Google's new 'Tip Jar' offers small change so far

The notion is to harness that ballyhooed wisdom of the crowds in order to help us all save money.

From The Official Google Blog: "We believe that people working together can help one another through even the most difficult times. ...That's why we created Tip Jar, an experiment powered by Google Moderator that we hope will help you discover the most effective ways to save money. ... Tip Jar gathers tips in one place and invites people to rank them in order of usefulness and even add their own tips to the list. Over time, the best and most useful tips will rise to the top."

Over time might be the key phrase there.

It's a cool concept, so I thought it would be worth my while to breeze through the top tips offered so far in each of the site's eight categories. In one sense, I know this is unfair, given that Tip Jar just launched, but Google did ask me to take a look ... and this is what I found as the top two in each of the eight.  

Category: At home.

"Get your books from the library. It's hard to beat free."

"Turn off the lights in the rooms of your house that you are not occupying. Make it a habit to flip the switch each time you leave a room. Save electricity and save on your bill."

Thanks, Tip Jar. I hadn't heard of this "library" thing and I'm sure my kids will love to make a game out of turning off lights.

Category: At work.

"Bring your lunch to work once or twice a week instead of buying it."

"Live relatively near your workplace. While this isn't always possible, driving 5,000 miles less a year can lower transportation costs by more than $1,000."

Thanks, Tip Jar. Are lunchboxes still cool?

Category: Finance.

"Pay your bills online to save on postage."

"Utilize online bill pay with your bank. It keeps you in much closer contact with your money, as you can keep a very close eye on your balance and be in much less danger of overdrafting. It saves you money on stamps and paper checks."

Thanks, Tip Jar. Who would have thought you could use the Internet to pay bills.

Category: Kids and family.

"Don't spend big money entertaining your children. Buy them an end roll of newspaper from your local paper and let their creativity run wild. Make a game out of ordinary stuff around the house, like tossing pennies into a jar."

"Take advantage of free entertainment in your community - parks, museums, exhibits, etc. Go to free park concerts and other community activities."

Thanks, Tip Jar. That first one has the added benefit of saving a dying industry. Win-win.

Category: Shopping.

"Buy a water filter and take your own water to the gym/sports etc. Bottled water is expensive, unnecessary and bad for the environment"

"Go to the grocery store with your belly full. You won't buy too many things because you just ain't hungry."

Thanks, Tip Jar, but I have a better idea: Drink a gallon of tap water before going for groceries.

Category: Food.

"Drink water. Often we drink lots of calories through sodas, coffee, alcohol, juices, tea, etc. And that costs a lot too. Drink water, save money, save calories. Here are some tips for forming the water habit."

"Eat out one fewer time each month. If it costs you $25 to eat out, but only $5 to eat in, then the $20 you save each month allows you to almost completely fund a $500 emergency savings account."

Thanks, Tip Jar. Is there any challenge that can't be met with a glass of tap water?

Category: Cars and transit.

"Carpool. Is there anyone that lives near you who works at the same place (or near the same place) that you do? Why not ride together, alternating drivers each day?"

"Keep your car engine tuned and its tires inflated to their proper pressure. Doing both can save you up to $100 a year in gas."

Thanks, Tip Jar. This is the way I'll go if I can't find a job nearer to my house.

Category: Travel.

"Make sure the kids know that the mini bar is not an option. Buy snacks and beverages from a local market and keep them in the room for snack attacks. Mini bars are a dark hotel that suck money out of your wallet."

"Look for free or "pay what you want" admission days at museums. There is usually at least one day a month that offers free admission. Planning around a free day, can save a bundle."

Thanks, Tip Jar. No more giving the mini-bar key to the kids, check; and, free, well, that's almost as good as tap water.

Definitely unfair, you say? Fine, I'll give Tip Jar some more time.

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