How to make the most of your money

Written By: Fernando L Prezotto

Sometimes making the most of money is a task both simple and difficult. Simple because small changes may make big differences, and difficult because it is hard to start and make it a habit.

Getting started

The first step in process of making the most of money is to start a budget. While most people fear this word, a budget is the best way to understanding the money that goes in and out every day, week, month or year. It is an easy step, especially with interactive tools available online (check out this budget planner and this other budget planner). Once it is done, it will be easy to see if there is money left to save or if expenses need to be reduced and where. Also, once it is known where the money is spent, it is easier to cut back and identify the areas where savings can be made, if that is necessary. Always be honest and realistic and operate on the budget.

Make it a priority

Make saving money regularly a priority, setting an amount of money to be put into the savings account. If the payment is increased, so is the money that must be saved. Also, because of tax and fee charges, it is a good idea to have one or two bank accounts if possible. Think about merging the bank accounts if one charges a higher fee than another.

Plan it all

Plan ahead and think of the future as well. Set goals – short, medium and long term – that will help to plan how much money needs to be saved or invested in order to achieve each one of them. Also, consider planning regular events, like holidays and birthdays. That way, the financial worries that come after them will disappear. Also, think about paying off expensive debts, like credit cards. Always put a little bit of money away will help you save up and build up an emergency fund for unexpected bills.

Some useful tips

There are some daily actions that can help save money. Here are some examples:

  • Instead of buying lunch at the office, pack some to the office. The grocery bills will be reduced, as will the gas bill.
  • Avoid Starbucks by making coffee at home, adding whichever ingredients are preferred. Buy a thermos and take it to work or school.
  • Take snacks to the movies instead of buying the expensive popcorn there.
  • Leave the car at home! Walk or use a bike to go to work, or even the train, subway or bus. The gas bill will be reduced and the environment will be thankful.
  • Be a bargain hunter. There are many websites in which you can find things for better prices with same quality. And hit some thrift shops! There are a lot of deals that can be made, the only things that are required are patience and time to do a bit of research.
  • Try shopping strategies. It means to plan before going out to buy things. For example, summer clothes are the cheapest during winter season, and vice-versa.
  • Be adventurous: go to yard sales and bargain clothes shopping destinations.
  • When buying electronics or high priced items, do a little research and compare prices. Some websites, like NexTag.com, Smarter.com and PriceGrabber.com do it for you. 
  • Borrow books from the library. If it is a really good one, then buy it.

Selecting an Inexpensive Compact Water Softener

Written By: Cynthia Ladson


While hard water may not clog copper pipes installed in newer homes, the scaling it creates can reduce the life expectancy as well as the efficiency of water-using appliances, such as dishwashers and water heaters. Additionally, hard water causes unsightly stains and crusty deposits on faucets, shower heads, tubs and other household fixtures.

Water is hard if it contains large amounts of dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Water’s hardness is expressed in grains per gallon (GPG). Water with less than 1.0 GPG is classified as soft, and that with 1.0-3.5 GPG is slightly hard. Water registering at 3.5 to 7.0 is moderately hard; at 7.0 to 10.5, hard; and at greater than 10.5, very hard, according to the U.S. Department of Interior.1 

Combatting Hard Water and Scale

To counter the effects caused by hard water, some homeowners choose to install water softener units. There are two types of these units: salt-based and salt-free. The salt-based unit eliminates calcium, magnesium and other hard metals by replacing them with sodium (salt) or potassium through an exchange of ions. The salt-free unit does not eliminate the hard minerals; instead, it neutralizes them via a magnetic system or a crystallization process. The technology used by the salt-free unit keeps the calcium and magnesium from forming hard-water scales.

The technology used in salt-based water softeners has been around since the early 1900s. Salt-free units have been introduced more recently. If space is a concern for consumers, they may want to consider a compact water-softener unit.

The traditional salt-based compact units are typically larger than the salt-free units and can weigh 102 pounds or greater. Salt-free compact units can be as small as 5.25 inches deep, 23 inches tall and 5.25 inches wide or as large as 21 inches deep, 17 inches wide and 48 inches tall.

Below are some points to consider when shopping for a compact water softener:

Have a budget in mind. Prices can range anywhere from a high of $2,000 to a low of $396.

Size of household. Purchase a unit with the capacity to meet the family’s needs. 

Salt-based vs. salt-free. Weigh the options of both types of softener units.

Determine the water hardness in your area. Testing kits can be purchased online or at stores such as Wal-Mart, Lowes and Home Depot. Also, check with the water system or board responsible for managing everyone’s water usage in the area as some offer free kits or kits at a reduced cost to customers. Knowing the hardness of the water is crucial when buying a salt-based unit. Units are graded in terms of grains per gallon (GPG). 

Inexpensive Compact Water-Softeners

• Whirlpool 33,000 Grains Water Softener WHES33 is a salt-based unit that sells for $397. Dimensions: 21.4 inches deep, 44.5 inches high and 21.4 inches wide. 

• Kenmore High-Efficiency Water Softener 38300 is a salt-based unit that sells for $379.
Dimensions: 19.75 inches deep, 46 inches high and16.5 inches wide.

• Aquios Full-House Water Softener and Filtration System AQFS-220 is a salt-free unit that sells for $439. Dimensions: 5.4 inches deep, 23.4 inches high and 5.4 inches wide.

• Aquasana 50,000 Grain Simply Soft Salt-Free Water Softener EQ-5520 sells for $279. Dimensions: 5.25 inches deep, 23 inches high and 5.25 inches wide.

• Waterboss 22,000 Grain Water-Softener System M#700 is a salt-based system that sells for $453. Dimensions: 18.75 inches deep, 25.75 inches high and 14.75 wide.

• GE 30,400 Grain Water-Softener Model #GXSF30V is a salt-based unit that sells for
$396. Dimensions: 22.438 inches deep, 43.25 inches high and 14.438 wide.




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