Category Archives: Ways to Save Money

Preparing to See Other Humans with Free Virtual Makeovers

A rainbow of choices of eye shadow in a black palette.


It’s been eleven months since I’ve had my hair done.

My roots are now half my hair.

Considering all of our collective problems of the past year — or, hell, even the past week — having my roots grow out doesn’t even qualify as a problem.

But when going out in public is a safe thing again, I’m looking forward to tidying up.

I’m really hoping that going out in public will be a thing again in the near future here. So I’ve set a savings goal for hair maintenance. Honestly, I’m not sure how long it will take me to fulfill that goal.

Competing priorities in these uncertain times.

When I go in, though, I don’t want to mess it up. It’s going to be an expensive appointment, and I want to make sure I don’t walk out with any regrets.

Free Virtual Makeovers

Asking, ‘Why don’t you just cut your own hair to save money?’ I did that as a young adult during the last massive economic downturn. It went great for a while. But all it takes is one disastrous self-haircut to turn you off for life.

Back in my baby days of blogging, Rhonda Writes taught me about virtual makeovers.

The idea is that before you have your hairdresser do anything to your hair, you can check out how it would look first.

When I did this for the first time, I was shocked at how the styles I thought I wanted actually looked horrible on me. The one I ended up picking wasn’t one I thought was cute right off the bat.

But I loved it after I ‘tried it on.’ And it looked great IRL after the cut, too.

To do the virtual makeover, first take a picture of yourself looking straight at the camera. Ideally, you’ll have your hair pulled back.

You’ll upload the picture for your virtual makeover. Then you’ll get to pick different hairstyles to superimpose on your selfie.

If you have a well-framed picture, these tools can be very realistic.

Favorite free virtual makeover for hairstyle.

The tools Rhonda and I used back then no longer exist, but I have a couple favorites in the rotation right now.

I found my post-pandemic hairstyle via Marie Claire’s Virtual Makeover Tool. It has 120 different hairstyles. They’re all sortable by length, color and/or style.

While you can’t make any hairstyles longer, you can make them all shorter. You can also customize hair volume using this tool.

All of the choices come from celebrity hairstyles, and you can’t change the hair color.

The Marie Claire tool also offers options to experiment with makeup and nails.

Favorite free virtual makeover for hair color.

If you want to play around with hair color, I like L’Oreal’s Style My Hair tool.

There aren’t as many style options as the Marie Claire tool, but you can find styles based on length or what would look good with your face shape.

The L’Oreal tool lets you customize the color of any hairstyle, whether you want allover color, ombre or just highlights.

If you just want to play around with color but want to keep your same hairstyle, you can do that with this tool, too. Just take a selfie without your hair pulled up. You can specify coverage down to every last flyaway hair, giving you a really realistic idea of what the dye job would look like.

The tool is fully available as an app, too.

My Pandemic Hair Revelation

During the pandemic, I mostly stopped caring about things like wearing makeup. Business casual wardrobes. Or straightening my hair.

I had been straightening my hair nearly everyday since I was 14 years old. I had damaged it so badly that it never looked right unless I did anything other than damage it further.

But a few weeks into this mess, I realized that on nearly any given day, I didn’t care what my hair looked like. No one outside my bubble was going to see me anyways.

What if I took advantage of this time and let it get back to healthy?

So that’s what I did. I solicited advice from extended family members who have similar hair. They guided me through the process. I realized that everything I was doing in my routine was wrong.

The bottom few inches of my hair are burnt past saving. But the rest of my head? It’s gotten healthier. My hair is back to its natural curls.

Favorite hair product.

The routine actually isn’t complicated. In fact, on most days, I only need one product. The best thing that’s happened to my hair during the pandemic is being introduced to the Curl Junkie line.

I use Daily Fix. That’s it. That’s my one product. My curls fall into place without weighing down my roots after using just one conditioner.

When fancy things open back up again, I might add more products. But for everyday situations, it looks like I’ve found something simple and consistent that actually works.

Ways to Trick Yourself into Spending Less

This post is in collaboration with BetterHelp.

Woman's hands holding a bunch of $100 bills fanned out.

It can be hard to save money, especially if the autopilot on your decision-making process is set to ‘spend.’

There are ways you can override that autopilot, though. Here are some practical ways to trick yourself into spending less money and saving more.

Practice the 72-Hour Rule

Those with a shopping habit may want to practice the 72-hour rule. When you see something you want to buy, you don’t purchase it right away.

Wait at least 72 hours. Most of the time, the urge to purchase will fade. You might even forget you wanted to purchase the item in the first place.

If this rule helps you, you’ll want to stay away from advertisements for flash sales. Don’t open the ‘Promotion’ portion of your email inbox unless you’re intentionally shopping for something you need and want to find a promo code.

If you just can’t stay out of the ‘Promotion’ tab, you may want to unsubscribe from email newsletters altogether.

Practice Mindfulness

Simply noticing your thought patterns can stop your spending cold in its tracks.

When  you notice the urge to spend, stop yourself and ask yourself why you want to purchase. Be honest in your answer.

If the answer is,

I want to buy this because I need it, have been watching sales, and this is a good price. I can afford it and it would add value to my life.

Then by all means, purchase.

But most of the time, you may find that if you’re honest with yourself, the answer is something more along the lines of:

I want to buy this because I’m sad and the shopping high will help me feel temporarily better.

I want to purchase this because there’s money sitting in my account and I fundamentally feel that when I have money, I need to spend it because the event of having money is so rare and fleeting.

Financial goals feel too overwhelming. Because the future is so overwhelming and I don’t have a long-term plan, I look for every last immediate ‘win’ I can get in the present moment. Including the temporary shopping high I know this purchase will give me.

Financial Therapy

If you’ve got a lot of unpacking to do with your thought programming around money, it can be helpful for some to seek assistance from a therapist.

Some therapists may come from an orientation that believes plasticity and the ability to interrupt your own thoughts indicates that the mind is a separate entity from the body. This is called dualism.

Other therapists believe the mind and brain are one entity. This is called monism. Your therapist’s view on monism vs dualism may affect the therapy you receive, though Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most common treatment in these situations.

Earmark Income Streams for Savings

Waiting on your stimulus check?

If you’re one of the lucky who doesn’t need the small boost to catch up on day-to-day needs, consider earmarking this extra money for your savings goals.

You can do this with all surprise ‘extra’ money.

If you have multiple income streams, you can use this same principle. Maybe all your day-to-day needs are covered by your nine-to-five job, while the money from your side hustle goes into your emergency fund or gets set aside for a ‘want’ like a vacation.

Automate Savings

A great way to trick yourself into saving more cash is to not even give yourself the option. Let’s say you get paid on the 1st and 15th of every month. You could set up an automatic transfer from checking to savings on the 1st and 15th of every month.

By removing the mental labor of making a decision on payday, you’re giving yourself less opportunities to fall through on yourself.




Ancestry Deals for Black Friday/Cyber Monday Weekend 2020

Hey, everyone! There were quite a few of you interested in the Ancestry DNA kit when I wrote about it, so I just wanted to let you know that there’s a sale going on this weekend. It really is the best one they have all year, and this year the discount is just as steep as last. You can get AncestryDNA for just $49 now through 8:59p Pacific on November 30, 2020.

This 50% off is the steepest discount I have ever seen for AncestryDNA. If you’ve been thinking about trying it for a while, now is the time to do it at just $49.

Introducing DNA + Family Tree Bundle

New since last year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday AncestryDNA sale, the company has introduced the AncestryDNA + Family Tree Bundle.

For $50 — just $1 more — you can get everything included in the standard AncestryDNA bundle plus three months of the Ancestry World Explorer subscription. This subscription lets you search records from around the world as you pursue your family’s genealogy.


Last year, Ancestry released a new product: AncestryHealth. If you want to know how your DNA could potentially affect your future health, this is a product worth looking at. Normally it’s $179, but until 8:59p Pacific on December 31, 2020, it’s only $99.

The best ways to interpret these tests is to sit down with a professional genetic counselor. The meeting may even be covered by your health insurance.

You also need to know you can’t get AncestryHealth in New York, Rhode Island or New Jersey. For more deets, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Using Ancestry for Genealogy Research

Ancestry is one of the primary US-based sites that allows you to sift through historical documents to find your ancestors and build your family tree. The records best serve those whose family has been in the US for a while. Many, though not all, European countries will also turn up records. Records for other regions of the world can be sparse to nonexistent. This is a common trait throughout many US-based genealogical databases.

As a part of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale, you can get an subscription for 50% off through Cyber Monday. This subscription will allow you — or whoever you gift it to — to search through census records, religious documents, muster rolls and more as you build your family tree.

For the purposes of the sale, these prices will be available through 8:59p Pacific on November 30, or Cyber Monday.

Hope this helps! Happy Thanksgiving and Black Friday!

AncestryHealth® includes laboratory tests developed and performed by an independent CLIA-certified laboratory partner, and with oversight from an independent clinician network of board-certified physicians and genetic counselors. The test results are not diagnostic and do not determine your overall chance of developing a disease or health condition. The tests are not cleared or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. You should consult a healthcare provider before taking any action based on AncestryHealth® reports, including before making any treatment, dietary, or lifestyle changes. AncestryHealth® is not currently available in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

Update on Ancestry Deals

Cyber Monday has come and gone, and so have the biggest deals.

However, if you’re still shopping for the holidays, you can still get 20% off Ancestry gift subscriptions here and/or 40% off AncestryDNA here.

I’ve been tracking this sale for years, and these are the steepest discounts I’ve ever seen on the AncestryDNA offer after Cyber Monday. By shopping now, you are getting a great deal: AncestryDNA for just $59. As a point of reference, $59 has been the Black Friday price in years past.

You can also get a 14-day fee trial subscription to access Ancestry’s record database. That way, you can see if your family’s records are likely to be included in the database before you commit.

And the new AncestryHealth? Normally $179, it’s now only $99 through December 31, 2020. Assuming you don’t live in New York, New Jersey or Rhode Island, where it’s not available.

If you buy a kit and feel comfortable, please come back and share your story in the comments! We’ve had a lot of interesting reader AncestryDNA stories, and would love to hear yours, too.




16 Ways to Keep Heating Costs Down

Want to reduce your heating bill in the winter? It comes down to a bunch of small actions that add up to big savings. Here are sixteen ways to keep heating costs down.

Bundle up.

Make sure you’re wearing appropriate clothing, even while inside.  Layer up, remembering that in most cases, loose clothing will keep you warmer as it insulates better.

Bundle up your living space, too.

Your hardwood floors may be gorgeous, but they don’t help your space retain any heat. And while the window nook is adorable, a lot of warm air is escaping through the panes.

You can bundle up your living space by:

  • Adding floor rugs to your space.
  • Switching out linen curtains for heavier ones.
  • Placing blankets in sitting areas so they’re readily available.

Let the sun in.

By opening up curtains during the day, you can let the sun heat up your living space without spending another cent.

Just remember to close them at night so that same heat doesn’t escape!

Dress your windows.

If you have a drafty window, use plastic to seal it up during the winter months. This way, the sun can still come in, but not as much warm air will escape.

If you don’t have the budget to plastic wrap every window, try hanging a heavy blanket over it instead. You won’t get the sun, but the lack of sunlight may be worth slowing the leak.

If you’ve got the plastic out anyways, go ahead and use it to seal up any doors you don’t use, too. Whether it’s a door to a closet you don’t want to heat or the door to your attic, sealing it off during the colder months can help you keep heating costs down.

Invest in draft stoppers.

Dark pink door draft stopper shaped as a daschund dog sitting in front of the crack at the bottom of a white door. To the left are a pair of pink shoes and a pair of blue shoes.

So you’ve plastic wrapped the doors you don’t regularly use.

But the doors you do use can still let heat out.

Consider investing in a super cute draft stopper that serves both as decoration and a way to keep your heat from escaping out from under the door.

Pinching pennies?  Use a rolled up towel at the base of the door instead.

Seal the leaks.

It’s amazing how much heat you can lose just through a tiny crack.

Caulk up cracks in window and door frames, as well as any cracks that might exist on surfaces such as basement floors or walls.

Check your ducts, too, and use duct tape to seal up any small leaks.

Don’t lose warmth through the fireplace.

If you have a fireplace, make sure the damper is closed when the fireplace isn’t in use. Otherwise, you might be heating your home just to have all the warmth escape up the flue.

Keep heating costs down by clearing your vents.

If your heating vents are blocked, it may be time to adjust your furniture.

For instance, if your couch is in front of the vent that heats your living room, all you’re doing is paying a lot of money to make the back of the couch warm while you’re reaching for your snuggie.

For unavoidable arrangements, you may want to invest in plastic heat directors that can redirect the heat to the rest of the room.

Use the heat you’ve got.

After cooking, don’t let all that heat in the oven go to waste.  Leave the oven door open so you can keep your heating costs down.

When you get out of the shower, you may want to leave the vent fan off and the window closed. That way, the steam escapes out the bathroom door and warms other parts of the house.

If your bathroom doesn’t get a lot of ventilation and you’re worried about water damage from the steam, you may want to weigh the pros and cons of this tip.

Get a humidifier.

Dehumidifer decorated as Hello Kitty

The higher the humidity, the more heat the air holds. That means running a humidifier can help you lower your heating costs in the winter.

Turn down the thermostat.

You can save money on your gas bill in the winter by turning your thermostat down or off at key times of day.

For example, when you’re sleeping under 3 blankets, you might not need the heat up as high. Depending on if you have pets or family members at home during the day, you might not need the heat on as high while you’re at work.

You can either make these adjustments manually, or you can invest in a programmable thermostat. These thermostats allow you to set and forget the temperature of your thermostat for different times of day.

Is it cheaper to leave the heat on all day?

No. While your house will retain heat for longer if it’s better insulated, the amount of energy it takes to kick on the heater is almost never more than you’d lose by heating all the space in your home all the time.

Only turn the heat on when you need it.

How much money do you save by turning down the heat?

According to the Department of Energy, you can save up to 10% on your annual energy costs by turning the temperature down seven to ten degrees Fahrenheit for 8 hours per day.

You’ll be closer to 10% savings if you live in more mild climates; those in places like Phoenix, Arizona or Bradford, Pennsylvania may not see as much savings. Living in an extreme climate, according to DoE, diminishes your savings with this method.

Is it cheaper to turn the heat down at night?

Yes. When you’re cuddled up under blankets, you probably won’t need as much heat. Turning your thermostat down helps you save money.

Change your filter.

Clean or replace your filter often.  Checking on it once a month will keep your bill lower by making sure dirt and other fun stuff isn’t blocking the heat from flowing freely throughout your home.

You should check your filter every six months.

Maintain your furnace.

If you own your home, make sure you have an HVAC professional checking out your furnace for general maintenance on a regular basis. A visit once or twice per year can save you a lot of money and safety hazards over the long-haul.

If you rent and your landlord isn’t doing this, it may be a good idea to ask about it.

Keep heating costs down by adjusting your water heater.

If you have small children, you may have already adjusted the heat on your water heater for safety reasons.

If you haven’t had to do this yet, try turning it down to about 120 degrees. When your water heater doesn’t have to work as hard to heat your shower, you’ll save money.

Shop around for better energy rates.

Whether you’re trying to reduce your electric bill or reduce your natural gas bill, if you live in a deregulated state you can actually shop around for the cheapest energy.

Apply for LIHEAP.

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) covers a number of home energy costs for low-income families in US states and territories.

You can get LIHEAP assistance for help with:

  • Your heating or cooling bill.
  • Energy crisis assistance.
  • Weatherization of your home.
  • Energy-related home repairs.

You can see if you qualify by contacting your state or territory LIHEAP office.

Therapy Options that Won’t Break the Bank

This post is brought to you and written by an outside writer.

Who couldn’t benefit from a few therapy sessions in 2020?

It’s been a challenging year for most people. We started off an election year quickly with the COVID-19 pandemic, and not long after began experiencing additional trauma and anxiety over racial injustice around the country.

The headlines alone are enough to cause many people’s anxiety to shoot up, but it doesn’t end there.

Many are facing financial challenges from lost jobs, health challenges during a worldwide pandemic, and loneliness or depression due to social isolation. It’s fair to say that it’s been a rough year all around.

Getting professional help from a licensed therapist might sound like just what you need. But one of the main obstacles that stands in the way of people seeking help is the cost. Therapy tends to come at a high price that many insurances don’t really cover.

So, what are you supposed to do?

Affordable online therapy

If you’re working hard to stick to that budget and keep your finances in order, therapy might feel like it’s out of your reach. But BetterHelp might be just the solution that you’re looking for.

BetterHelp provides online therapy from licensed professionals. And it’s more affordable than many private practice therapy practices.

You can pay a set monthly price and have access to therapy sessions with the therapist you’re match with via:

  • Video.
  • Phone.
  • Chat.
  • Messaging.

The best part is that you can do it all from the comfort of your home. Not only does this make it easier to squeeze appointments into your busy schedule, but it also stops you from needing to go out at a time when people are being encouraged to stay home.

Who can online therapy help?

Online therapy can be a great option for you if you’re struggling with things like:

It’s an effective option for many people. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with a severe mental health disorder, are hurting yourself, or find yourself in a crisis or emergency situation, online therapy isn’t the right fit for the moment. In these cases, you should seek care and treatment in person.

If you are interested in exploring your options with BetterHelp, you can learn more here

Other options for affordable therapy

Online therapy isn’t the only option that you have if you’re looking for affordable ways to address your mental wellness. Here are some other options.

Check with your insurance company

If you have health insurance, there are instances where your insurance will cover therapy. However, this likely comes with restrictions and it’s important for you to understand what is actually covered.

Some insurance companies will cover a certain number of sessions while others will only cover if you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. However, if you have health insurance, it’s well worth the time of making a call or jumping online to explore your coverage options.

Find a support group

If you’re struggling with a specific challenge, you may benefit from joining a support group. Traditionally, these types of groups were held in person. But many began providing virtual options this year when the COVID-19 hit.

These groups can cover a wide range of challenges from anger management and anxiety to grief support. Some groups are led by licensed therapists and others are put on by local nonprofits and even religious organizations like churches.

To find a group in your area, you can begin with a simple online search such as “support group for [fill in topic]”.

Talk to a religious leader

If you attend a church or are involved with another type of religious organization, you may have access to counseling through your connection. Some churches have groups to help with grief support or addiction. Or your pastor may offer counseling sessions for a free or reduced price.

It’s important when pursuing these options to remember that it’s likely the person that you’re working with won’t be a licensed mental health professional, although they may have some type of counseling training.

DIY ways to address mental health challenges

While this is not a replacement for professional therapy, there are some things that you can do at home to supplement help that you’re receiving. Some of these things include:

  • Meditation – Learning to meditate can help you work towards overcoming things like anxiety and depression. It can also help you process difficult emotions that you may be experiencing.
  • Exercise – Getting in physical activity on a regular basis can help boost your mood and relieve stress.
  • Getting enough sleep – Lack of sleep or too much sleep can have an impact on your mental health. Work on getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night by creating and maintaining a sleep schedule.
  • Journaling – Writing in a journal can help you process your thoughts and emotions to deal with them in a healthy way.
  • Connect with a support system – Spending time talking to trusted friends and family members can help boost your mood and take your mind off of your stress or anxiety.

Remember, 2020 has been a rough year on everyone. There is no shame in getting help when you need it.

It doesn’t have to break the bank, either.

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.