Saving Money with Buy Nothing Month

Saving Money with Buy Nothing Month: How we bought nothing but food for an entire month - and loved it.

We finished our BUY NOTHING MONTH! What is that, you say? It’s a 4-week period of time in which we reject consumerism, stuff our pockets full of saved cash and fly off into the sunset in our roflcopter (pre-owned and paid off, of course).

Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.

– Tyler Durden, Fight Club

Words to live by. Buy Nothing Month resets your spending and makes you question everything you normally mindlessly whip out a credit card for. And, at the end, you have a big pile of money to do whatever you want with. If you’re earning a decent wage but just can’t seem to make ends meet, try this experiment. It’s so easy: you don’t even have to do anything. In fact, not doing things is the whole point.

Our Buy Nothing Month budget:

  • $50/week budget for groceries – essentials only, no treats
  • Gasoline fill-ups – it’s tough to compromise on gasoline, but we went nowhere except to and from the office

Saving on Groceries

$50/week for two adults should be reasonable – but our grocery spending had crept into the $75-$100/week range in January. What’s up with that?

Turns out, it was mostly mid-winter indulgences like expensive cereals and chocolates (which will, of course, just be weight we wish we could lose come June). We agreed to not buy any of those things in February and stuck with the essentials: fresh vegetables, bread, and eggs. For meat, we cleaned out our freezer.

The Freezer Diet

We also paired “Buy Nothing Month” with what we like to call a “Freezer Diet” – ie: eat all the stuff in the freezer. Any time the Safeway prizing wizards decide it’s time to put meat on sale I snap it up like a hungry vulture and stuff it into my freezer to get us through the weeks when Safeway prices the meat high. By thawing and eating our stockpile, our freezer went from overstuffed to half empty. By eating what we had already paid for we saved a bundle on February’s groceries – about $20-25 off each week (we eat a lot of meat).

For Valentine’s Day we grilled most of the meats we had stuffed away in the freezer. This gave us about 2 weeks worth of tasty, tasty meats:

For Valentine's Day we barbequed - and cleaned out the freezer, not our wallets.

Our Valentine’s Chill Grill tradition cleaned out the freezer – not our wallets

Our Grocery Outlet adventure

Our $50 a week food goal also inspired us to seek out a new grocery store. We drove over to Grocery Outlet and discovered that they sell the same 10 lb bag of chicken breasts we buy at Safeway for half the price: $5 instead of $10. Alas, the rest of the store didn’t carry much of what eat on a weekly basis (plenty of treats like Cheez-It and cookies, though). The frozen vegetable selection was lacking, and the fresh stuff didn’t look so hot, so we probably won’t be back except for a few bags of chicken every once in a while.

Nonetheless, it was good to take a trip outside of our “comfort zone” and see just how much Safeway marks things up. I really hate Safeway’s arcane pricing: some weeks a thing is $2.50, other weeks it’s $3.50, and there’s no real reason why! It’s not like there’s a supply shortage, it’s just some B.S. they use to milk a few extra dollars out of every shopper. I know what the lowest price is on our regular purchases and I keep enough on hand to skate through the weeks where things aren’t on sale. Either way, knowing that another store nearby sells the same thing for a few dollars less made me not want to buy it at Safeway – money saved!

Cutting back on treats

As an additional sacrifice, I quit buying fruit for the entire month. I usually buy about $6-$10 worth of fruit every week – mostly strawberries and blueberries, which I eat as snacks. Turns out, I didn’t even miss ’em. Strawberries are crazy expensive in February, and I pocketed about $35 by skipping them for the month. I figure I still get plenty of vitamins through all the veggies I eat, so a month without this treat isn’t exactly going to give me rickets.

We also didn’t buy any cereals, chocolate, or other treats. We have some left over from the holidays, and this stuff just makes us fat, anyway – lol.

We don’t buy soda, coffee, or booze, but if you’re doing a Buy Nothing Month those are also easy things to cut.

Trying new foods

Beans are like a buck a bag and offer pretty complete nutrition. I wouldn’t make beans the only thing I eat, of course, but an inexpensive protein would be nice to add to the rotation instead of eating pricey meats every day.

Well, I never had beans growing up and I assumed I didn’t like them. I was wrong – beans can be pretty good as long as they don’t get overcooked into grainy mush. Jim likes beans, so he and I went on a bean adventure in Buy Nothing Month. I tried lentils, black beans, and red kidney beans – mixed with rice, mixed with vegetables, and as a straight-up side dish. I need some more time to truly develop my love for them, but I could see beans becoming a household staple.


Beans mixed with coconut pineapple rice = omg yum

Seeking out Savings

Clamping down on spending also inspired us to seek out unnecessary spending. I didn’t expect to find anything – after all, we run a tight financial ship here… or so I thought.

Deleting doubled-up services

We made a huge discovery this month: Jim was still paying for his own separate web hosting!

With both of our hosting accounts offering unlimited storage there was no reason to have two hosting accounts. This was tough to track down because we buy hosting in 2 year blocks from Lunarpages, so the bill only comes around every other year.

We both thought it was my hosting being billed every time the bill came around.We canceled his hosting, moved everything to mine, and transferred his domain for $10 over to Dynadot from Lunarpages. Spending $10 to save $250 every other year sounds like a good deal to me, so we bought the domain transfer. We got together like, 8 years ago. It pains me to think that for over five years we paid for hosting we didn’t need to be paying for.

Alternatives to current services

I also tried Carbonite, a $60/year alternative to Mozy which is the online backup solution I normally use and pay $250/year for. I’m very happy with Mozy, but I wouldn’t mind paying $60 instead of $250!

Unfortunately, Carbonite didn’t work on my system. I’m on Windows 7 and it slowed Windows Explorer down to a crawl. Every time I right clicked the Start button or inside a folder on my hard-drive I had to wait through a 3-4 second pause before the context menu appeared. This slow-down survived restarts, reinstalls, everything. I gave up, uninstalled Carbonite, and my computer returned to the lightning fast speed I built it for. I guess with online backup services you get what you pay for. Failed experiment, but I’m glad I tried.

Itemized our taxes

Eyeballs… glazing… over.  I know… but it saved us several hundred bucks. In previous years we took the standard deduction and ran, but this year our property tax was enough to force us to itemize. We dug up old receipts and took the nuanced approach to this year’s taxes and pocketed a few hundred bucks.

Switched to a better rewards credit card

As if that wasn’t enough, we dumped our American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card on account of its rewards being too sucky for us (you can read more about that here) and switched to the American Express Fidelity Investment Rewards card. Now we spend money on the card and get 2% cash back deposited directly into an investment account. 2% cash back is nuts – imagine spending $1,000 and getting $20 IN CASH – not points, not fancy hotels, not gift cards to exotic boutique storesall for doing nothing.


Click here to go to Fidelity’s site and learn more about the very awesome 2% cash back Fidelity Investment Rewards card

I like getting paid for doing nothing. Too bad we didn’t spend much this month – hah.

Cheap entertainment

We’re very lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest where we’re able to walk outside pretty much year round (especially in February while everyone back home in the Midwest was buried under ten feet of snow). If you live somewhere nice, walking is some of the best free entertainment I know of. If you’re lucky you’ll get to see some crazy stuff, too, like a dude practicing yoga on a fountain or a mess of ducks fighting over bread slices thrown into the water by a toddler.


Bellevue Park – cheaper than the mall.

We made a point of not going to the movie theater, not buying the latest issues of Saga (this was actually painful, I love this series and am dying to know what happens next), and not going to any events. In the evenings we worked on our personal projects or watched Doctor Who (I love this show more than is probably considered healthy – you can see my Doctor Who fan art here).

Jim discovered Kindle book borrowing on Amazon, and he’s so enamored with it he’s declared that he never needs to buy another book again (we’ll see ;) ).

And, as I said earlier, we spent Valentine’s Day (well, the Saturday after) barbecuing meats we already had instead of eating at a crowded restaurant with jacked-up V-Day prices.

Total Spending

We spent a grand total of $380 in February. This all went into food and a domain transfer. The rest was the usual mortgage, electricity, gas, city garbage, and water. We had a sizable amount of money left over, which was shuttled off into our Vanguard investment funds.

Did we just get lucky?

To some extent, yes. After all, our range oven didn’t start sparking in February (no, it did that in March) and nothing fell off our nearly-90k-mile car (knock on wood). But by aggressively cutting discretionary spending, Buy Nothing Month gave us an above-average amount of savings in February to sock away for some future time when it might be needed.

But this isn’t sustainable!

Of course it’s not – but after four weeks of carefully considering everything you buy (or simply going without), it’s much easier to reject unnecessary purchases in the days and weeks that follow. Just like a diet, it doesn’t work if you diet for 4 weeks and then overeat when the 4 weeks are done.

What can YOU stop buying?

If you only spent $380 plus your usual mortgage/rent/utilities payments, how much would you have left over? Probably more than you usually do. That’s why a Buy Nothing Month is so awesome!

Pretend you just lost your job and you’ve only got enough for simple food and your rent/mortgage. That’ll get you in the right mindset for a Buy Nothing Month. You can go a month without:

  • Meals out
  • Anything from Whole Foods
  • Candy / snacks / soda
  • Movie tickets
  • Traveling anywhere
  • Home decor
  • Clothing & shoes unless the soles just fell off your very last pair
  • Personal appearance stuff like whatever voodoo happens inside salons
  • Knick-nacks / toys
  • Look for places to cut spending – phone line, TV service, texting plan, etc

Tell us about your own Buy Nothing experiments – even if it’s just for a day or a week, not buying stuff can have a huge impact!

Unimpressed with Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express Review

We're always on the search for the *best* rewards credit card.

The weak have fallen.

We take our credit cards seriously here at LevelUpHouse – we pay our balance in full each month and we love watching rewards pile up.

We were Chase Freedom customers for years. Those were good times: a nice, fat $250 cash back check arrived every so often and reinforced our love.  Then the nerf hammer fell and Chase began that revolving categories BS.

Oh, is it finally “gasoline season”? Great, because I’d been holding off on fueling my car…  

But we don’t take credit cards seriously enough to play “the game”. Lots of people like to get fancy with milking rewards from multiple different cards, but we keep it simpler: one card for “everything”, and another for backup.

Three years ago, we selected the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) American Express card because it kept coming out on top in our research for a new rewards credit card. It’s been three years, and we’ve put nearly $100k worth of purchases onto this card.

How’d it do?

Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express Review


Disappointing rewards took forever to accumulate.

It sucks. There’s no sugar-coating it: the rewards are disappointing and limited. The rewards are the whole point of getting the SPG AmEx card. There is no other advantage unique to this card – all other perks can be found elsewhere.

After three years of commitment to this card it’s pretty disappointing to find that my 94,000 Starpoints aren’t good for anything I actually want to buy. It’s all awkwardly timed flights, expensive hotels, and gift cards to stores I don’t shop at.

So we’re giving SPG AmEx the big middle finger this month, and I wrote this review in honor of its eviction from my wallet. We’ll be switching to the Fidelity Investment Rewards card (read more about our new Fidelity card at the end of this review).

Here’s why we’re switching from the SPG AmEx to the Fidelity Investment Rewards AmEx:

Poor flight redemption options

SPG’s flight redemption options are a mixed bag. I’ve tried to use points to book trips a few times in the last three years, but the flights offered all sucked for some reason or another.  Poor departure times and stops in other cities are common.

I don’t travel often, but when I do, I don’t stop in LA on my way to Chicago.

At Starwood’s points:miles conversion rate, we can get 2 “free” round-trip flights every 3 years. Flying from Seattle to Chicago costs somewhere between 25,000 and 45,000 Starpoints (depending on which airline I select). Let’s say I fly Alaska Airlines, which is the cheapest non-stop available at 30,000 points. To fly me and my husband to Chicago on points alone would require 60k points – two-thirds of what we accumulated in three years.

That’s a lot of spending for one measly flight each.

Pricey luxury hotels = !savings

The hotels offered by SPG are by and large a huge disappointment. They’re expensive, they’re in cities, and they’re not where I would normally stay.

Maybe this one’s my fault: maybe I should have known that SPG only deals in high-end hotels? I was all excited to book some hotels using points on our West Coast Road Trip, but there weren’t any SPG hotels in the little towns we stopped in!

  • “Fifth night free” doesn’t cut it with me. In eight years of traveling for vacations, the only time I’ve stayed at one hotel for more than one night was when I went to Disney (and there aren’t any Disney-owned properties in SPG’s hotel offerings).
  • Using points to get 50% off the rack rate of a luxury hotel doesn’t save me money. It still costs more than staying at a budget hotel!

Gift card redemption options are lacking

Let’s say you decide to cash in your Starpoints for a gift card to a retailer. Not only do gift cards get the worst Starpoint to dollar conversion rate, the merchants available are almost exclusively high-end retailers. There isn’t much for high level frugalists like me in here – no Home Depot, Safeway, Target – so forget about using your rewards for everyday necessities.

Starpoints conversion rate:

  • $25 card = 2800 Starpoints
  • $50 card = 5000 Starpoints
  • $100 card = 9500 Starpoints
  • $150 card = 14,000 Starpoints

You can get a gift card to these retailers:

SPG’s gift card options are almost exclusively high-end yuppie retailers. I don’t shop at these places. Going out of my way to shop at these retailers isn’t “saving money”, it’s spending money I wasn’t going to spend in the first place.


3years of points hoarding and I’m only halfway to this $2,000 Williams-Sonoma cookware set. (Now I know why I don’t shop at Williams-Sonoma.)

The only retailer on this list that I do shop at is, so that’s where my Starpoints went – into a pile of gift cards, at a poor conversion rate. That’s pretty disappointing.

The gift cards get left on your porch!

I cashed in a bunch of my StarPoints and waited a few weeks for them to arrive. Why can’t the SPG gift cards be awarded digitally?

The physical cards come in a slim FedEx envelope, which has to be signed for. Do most people with this card have a butler attending to deliveries? Because I don’t. I’m at work, earning the money I spend on this card.

So I signed the FedEx form and took the gamble of leaving the gift cards out on my porch all day because the alternative is driving 45 minutes out of my way to Issaquah during business hours to pick the cards up at the FedEx distribution point.

Hey, SPG – get with the times! I don’t want hundreds of dollars in gift cards sitting on my front porch, and I don’t want to drive 30 miles out of my way to pick them up, either!

Starpoints Are Just Really F***ing Confusing

Starpoints, miles system, etc are all built to confuse people. When money is abstracted into “points” and “miles”, people can’t rely their sense of what things are worth. Classic example: why does it take 25,000 miles to fly from Seattle to Chicago? That’s more than the distance around the EQUATOR!

The upsells to buy more points are everywhere. If the points I have are already borderline useless to me, why would I want to turn more perfectly good real money into more Starpoints “play money”!?

Good riddance, Starwood.

New “Everything” Card: Fidelity Investment Rewards


Our new “everything” credit card: the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express card

The Fidelity American Express rewards card will be our new card henceforth.

This card’s premise is simple: spend money as usual, and Fidelity gives you a whopping 2% cash back in the form of a deposit directly into your Fidelity investment account. You don’t even have to do anything once you’ve set your account up. If you spend 2,000 on your credit card, you’ll get $40.

I like getting money for doing nothing, don’t you?

Behold the Fidelity card’s badassery:

  • No ever-changing categories (eat it, Chase Freedom)
  • No confusing redemption options (take that, SPG AmEx)
  • No annual fee (SWEET!)
  • Cash back money goes into your investment account!! There it’ll sit just being awesome, earning more money for you without any effort on your part.
  • You’re free to remove the cash, too, but I think anything that helps put money into savings and investment accounts is a good thing.

There’s a Visa version of the Fidelity Investment Rewards card, but it only offers 1.5% cash back. We’re going AmEx again and keeping our Chase Freedom as a backup for the one-off places that don’t take AmEx.

American Express also offers some built-in consumer protections, which we like but have never actually used:

  1. Purchase Protection: If something you just bought gets broken or stolen, if you’re still within the 90 days of your purchase AmEx offers some protection. Coverage is limited up to $1,000 per occurrence, up to $50,000 per cardmember account per calendar year.
  2. Extended Warranty: American Express extends the warranties on things bought with the card, up to a value of $10,000 (not to exceed $50,000 per cardmember account per calendar year). One great example: an iPhone comes with a 1-year warranty. Buying it on AmEx gets your phone covered for two years.
  3. Car/Roadside Assistance: Book your U.S. car rental with American Express and the car is insured in event of accident. (Which is why we decline coverage at the rental car desk.)

So that’s our new credit card – the Fidelity Investment Rewards card. I’ll update later this year and let you know how it’s going.

12 Home Luxuries that are Totally Worth the Money


Don’t waste your money on a gaudy throne – get a nice mattress and a quiet computer case instead!

When I buy something nice, I cross my fingers and hope that it’s not actually a waste of money. After all, a lot of luxury goods are just fluff whose magic wears off after they’ve been around a while.

Being frugal doesn’t mean living a bare-bones existence. Instead, it’s all about spending money where it counts.

So where does it count? Which luxuries are worth the cost?

I took stock of everything I own and figured out which things I’ve bought were worth the money spent. Here are 12 home luxuries that are totally worth the money.

1. Artwork for your walls

You’re an adult now – time to get some classy art for your walls! Hanging up artwork that represents your own taste is pretty awesome, and art on the walls does wonders for a space.

I’ve had poor luck finding original artwork that both adore and can afford, but there’s a decent selection to be found at home decor shops (even Bed Bath and Beyond supplied a few nice pieces around our abode). Look for art that comes on an actual canvas (probably printed with some embellishments made by hand), preferably with some metal hooks on the frame to assist with hanging.


Art transforms even blah spaces. Have fun choosing!

The only downside to art? Pick carefully – there’s virtually no resale value in anything aimed at the mass market, and even inexpensive printed canvases are usually $100+ at home decor shops.  Amazing pieces are closer to $300+, even when they’re just prints.

Fitting it into your budget: Shop sales and end-of-season clearance at stores like Bed Bath and Beyond and Fred Meyer. I found some of my favorite artworks at these two stores!

2. Thermal drapery liners


Action shot of my bedroom’s Eclipse thermal liners.

Keep heat out in the summer and in in the winter with a set of heavy-duty thermal liners for your existing drapes. Your room will stay dark, even in broad daylight – great for sleeping late in July or napping in the middle of a summer afternoon.  Just hook them onto the backs of your existing drapes and enjoy! Eclipse Thermal Liners the the ones I’ve used in a couple homes and apartments now, and they’ve held up well.

The only downside to thermal liners?  They’re a bit heavy, so if your existing drapes are light and wispy they won’t be able to support the weight. Consider full-on thermal drapes instead.

Fitting it into your budget: Get them for your bedroom first, the rest of the house can wait (or doesn’t need them at all, depending on your climate).

3. Great big plushy mattress

You spend 30% of every day on your mattress, so make it great!

You don’t need to splash out on an adjustable $5000+ mattress, a pillow-top can get the job done for around $2000.

Home luxuries that are totally worth the the money good mattress

Factory photo of the same mattress I have, a Simmons Beautyrest. So cozy, I just melt right into it.

Oh, and go big – did you know that sharing a queen size bed with someone else gives you about as much space as sleeping on a twin? My king size bed was worth every penny! I sleep like a sleeping rock.

The only downside to a great mattress? No other mattress will be good enough for you. You’ll be ruined by your luxurious mattress.

Fitting it into your budget: Forego fancy headboards and nightstands if it means you can afford a better mattress. We still don’t have a headboard, but our mattress is amazing.

4. High thread-count sheets


High thread-count sheets are super luxurious – and not as expensive as you might fear.

If you’re still sleeping on junky 150 threadcount sheets, it’s time to stop that nonsense right now and get a decent set of sheets.  You’ll wonder how you ever slept in anything less.

The set I like to recommend is Fieldcrest Luxury damask sheet set, 450 threadcount 100% cotton. These sheets come in a bunch of colors and, if you find them on clearance, cost as little as $35 at your local Target.  (They’re normally $70 for a king set, which is still way less than those highfalutin mall stores want for their sheets.  I bought expensive $150 set of bamboo sheets from Bed Bath and Beyond once – and they were crap! Wrinkled and baggy!

By contrast, my Fieldcrest sheets from 2007 survived six years of daily and weekly washes before they started to wear thin.  To replace them, I bought another set of Fieldcrest sheets, this time at 500 threadcount. They are like sleeping in a pillow of dreams.

If you’d rather shop online, check out these well-reviewed Pinzon Hemstitch 400 thread-count cotton sheets on The biggest problems with sheets tend to be wrinkles and pills, and reviewers say these sheets are prone to neither.

The only downside to awesome sheets? They make it hard to leave the bed.

Fitting it into your budget: Look for clearance sales, both in brick and mortar stores and online, especially if you aren’t in a hurry to replace your current sheets.

5. Amazon Prime membership

Amazon sells everything and at great prices, so if you love to shop online you’ll enjoy Amazon Prime! You can even try before you buy: the first 30 days of Amazon Prime are completely free.

Amazon Prime membership goodies


The benefits are great:

  • Free 2-day shipping on loads of stuff
  • Access to Amazon video streaming (and Amazon’s upping their movie and TV game, getting exclusive access to more shows)
  • Book borrowing with Kindle

The only downside to Amazon Prime? You’ll start buying everything through Amazon!

Fitting it into your budget: If you buy a lot of heavy things, Amazon prime can pay for itself pretty quickly. The free shipping adds up over the course of the year, too.  If you make one purchase a month and it costs $5 to ship each purchase, you’re at $60 – almost at the cost of a Prime membership.

6. Smart thermostat


Smart thermostats:  living in the future is awesome! Thermostat pictured is the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat.

A smart thermostat makes heating and cooling your house a no-brainer by learning your preferences and nudging you towards energy efficiency. Depending on how lazy you were about adjusting your heating temperature, you could save a fortune with a smart thermostat.  Also: it looks really cool.

The highest rated smart thermostats are the Nest Learning Thermostat and the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat.

The only downside to a smart thermostat?  You might spend a lot of time geeking out over a thermostat.

Fitting it into your budget: Smart thermos are pricey – $200-250 a piece, but a good chunk of the cost might be offset by savings in your heating bill.

7. Space heater


Warm just the room you’re in for big savings.

I like being warm, but I don’t like high heating bills. With a space heater, you can have it both ways! It’s much cheaper to keep your house cool and shut yourself into one room and heat it up with a space heater.

The only downside to a space heater?  None, space heaters are awesome. Modern models come with temperature regulation, auto-shut off, and safety features that kick in if the heater gets knocked over.

Fitting it into your budget: Most decent space heaters will run you just $40-60. Depending on your climate, a space heater can pay for itself in a matter of months as you run your furnace less.

8. Powerful toilet

Home luxuries that are totally worth the money a good toilet American Standard Cadet

The American Standard Cadet’s slogan should be, “Go ahead, do your worst”.

It’s an incredible luxury, to just flush and forget!

When you flush, is your plunger already in hand just in case? It doesn’t have to be that way! Replacing a toilet is easy and takes about two hours start to finish. Toilets are heavy, but they come in two pieces so as long as you can lift 40 lbs, you can probably replace a toilet yourself.

As long as we’re talking about toilets, a heated toilet seat is another luxury well worth the price of admission. Just get one, you’ll see.

The only downside to an awesome toilet?  Disposing of the old one can be tricky.

Fitting it into your budget: Toilets are cheaper than you might think. I installed a $140 American Standard Cadet just one year ago and it’s a beastWorth every cent!

9. Quiet computer case


What’s that sound? It’s the sound of a QUIET COMPUTER!

No more noisy computers! I’ve built/maintained a lot of computers, and the Antec Sonata is the only case I recommend.

  • Dead quiet – Is it even on? You’ll have to touch it to know.
  • Easy to open/close the side panel – It even has a lock feature.
  • Quiet EarthWatts 500W supply included 
  • Removable/washable air filter – Much easier than trying to stuff the vacuum nozzle into the case
  • Gummy silicone grommets to cushion and dampen your internal drives.
  • Four hard drive bays, three external bays (CD drives)
  • Front-panel USB – Because the’s the 2000’s, man.

The only downside to a quiet case? You might forget your PC is on.

Fitting it into your budget: It’s a good $50 more than junkier cases, but it’ll last you forever.  Jim’s Sonata is on its third set of “guts”, mine’s on its second.

10. Uninterrupted power supply


I own two of these CyberPower UPS mini-towers.

Why didn’t I get one of these a decade ago?!  Oh, that’s right – I didn’t even know uninterrupted power supplies were a thing.

An uninterrupted power supply is basically a huge battery that keeps your computer going through power dips and outages.  I hear mine click every so often, usually whenever the lights flicker, – and I think, There’s another sudden restart that didn’t happen.

Even if the power goes completely out and stays out, the battery gives me a good 10 minutes to finish what I was doing and shut down properly.  For maximum benefit, just put the essentials on the battery – the main computer, your monitor(s).  Everything else (printer, scanner, speakers) can just go dark when the power goes out.

The only downside to a UPS? It beeps when the power goes out in the middle of the night. You’ll have to get up and silence it.

Fitting it into your budget: Don’t buy more battery than you need – UPS models come in a range of sizes, and the price goes up as the battery gets bigger.  Get one that’s a bit more powerful than your power supply and you should be good to go.

11. Heated car seats (or blanket)

Take it from a Midwesterner – if you’re choosing between two otherwise equal vehicles, you want the one with heated seats. What was once a luxury car feature has trickled down into the mainstream as more and more consumers demand this awesome feature in their cars. The seats heat up quickly and winter becomes just a little bit nicer.

The only downside to getting heated seats? Requires you to buy a car.

Fitting it into your budget: No new car on the horizon? That’s okay, just toss a fleece throw blanket over your lap and legs.  It’s almost as good as a heated seat, and you get to feel stylish as all get out. My car blanket looks kinda like this.

use a car blanket

Winter? What winter? I feel like royalty riding around in my butt-toasting seat and blanket.

12. Dual shower head

home luxuries that are totally worth the money dual shower head affordable luxury

Dual shower heads = you won’t want to leave the shower.

A dual shower head is a cheap way to live in luxury – for under a hundred bucks you too can shower in a warm gentle rainfall – or pounding hail, there’s a bunch of flow settings!  Showering with water on your head and back at the same time is amazing.

The water flow can be turned off to either head, making it possible to just the detaching head by itself. I use the detachable head to wash large things in the tub (these are great for dogs) and to quickly wash the shower walls themselves.

The only downside to a dual shower head?  The shower’s soooo nice, you won’t want to get out.

Fitting it into your budget:  Mine was just $70, this luxury is totally within reach!

13. *Bonus* Good TP

You’re worth it!


More Luxurious Upgrades

  1. Upgrade Me (Ask MetaFilter)
  2. 30 Life-Changing Things that are Worth Every Penny (BuzzFeed)
  3. What luxury item is actually worth the money? (Reddit)

Dollar Rent a Car Refund: How I got my money back

Were you scammed by Dollar Rent a Car or its twin, Thrifty Car Rental?

Don’t panic – there might be hope for getting a refund!  I got a refund for $224 after I complained on Twitter.  Seriously.  (You can read about how I was scammed by Dollar Rent a Car here.)


My Dollar Rent a Car refund.  I only got anywhere with this company once I complained on Twitter.

Get on Twitter

I got my refund by complaining to Dollar Rent a Car’s Twitter account, @DollarCars

I didn’t try Twitter until I had exhausted the traditional avenues of complaint. I’m not a big Twitter person, in fact, I think my Dollar Rent a Car complaints constitute the bulk of my tweets. In-person help and the 800 number were useless, and my credit card couldn’t undo the charge. Twitter is your best chance at a refund from Dollar Rent a Car.

  1. Create a Twitter account if you don’t have one already
  2. Go to
  3. Author a tweet of your own, beginning with @DollarCars and explain what happened.  Like this:

@DollarCars I was charged $XYZ for add-on(s) I did not accept on date/place/time.

Send as many as you like, but they don’t seem to monitor or respond on weekends, so keep tweeting on weekdays until you get a response asking for your Rental Authorization number.

Be Nice

Remember, you’re an innocent victim even though you’re probably very angry.  You were just ripped off for hundreds of dollars for coverages you didn’t agree to and the smug asswipe at the airport desk refuses do a thing about it. Even better, your flight’s leaving in an hour.

I really wanted to spew a bunch of expletives at this company, but I kept my complaints factual and “safe for work” so that the issue was clearly Dollar’s rip off, not my own psycho craziness.

Dollar Refunds: What Doesn’t Work

The desk agent in the airport probably won’t give a damn about you or your complaint.  The guy I got sassed me and blamed me for being the victim.  When I complained about being scammed, all he could offer was “If that’s how you want to look at it.”

The Customer Service number (800-800-5252) is equally useless.  The best I got out of them was an offer for a $30 discount on my next Dollar rental (upped to $50 when I refused).  I refused the $50 offer as well, because 1) it’s insulting and stupid and 2) it might have invalidated my eligibility for a full refund if my complaint was marked as “resolved”.

Besides, I’m never renting from Dollar again, so what good is $50 in Dollar Rent a Car money? It doesn’t even cover a full day’s rental once Dollar’s added its overcharges onto the bill!

Still Mad? More Places to Complain

Are you a pissed off customer? I got a refund, but I very easily could not have. I think most people ripped off by Dollar won’t jump through these hoops to get a refund.  Here’s a few good places to tell your story and warn others about this unethical company:

Consumer Affairs

Consumer Affairs is a popular place to complain about lousy companies.  Add your grievances about Dollar here:



You’ll have to create an account first, but once you’ve got one just put in the city where you were ripped off and tell everyone what happened.


Angry victims of Dollar’s scam have formed a Facebook group, “Dollar/Thrifty Rent a Car Overcharges“. Complaining here doesn’t get you a refund, but it does get the word out to people who follow you on Facebook.

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