The 5 most popular coupon sites (and one with a mission)

I tried for years to be a coupon clipper.

Every now and then, I'd decide I was going to save as much money as possible on my groceries, or at least on stuff like toothbrushes and razor blades. I'd gather all the coupon circulars that normally went straight in the garbage, and I'd review the ads and clip the coupons that spoke to me. Sometimes, I'd even organize them into categories or put them in a special envelope marked -- wait for it -- "coupons." Feeling super responsible, I put the envelope in my purse, where I was sure to see it next time I went to the store.

I'm pretty sure I never redeemed a single one. Months after the last one had expired, I'd find my coupon envelope at the bottom of my purse, along with some long-forgotten receipts and a stray Altoid.

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Are automatic payments all they’re cracked up to be?

A few weeks ago, I paid a sky-high electric bill.

After some investigation, I saw the problem: the electric company charged a $200 deposit fee for starting electric service at our new house.

The deposit was supposed to be waived, since we had a good payment history with the electric company. Only here it was, on our bill. And since we're on autopay, the electric company had already collected payment.

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Insurance: An easier way to comparison shop

I had procrastinated until I could procrastinate no longer.

I was in the middle of buying a house, and one of the many, many things on my ever-growing to-do list was to find a home insurance policy. My
It's not easy to shop around
Every money expert says to shop around for your insurance policies every year. Just call three or four insurance companies, get quotes, and pat yourself on the back for saving hundreds on your insurance policy. Ta-da!

But how many of us actually do it?

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How to save money on vet bills

A few years ago, a little orange cat showed up on my front porch, and I fed him.

You can probably guess what happened next. Yep, he never left.

But as with any "free" pet, Hans cost a lot of money. This was especially true in the beginning when we had to have him neutered and vaccinated. We also paid for a six-month supply of flea treatment.

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Will a low appraisal wreck your refi?

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate keeps getting lower and lower, making it a great time to refinance your mortgage and cut your monthly payment. But as Pat Esswein, associate editor of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, reports, homeowners have to clear a few hurdles before they can refinance.

One of those hurdles is the appraisal, which determines the value the bank will assign to your home.

That's an important number because it determines your refinancing options and affects your monthly payment and interest rate. For example, if your home value drops and your loan-to-value is higher than your lender allows, typically 80 percent, you have to either increase your equity with cash or pay for mortgage insurance.

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More about...Home & Garden

Once-a-month cooking made easy

Stephanie Cornais found a cooking method that saved time and money, but it left her exhausted.

Stephanie, who blogs about parenthood and healthy living at Mama and Baby Love, would cook a month's worth of meals in one day, then store them in the freezer.

It's an idea that's been around for awhile. In fact, J.D. wrote about it back in 2007. By batch cooking, not only do you have healthy, home-cooked meals when dinner time rolls around, but you also can save money by buying in bulk and not relying on convenience foods.

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More about...Food, Frugality

How to handle people who undermine your success

Do you have someone in your life who is a bad influence when it comes to your financial or career goals?

I've known a people like that. Typically this happens when you're trying to make new, positive changes in your life. For example, when I decided to not buy a new car for awhile, one friend gave me a hard time about it, making fun of my choice to save money before buying another vehicle. "I don't get it — what exactly are you saving for?" she asked.

Toxic People Undermine Your Success

I hate to label people as "toxic", but I can't think of a better word for people who tease you, make fun of your positive life choices, and don't support your goals or respect the time and effort you spend to achieve them. Continue reading...

More about...Psychology

Book review: The $100 Startup

In March, I attended the SXSW Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas, and I had a chance to meet a few online personalities face-to-face, like former GRS staff writer Adam Baker. I also attended a session called The $100 Startup, a book reading led by Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Conformity.

Long-time readers know that J.D. and Chris are good friends, which is why J.D.'s not reviewing this book. I, however, hadn't met Chris until attending his SXSW session. I'd like to think this would make me an unbiased book reviewer, but the truth is that the guy is just instantly likeable. His session that day felt much like it did to read his book: a personal conversation with a friend who sincerely wants to help you out.

So there's my disclaimer — nicest guy ever. Luckily for me, his book is a must-read for anyone who's harboring a desire to start a small business ('cause how awful would it be to have to write a scathing review of a book by the nicest guy ever?). Continue reading...

More about...Books, Side Hustles

Be a Budget Traveler…in Your Own Town

When I'm planning a vacation, I usually pick up a copy of a "cheap and free" guidebook that lists inexpensive attractions and secret-gem restaurants. A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting my friend Frank, who is a recent transplant to the East coast, and he saw my guidebook. "I need something like that so I know what inexpensive stuff there is to do in my own town."

Which made me think, so do I!

When I'm visiting some other city, I usually have a list of free attractions or inexpensive, Zagat-approved restaurants, but I can't really name places like that that are in my hometown. That's not because I'm a big spender when I'm at home, it's because my husband and I love to cook, so we rarely eat at restaurants, and we live in the country, so it's just easier to stream a Netflix movie than to drive to the theater. Nevertheless, sometimes we have company over and want to show them around or we feel like getting out of the house, and it'd be nice to have a budget-friendly guide to our town.

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