about a dollar per day per device.

For larger tablets, PerkTV is good. Set it to play app trailers or movie trailers. It will automatically play them on loop. This will also earn you about a dollar per day per device.

For computers, use the perk.tv website. It will time out, flash will freeze up, and so forth, especially if you have an older and/or less powerful computer, so install an auto refresh extension and set it to reload the page every half hour or so. Similarly, this also earns about a dollar per day per device.

Did you do the math? If you can run it 24/7, you can make $5 per day doing nothing. I haven't been able to get this to actually work, and am averaging $5 every two days, which means they're running about 12 hours per day. (I haven't bought devices for this purpose, and am using some elderly computers and some mobile devices that are also needed at times for things like e-mail and answering phone calls). The people on the Reddit forum have ways to hack devices to reset if the app crashes, and how to reset their internet router if it crashes, so their devices are actually running 24/7. I seem to be doing just fine though checking my setup every couple hours if someone is home, not always having everything run successfully all night, and not always having devices available.

And of course, refer all your friends so you can earn more money, and if you haven't signed up yet, please use my referral link to do so. Thanks!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Swagbucks activities that seem the most profitable right now

  1. SBTV, oddly enough, is probably the most consistent source of high earnings. I first checked it out a few years ago when I first got Swagbucks, and realized it was earning me 1-2 Swagbucks for several minutes of clicking stuff. No thanks. But then I read somewhere online that you can add videos to your favorites, and then the app will autoplay your favorites list repeatedly while you do something else. The shortest videos at the moment are in home and garden, and the titles include the phrase "10-second tips." Add at least two of these to your favorites, hit play, and go do something else. Once it says you've earned your 10 SB for the day, ignore this, and let it keep running. It will allow you to earn a random number of bonus Swagbucks each day, ranging from 4 to 38 so far in my experience. If you do only this activity, you should be able to get a $5 Amazon gift card every 15 days or so.
  2. Coupons: You can print out the same coupons as coupons.com has from the Swagbucks site under "coupons." You earn Swagbucks when you redeem them, usually credited about a month afterward. If you already use coupons, print them on Swagbucks instead of on coupons.com. If you don't, and don't typically think it's worth the effort, you can still print out the ones for products you buy anyway, and then you'll save money and earn Swagbucks. I've also heard of people printing them out and leaving them near the product in the store, or putting them on bulletin boards in laundromats and similar places.
  3. Referrals: I told you, it's a pyramid scheme. Post your referral link on blogs, on social media, and tell friends about all the cool free stuff you get. Just don't be obnoxious about it. People on various websites have also mentioned using free business card deals to print out their referral link on cards and then leave them on bulletin boards with some sort of tagline about how you can earn gift cards and cash.
  4. Shopping deals: Use these for things you were already going to buy. There are ones that earn you X number of Swagbucks per dollar you spend on various websites, and some that involve making an in-store purchase and then e-mailing a picture of the receipt. There are also deals that give you a number of Swagbucks for making a purchase. Remember that a Swagbuck is roughly one cent, so there are some that earn you money or get you a free item or service. Reddit keeps a running list. Remember to read the fine print about what you actually have to buy or how long you have to keep subscribing to the service in order to earn the Swagbucks, and remember to cancel the service if applicable.

EDIT (05/24/16): The "sign up and earn" links under "Discover" are also pretty good. A lot of them just require you to click through, enter your e-mail address and make a password, and then you get 50 Swagbucks. I just did Kellogg's coupons and Zulily. 
And of course, if you haven't signed up yet, use my referral link please. Thanks!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

How to earn with Bing Rewards

  1. Click through to the daily 1-point links on the dashboard every day. Unlike Swagbucks, these daily links don't require you to do anything but click through to the page.
  2. Use Bing as your search engine on your phone and your computer. If you don't like Bing, because it isn't as smart as google and tends to pull up crappy results, an easy solution is to set Bing as your search engine on one browser and Google on another. Use Bing for your regular screwing around on the internet (it's fine for "simple" searches like typing in the name of a store), and use Google when you're actually trying to find more complex information.
  3. Keep in mind that it won't credit you twice for the same search within some period of time. So typing in "facebook" 30 times per day is not going to count. This is why I suggest that you'll need to actually use the search engine to some extent. It unfortunately sucks, which is apparently why they need to hand out money to get people to use it. 
  4. If you don't have a mobile device, you can use an agent switcher in Chrome or Firefox to make websites think you're accessing the page from a mobile browser. This doesn't seem to be against the rules, and I wouldn't consider it a cheat, since you're still viewing their mobile content and they're displaying their mobile ads. I'm not sure how to make it think a mobile device is a desktop device; please comment if you know how!
  5. Don't use bots to do the searches, unless of course you can program one that will do various searches at different times of day, refine some of the searches, and click through on some of the search results. If you have the skills to do this, you probably don't need to be making money on Bing Rewards. But seriously, don't use a bot of any type. It will pick up that your search behavior is not normal, and it will ban you. Likewise for searching manually but behaving like a bot. If you're just typing in a lot of stuff and not actually using any of the results, it will ban you.
  6. Don't use multiple accounts. They will ban you. There are of course people on Reddit and elsewhere talking about how to use bots to make and manage a ton of accounts and earn from them before they get banned. I just wouldn't though, because I wouldn't put it past Microsoft to press charges or file a suit. Also, I strongly suggest people follow the rules so they don't cancel these programs for everyone. Don't be the reason why we can't have nice things.
  7. Just like with any of these programs, refer your friends. See this post about Swagbucks for suggestions of where to pimp your referral links.
If you do the 2-6 daily clicky things, earn 15 points per day for computer searches and 10 points per day for mobile searches, you'll be able to get a $5 Amazon gift card every 17 days. Once you reach gold status, it will be every 15 days. Also, Bing Rewards seems to randomly set some people's accounts to allow 30 points per day from searches, so if this happens to yours, it makes it even easier to earn.

If you haven't signed up yet, please use my referral link. Thanks!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

It has come to this

So, remember when Amazon had that thing going on where you could get a whole bunch of free stuff?

Most of the stuff didn't fit anyone in our household. I gave away a few things to friends and family, planned to donate the rest of the huge haul, then things happened and I never got around to it.

Last night I decided to eBay the stuff. As you saw in a past post, I'm beyond broke right now, and people will buy anything on eBay. I feel really guilty that I'm profiting from it instead of going with my original plan to donate it, but I guess at least it came from a large corporation that I assume benefited from the tax writeoff more than from having items around that weren't selling, and at least most of the people buying shorts and hoodies on eBay are probably people in similar situations who could benefit from some heavily discounted necessities? Still, I feel gross.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Scraping the bottom of the barrel

Yeah, so, I swallowed my pride and made a donation button thing. If you feel so inclined, help me out by going to my sidebar and giving me a couple bucks for each post you've found helpful, or going to my various pyramid scheme, er, online income posts and signing up using my referral links. Thanks.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Tons of free and cheap stuff at Stop and Shop, much of it ends tonight

I had stopped couponing very much, back when I was working more and had fewer expenses, because it was getting so it wasn't worth a couple hours of my time to save $20 or so. Now though, it's absolutely worth it, given that I have more time than money. I'm also thinking I need to get back to stockpiling pantry goods, since there are going to continue to be expenses from the issue we dealt with back in the winter, and who knows how broke we're going to end up.

Last night I looked at some couponing sites and found that Stop and Shop's eCoupon program has many of the same coupons as coupons.com does right now. This means you can use both coupons on the same item, and if the manufacturer's coupon is 99 cents or less, Stop and Shop will double that one.

Here's how to do it. Go here and register your Stop and Shop card. Then pick the coupons you want to add to your card. It's free and doesn't require printing anything, so just add them all, unless there's something you absolutely would never buy for religious reasons or whatnot. Remember that some items might end up costing negative money, so you may still want to buy them to donate.

Then find the item price, subtract the amount of the Stop and Shop coupon, subtract the amount of the coupons.com coupon (double it if 99 cents or less), and that's the price you'll pay for the item. Prices of items are often on livingrichwithcoupons.com, or for some items, you'll have to calculate the deal in the store to see if it's worth it.

Here are some that I used last night:

Silk cashew milk half gallon
$3.99 shelf price
$2.99 sale price
-$0.75 Stop and Shop eCoupon
-$1.50 doubled coupons.com coupon
= $0.74

Fancy Feast dry cat food
$2.99 shelf price
-$1.00 eCoupon
-$1.00 coupons.com 

Newman's Own barbeque sauce
$2.99 shelf price
-$0.75 eCoupon
-$1.50 doubled coupons.com NO LONGER AVAILABLE

Okocat natural cat litter
$5.99 shelf price
-$5.00 coupon (you can print two per computer)
=$0.99 (plus a Catalina will print for $3 off of two boxes)

$1.49 shelf price
$0.59 each when you buy five bottles = $2.95
-$0.50 eCoupon
=$0.49 each

Old El Paso seasoning packets
$0.99 shelf price x 3 = $2.97
-$1.00 eCoupon
-$1.00 coupons.com
-$1.00 iBotta
= NEGATIVE three cents for three seasoning packets

Suddenly Salad
$2.79 shelf price
$1.00 sale price x 2 = $2.00
-$1.00 eCoupon
-$1.00 doubled coupons.com
= two boxes FREE

Old El Paso canned green chilis
$1.37 shelf price
-$1.00 eCoupon
-$1.00 coupons.com
= NEGATIVE 63 cents

Garnier hair dye
$7.99 shelf price
$6.99 sale price x 2 = $13.98
-$4.00 eCoupon
-$4.00 coupons.com
=$2.99 each

Opti-free and Clear Care contact solutions
$9.99 shelf price
-$3.00 eCoupon
-$3.00 coupons.com (Opti-free) (Clear Care)

Barilla pasta
4/$5 shelf price
-$1.00 eCoupon
-$1.00 coupons.com NO LONGER AVAILABLE
=$0.75 each

Muir Glen tomato paste
$1.39 shelf price x 2 = $2.78
-$1.00 eCoupon
-$1.00 coupons.com
=$0.39 each

Bertolli pasta sauce
$3.99 shelf price
$2.99 sale price x 2 = $5.98
-$1.50 eCoupon
-$1.50 coupons.com NO LONGER AVAILABLE
= $2.98 for two jars


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How can I furnish my place with pretty much no money?

Inspired by some threads on various forums, I'm going to start posting about the cheapest places I've found to get various items. Note that these aren't necessarily the best value, as in, the item that will last the longest, or is the best quality for the money spent. People who are looking for cost-benefit information may want to go to a mainstream review-type site. What I'm going to post is the cheapest place to get a minimally adequate version of a particular item.

Today's topic: furniture and related home furnishings

The cheapest place to get furniture is either finding it on the curb over time if you don't need it right away (try Allston, Mission Hill, Fenway around Aug 31 or college move-out days), or looking in the free section on craigslist, or on freecycle. If that doesn't work, try thrift stores or the non-free furniture on craigslist. Most furniture you should be able to fit in your bathtub to hose it off with soap and water and maybe a bit of scrubbing. Or you may be lucky enough to even have a yard and a hose. If it looks acceptable after this, you're done, and you've spent nothing.

I assume if you're reading this that you aren't a single childfree person with no money, or else you probably would be fine waiting to be able to afford furniture before you have anyone come over. This is written with people in mind who have children or have disability services folks come to their house or whatever the case may be, thus need to make their home look like they're able to support themselves adequately. So we're going for the cheapest and fastest way to get a house looking clean, sanitary, and like people live there who aren't completely broke.

So, now that you've got your free or cheap furniture: If you find something that's badly scuffed or has stains that won't come off, spraypaint it. This way, it looks clean and new. If it appears to be some type of non-wood laminate, or you aren't sure, buy the spraypaint that says it works on plastic. If you're sure it's entirely wood or metal, save yourself some money and get regular spraypaint. If the hardware is ugly, spraypaint it black or silver, or replace them with cheap IKEA knobs. Don't have anywhere to spraypaint? Do it in a parking lot, basement, in the street, or fashion a spraypainting shelter with an appliance box or a tarp. After painting and replacing hardware, your piece of furniture will have run you about $10.

The spraypainting method works well for situations like mismatched kitchen chairs; paint all the chairs the same color, or paint each in a different coordinating color, and it looks quirky rather than broke. It also works great for a bedroom with all different styles and colors of free furniture; paint everything white, black, or a bright color if that's your thing, and it suddenly looks intentional. You can further tie things together with some accents. I saw these kitchen towels at Dollar Tree last week that I thought would look nice spread out on top of a dresser or end table. IKEA has dining chair cushions starting at $2.99 each.

A few years back I had a dresser I found on the curb, which I shockingly don't seem to have a picture of. It was solid wood with carved details and looked to be from the 1960s with a pretty awful marbley sort of stain with high gloss coating. Rather than spend a ton of time and money stripping it, I spraypainted it turquoise and replaced the awful hardware with some mismatched glass knobs that I found on eBay and the Anthropologie scratch-and-dent shelf for a total of about $10. When we needed to rearrange our space to accommodate more people moving in, I sold it for $200 on craigslist to someone who showed me pictures of the room they were furnishing with scarily high-end stuff.

I guess the main thing to remember with furniture is that you can in fact forgo a lot of the "big ticket" items and still make a house look furnished and sanitary and all that stuff that people view as a measure of appropriately caring for yourself and your family. 

This picture was a quick google find, and it shows what could be a nice, proper, adult living room without a couch or upholstered furniture. (Upholstered furniture you would actually want in your house is harder to find for cheap or free, unless you come across someone clearing out almost-new stuff for whatever reason). It looks like the owner of this room took some low-end chairs, arranged them nicely with some pillows, and tied the area together with some accessories.

Forget the messages you've been sent about proper homes having a "bedroom set" and "living room set" and all that. A bedroom needs a bed (cheap beds will be the subject of a future post), somewhere to put clothes (free dresser is probably easiest), and a stool or similar near the bed to set bedside items on. A living room needs things to sit on at minimum, and probably could use some tables and bookshelves. These can all be free or improvised. Then you need some items to put out on surfaces so it looks like a home, looks intentional, and says "minimalist decor," not "this kid lives in a house without much furniture." Dollar Tree sells picture frames, storage baskets, vases, potted plants, candles, framed posters. A local thrift store will have these things as well, though they may actually be more expensive than at Dollar Tree.

Assuming you live in the typical Boston housing with hardwood floors or industrial-grade linoleum tile, you'll want to put down some rugs. Rugs are expensive, right? They can be, but they're also possible to get for not much money, and they make a huge difference. If you can get to IKEA, they have this 4x6 rug for $12.99. That's large enough for a living room rug. They also have those 2x3 thin cotton rugs for $3.99, which are sufficient for next to a bed or in front of the kitchen sink, and, again, will make it look like your house is properly furnished.

You may also be able to find rugs at thrift stores for not very much money, or on the curb, freecycle, or craigslist free section. Rugs often are in surplus in these places, since people pass them by assuming they're going to be gross. But you can get a rug clean without spending money at a professional carpet cleaning place. Put it in a large laundromat washer, or in your bathtub with a ton of hot water and shampoo. Wash it as hot as you can for as long as you can. It's a myth that you can't wash wool, so don't worry if your rug might be wool. If it is, it will smell funny for a few days and the texture might change slightly if it's really furry, but it will probably be just fine. Most of the ones I've washed have seemed to have wool in them, and they came out fine. If your rug is huge, rent one of those Rug Doctor things. Or wash it outside with a hose and scrub brush. Take it to a self-serve car wash with those giant pressure washer hoses and a bottle of dollar store shampoo. Or laundry detergent if it's really gross. Dry it outside if at all possible, on a balcony or roof or something, or dry it in a clothes dryer if it fits. If you can't do that, dry it inside, but use stuff out of your recycling bin or whatnot to raise it up off the floor. Or if the rug doesn't weigh much, hang it over your shower rod.

What's left? Wastebaskets, dish towels, hand towels, soap dishes, organizer baskets, potholders, shower curtains, etc. I would start with freecycle and the free section on craigslist. There are often people who are moving and want to give away all of their stuff, including the small things. If you can't find one of those people, try Dollar Tree. It's going to be cheaper than thrift stores for the most part. (For those who are new to dollar stores, Dollar Tree is one where everything is actually a dollar. There's one in Roslindale, Mattapan, Allston, Somerville, and they all have the same basic departments, but they stock different things even if you go on the same day.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Perk: A new passive income thing that seems to have a ton of potential

OK, so I'm laughing at myself for even typing "passive income," because that's when people who already have money put their money somewhere to make substantial sums of money through dividends or rental income or something, right? But I'm still going to say this counts.

I came across Perk on a Reddit forum. It's similar to Swagbucks and Bing Rewards and all that. The app plays videos (with ads, naturally), which reward the user. The difference between Perk and the others though is that the Perk apps will run passively on autoplay pretty much indefinitely, with no daily limit. The folks on Reddit are doing things like buying $5 smartphones and running entire farms of them sitting on their desks. I haven't tried that, and I'm not sure I'm actually going to go that far with it, but I have it running on my computer pretty much all the time.

Please help me out by using my referral link if you sign up. And save yourself time by checking out the Reddit tutorials on what exactly to do and how to maximize your earnings on these various sites. Pretty much anything you were thinking about trying or weren't sure what it does, the Reddit people have already figured it out and posted about it. The people on there are seriously smart and typically very helpful (though I could do without the racism and sexism that run rampant on there).

Monday, May 16, 2016

Back to the grind, if you can call it that

I apologize for not posting as much lately. An emergency came up that originally was occupying a lot of my time and energy. Fortunately, it seems to be mostly resolved now, and the family member should be fine. Unfortunately, I ended up spending my entire life savings (a sincere thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit for my even having any savings) and maxed out my credit cards, and there still may be more expenses to come. This is how being poor works; I was doing really well by my standards anyway, had a little extra here and there to have a decent life, was able to help out Fair Foods (go donate to their fundraiser if you haven't already!). Then this situation hit, and our family is worse off than we were in the first place.

The family situation is now such that there's even more no possible way I can work outside the home for more than a few hours, because I can't make enough to hire other people to care for those who need caring for. So, back to the drawing board, I mean, the internet.

I've recently come across the Beermoney forum on Reddit. This is basically a forum where people talk about the best ways to maximize their earnings on Swagbucks, Bing Rewards, and several others of these sites. I also found out about a new one with a lot of potential, Perk, which I'll post about tomorrow. I had mostly stopped doing much in the way of Bing and Swagbucks, but now I'm doing as much as I can on them so I can keep the family in Amazon gift cards for when a household item breaks or a kid needs a sportsball thingy or underwear or whatever. The Reddit folks have figured out a number of tricks I didn't know, and I'm racking up the Amazon bucks on these sites.

If you want to help me out while helping yourself out, click the "online income opportunities" link to find the posts with my Swagbucks and Bing Rewards referral links, and sign up from my links. Then go read what the Beermoney folks say to do with the accounts. Or if you feel so inclined, you can also send the Amazon gift cards to me at locomotive1313@gmail.com. Or if for some reason you're reading this and you aren't poor, I also accept PayPal. Oh, and feel free to share my blog and all that to increase my pageviews and ad revenue. Also feel free to e-mail or comment if you know how to actually make blog ads make any money. Thanks!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Help Fair Foods get a new truck

As I've talked about before, Fair Foods is really amazing.

They need a new truck. They've been incredibly resourceful and gotten 720,000 miles out of their truck, but it's beyond repair at this point.

Please help them out as much as you can, and share their fundraiser.