MSN Money Video

Video on MSN Money
This video requires an updated version of the free Adobe Flash Player.
More video on MSN Money
MP Dunleavey

Women in Red

Let Uncle Sam help you buy a fridge

A rebate program for energy-efficient appliances is on the way. Also: Surprises from clearing out clutter and a survey on who clips coupons the most.

By MP Dunleavey
MSN Money

Some of you may remember when our appliances died -- and our brave decision to replace them only when we were able to pay cash.

Last fall we bought a "pre-owned" stove and fridge, and we've been doing dishes by hand for a year. Oh, how slowly those sudsy days go by. So we've decided it's time to shell out the cash for a dishwasher.

Well, that, and . . .

After almost three years as chief household officer, my husband is back at work. That means domestic duties have been reassessed. And guess who is getting her hands wet? Right. Suddenly, we needed to buy a dishwasher yesterday.

Just as I was about to hurl myself at the Lowe's appliance section, I learned that a $300 million Cash for Clunkers-type rebate program is gearing up this fall. It's to encourage consumers to replace older appliances for new, energy-efficient ones.

Some details:

  • It's a rebate program, not a trade-in. You purchase a new appliance -- e.g., a furnace, water heater or washing machine -- and as long as it has an Energy Star rating, you can apply for a rebate.
  • States have until Oct. 15 to set up their programs, including which Energy Star appliances are covered, how big the rebates will be and how to apply.

I'm hoping it won't be a giant headache and that funds won't be wiped out by a wave of early rebaters, but it's hard to know.

When I called the Department of Energy to find out when I could buy my dishwasher, it said funds wouldn't be available until later this year or early 2010. But some states may apply the rebate retroactively. (Yay!)

To find out if your state has any information yet, check with your state energy office.

Thought: When are they going to do this for makeup?

De-cluttering for dollars

Does clearing clutter create cash? A small band of Women in Red members has taken to cleaning house and creating order out of crowded closets and hazmat paper piles in the belief that a harmonious space adds up to financial prosperity.Sound kooky?

Actually, the ancient Chinese art of feng shui -- arranging one's space to increase health, wealth and happiness -- is a venerable one. Feng shui (pronounced fung shway) loosely translates to "wind-water," which refers to the need to balance the elements in your physical environment in order to harness positive energy, or qi (chee).

Does better qi fatten your wallet? Some readers swear it does.

Video: Dunleavey learns to de-stress her finances

One Women in Red member who goes by "debtheaven2007" described how she and her husband fixed a long-standing plumbing problem in their basement last year. (Some feng shui practitioners believe leaking water equals lost cash.)

A few days later, the couple returned from a weekend trip to find $3,500 in payments waiting for them, including money for a legal settlement they had waited six years to get. "I told my husband it was because he finally sorted most of the basement," she wrote. "He said nonsense, but I know better."

Other readers who made similar changes to their homes -- repairs, upgrades or simply dumping old junk -- reported getting bigger tax refunds, new jobs, unexpected insurance payouts, etc.

Confession: I believe that when your home is a mess, when clutter threatens your peace of mind, your finances suffer. Call it feng shui or Admitting Your Mom Was Right, but keeping your personal space clean, cheerful and organized so that you don't lose the phone bill is just smart.

Lisa Zaslow, a professional organizer in New York, agrees. Many of her clients have discovered a financial upside to de-cluttering. Although it's typically just "found money" -- a wad of bills forgotten in a coat pocket or suitcase -- sometimes it's a genuine windfall.

"I was going through some papers for a client once and found a $15,000 tax refund check she thought she'd lost," Zaslow says.

Feng shui is a lot more complex than just getting organized, of course, but incorporating some feng shui basics as you clean and organize can't hurt, Zaslow says. She recommends this blog for starters.

Continued: 3 easy ways to start

 1 | 2 | next >

Rate this Article

Click on one of the stars below to rate this article from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). LowHigh

Discuss personal finance with MP on the Women in Red message boards.

Search for a MP Dunleavey article by topic.