SmarterShades Makes A Smarter Home

May 5, 2009 by Natalie  
Filed under Gizmos & Gadgets, Going Green

How many people does it take to create a window accessory that provides energy savings of up to 25%? The answer is three University of Notre Damn students.

Will McLeod, Mike Stacey, and Ryan Tatzel, all students at UND, created the SmarterShade - an aftermarket window accessory that regulates the amount of heat and light that is allowed through the glass. The SmarterShade actually allows the window to be adjusted from clear to dark (and various degrees in between) using a remote, which ultimately increases or decreases the amount of light and heat let through.


It completely eliminates the need for window treatments such as blinds or curtains and is incredibly easy to install. Homeowners simply snap the SmarterShade in place within any window and it’s ready to be used. Besides the obvious savings from having such an energy efficient window treatment, it’s also easy to clean, keeps you healthy by blocking UV rays and can be applied to any of your existing windows.

The SmarterShade model currently available costs about $200.00 and runs on battery power (for the remote control tint). However, the future of SmarterShades will hopefully run only on solar power. The SmarterShades are a unique and ingenious window treatment that will not only save the homeowner in monthly bills, but also offers a more environmentally friendly solution for heating, cooling, and lighting the home.


For more information on this and other similar products, check out this article and interview of the student inventors as well as their website,

How to Make Everyday Items Last Longer

April 24, 2009 by Gwen  
Filed under Save It

It’s time to rethink the way we use our consumable products. We can’t give up our toothpaste and soap but what if we could stretch them out a bit more and make them last longer?

Toothpaste tube

The key to finding the optimal amount of any product is to experiment. Get out of your old habits and start being aware of what you are doing. Once you achieve usage awareness it will be easier to determine the perfect amount of product. Start by scaling down what you are currently using. Do it slowly, over several days, until the product seems to lose its effectiveness. Once you hit that point, revert back to the amount used in your previous try and you have the sweet spot.

It may not seem worth the effort at first but using less really doesn’t take much effort at all, just a little consideration. Here are 8 products to get you started and once you’ve changed your thought process about them, see what else you can use less of in your home.


Did you know that most people use much more toothpaste than necessary on their toothbrush? A pea size amount is really all you need and does just as good of a job as twice the amount.


If you use a soap pump, one pump often gives you more soap than you actually need to wash your hands. A tightly wound rubber band around the base of the pump will prevent the pump from being depressed all of the way but should still give you plenty of soap to get your hands nice and clean.


Shampoos come in squeeze bottles which mean that it is super simple to squeeze out more than you need. This is especially true if you have teenagers or children in your home.

One way to start making sure everyone uses only as much as they need is to start pouring the shampoo into pump-type dispensers. One pump is lots for short hair and you’ll cut down on shampoo waste. Plus, if you are going to start pouring your shampoo into pump dispensers then you can start buying your shampoo in bulk and save even more money there.

Razor Blades

Drying your razor blades after each use will extend their life, sometimes making them last months instead of days. It is the water droplets that do most of the damage to the blades, causing them to rust and oxidize. Simply blotting your blades on a towel after each use will help to get rid of the water that shortens the life of your blade.

Shaving Cream

A great way for men to save on shaving cream is to grow a beard and give up shaving. If this isn’t an option, then how about trying something completely different? A little bit of inexpensive hair conditioner can be used in place of shaving cream and doesn’t dry out your skin like soap does.

Dishwasher Detergent

If you check your dishwashers’ manual you will see that the amount of detergent you need depends on your water’s hardness level. Often, the softer your water, the less detergent you need. To check your water’s hardness just give your local water company a call and they can give you that information. Then check your manual and see how much detergent you really need.

Laundry Detergent

Most scoops that come with your laundry detergent are based on the maximum amount of detergent needed for the worst laundry circumstances. However, most times our laundry does not have heavy stains and sometimes we run smaller loads than others. These things affect the amount of detergent you need and if you do a little experimentation you may determine that you are using too much.

Dryer Sheets

One way to double the amount of dryer sheets you have is to rip them in half before throwing them in the dryer. You won’t notice any difference in your clothes and you now have 2 dryer sheets for the price of 1. Feel free to experiment with this, try ripping them in thirds and check the effectiveness, or don’t bother to rip them but reuse them over and over again until they no longer do their job, or just get rid of them altogether.

These simple tips will sometimes double and triple the amount of usage you can get out of a product. So don’t be afraid to experiment with other consumable products, I’m sure it will make a difference in your grocery bill.

Decorating Tip # 5 - DIY Artwork

February 10, 2009 by Natalie  
Filed under Beautify & Accessorize, Fun Stuff, Save It

Gone are the days of dropping $100s of dollars on expensive artwork to decorate our walls. Now we can adorn them with artwork we made with our very own hands and just a few basic tools.

Better Homes and Garden has several tutorials on DIY artwork so easy anyone can be a Picasso - even if you don’t think you’ve got a creative bone in your body.

Check out this stylish artwork made with medium-density fiberboard and paint or this simple, modern piece made using art canvas and foam cups.

It can be as simple as peel stickers, one solid, accent color, your own photography and so much more. Almost anything can become an eye-catching art piece, so show off your personality and style with some homemade art!

diyartfull1-1 Decorating Tip # 5 - DIY Artwork

Frugal Tips - When does $1.00 = $1.33?

January 20, 2009 by Gwen  
Filed under Save It

Living within your means doesn’t mean that you have to do without; it just means that you need to look at your money in a different way.

I think of every $1.00 saved as approximately $1.33 earned. Now you are probably wondering ‘what is this crazy lady talking about’.

Mid section of a young man

Well, think of it this way. You would have to earn $1.33 at your job to have $1.00 in your pocket (it could be more or less than this depending on your tax bracket but you get the idea). This is because the taxman has to take his share right off the top of your paycheck before you get to see a cent.

If you pay approximately 33% to the taxman then you have to earn more than $1 to actually get $1 to spend. I know this isn’t fair but it is life.

The point is that if you save one of the dollars that is already in your pocket, it is really more than earning $1 in the big scheme of things.

So instead of getting a second job to try to earn some extra cash why not just make some minor adjustments in your spending habits. Here are 5 easy ideas to save you money and help you keep some of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.

brown-bag-lunch Frugal Tips - When does $1.00 = $1.33?

1.   Brown bag it to work. I know you’ve heard this one so many times that you are tired of hearing it but it really does save you money. A cheap lunch out will cost you at least $7 - $10 these days and that is for a sandwich or hamburger and a drink. Is $7 for your lunch really good value for your money? Making your own sandwich and drinking water will save you at least $6 (unless you are making really expensive sandwiches).

Food Drive

2.   Purchase generic brands at the grocery store. Most of them are made by the big brands anyways and this can help you save major money on your food bill.

clipping coupons

3.   Use coupons. Clipping coupons may not be your thing but if you find a coupon for $1 off an item that you regularly use, then the 5 minutes it took you to cut out the coupon is definitely worth your time. But keep in mind, using coupons on products you never usually buy is not a great deal if you will be spending money on something you could have done without.

thermostat Frugal Tips - When does $1.00 = $1.33?

4.   Turn down your thermostat. A sweater and some slippers will keep you warm and cozy during the day and an extra blanket on your bed will keep you snug at night.

Bag of Potato Chips

5.   Cut out the daily junk food habit. Those daily sodas and bags of chips can add up quickly. Not only are they damaging your pocketbook, they aren’t doing much for your waistline either.

Clean And Green With EnergyStar Appliances

December 3, 2008 by Natalie  
Filed under Going Green


Being environmentally conscientious helps preserve our precious earth and can also save you money! Look at the appliances being used in your home on a regular basis. Are any of these appliances 10, 15, or even 20 years old? If so, you can bet your bottom dollar you’re spending more on monthly utility costs than you have to.

In recent studies, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the average family household is spending nearly $2,000 per year in utility costs and kitchen appliances are at fault for almost half of these expenses.

The EPA, along with the US Dept of Energy (DOE), has created a classification system called Energy Star. This system is designed to pinpoint domestic appliances that are more energy efficient, boost air quality and decrease utility bills. Although appliances equipped with the Energy Star label (EnergyGuide) can potentially cost up to 40% more than standard models, they can save up to half of the daily energy you use. So not only are you saving money in the long run, you’re helping to protect our environment for a better tomorrow and future generations.

Understanding Your EnergyGuide Label:

energyguide11 Clean And Green With EnergyStar Appliances

To help you better compare Energy Star appliances and make sure you’re getting the most efficient product, all Energy Star appliances are required to have an EnergyGuide label. This label shows you the model number and features allowing you to compare things like size and capacity, but most importantly, it estimates on average how much energy this model will use per year. It gives you a range to show you the least and most amount of energy used per year, and it also gives you an estimate of how much this model will cost per year.

Energy Star Models Standard Features:

Energy Star Clothes Washer:
· Uses 50% less water.
·    Extracts more water from clothing in the spin cycle to help reduce drying time.
·    Reduces wear and tear on clothing.
·    Uses up to 40% less electricity.
·    Up to $110 in savings each year.

Energy Star Refrigerators:
·    Consumes at least 40% less than standard models.
·    Up to $150 in savings every year.

Energy Star Dehumidifier:
·    Uses between 10 - 20% less power.
·    Around $30 in savings each year.

Energy Star Dishwasher:
·    Uses half the water of regular models.
·    Use over 40% less energy.
·    Save $90 over the dishwasher’s lifetime.

Household Air Conditioner:
·    Uses 10% less energy than standard models.
·    Save around $250 over the air conditioner’s lifetime.

Save On Your Monthly Bill With These Energy Saving Tips:

If an Energy Star appliance is not in your immediate future you can still save money right now with these energy savings tips for each appliance in your home.

Clothes Washer:
·    Wash full loads and avoid using warm/hot water unless necessary.

·    Avoid overheating by allowing a space of at least one inch between the wall and the back of the refrigerator. This will help air to circulate and control the temperature.
·    Don’t place your appliance by areas that produce heat. Radiators, vents, heat ducts, stoves, and even sunlight from your windows can cause the unit to use more power than needed.
·    Check the temperature of both your fridge and freezer regularly. Keep the fridge between 35 and 38 degrees and your freezer at 0 degrees.

·    Close all windows and doors when running your dehumidifier.
·    Change your filters on a regular basis. A build up of dirt can hinder its performance causing the unit to use more energy.
·    Keep it away from walls, furniture or dusty areas.

·    Wash full loads of dishes.
·    Only use standard options. Pre-rinse, heat-dry and rinse-hold are extra features that use more energy.

Household Air Conditioner:
·    Close all windows and doors.
·    Set your timer for temperature control.
·    Select the correct unit for the size of your room.

Help us win the battle against our diminishing resources and put an end to excessive energy use. Invest in Energy Star approved appliances and you’ll not only save on monthly utility costs, but also reduce pollution and emissions into our homes and environment. After all, preserving our earth is everyone’s responsibility, what do you have to lose?