Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Buying A Car

Any tips on how to buy a car and not get taken?

Buying a car is one of the most stressful things ever, especially for those of us who are very concerned about getting a good deal. For one year I worked as an account executive in a retail automotive advertising agency. You know those screaming car ads on the radio, those were my ads. (Not my proudest career move.) But from working with some of the shadiest and some of the most straight up car dealers, here are my tips:

1-If buying a new car, check with some of the better websites. (www.car.com, www.edmunds.com, www.autobytel.com). What you are looking for? The invoice price. Ideally you want to pay anywhere from $1500 to $2000 above invoice. But be warned there are several ways that dealers can make more off of your sale. This is pretty complex. Additional costs that you should expect to pay: Destination fee, tags, tax and title.

MENTION THAT YOU HAVE BEEN SHOPPING ON LINE, I knew a dealer that would automatically drop the cost because he knew that people that were on the internet were more car price savvy.

2- Newspapers have tons of car ads that have some legitimate good deals. BUT READ ALL OF THE FINE PRINT! If it seems to good to be true...


Read the entire article.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bulk Cooking

This question was submitted on The Frugal Life Forum:

Hello everyone. I was wondering if anyone here does bulk cooking. I don't necessarily do OAMC, but I try to make 2 or 3 batches of what I make for dinner, then freeze the other 1 or 2 meals. I have another baby coming in July and want to stock up my freezer. Just wondering if there's anyone out there to swap tips with!

This forum post has 12 responses as of today. Read them and submit your own.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Slave Or Master To Money

Ask yourself a couple questions - when you go to work, where does your money go? When you get anxious over things in your life, what worries you?

These questions can help you determine if you are a slave to your money or master over it. If the majority of your money works for you, then you are the master. If you are paying off people or items, then you are the slave to your money.

No one wants to be a slave, to pull from the wiki:
A slave can be the following:
· where people are owned by others, and live to serve their owners without pay
· a specific form of submissive
· whose functioning is dependent on that of another piece of equipment
· a relationship between two or more devices or assemblies in which one device, the "master", controls the operation of the other, the "slave"

In all these above definitions, being a slave means you have little or no control over your actions or yourself or at least you have lost control over your own day-to-day endeavors. Your function in life is to provide for the 'Master' in your life. With money being that master, in the form of debt, it is no fun. It doesn't care whether you are ill, lost a job, moved or had a baby. It wants its needs taken care of, NOW!

Read the entire article.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Winterize Your Car

On the outside:

Check Tire Tread – This is one of the few times a penny has great value. Turn the penny head down and stick it between your tire tread. If you can see Lincoln’s head fully, your tires legally need to be replaced. If you have no tire tread to put the penny in, you will be dancing on ice like Oksana Baiul, but not looking as pretty!

Windshield – A decent way to keep the fogging to a minimum on the windows is to clean them with vinegar and water, then dry them off with newspaper. This seems to work for about a month or so for me.

Windshield Wipers – Nothing is as annoying as running the wipers and getting wide streaks while you are trying to drive. Time to replace the blades. However, if you are in a hurry to get to work and don’t have time. Grab some sandpaper, fine grained is best, and run them along the blade on both sides. This should bring the rubber back in shape enough until you can replace them.

Lights – Clean the inside of the headlight case, if you can get to it. Vinegar and water work well. This is also a good time to check if any lights are burned out on the car.

Check the inside of the car tips - Read the entire article.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Six Ways to Raise Emergency Cash

There are times when emergency funds do not adequately cover the emergency life throws at you. In those moments I immediately start scrambling to come up with ways to raise cash in a hurry. But you cannot simply throw caution to the wind, because often times irrational moves now cause painful tax consequences later. Here are a few ways to raise cash in an emergency, without over-taxing your life later on.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Balancing Life

by Donna L. Watkins

Balance is a key to any level of good health. There is balance for diet and sleep and even exercise. The scales of live are a challenge, but we must determine what brings true emotional health to our own lives and how to achieve that state of mind in this world.

I was following a link from an ezine I get and found an article that made me think about how much our work has to do with the pressure, stress, and health we can attain in this lifetime. I firmly believe that there is no possible way to build health and live in the stressful lifestyles of the American Way.

When my health challenges began in 1986 I was Super Woman. I didn't realize it then, but I thought who I was, was what I accomplished. How much I got done. How much I could check off the To Do List. How many balls I could juggle in a day. I was very frustrated and said that I wanted out - wanted help - wanted a break - wanted some time for me - but it was like an addiction. It never happened. I kept running at top speed until my body said, "NO MORE!" Read the entire article.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Drowning In Debt

From The Word For You Today

Using credit cards to buy things you can't afford can land you in hot water. Paul says put "off everything connected with ... doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy." If you're drowning in debt:

1) Stop charging what you can't pay for and don't need.

You're incurring higher interest rates and adding to your burden. Use a credit card only if you're disciplined enough not to go overboard. Your intentions may be good, but unforeseen circumstances can force you to carry your balance from month to month. And if your spending is totally out of control, perform plastic surgery - cut up your credit cards!

2) Give more.

Every wonder why we're "happier giving than getting" (Acts 20:35), or how come "God [and everybody else] loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7)? It's because giving helps us focus on something besides our own desires and wants. Remember, "You ... become rich by being generous or poor by being greedy" (Prov. 11:24). Giving proves you've conquered greed!

3) Expect disapproval.

Do what Noah did - ignore it and get on with the job at hand! For example, during one woman's second pregnancy her friends criticized her because she refused to register at a baby store for more stuff, even though she already had everything she needed.

Don't expect others to understand your new approach. Choosing how you'll react to criticism is one of life's most important decisions. If you only do things nobody can find fault with, you'll never accomplish much!

Related article:
Conquering Credit Card Madness

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

End Of Car Lease: Now What?

My husband and I have really started getting serious about getting out of debt. About 2 years ago we decided to lease a maxed out Suburban. It is our only vehicle so we justified the $507 payments with that logic. It has been a wonderful car for our family of five. But, we are trying to decide what our best strategy should be now that our lease will be over next April, and we now have 70,000 miles on the vehicle. On top of that, my husband now needs a vehicle because of a job change. The "buyout" at the end of the lease is around $25K. We know we now have upside down equity in the thing. My husband has a small bonus coming and we are trying to decide if we should or could trade it in for a used vehicle with less mileage and pay out the penalties. Or, ride out the lease and pay out the penalty next April and turn the keys over then. Buying the truck/car next April for $25K with probably 100,000 miles on it seems a "bit pricey." We finally have carved out a budget for our family,and we are paying off the bills. However, this is a question we can't seem to get answered. Could you help us? Mary

Mary has discovered one of the secrets of auto leasing. Often the deal looks much better at the beginning than at the end. And, unfortunately for her, the end of this lease could get ugly. And Mary's not alone ...

Read the entire article.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What Do You DO To Save On Utilites?

This question was submitted on The Frugal Life Forum:

I know that there are a lot of ways to save money on utilites. Please include your ideas. I know that will help everyone.

This forum post has 18 responses as of today. Read them and submit your own.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Reducing Technology Bills

1. Assess your needs.

2. Downgrade. (The same applies to your cable bill.)

3. Take advantage of freebies.

4. Avoid bundles.

5. Study your bill.

6. Pay smart.

Read the entire article with details on each method.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holiday Cleansing and Weight Loss

All the holiday treats and overeating takes a toll on our digestive system, immune system and certainly on the liver and intestinal system.

What a great New Year's gift to give yourself ... a body cleanse. Cleansing aids so many areas of the body:

Why Should I Cleanse?

Even weight loss is better accomplished once you open the pathways of elimination so any fat you burn off can be removed:

Sensible Weight Control.

Nature's Sunshine's Clean Start Cleanse is on sale from December 21-31, 2008. Wild Berry and Apple flavors at $42.75 ($3.00 off) or you can Buy 4 and Get 1 Free if you're going to cleanse the entire family or do a series of monthly cleanses.

Nature's Sunshine has a big sale on many items. If you're ready to get some energy and nutrition into that partying body, check out the
Nature's Sunshine's products on sale now.

Removing Grease Stains

Q. How do you get grease stains from a barbecue off the cement on a patio? Ray

• Sprinkle liberally with kitty litter. Make sure it's clay-based and not one of the newer chemical ones. The clay will soak that grease right up and you just sweep it away. The longer the grease has been on there, the longer you have to leave the kitty litter on. MAK

• We have had very good success at getting oil stains (from our car) off cement with laundry detergent. We use the Windfresh in the 40 lb. buckets from Sam's Club. Dump some of the powdered detergent (dry, you don't need to add water) on the spot and if you have a stiff broom then rub it it. If you see the grease/oil seeping up into the detergent then sweep it up and repeat.

• I don't know if it will work on a patio but I use Lestoil to take grease stains out of clothing and off my vinyl flooring and it works wonderful. Lestoil is sometimes difficult to find but I have found it in the grocery store with the floor cleaning items.

• Pour undiluted Greased Lightning on the greased area. Let set for a few minutes then scrub with a brush. Use water hose to wash out the grease and clean the concrete. David

Get More Cleaning Recipes

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Get The Best Of The Fear Economy

“The only thing we have to fear,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared in 1933, “is fear itself.”

On January 20 many of us will look to President Barack Obama for the sober reassurance that FDR provided three quarters of a century ago. Since September, when bad mortgages toppled some of the biggest players on Wall Street, the U.S. economy has moved with terrifying speed into its worst crisis since 1933.

In a chain reaction, stocks plummeted as investors ran for the safety of cash, while many banks—suddenly short of capital and long on questionable loans—froze lending. More than a few, such as giant Washington Mutual, went bust. Consumer confidence fell to an all-time low by October.

Fear had cast its long, dark shadow over a shell-shocked nation. With home values down 20 percent in two years and investors fleeing the stock market, hope has given way to concern, which erodes confidence, which fosters more fear.

At the root of our fears is debt. During the “Roaring Nineties” and continuing through the better part of this decade, low interest rates spurred lending—and bank profits—even as it produced a triple-headed hydra of defaults on home loans, cars loans, and credit card debt. That this behemoth would one day rise from the deep and overwhelm the system that cultivated it seems obvious in retrospect.

Read the entire article.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Spending Less On Natural Foods

It happens every month: The bank statement arrives and my husband and I cringe at how much we've spent on groceries. Like many health-conscious parents these days, we insist on top-quality, all-natural foods. Can we help that our 1-year-old daughter's favorite snack is organic raspberries—at a whopping $6 a pack?

Apparently we're not alone. According to Nutrition Business Journal, consumers in the United States spent nearly $26.2 billion in 2006 on natural and organic foods. Faced with monthly grocery totals that rival a mortgage payment, I asked a few experts to offer some smart shopping tips so that my family—and yours—can continue to eat healthily without spending a fortune. Read those tips.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Using Leftover Vegetables

Keep a large cool whip (or whatever you have) container in your freezer. As you clean up from each meal, put the bits of veggie, rice or pasta into the container. Mark it 'Soup Fixings,' use it when you are making a stew or soup, there is no need to cook it. I throw it in the top of the stew while it is on it's last simmer, the big icy chunk will melt into it and stretch it a bit. Lisa S Get more ideas in the entire article

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Getting Out Of An Auto Lease

I would like some advice on how to sell, trade-in or otherwise get rid of a car. I have a 2000 Toyota Camry with 53,000 miles on it. The lease is up in 2004. The last car dealer I spoke to told me that I needed to wait for the lease to be up in order to trade down. He said that the difference between what I owe and what it's worth is $10,000 and that my mileage should be okay if I move closer to where I work. Is this person telling me the truth? Is there any other way I can get a lower car payment or get rid of this car before 2004? My goal is to be a stay-at-home mom to my little boy and this car payment is stopping me. - Linda Lexington, KY

Linda has asked a question that I get regularly. How can I get out of a car lease? Anyone who is already leasing or thinking about leasing should consider how they would answer Linda's question.

Linda needs to recognize that a car lease is fundamentally different from buying a car and making payments. When you buy a car you own it and have agreed to pay a certain amount for it. You can sell the car. Typically you can pay your loan off early.

When you lease a car you've agreed to keep it and make payments for a certain period of time. You do not own it. So you can't sell or trade it.

A typical new car depreciates approximately ...

Read the entire article.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wood Burning Stoves

This question was submitted on The Frugal Life Forum:

My Husband and I are going to be buying a place very soon. I live in the outskirts of Danial Boone National Forest so I have plenty of trees. Heating here is either done by coal, wood burning, electic or propane. Anyway my question is we want to have a wood burner and wondered if anyone can really say it cuts the costs on heating. I also want Propane for night time use but don't want to depend on propane because of the cost. Is a stove really worth the cost in this case. After all winter is right around the corner!!!!

This forum post has 9 responses as of today. Read them and submit your own.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Win A Money Makeover

Has the rocky economy dealt a blow to your finances? Are you suddenly having trouble saving for retirement, providing for a parent or a child, paying medical expenses, or simply making ends meet? Whatever your financial challenge, we’d like to give you a hand—and you may help others as a result.

AARP The Magazine is teaming with the Garrett Planning Network to provide a free financial review and plan to six households in 2009. Enter to win.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Carpool For Climate And Budget

Share rides to work, school, worship, and more to cut pollution and build community.

When Anne Benson took a colleague’s suggestion and joined a long-standing daily carpool from Shirlington, VA, to downtown Washington, DC, she wasn’t looking for romance. She was just hoping to share gas costs with three other colleagues, to take advantage of Virginia’s faster “HOV” highway lanes for cars with more than one passenger, and to benefit from her employer’s reserved parking spaces for carpoolers.

Three years later, after Anne and her three carpool-mates, including Andrew Miller, had shared many conversations on the afternoon drives home, carpooling turned out to have another perk: Anne and Andrew fell in love. Read the entire article.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Can Money Make You Happy?

People believe that material wealth will make them happy, and that more will make them happier. The problem with this belief is that it's just right enough to convince us it's completely right.

Studies of the relationship between well-being—or happiness—and income are remarkably clear. If you take someone in dire poverty and provide them with enough income to move into the middle class, you make them extremely happy in a lot of important ways. You relieve them of the pain of hunger and concern about the welfare of their children, for example.

On the other hand, if you take someone from the middle class and move them into the stratospheric rich, you do almost nothing for their happiness. Read the entire article.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What We Do

by Donna L. Watkins

There was a time I went to bed at night after a long list of chores accomplished in the day, not to recount all that I had done .... but to ponder all that I didn't get done. Almost exhausted with my 18-hour super shift at super speed, I still expected more of myself.

"No rest for the weary" I could hear my Daddy saying. He worked hard to provide for the family in steel factories, driving coal trucks, part time jobs on the side when I was younger. I guess I grew up thinking that life was tough and I had to hit the trail at full speed to get it all done.

Funny how we grab a few words here and there from childhood and run with them. My Daddy's entire life did not portray hussel and bussle. He worked hard, but he came home and relaxed. On Sundays we played games, took walks and drives in the country. He taught me how to ride a bicycle and later how to drive a car. His job got easier while I was a teenager when he got a job managing a huge apartment development with a number of perks.

By the time I was 18 I was ready for two jobs and lots of activities to fill in the rest of the hours and that lifestyle pace continued into my marriage and parenting. During those years I now remember my Daddy often saying, "You better slow down or you're gonna make yourself sick."

Like the white rabbit in "Alice in Wonderland" there seemed to be no slowing down. Until ..... my body demanded it with illness.

I had no mercy on myself and rarely on others. What drives driven people to their own ruin? Is there one major root cause? I speculate that we each have some hidden message that keeps us wound tightly. I've certainly remembered messages from my past, but we ultimately make the choice at who we are going to be. Read the entire article.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kids 'n Honey: A Natural Mix

Raw honey is not only tasty, but it's extremely nutritious. Incorporating it into your daily diet is an excellent step to take towards maintaining general good health. Dr. D.C. Jarvis says "I am saddened when people tell me that they don't eat honey because costs more than white sugar. In the long run, you must pay either the grocer or the druggist." Honey can be substituted for white sugar very easily, even in baking, and the health benefits for everyone but especially for children are worth every penny. Here are some simple suggestions for getting some honey into your kids!

Baked Honey Apples
Core 4 apples, peel a ring of skin away from around the middle of each apple. In the center of each, place 1 Tbsp. chopped nuts and drizzle with honey. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Glazed Bananas
Peel and slice lengthwise 2 bananas. Place flat side down on a greased cookie sheet. Brush with warmed honey, bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Read the entire article

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Finding the Best Auto Financing

We normally buy used cars and trucks but we decided to buy a new truck from a dealer. What advice would you give us to deal with the new car dealers. Sheryl

Sheryl's question really has two parts. Naturally, she'll want to get the best price from the dealer. We looked at that last time. But, unless she's paying cash for the car, finding the best auto loan could reduce the cost of the car by up to 5%.
So how can Sheryl find the best financing? Let's examine some strategies and pitfalls.

Before she even shops for a loan it's wise to get a copy of her credit report. If there are errors on the report, cleaning them up before applying for a loan will save money. Remember, the interest rate you pay will be directly related to your credit history.

Once Sheryl has reviewed her credit report, it's time to shop for a loan. The local credit union or bank is likely to have a better financing offer than the dealership. So she'll start looking for a loan before she ever sets foot in a dealership.

There's another reason to shop for a loan before shopping for a car. The signed deal to buy the car isn't really complete. It probably includes a "subject to financing" clause. That means that you haven't really bought the car until you arrange financing.

So you could be sitting in the dealership dreaming of that new cruiser. Then the dealer discovers ...

Read the entire article.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday Gift Exchange

This question was submitted on The Frugal Life Forum:

With the holiday season creeping up on us, does anyone have a unique holiday gift exchange idea. Something unique, not too costly and fun.......

There is a good mixture of males and females (couples), but none of us have a money tree growing in the back yard. I've thought about a 'white elephant' gift exchange where everybody gets a 'slightly used' gift from a thrift store, flea market or garage sale.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thanks for your help.

This forum post has 7 responses as of today. Read them and submit your own.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Netflix A Bargain or Not

Is Netflix truly a bargain or does it force you to watch more movies than you'd want because you're overcome with "Netflix guilt?"

The charge against Netflix is simple — that, for most people, unless you are watching large numbers of movies each month, it is simply not worth the monthly rental fee. Even if you watched every movie as soon as you received it, you can not hope to get much more than four movies a month. The best case scenario, then, brings about a per-movie cost of around $2.25.

Get the scoop in this Student Scrooge post.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Legumes Reduce Grocery Budget

Eating healthy can be part of an alternative treatment against illnesses.

Legumes are a staple food all over the world and are one of the best sources of soluble fiber. Plus, they're low in fat and high in good quality protein -- a great health-saving combination. Beans can be gassy, of course, but there are ways around that. So don't let their "explosive" nature scare you away from some of the best nutrition around.

The soluble fiber in beans helps lower levels of damaging LDL cholesterol in the blood, thus lowering heart-disease risk. And by slowing down carbohydrate absorption, soluble bean fiber fends off unwanted peaks and valleys in blood glucose levels -- especially valuable to people with diabetes. Beans also provide substantial insoluble fiber, which can keep constipation and other digestive woes away.

Legumes are also rich in folic acid, copper, iron, and magnesium -- four nutrients many of us could use more of in our diets. In addition, dried beans and peas are generally good sources of iron, which is especially helpful for people who don't eat meat. Read the entire article.

Beans are an important dietary choice for vegetarians since they contain a great amount of protein. When combined with a grain, they offer complete protein (containing all amino acids) in a more digestible form than meat and dairy products. Read more about vegetarian protein sources.

Beans can really stretch a food budget a very long way, even if you're paying the higher price for canned beans. Phil Lempert at MSNBC.com discusses buying dry beans vs. canned.

"Nearly every bean that is sold in dried form is sold pre-cooked in cans including garbanzo, red kidney, Great Northern white or black beans, pinto, and navy beans. Also available in cans are whole, and both French and Italian cut green beans that are not available in dried form, but also come fresh or frozen. Organic, low sodium and low fat varieties are also available.

Although dried beans are a very inexpensive source of protein, it’s hard to argue with the additional expense of buying precooked beans in cans. With the convenience of saving time soaking, cooking, and seasoning beans, all you need to do is open a can and use them in salads, or heat them up in other dishes.

So, while you could get four cups of cooked beans from a package of dried beans for under 60 cents, and you get only one cup for 90 cents to $1.50 for canned beans, it’s still such a modest investment that convenience here makes sense."


Here's a warm healthy recipe from Delicious Living for one of your cold winter evenings.

Lentil, Mushroom, and Spinach Stew
Serves 6

Lentil Tip:

Grayish-green French lentils stay firm when cooked; red lentils cook quickly but can lose their texture; and brown (often with a greenish cast and simply labeled “lentils”) soften but retain texture when cooked.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, cut in large dice
2 medium carrots, cut in large dice
1 medium celery stalk, cut in large dice
1½ cups sliced cremini or portobello mushrooms
1 cup flat brown lentils, rinsed
7-8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
4 cups (packed) baby spinach leaves
Sherry or sherry vinegar (optional)

1. In a medium soup pot, heat olive oil and sauté onion, carrots, celery, and mushrooms until onions are just tender, 3-5 minutes. Stir in lentils. Add 7 cups broth, bay leaf, rosemary, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook on medium, covered, for about 20 minutes, until lentils are tender.
2. Remove bay leaf. Purée half of the mixture and return to pot. If desired, add remaining 1 cup stock to reach desired consistency. Stir in baby spinach leaves and cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Top each serving with a spoonful of sherry or sherry vinegar, if desired.

PER SERVING: 180 cal, 14% fat cal, 3g fat, 0g sat fat, 0mg chol, 10g protein, 30g carb, 11g fiber, 348mg sodium

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Why You Need An Estate Plan

Why do you need an estate plan? If you were to keel over dead right now, how would your assets get allocated? Who would take care of your kids? Where would the dog go? Who would inherit all the money you stashed away for the retirement you’ll never enjoy?

An estate plan is about much more than just having a life insurance policy, although that is certainly an important facet of any person’s total financial health. It’s also about more than just drawing up a will and keeping it in a safe place.

So what is a good estate plan?.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cut Television Expenses

Watching TV is a favorite past time of many people in the US, the problem is your television bill can get expensive quickly if you’re not careful about managing your TV costs. Here are some tips to help you save money on TV.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Are School Lunches A Good Value

From MSN Money.

Brooke at Dollar Frugal recently ate lunch at her child's school, and she was grossed out by what was on her tray.

She described it in her post "School lunch disgust -- is it worth it?" "The hamburger was not good quality (pieces that I could not chew -- gristle? bone?), the fruit was drowned in syrup, the green beans drowned in butter and pepper (?) and the home fries were cold."

If you can afford to pack a brown-bag lunch for your kids, is that a better value -- and better nutrition -- than the $2 hot lunch at school?

Brooke had thought she was saving money and time by ponying up $2 a day for her child's lunch. Now she's packing food every day in a new lunchbox.

How do you decide which course is best?

Know what your child is eating. The KidsHealth Web site says some schools are upgrading the nutritional value of lunch, but still offer plenty of unhealthy choices. "For instance, a kid might decide to buy a hot dog, day after day." Sample the lunch at school. Also, if your school participates, you can find the menu at SchoolMenu.com. If you're not pleased, contact school board members.

Make a healthy lunch if your school's options are contributing to the national childhood obesity problem. If you're sending your kid to school every day with bologna and a big glop of mayonnaise on white bread, you're not helping. (KidsHealth suggests healthier alternatives.)

If your income has taken a big hit recently, check into the National School Lunch Program, which provides free and reduced-cost lunches based on family income guidelines. But make sure you talk to your child about how to pick healthy foods in the cafeteria.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

13 Ways To Save Money And Go Green

We all read about ways that an individual can help the environment; buying carbon offsets, purchasing a hybrid car, driving less, recycling cans and bottles, etc.. But there are many more ways that little changes in your every day life can affect the big picture if more of us started doing them. I am going to attempt to list a few of them here, and I hope you will leave comments with your tips and ideas for everyone to learn from. Here are the ways I think that small changes can make a big difference.

1. Replace the light bulbs in your house with compact fluorescent light bulbs. Yes, they cost more than regular bulbs, but they use way less electricity (saving you money on your utility bill) and they last around 10 years. Good for the environment and good on the wallet in the long term.

2. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store when you go shopping. This should be a no-brainer, but I still see people walking ... Read the entire article.

Holiday Decorating Within Your Budget

From "Not Made Of Money"

Getting my home dressed up for the holidays is one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. I love to see all of the sparkle and shine of the decorations as I pull out the decorations that have spent the past year packed away. It’s like seeing old friends again.

If you don’t, however, already have a collection of ornaments and holiday décor items waiting to be put to use in your home, you may feel like you can’t afford to really give your house the glamour treatment. Don’t worry, though. There are tons of ways to dress your home up for the holidays while watching your pennies. Read the entire article.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Free Classes At Yale

Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn.

Open Yale Courses reflects the values of a liberal arts education. Yale's philosophy of teaching and learning begins with the aim of training a broadly based, highly disciplined intellect without specifying in advance how that intellect will be used. This approach goes beyond the acquisition of facts and concepts to cultivate skills and habits of rigorous, independent thought: the ability to analyze, to ask the next question, and to begin the search for an answer.

All lectures were recorded in the Yale College classroom and are available in video, audio, and text transcript format. Registration is not required and no course credit is available. View what's currently available.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cut Your Holiday Gift Cost

One interesting – albeit non-scientific – way to gauge someone's comfort level with the state of the economy is to ask how much they plan to spend on holiday gifts. In good times, people tend to spend more generously; during rough periods, they scale back.

Those trends were borne out in a recent consumer survey conducted by Visa Inc., which found that shoppers plan to spend an average of $934 on gifts this holiday season, down about 11 percent from last year’s $1,051 average. That jibes with bleak industry forecasts for the upcoming shopping season.

If you're among those looking for ways to manage your holiday spending while still finding meaningful gifts for your loved ones, read on:

First, consider your overall finances. Before spending a dime on gifts, step back and calculate how much you can afford as a portion of your overall budget. Consider questions such as:

  • Are your savings sufficient to cover expenses for a few months if you or your spouse should get laid off or have unexpected medical expenses?
  • Would you be able to pay off all gifts within a couple of months?
  • Are you already struggling to pay your monthly bills?
  • Would you need to suspend retirement savings contributions in order to buy gifts?

If you answered "no" to either of the first two questions or "yes" to the others, this probably isn't a good year for extravagant spending.

Make a list. Once you decide how much you can comfortably afford to spend on gifts overall, list all the people you need to shop for, including a few gift alternatives – and their costs – for each person. I call these 'micro budgets.' Remember, if you overspend on one present ...

Read the entire article.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stop Junk Mail

From Stop Junk Mail website:

"After returning from vacation I pushed through the post office doors. Stood in line patiently. Once at the counter I requested my mail which was held till my return. The customer service rep. left and soon returned with a box two thirds full of mail. I stood there in shock, looking down at the volume of mail I had received in five days. I acknowledge the fact that its become extremely annoying daily to separate the unwanted mail, but never put any serious thought into it till now.

I went home, and after 45 minutes of sorting the mail, I determined 95 percent was junk mail. My time is valuable, and looking at the time I spend annually sorting out the junk mail, I decided to research and determine a way to eliminate the junk mail madness. Telemarketers have been reduced by the no call list. There had to be a way. I have completed research and along with my staff have developed the necessary tools to accomplish the task.

Its time to put an end to this ridiculous amount of waste of material and resources. Stop Junk Mail will assist you with the reduction of your unwanted junk mail.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Converting Flower Pots Into Homes For Birds

If you're already getting cabin fever with the cold weather ... here's a flowerpot project that has nothing to do with plants and everything to do with birds. Although it's not time for nesting, birds use bird houses to roost in for the winter also.

With a little bit of remodeling, you can put out the welcome mat for wrens with this easy-to-build birdhouse project on Birds and Blooms website.

Susan Vater created this birdhouse for her garden in Middleton, Wisconsin. Because the house is small, she says it's perfect for hanging in the thick vegetation that wrens prefer.

Read the entire article.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Rite-Aid's Gift Of Savings

Just in time for holiday shopping, Rite Aid’s Gift of Savings program lets customers earn $5, $10 or $20 certificates based on total purchases from $25 to more than $100.

To receive their gift certificate, customers can pick up a brochure with mail-in form at any Rite Aid or go to www.riteaid.com and submit the information from qualifying receipts dated Nov. 16-Dec. 24.

All submissions must be received by Jan. 26, 2009. (See in-store brochures or online information for program rules and purchases that are excluded such as alcohol, tobacco and gift cards.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Making Soaps

Using your leftover soymilk and tofu cartons was never this fun! The environmentally conscious can now recycle in a new, creative way with Bramble Berry Inc., a provider of the highest quality ingredients for making personalized soaps.

When deciding what to add to your soap, think green! Herbs, oatmeal, coffee, spirulina, clay and charcoal each add a specific enhancement to the skin through their naturally occurring properties. With easy-to-follow recipes, Bramble Berry’s eco chic soap can transform even the most novice crafters into “green” mini-Marthas.

Here's a recipe for Eco Chic Soap:

Ingredients Needed:

Herbs, oatmeal, coffee, spirulina, clay, or charcoal
1 pound (16 ounces) Bramble Berry ‘melt and pour’ soap, organic base
1 ounce essential oil (we used lavender and eucalyptus)
Soap mold (or Tupperware, or anything you find like an empty yogurt
container, old tofu container, empty soy milk container, etc.)
Rubbing Alcohol

1. Prep your herbs and make sure they are the right size for gentle exfoliation. Sharp herbs may be too abrasive on the skin.
2. Cut the ‘melt and pour’ soap into 1 x 1" cubes.
3. Using your microwave, heat the soap in 30-second increments until the soap is fully melted.
4. Add .25 ounces to .50 ounces of essential oil. Remember, if
you use a yellow or orange colored fragrance, your soap base will look less
clear and look more yellow/orange.
5. Mix in your herbs or additives. Stir until the herbs seem mostly suspended.
6. Pour your scented and herb'ed soap into the make-shift mold.
7. Tip: Don't fill your make-shift soap mold all the way up. It helps for easy release to fill 85% of the way to the top and not the entire way.
8. Do one finishing touch of rubbing alcohol to finish off your soap and give it a nice smooth surface

Wait for the soap to harden, pop or unwrap the soap out of the mold, wrap soap with saran wrap, label and enjoy the compliments you get. Buy supplies and get more great ideas here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Avoiding The Holiday Financial Crisis

Each year millions of people go into debt celebrating a holiday that loses its entire meaning in the process.

Recently in our country the banks ran out of money. To avoid collapse, the government pumped liquidity back into the system for a short-term fix. But behind our country's financial crisis (and ours), a much more ominous crisis looms: we are running out of nature - fish, forests, fresh water, minerals, soil. What are we going to do when supplies of these vital resources run low?

There’s a way that helps the planet and our personal pocketbooks. We must have a plan to avoid the collapse of the earth and green that nurtures not only our bodies with food, but our souls with the peace gathered from those quiet places in nature that we seek out when all seems lost ...

We have to consume less.

It will take a massive mind shift.

You can start the ball rolling by celebrating Buy Nothing Day on November 28th. I encourage you to celebrate Buy Nothing Day on the day after Thanksgiving. It's an international event.

Do something with your family. Make a new tradition. Create some fond memories of time together, rather than a mad dash for the stores at the crack of dawn.

We stopped 25 years ago and have never gone back.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Say Thanks To The American Troops

Many won't be with their families for the holidays. Those serving in the military for the safety of our country deserve a Thank You. Xerox is providing a way to let you do that FREE with a few clicks.

Choose a card designed by children. It will go to some member of the armed services. It is FREE and it only takes a second. Click here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cutting The Costs Of Staying Warm

In these days when cold weather is upon us. It is important we find ways to cut our costs related to staying warm.

In the AARP Novemember 2008 this helpful table was provided:

6 Ways You Can Cut Costs

1. Lower you thermostat a few degrees and bundle up more indoors.
2. Set your water heater temperature to low, or about 120 degrees F.
3. Drain a quart of water from your water every 3 months to remove sediment.
4. Replace or wash furnace filters.
5. Put weather stripping or caulking around windows, and weather stripping around exterior doors.
6. Check for drafts around electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures and ducts, and insulate if necessary.

Looking at this list, I was taken aback at #3. We have lived in our house for several years and I have never emptied the sediment out of the water heater. Guess I am overdue. Are you?

From the Editor

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Simplifying Birthday Parties

When you stop and think about your past parties, you’ll realize how much the following article makes sense and will actually save you time, money, energy (yours and our natural resources), not to mention promoting a healthier life for people and the planet.

The trend for the party is to simplify – even more now than ever. There are so many ways to make a big difference (while setting a good example for the kids and inspiring others).

Here are 10 smart party tips that will also stir up some ideas of your own for a very fun & most impressive event from start to finish.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cocoa Mulch - Poison To Dogs and Cats

Please tell every dog or cat owner you know. Forward this by email below.

Over the weekend a doting owner of two young lab mixes purchased Cocoa Mulch from Target to use in their garden. They loved the way it smelled and it was advertised to keep cats away from their garden. Their dog Calypso decided that the mulch smelled good enough to eat and devoured a large helping. She vomited a few times which was typical when she eats something new but wasn't acting lethargic in any way.

The next day, the owner woke up and took Calypso out for her morning walk. Half way through the walk, she had a seizure and died instantly.

Although the mulch had NO warnings printed on the label, upon further investigation on the company's website, this product is HIGHLY toxic to dogs and cats.

Cocoa Mulch is manufactured by Hershey's, and they claim that 'It is true that studies have shown that 50% of the dogs that eat Cocoa Mulch can suffer physical harm to a variety of degrees (depending on each individual dog). However, 98% of all dogs won't eat it.'

The Snopes.com website (where you can verify any stories you get by email) gives the following information:

Cocoa Mulch, which is sold by Home Depot, Foreman's Garden Supply and other Garden supply stores, contains a lethal ingredient called 'Theobromine'. It is lethal to dogs and cats. It smells like chocolate and it really attracts dogs. They will ingest this stuff and die. Several deaths already occurred in the last 2-3 weeks. Just a word of caution, check what you are using in your gardens and be aware of what your gardeners are using in your gardens.

Theobromine is in all chocolate, especially dark or baker's chocolate which is toxic to dogs. Cocoa bean shells contain potentially toxic quantities of theobromine, a xanthine compound similar in effects to caffeine and theophylline. A dog that ingested a lethal quantity of garden mulch made from cacao bean shells developed severe convulsions and died 17 hours later. Analysis of the stomach contents and the ingested cacao bean shells revealed the presence of lethal amounts of theobromine.


Keep in mind that neighbors may have this type of mulch, so keep your pets on your own property and notify your neighbors and friends NOT to use this.

Friday, November 21, 2008

High Cost Of Health Care

In the United States today there are millions of people without health insurance. As the insurance companies want to make a higher and higher profit it keeps the majority of uninsured people from getting health insurance due to the costs. Many businesses have had to either drop the health insurance or make the deductibles in the range of $1000, $5,000 or even as high as $10,000 and place more of the cost on the employee.

If you can place pre-tax money into a health savings account to help pay for your medical care this can help alleviate some of the strain of medical care. Many people do not understand how these medical savings accounts work. You have to estimate your medical care cost at the beginning on your “open season” at work which allows you to make changes to your benefits.

What to be careful about is estimating too high as if you do not use everything by the end of the calendar year you lose this money. Another aspect to keep in mind with this type of plan is that the money is taken out of your paycheck each month where your employer has divided the total amount, you requested for payment for your medical bills, by the total number of paychecks you will receive in a year.

You also have to usually have to pay for your co-pay/co-insurance or deductible first and you get reimbursed for the cost. This type of plan will lower your federal and state taxes based on your income.

Does the average individual have other options? If you are in financial hardship, let your physician know personally, as the office staff may or may not have the ability to give you a discount after filling out paperwork to justify the hardship. Do not be embarrassed to ask for help, as many providers will work with you, if you ask.

If you do not have health insurance or have a very high deductible and need medications, find out the name of the medication manufacturer from your pharmacy and look the company up online, as many of these companies have free or discount medication available. Ask all of your physicians for samples of medications. There are options that can help pay for medical care if you just ask for help.

Content Submitted by czsissom on The Frugal Life Forums.

Celebrate New Home With Composting Party

This couple while short on compost materials after making a move, hatched a perfect plan to acquire masses of good organic matter, and have fun while doing it.

They morphed their house warming party into a compost warming, and boy was it fun. Invitations were sent and word was spread they wanted rotting matter, and lots of it.

They offered prizes for the most useful, the most unusual, and the largest quantity of materials. I think it's a great idea and wonderful way to get a good compost pile going right after moving into a new location.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Favorite Frugal Tips

Renee Rivard submitted this question on The Frugal Life Forum:

I was wondering what some of your frugal tips are that you use in your everyday life. I use coupons, keep my receipts and when something goes on sale I take my receipt to get the sale price, keep all lights off when not in the room. Go on-line to get free items that I use and keep them when I go on vacation (personal items). Put all my change in a change jar, take my lunch to work. Use only half a cap of laundry detergent, use cold water to wash, etc,. I know these are just general frugal tips and have many more, but I was wondering what everyone else does to be frugal and your tips. Thank you.

This forum post has 39 responses as of today. Read them and submit your own.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fire Starters - Gift Idea

FIRESTARTERS

You only need 4 things:

cardboard egg cartons (use just the bottom part)
wood shavings/curls
old wax
old cookie sheet or something to set the egg cartons on

Put the egg carton bottoms on the cookie sheet ... any extra wax will then go onto the cookie sheet and not on the counter. Stuff about 1/4 cup of wood shavings into each "egg." Melt the wax and pour it over the wood shavings. Let dry over night and the next day cut the egg cartons into individual "eggs."

When you want to start a fire, just put one of the eggs at the bottom, add kindling and a couple of pieces of wood and start the egg/shavings on fire. It will burn for about 10-15 minutes and by that time the fire will go going very well.

This is a good way to recycle old egg cartons, wood shavings and wax (old candles etc); and eliminates the need for paper when starting a wood fire. I melt the wax in an old tea kettle on top of the wood stove.

Content Submitted by sunflower1948 on The Frugal Life Forums.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How To Fix Those Gadgets

We toss toxic gadgets left and right, often thinking they'll be recycled, but many times our e-waste is shipped off to other countries. The EPA does little to ensure the safe recycling of materials. Or, only a fraction of the device can actually be recycled and the rest ends up in a landfill.

It's still ultimately up to us to keep a gadget for as long as it is possibly useful. And that means repairing it when needed. Thankfully, repair tips are endless and free advice is everywhere.

Here's a site with videos on gadget repair. Not the end-all of instructions, but maybe it will inspire you to search online for more info on what you need to fix. A huge sense of accomplishment and confidence comes with fixing something you thought was over your head. Turns out - you can do it! So - save money, be green, fix it yourself. Here’s how.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Caregivers Need Support

A new resource is available at the Ask Medicare website. Launched by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the site includes information on navigating through Medicare, health care services, links to partner organizations that assist caregivers, and personal caregiver anecdotes. Visit now.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cheaper Movie Rentals

Redbox (www.redbox.com) offers rentals through vending machines at some 8,000 locations across the country, often at supermarkets and stores. For as little as $1.00, you can rent movies.

Netflix (www.netflix.com) costs as little as $5/month to view thousands of DVDs, movies and TV series, with free shipping to and from your home.

How about entirely free at the easy-to-navigate website Hulu (www.hulu.com), you can view more than 165 movies and some 300 TV shows online from NBC Universal, Fox and cable channels that show TV classics.

CBS and ABC also offer full-length episodes of their shows. Depending on your computer, you may be able to use a "TV out" cable to connect to your TV set for "big screen" viewing.

Source: AARP Bulletin, November 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Shopping - Product Reviews

ConsumerSearch.com offers more than 300 product reviews that consolidate and analyze comments from experts, such as Consumer Reports and Cnet.com, plus user comments posted on the Internet.

Although the website receives some money from retailers, the reviews are independent. The most common items people want information on are mattresses, vacuum cleaners, TVs, coffeemakers and lawnmowers or snowblowers.

About 10 new reports are added each month. Visit now.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reuse Medicine Bottles

Besides all the common uses for empty bottles of many sizes, your medicine bottles are typically not recyclable, so check with your pharmacy to see if they're agreeable to reusing them. Some have found that non-chain pharmacies will reuse them, so carry some in your car when you stop to have a prescription refilled.

Source: GreenAmerica.org

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gift Baskets For Pets


Our Life's Abundance website has some great gift baskets for dogs and cats.

The gift packages include toys and treats. Something for under the tree for your special furr balls ... or maybe a grandpuppy or sponsored pet.

I wouldn't put them out until you've got the tree area under supervision. The aroma may get your furr friend a bit too anxious. Patience is not generally a pet virtue.

View gift options.

Flower Bulb Storage Solution

Tender bulbs that must be overwintered indoors are tough to keep organized. These include canna lilies, freesias, caladiums, gladioluses, dahlias and tuberous begonias.

Keep track of what’s what by storing them in egg cartons, with each bulb identified on the top of the carton. The cartons have ventilation holes that prevent rot.

Source: Birds and Blooms Garden Newsletter.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Prepaid Cards Instead of Cash or Check

From: PracticalMoneySkills.com

Tens of millions of Americans don't have access to checking accounts or credit cards, which can make it difficult for them to cash their payroll or government-provided benefit checks, pay bills, withdraw cash and shop online or by phone. It also forces many to carry large amounts of cash and to utilize extremely expensive check-cashing services.

An increasingly popular alternative known as prepaid cards has helped fill this void. Prepaid cards look and work much like debit cards, except that instead of drawing money from a checking or savings account balance, they are funded by money deposited into an account by cash, check, funds transfer or direct deposit by an employer or government entity.

Prepaid cards share many of the attributes and advantages of debit cards, including:

  • They're safer to carry than large amounts of cash
  • If branded with a logo like Visa, they can be used anywhere that brand is accepted
  • Spending is limited to the amount in the account, helping keep debt in check
  • Many can be used to withdraw cash from ATMs or to make online or phone purchases
  • Many are covered by Zero ...
Read the entire article.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Frugal Thanksgiving Dinners

A vegetarian Thanksgiving sounds like an odd idea since it's often called, "Turkey Day," but you can have a nice banquet without the cost of all the meat. Here's a site with some ideas to keep your Thanksgiving meal frugal.

Maybe you've got a vegetarian guest coming to a non-vegetarian celebration. Get some great tips here: When a Non-Vegetarian Cook Hosts a Vegetarian Guest.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fall Budget Shopping Guides

The Budget Fashionista’s website gives fashion tips and bargains for those who love to shop and enjoy being fashionable. I admit, I've been out of that league for a long time. Working at home allows me to be fashionable in my pj's. My idea of "dress up" is a casual pair of pants that has a button and zipper. My favorite wardrobe item is something that won't mind getting dirty while I play in the dirt in my garden, or sit on the ground to get a closer look at some insect or mushroom.

But .. to each his own. I love the diversity of the natural world ... and the diversity of life and lifestyles. For those who still love to shop, check out the

Budget Fashionista website.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

5 Reasons to Stop Using Cell Phones

David G. Mitchell knows he's not preaching to the choir when he strongly recommends that most people stop using cell phones. He observes that "I will not use a cell phone and you probably cannot be separated from yours."

Yet, he makes a compelling argument in a pithy post at Saving Advice that provides five reasons to give up cell phones and save money.

Health is one of his concerns. Read the entire article at MSN Money. Here's a couple more links from my personal blog:

Cell Phone Precautions - Analysis Of Studies
Cell Phone and Bluetooth Protection Available

Saturday, November 8, 2008

4 Ways To Earn Cash Before Christmas

From: Not Made Of Money.com.

Now that stores everywhere are starting to sparkle with Christmas merchandise, you may have found yourself going into a panic. How are you going to afford all of the things you want to do this Christmas? Maybe you’ve got your heart set on buying your children some really snazzy gifts. Or maybe you want to make the trek home to your parents’ house for Christmas. Whatever your holiday plans, you can almost bet that you will need some extra money to make them happen.

Before your panic turns into a full meltdown, you should know that there are some simple ways to earn some extra cash in time for your holidays. Depending upon whether you have an abundance of time, talent, or stuff, you can turn your excess into money in no time.

Sell your junk. Selling your unwanted items on eBay just gets easier and easier. Simply take a picture, type a short description, and click a few buttons and your product is out there for someone to find. Maybe there is someone, right now, looking for the old edition magazine that’s collecting dust in your closet. Do a little research by looking at similar items to help you decide the best way to list your treasures.

Work at your favorite store. Almost all retailers need extra help on the holidays. Why not cash in on the time you spend in your favorite shop and earn a paycheck? You may even get the benefit of a bonus on your purchases there.

Put your talents to good use. Bake breads and treats to sell at a local market. Knit tiny baby blankets to sell on eBay. You may even be able to help your neighbors by starting a Christmas light hanging service. Just look for ways to use the things your good at to benefit someone else. You can advertise online in a community bulletin board or by hanging flyers in your neighborhood.

Become a salesperson. Do you enjoy going to Pampered Chef or Home Interiors parties? You can earn your own little stash for Christmas by becoming a salesperson. Start a little early (You don’t want to be trying to talk your friends into hosting parties during the holidays), and you’ll be able to build your own Christmas fund. Be sure to choose a company that allows you to minimize your initial investment, as well as finding a product that you really enjoy selling.

Source: Visit for more great articles.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Beware of Bad Credit Quick Fixes

What's the No. 1 way to tell that a credit-repair firm is not legitimate? It asks you to pay upfront for services that haven't been rendered, "Blunt Money" says.

Another tip-off, she writes: No matter what they claim, "no one can remove accurate negative information from anyone's credit report."

Unfortunately, many desperate people have responded to ads containing bogus claims, often paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to shady firms promising to improve their bad credit. As a result, the Federal Trade Commission and 22 states have launched a crackdown on unlawful practices, targeting 33 companies. Read the entire article.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

America Recycles Day - November 15

This is a national celebration set each year at November 15 to remind us that recycling and buying recycled goods is of utmost importance. Many events are scheduled throughout the nation on this day. In addition, many prizes are awarded to those who make a commitment to recycle or buy recycled products. Get more info at www.americarecyclesday.org.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Finding Professionals In A New City

People enjoy being comfortable, and moving takes us out of our comfort zone. We leave behind old friends, a familiar school district, the restaurants we love, and the advisors we trust. It can take years to to find and build relationships with quality professionals like our doctor, accountant, contractor, financial planner, and attorney.

Simply calling a random professional in the phone book can potentially turn out to be a disaster. So, what should you do? Take a look at a few things you can try for finding someone you can trust.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Holiday Travel

From My Two Dollars.com

It’s that getting to be that time again - time to fill up the highways, airports, and railways with people on their way to visit relatives for the holidays.

We are taking Amtrak across country again and we booked our tickets about 4 months ago to make sure we got the dates we wanted and were able to reserve private bedrooms for the whole trip. But for those of you just starting to think about what you are going to do this year, there are a few ways to both save money and save yourself some headaches in the process. Read the entire article.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Things A Homeowner Should Do To Save Money

On The Simple Dollar, a personal finance blog, I stumbled on an article, "18 Things a New Homeowner Should Do Immediately to Save Money."

These tips can be used by current homeowners. I also realized that the very same tips that can help someone save money are also very green. In fact, out of the 18 tips, 16 are directly green. Maybe there are some you haven't done yet. See the list in the article.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

For the Juicers Among You

Recently, we have started juicing some carrots. To prepare the carrots I either wash them thoroughly or if they aren't in the best of shape I have peeled them completely. After juicing, I have found there is a lot of fiber that is left over. Being the frugal minded person that I am, I have sought a use for this fibrous material.

I have buried the material next to some of our plants to improve the tilth of the soil and act as a food for the earthworms too. In fact, I have a friend that does vermicomposting (worm composting) and he feeds the material to them and they seem to love it.

I wondered if eating it would be acceptable. Over hearing my thoughts, my wife reminded me that beet fiber is used in food products so carrot fiber should be usable too. I used it in my Vita-Mix to make a smoothie and found that it does work well and has virtually no taste. I have so much fiber that I have to split it up between several smoothies. However, that is no bother to me. I am just glad that I have found one more thing I can use instead of throwing it out.

From the Editor

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What About 401k's In This Economy?

From The Budgeting Babe website.

Question:
Should I reduce my 401k contribution while the economy tanks?

I'm currently putting 10% of my salary into my 401k. Given how craptacular the stock market is doing right now, and that my fund is actually going down instead of up and hasn't made any money this year - has actually been steadily losing money - would it make sense to lower my contribution to 5% until the storm has passed? I mean, I won't be taking anything out that's already in the account but right now it seems like I'm literally throwing my money away.

Read the answers to this question in the comment section of this post.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Frugal Teenagers Mandatory

When Wendy Postle’s two children were younger, saying “yes” gave her great joy. Yes to all those toys. The music lessons. The blowout birthday parties. But as her son and daughter approached adolescence, yes turned into a weary default. “Sometimes it was just easier to say, ‘O.K., whatever,’ than to have the battle of ‘no,’ ” said Mrs. Postle, a working mother who lives in Hilliard, Ohio, a middle-class suburb of Columbus.

This year her husband’s 401(k) savings are evaporating. Medical bills are nipping at the couple’s heels. Gas prices are still taking a toll. Mrs. Postle recently decided that although she and her husband had always sacrificed their own luxuries for Zach, 13, and Kaitlyn, 15, the teenagers would now have to cut back as well.

“No” could no longer be the starting gun of family fights. It would have to be an absolute. Read the entire article.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Frugal For The New Economy

To get a sense of the American economy, consider what’s in for summer: house parties instead of bar hopping, thrift stores instead of mall shopping, gardening instead of gourmet restaurants.

Americans have spent the past year or so complaining about the rising price of everything from bread to gas, and bemoaning the ways in which it has changed their lifestyle.

Now, as the reality of a down economy begins to sink in, experts say consumers are starting to embrace the simple life: staying close to home, cooking more, planting a garden and even delighting in bargain hunting. Some retailers, trying to make the best of the situation, have begun looking for ways to latch onto the trend as well.

Read the entire article.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Spend Yourself Happy

From Gina Roberts-Grey

It turns out money can buy happiness. But there's a catch. You have to spend it on others. "We're significantly happier when spending prosocially" - on gifts or charity, says the University of British Columbia's Elizabeth Dunn, Ph. D., who led a survey of 600 Americans.

The difference was seen at all income levels and even when volunteers were given five bucks and a random assignment to spend it either on themselves or on others. Plus, says Dunn, the good feeling lasts six to eight weeks longer than that glow from your vacation.

Source: AARP October-November 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Frugality Hot Trend

Has saving money replaced America's devotion to shop till you drop? Silicon Valley Blogger at The Digerati Life has found lots of evidence that frugality is catching on across the nation.

A chart of what's in and what's out -- posted at SFGate, the Web site of the San Francisco Chronicle -- says it best. Under "in" are such things as cooking at home and fixing the old car, as well as "library" and "tap water." The corresponding items under "out" are eating out, new car, bookstore and bottled water.

With the economy in or headed toward a recession, more people are less inclined to spend every dime they make and then some. "The International Monetary Fund predicts that household consumption will fall further in the next couple of years and that a 'prolonged period of belt-tightening' has just begun," "SVB" writes. Read the entire article.

Monday, October 27, 2008

American Road Trip On the Cheap

As the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge faded in my rear view mirror last Thursday afternoon, I had only one thought in my head: Finally! I had woken up late, had spent way too long packing for this road trip and had been sitting in Brooklyn traffic. Typical. Now, however, my Volvo was zipping over what was once the world’s longest suspension bridge, heading west, and nothing could stop me.

Nothing, that is, but the police officers at the toll plaza.

“Don’t let him leave!” shouted a transit officer. Was my 1989 station wagon in violation of some obscure regulation? Had my paying the $9 toll with a crisp $100 bill set off some alert?

No, the officer said: I had a video camera on the roof of my car, and filming New York City’s bridges and tunnels was illegal. I pulled off to the side and bit my nails while the officers talked among themselves, deciding my fate. Another delay, I sighed. Typical.

Not that it really mattered. After all, I was about to spend the next 12 weeks driving cross-country, seeing the United States as the Frugal Traveler and writing about (as well as videotaping) my journey. Five more minutes couldn’t hurt.

Read the entire article.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Family Dinners Big Benefit For Teens

A Columbia University study found that teens having family dinners five or more times a week were 42 percent less likely to drink alcohol, 59 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes, and 66 percent less likely to try marijuana.

The report comes from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. It's based on national phone survey of 1,000 teens and 829 parents of teens.

I would say there are many obvious benefits for younger children also .. besides the health benefits for the adults too.

Read the entire article.
Other benefits of family dinners.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fallen Leaves Can Be Helpful

Shredded fall leaves are a wonderful inexpensive option in regions where decidious trees release bushels of the mulching material each autumn.

They're an attractive, practical mulch. Your lawn mower is the perfect tool for chopping fall leaves. Once they are chopped, apply a thick layer as mulch over your flower beds.

The Frugal Gardener - page 140

Editor's Note: We do this every year and it works great it also decomposes and improves the soil too.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Changing Eyelid Color

My question is, I have eye shadow, my eyelids are very dark and I wanted to know is there something I could safely use on my eyelids since the skin is very delicate around the eyes to help even up the skin tone?

Post Your Answer or Read the Ideas.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Distinctions of Electric/LP/Natural Gas Explained

One of the problems with LP is that it's a derivative of oil, so that makes its cost tied to the cost of a barrel of oil, and that's not good.

Electricity is normally generated by coal, nuclear, hydro and natural gas. That's what makes the price more stable. These are all things we have in the U.S.

If you can, get natural gas instead of propane. It's price goes up and down, but it isn't nearly as expensive as LP, and no one has to refill you each year.

The other thing to do is talk with people that have all electric service and those with both electric and propane service and see what their bills have been over the past year or so. Also note what kind of appliances they have and who their service provider is.

Electricity has always been a good value, but heating is probably the least efficient use of electricity. Electric base board heating is probably a big energy hog and not very efficient. Forced air electric heat is probably more efficient, but not as efficient as natural gas.

After you've made a good survey, then go with what the data is telling you.

Also, before you buy a house, make certain it is very well insulated. No matter how efficient your energy system is, you'll be throwing money out the window and through the attic if you don't have lots of insulation.

Clair Schwan

Visit Clair's Frugal Living Website.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Natural Flea Control

I used to buy Frontline for my dogs but I never liked using chemicals on them; then I heard about garlic and brewers yeast and decided to give it a try.

I bought the brewers yeast with garlic that also had vitamins and nutrients and it worked fantastic.

I have 4 American Eskimos and there is not a flea to be found, their fur has never been softer or shinier. They have more energy and all in all I have noticed a big change in them for the better.

Only problem is you need to start it before "flea season" and don't stop. I ran out and didn't start again for a week and they started scratching and it took another 3 weeks to get flea free again.

I use the tablets and just mix them, whole in their food. My youngest two love them.

Content Submitted by Rylee on The Frugal Life Forums.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Frugal Lending

by Janet Kinosian

Want to bankroll a small business overseas? At Kiva (www.kiva.org) it takes only a $25 microloan to finance the venture of your choice, be it a seamstress in the Dominican Republic or a baker In Afghanistan. Launched three years ago by Matt and Jessica Flannery, Kiva as of August had attracted more than 300,000 investors, who have fronted interest-free loans of about $38.5 million. The payback rate is above 98 percent, with most loans repaid within one year. And then you can lend the same $25 again!

Source: AARP October-November 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Frugal Workouts

by Susan Crandell

FEELING the pinch of a sagging economy? Then you're probably taking a hard look at monthly expenses, such as gym fees. But you don't have to give up exercise completely. Fitness can be low-cost, even free.

SAVE ON DUES

Look for a no-frills gym
Planet Fitness (www.planetfitness.com) has cardio and weight-training equipment but no classes. The fee: as little as $99 a year.

Ask for a discount-and keep asking
Most International Health, Racquet and Sports club Association (IHRSA) clubs offer price reductions several times each year. You may also be eligible for group discounts through your work, school, or association memberships, so be sure to ask.

Seek low-cost classes
Great sources for affordable exercise groups: the YMCA (www.ymca.net). which has reduced rates for those who qualify; a community center or house of worship; or your public pool.

WORK OUT AT HOME

Repurpose your bicycle
For cut-rate cardio, put your bike's rear wheel on a training stand and create a stationary bike. Recently on eBay, a used stand went for $43.

Garden, rake, or mow the lawn
A handy activity calculator at www.aarpfitness.com gives the calorie burn for a number of everyday tasks. If you're raking or digging, remember to switch sides to get an even workout.

Barter for training sessions
Have a friend who's a personal trainer? Think about what you can offer in exchange for working out together: anything from building a bookcase to catering a meal to doing your trainer's taxes.

Get deals on equipment
Troll Craigslist or the classifieds for bargains. Elastic bands add resistance without subtracting dough: they're less than $15 new.

Form a workout club
Get together with two friends and work out to a DVD If you each buy one, you'll have three different workouts to rotate.

Scale some steps
Miss the StairMaster at your old gym? Make like Rocky and climb real steps-at a normal pace, you'll burn about 400 calories an hour.

Walk and talk
While you may not walk quite as fast with a friend as you would by yourself, you're likely to walk farther.

Catch a class on TV
Some popular, frequently broadcast exercise shows: Sit and Be Fit, Wai Lana Yoga, and Classical Stretch: The Esmonde Technique. See www.locatetv.com for schedules in your area.

Source: AARP Magazine - November-December 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Frugal Party Giving

Even the most dazzling events are showing less glitter in these cost_conscious times, says Washington D.C., caterer Bill Holman, who has a few tips for prudent party-givers:

• For centerpieces, create a garden of potted herbs or arrange apples, lemons and other fruits into topiary trees.

• At weddings, instead of the popular bubbly, add wine or vodka to a sparkling soda with strawberries or blueberries.

• Replace lavish bouquets with a single-longstemmed flower.

• And skip the extra dessert: Let them eat cake!

Read more from the AARP Bulletin

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What Documents Should I Shred?

Shred junk mail and old papers that include your birth date, account numbers, signature, passwords. Social Security and PIN numbers - but don't shred your Social Security card.

Destroy deposit slips and credit card receipts right after you get your monthly statement. Shred used airline tickets, old medical bills, pre-approved credit card applications, expired ID's such as driver's licenses and passports and canceled checks you don't need for tax purposes. Read the entire article at AARP.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Half Dozen Uses for Empty Egg Cartons

From FrugalDad.com

When you think about it, eggs themselves are a pretty frugal food. They are just about the cheapest form of natural protein available, and are the primary ingredient in nearly every made-from-scratch recipe. We go through a lot of eggs in our household–boiled eggs, scrambled eggs for breakfast (and occasionally, dinner), deviled eggs, etc.

Instead of tossing the empty cartons I began hunting different ways we could reuse them.

Use an empty egg carton to ship breakables. If you are selling on eBay, egg cartons are a great thing to keep around as they offer protection to small, breakable items. If the item is especially small, and you don’t want to pay extra for shipping a rectangular container

Read more ideas in the article.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How to Prepay Your Mortgage

Over the course of a 30-year mortgage, you may end up paying more than twice the amount of your principal. The rest goes towards paying interest. That interest is money in the bank's pocket, not in your bank account.

Prepaying your mortgage is paying extra principal, especially during the early years of your loan, meaning that your house will be paid off that much sooner, and you will pay less total interest over the life of the loan. It could put you that much closer to retirement. Read the entire article.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Recession-Proofing Your Household

Most economists agree we have not in fact suffered a recession, but for the rest of us the pinch is undeniable. There are plenty of tips out there for ways to save money in tough times. Since those are so well-covered, I decided to put together a short list of unique strategies to recession-proof your household–just in case.

Stockpile non-perishables using coupons from eBay. I’m surprised at the number of mega coupon clippers who still don’t know that many clipping services make their “products” available on eBay. That’s right–you can buy coupons on eBay, often times in lots of 10 or more for just a dollar or two. If you frequently go through a product with a long shelf-life, look on eBay for

Read the entire article.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is a Freezer Worth the Money?

BeingFrugal.net has a post that asks these questions with 59 responses to date. If you're considering a freezer for your house, you may want answers to these questions also:

Will a freezer save me money in the long run? Is it better to buy new or used? Is a chest freezer better or an upright freezer? And what size freezer do I need? Any insight you could offer would be great! Do you have a freezer? Did you buy it new or used? If you had to buy a new freezer, would you get the same thing? I want to know all about freezers.

Monday, October 13, 2008

No-Cost and Low-Cost Books

A friend recently gave me a stack of books in excellent condition. The gift — a novel and two memoirs — came with a request. I was told to read the books and give them away. The books, our friend said, could also be "released" at a coffee shop, a public bench or some other location.

The books were gifts through the Bookcrossing.com program, an international program designed to promote the free circulation of books. It is just one of several free or low-cost reading programs. From online vendors to standard bookstores, there are many affordable ways to build

Read the entire article.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Where To Sell Your Stuff For Most Cash

Check out Frugal Living at About.com for the best places to sell items for cash. Books, Clothes, Furniture, Antiques and Collectibles, Sports Equipment, Electronics, CDs/DVDs/Video Games, Housewares, Appliances, Jewelry, and Musical Instruments. Be sure to check out the other articles with ways to make money. Frugal Living About.com.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Uses For Plastic Newspaper Bags

From Frugal Living About.com

Plastic grocery bags can be used for all sorts of things, but what about those plastic sleeves that your newspaper comes in? Are they good for anything?

Indeed they are:

1. Pooper Scooper Bags
Newspaper sleeves are the perfect tool for cleaning up doggie droppings. Just pull a sleeve over your hand; use it to pick up the droppings; then, grab the bag at it's opening; pull it back over your hand; and toss the whole thing.

2. Travel Bags
Protect the contents of your suitcase from shampoo and lotion spills by sliding the bottles into plastic newspaper sleeves, and tying the bags shut. Do the same with shoes, to protect your clothes from dirty soles.

3. Yard Sale Bags
Have small things to sell at your next yard sale? Place them in newspaper sleeves, and you won't have to spend money on plastic, zipper bags.

4. Work Gloves
Slide your hands into two newspaper sleeves, and you have instant work gloves.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Finding Free Entertainment and Free Classes

Public education takes on new meaning at many area stores and community centers. From decorative painting to dance instruction, there are many free classes and events in our neighborhoods. What's more, public libraries offer free fitness, cultural and literary classes at neighborhood branches.

Every month, Whole Foods Market, a national chain, provides free classes on ...

Read the entire article.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Economic Meltdown Survival Guide

Banks are closing or being taken over by the U.S. government, brokerages are getting massive multi-billion loans, insurers are going belly-up and the Dow Jones has been on quite a roller coaster ride lately. Images of soup kitchens, massive unemployment and doom and gloom come to mind as some wonder aloud if the U.S. is headed for another Great Depression.

Even so, some people aren't worried. They aren't even nervous. I happen to be one of those people. If you took steps a year ago, or even six months ago, to get your financial house in order, you'll weather the storm just fine. You could even start sorting out your finances now, and you'll still be fine. It just takes calm, cool reasoning...and a game plan. With that in mind, Savvy Frugality presents the Economic Meltown Survival Guide.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Basement Smell Stinks Whole House

Please help me. My house stinks so badly. It is from my basement. I have added water to my drain, and it still stinks really badly. I have been burning candles to cover the smell up. I need to get rid of the smell. Is this harmful to my family? Please let me know. Read other responses and leave your own.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Make Your Own Toilet Bowl Cleaner

From Planet Green.

Have you ever thought about making your own toilet bowl cleaner? I think a lot of us believe that we have to have strong chemicals to clean dirty items like toilet bowls. That's simply not true. You can make a great cleaner for your toilet bowl at home and with natural ingredients.

Check out this toilet bowl cleaner recipe that worked for me:

Combine 2 tablespoons of baking soda with one tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of your favorite scent (lemon always works for me). Throw this into your toilet and scrub away! It always gets my toilet clean.

By making your own home cleaners, not only are you saving on our planet's resources and reducing the toxic chemicals in your immediate environment, but you're saving money, too! Read more about detoxing your bathroom.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Save Energy: Laundry

Your dryer checks in at number two (#2) on the list of household energy hogs (right after your fridge), according to the U.S. Department of Energy, and uses more than you might think.

By cutting the dryer out of the equation and using the ample solar energy that falls to the earth every day, you can save some bucks, and prolong the life of your clothes, too. Get the full scoop in How to Go Green: Laundry.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Disney Free 2009 Admission On Your Birthday

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to pass this along. Disney World and Disney Land are giving you free admission on your birthday for their 2009 promo! I verified it through the Disney website!

Here is the link.

Submitted by Pam on The Frugal Life Forum

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Mirror Stuck On Wall

Hi, I have a huge mirror stuck on the wall - with I don't know what - as there are no visible screws etc. Now this has developed a crack on one side and the crack line is growing slowly. Can someone suggest anything I can do to avoid the whole thing being cracked over a period of time? Post your answer or read the ideas.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Switching Children To Healthy Lunches

Getting your child to eat right doesn't have to be such a losing battle, however. Experts say parents, by working with their children, planning ahead and being creative, can get their kids to eat and enjoy healthy lunches.

"You can't hit the person over the head with changes right off the bat," says Tosca Reno, author of the new book The Eat-Clean Diet for Family & Kids. "You've got to begin slowly. But kids are smart. Once they see how good they feel, they'll want more."

If your child seems to have an aversion to all things healthy, you're not alone. There's no shortage of statistics showing just how much children in the U.S. struggle when it comes to eating right, as well as getting enough physical activity. Read the entire article.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

DYI Home-Built Solar Panels

When Mike Davis moved to Arizona to get away from the light pollution so he could enjoy his hobby of astronomy, he didn't have any way to connect to electricity. The wind power worked most of the time, but generally not when he needed it.

He used common tools and inexpensive and easy to acquire materials to produce a solar panel that rivals commercial panels in power production, but completely blows them away in price. Read the entire article for step-by-step instructions.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Homemade Heat Wrap

Fill a men's white cotton sock with two cups of white rice. Tie a knot in the top. Place in microwave for one minute. You now have made a flexible heat wrap. After several uses it will smell like popcorn...time to wash the sock and make a new one. I have also used smaller white cotton sock to make a heat wrap for children..heat for only 30 seconds. Good for ear aches, tummy aches etc. Decorate with magic marker.......they love them.

Submitted by teatime44 at The Frugal Life Forum

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Music Replaces Hormone Therapy

Music, the universal language of mood, emotion and desire, connects with us through a wide variety of neural systems. Researchers have discovered evidence that music stimulates specific regions of the brain responsible for memory, language and motor control. They have located specific areas of mental activity linked to the emotional responses elicited by music. Now new research conclusions have identified how the affect of music could replicate the effects of hormone replacement therapy in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Music affects levels of such steroids as cortisone, testosterone and estrogen, and it is believed that music also affects the receptor genes related to these substances and related proteins. Unlike supplementing the brain through hormone replacement therapy which can have side effects, music is natural, and its existence is universal and mundane. If music can be used in medical care, the application of such a safe and inexpensive therapeutic option is limitless.

Studies as far back as 1990 found that the brain responds to harmony. Using a PET scanner to monitor changes in neural activity, neuroscientists at McGill University discovered that the part of the brain activated by music is dependent on whether or not the music is pleasant or dissonant.

This new research is beginning to help those involved in cognitive rehabilitation. Music is now used with patients with stroke, schizophrenia, Huntington's, Alzheimer's and traumatic brain injury among others. Read the entire article.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Corn Mazes

Fall is a great time to get outdoors and corn mazes are this season's delight. Corn seems to go with Autumn and good family fun. There are also other types of mazes besides corn, but you can find a corn maze through the Corn Maze Directory online. Here's another website with a corn maze directory.

A couple years ago I scheduled a 'girl day' with friends and we went to The Garden Maze in the Shenandoah Valley in Luray, Virginia. It was great fun. They even had misters throughout the paths to keep you cool. It's amazing what you can do with one acre of land. We felt like we'd been hiking for miles but were so entertained time went quickly.

Mazes create challenges with tricky loops and dead ends, so plan on laughing a lot. Take some water and a pocket snack and have a reward for the family member who gets to the end first.
"Simplicity of living, if deliberately chosen, implies a compassionate approach to life. It means that we are choosing to live our daily lives with some degree of conscious appreciation of the condition of the rest of the world." Duane Elgin

"Do what is good with your own hands, so that you might earn something to give to the needy." Ephesians 4:28