Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Personal Finance Info

Ben at MoneySmartLife.com says:

Who doesn’t like to snack? When I snack it’s usually because I don’t have time to make a meal or just have a craving for a small taste of something. Our new baby hasn’t left us with much spare time this last month so I’ve been doing a lot of snacking in the kitchen.

I’ve also been snacking on personal finance articles, squeezing one in here and there between tasks during the workday or a crying baby in the evenings. Here are some of the tasty money snacks I’ve run across recently.

Freezer Meals

The secret to saving money on food

Four years ago when our family took a pay cut to move closer to our extended family, we needed to trim the budget. We did not have a lot of areas to cut spending but I did notice that we spent hundreds of dollars each month on feeding our family of 4. I had I had heard about freezer cooking and did some searching for recipes online. Most of what I found, called for cooking multiple dishes simultaneously, (I was having a hard enough time cooking a side dish with a main course so I knew this wouldn't work for me). I decided to modify my recipes into meals that could be stored in the freezer, to be used by the hurried, cooking challenged woman (me). I decided that I would not cook during meal assembly. Instead, I would cook any meat needed before hand. This would speed up meal assembly and make it easier.

I called a few friends to try freezer meals with me, and I have been cooking this way for the last 4 years! It has been great! We are able to cut our spending on groceries by buying in bulk and not making multiple trips to the grocery store. We have spent less money on eating out due to having quick, delicious, easy to prepare meals at home. Not to mention the stress that freezer meals save, by staying within our food budget and not stressing over what to make for dinner each night.

Read more about freezer meals

Department of Motor Vehicles

Find information on driver's license, auto insurance and warranties, vehicle registration, traffic schools, order DMV and vehicle history reports, get DMV forms, and more. Access the Site.

Mike Rebels Against Consumerism

Three years ago, Mike Foster had everything he thought he wanted: a thriving design business, a new, fully loaded Infinity G35 Sport Coupe, and a 3,100-square-foot home.

"I was living within the comfortable American dream," says the 38-year-old Corona, Calif., resident.

"But I was unsatisfied. It sounds terribly arrogant, but I began thinking, 'If this is all there is, I'm going to be really bored the rest of my life.'"

Mike grew up in California as a Christian and lived what he calls a simple, normal life. "But somewhere along the path, I was indoctrinated," he says.

"I bought into what the world tells us: 'Spending, buying and financing things that we can't afford is the path to happiness.' It simply isn't true."

In what Mike calls his "first act of rebellion against consumerism," he sold his sports car. Read the entire article.

We've been part of Compassion's program for more than 25 years and have been so blessed by it. The letters we receive from our Compassion children warm our hearts and help us keep our priorities in order.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Eat At Home, Cut Cost and Pounds

From Consumer Reports

Eat at home lose weight save money I’m always on the go, so eating out is a convenient, and often, the only, solution to the "what’s for dinner" dilemma. But this weekend I got a fiscal wake-up call when I took a close look at how much I’ve spent on restaurant and delivery meals in the past month. Twenty bucks here, another $30 there, and before I knew it, I’d spent over $500 on dine-out meals in a month’s time. Read the entire article and read comments by those who are doing it.

Cheap Summer Activites

Want to have fun this summer but you really don’t have much money thanks to last semester’s tuition and textbook fees? Don’t worry this article will provide you some low cost options for having fun without going broke this summer.

1. Spend the day relaxing at the beach. Plain and simple, no more to add.

2. Go hiking. For those of you that like a little more adventure than beach lounging you can try out going for a hike. Even if you’re in the city there’s usually a big park where you can get out and tromp around. Not only is it free, it’s good exercise.

3. Sporting events. I’m not talking about ridiculously overpriced professional sports. I’m referring to those competitive games that are played at a local park that you could watch for free. I personally have the honor of watching my younger brother play soccer in a highly competitive league. It may not be a Manchester United game but the spectators still get a bit wild and out of control with enthusiasm.

4. Free concerts. I doubt you will catch any big name artists but there are always free concerts of small local bands going on during summer nights. Plus you never know the band may end up being the next Rolling Stones and you were there to see them at the beginning. Well that probably won’t happen but you will still have an enjoyable evening.

Get more tips in the article.

How Safe Is Your Car Seat?

Current recommendations are to face the child backwards until they are one year old or 20 pounds, but new research is suggesting they remain facing backward to age four. View this video. Check this site for a list of recalls and replacements.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

EPA Offers Tips to Save Energy and Fight Climate Change this Summer

With summer and the high costs of cooling right around the corner, EPA is offering advice to help Americans reduce both energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions by one-third through Energy Star. The energy used in an average home costs more than $2,200 a year and contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than a typical car.

"A few simple changes will help create real reductions in high summer electric bills and provide a hefty cut in greenhouse gas emissions in the bargain," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "It's important that we all do our part to confront climate change, especially when it can help save money during these challenging economic times."

Here are some tips to save energy and help protect the environment at home and at work:
· Set your programmable thermostat to save while you are away or asleep. Using it properly can save up to $180 per year in energy costs.
· Run ceiling fans in a clockwise direction to create a wind-chill effect that will make you "feel" cooler. Remember that ceiling fans cool people, not rooms -- so turn them off when you leave the room.
· Inspect your duct system for obvious signs of leaks and disconnections -- most houses leak 20 percent or more. Seal any leaks with foil tape or a special sealant called "duct mastic." Also, consider insulating ducts in attics, basements and crawlspaces. Read all of the energy tips.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What Order To Pay Off Debt

Stacy writes to Frugal Dad with the following questions regarding paying off debt:

Questions: If you have a canceled credit card and its balance is the lowest should you work on paying that one off first or one that isn’t canceled? Also, would you work on paying over the credit limit cards or paying off payday loans first? We have ideas but just aren’t sure where to start and attempt to tackle the debt. Read Frugal Dad's response.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tablescaping Chic On The Cheap!

Most of us who are decorating on a budget at some point decide to entertain in our homes, and would like to do so with a little pizazz! Unfortunately, many TV shows and magazines would have you believe you must spend $100 and up (on a budget, they claim) to dress your table for an event. Nonsense! Here are some great ways to create a smashing tablescape using creativity, not cash!

Choose a theme for your table. It could be a color theme, nature, sports, holiday, tea party or a celebration. Use your imagination.

Now create a centerpiece. Remember to keep it low so that people can talk comfortably over it! This is where the most emphasis will be on your table, so put your effort and budget right here! Use cardboard boxes or upside down bowls or pans under a tablecloth to add height to the centerpiece. If you are really looking for drama, create one taller platform, and then several slightly shorter platforms for accent pieces.

Now using your theme, search for things you own or can buy inexpensively to create your piece. Large and small vegetables from the supermarket, clean terra cotta pots filled with flowers, inexpensive glass balls in a bowl, even a football over a draped jersey! (Ok, make sure we'­ve cleaned it well, here!) You can add smaller items to the lower platforms if you choose! Read the entire article.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Essential Oil Recipes - Cleaning & Deodorizing

Would you like for people to enter your home and say, "What smells so good?" People with pets would surely enjoy this!

You can have your home always smelling good with essential oils. These are natural scents from nature, not chemical fragrances that are now being reported as toxic to your home, children and pets.

You can make your own cleaning supplies with anti-bacterial properties that nature provides and lovely aromas. You might want to clean house more often with your favorite essential oils. You'll feel a whole lot brighter and energetic after a few hours with essential oils than you will after breathing the fumes of toxic chemicals.

Check out the recipes.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Frugal For Businesses

As if it’s not enough that we’re living it, we have to listen to people talk and strategize about it - the recession has put all of us in a spin and it’s going to be some time before we can recover enough to go back to the life we were used to before. But if you think of the situation beyond the surface hardships, in a way, a recession is a great time to learn good spending and thrift habits, whether you’re an individual, a family or a business.

It’s the small and medium businesses that are hit the hardest; with not much of a cash cushion to help them ride out the storm, they have been forced to effect layoffs and salary cuts, measures that don’t win them any points with the employees that remain.

One of the best ways to see off the recession is to tighten your belt and begin to live frugally, an initiative that must percolate down from the owner and manager of the business, to the most insignificant employee. You can start your cost cutting measures with these great tips at Frugal Dad.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

10 Simple Ways to Clear Clutter From Your Home and Office

There is nothing worse then spending ten minutes looking for something to accomplish a three minute task. Clear the clutter and clear your mind.

1. Hold the intention that the only three things allowed on your writing desk is a lamp, a small vase for flowers, and a photograph or two. That's it! When you get up from your desk put everything else away except those three things.

2. Sort your mail as soon as it comes in, then recycle, throw out, file, or respond. No piles and no promise to go through it later.

3. Spend ten minutes a day walking through your house with a large shopping bag. Grab at least three things from each room in the house that you can throw away.

4. Have a special reading box or basket- Sort through magazines or articles you want to read and tear out the articles you are interested in and recycle the rest of the magazine.


Read the entire article.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Help With A Bathroom Vanity

Q. I need a way to refinish a cultured marble bathroom vanity?

I'm buying another house that needs a complete remodeling. I don't mind replacing some of the vanity tops but not all if I can avoid that since I'm trying to bring the remodeling in within my budget. These vanities are unsightly because of cigarette burns on them. One is crazed in the sink where the drain is. Can anything be done to refinish these without turning to a professional refurbisher? Joan

A. The only way to refurbish cultured marble is to sand down the top. This must be done with at least with a belt sander. You can not just sand the affected area. The whole top must be sanded to the same depth. Constantly check results with a straight edge.

A. The problems around the drain can only be solved with a new drainpipe that has an inner ring larger than the affected area. If you can find this then fill the damage with auto body putty. Make sure that the sink bottom ring is sealed with a high quality sink and tub sealant and a rubber washer or it will leak after some use. This is all a lot of work, but if you are intent on saving the cultured marble it may be worth your time. If not then purchase new or find used tops that will work for your vanity dimensions good luck! Michael

A. This is for the reader who wants to re-finish her vanity tops. I used a product called "Klenk's", which I purchased at the Home Depot. It is an epoxy product, so there are two liquids to mix together, let set, then apply. AND, you can even ask the home improvement center to tint the base liquid (although the manufacturer suggests pastel colors only). Read the directions, then follow every step exactly. Make sure to use a tack cloth after sanding - if you don't sand, then "tack", the mixture will not adhere. I used Post-Its to mark off a grid on my vanities and shower floor, then sanded each grid (at night after work), or one or two grids. Using a low adhesive marker, instead of masking or other types of tape, meant less sanding over the grid marks. The box costs less than $20 and you should have enough to refinish several vanities. Oh, don't worry about the first coat if it looks a little streaky- the second coat makes a huge difference. For the shower floor, I used two coats. Cora Get More DIY Ideas and Answers.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Removing Tar From Brick

Q. Recently, my son did some repair work on my house and used tar to seal the space between the house and the wall outside. He got a lot of the tar onto my brick front porch, please if anyone can come up with a method or product to help me to remove it, I would be most grateful.

• We have gotten "tar balls" on the bottom of our feet at the beach and found that Vaseline petroleum jelly was the best solution to remove the tar residue from the skin - hopefully this will work on other surfaces as well - good luck. Dale

• You can dissolve tar by using a little bit of gasoline or paint thinner (mineral spirits) and a scrub brush. Then wash the area with plenty of soap and water. Please be careful! This also works for the tar spots on your car from going through construction zones - and from your clothes from working on construction. Bob & Lorraine

• A friend of mine had driven through tar accidentally and got it on the outside of her tires. She used Avon's Skin So Soft and it came off. I'm not sure how big of an area you are talking about; her wasn't really huge, but it did work. Ramona

• My son is a foreman for a constriction company, which lays tar all day long. I don't know if or how good this works, but he has told me that Baby Oil works.

• I 've learned that trick from my roofer. Scrape thick pieces off and soak the rest with Paint-thinner . It will come right off. I did it on my bricks and it worked beautiful. Iris , California

• To remove tar the first part is the hardest--time. Let the tar harden over time. Any method of freezing the tar will usually speed this up. After the tar has hardened physically scrape off the tar trying not to disfigure the bricks. Remember that if you use a cleaner, paint thinner for example, the discolored area will get larger and go deeper into the brick. Tar is usually too thick to penetrate brick unless it is a commercial quick drying solution of tar and thinner. If all else fails remove the stained brick and replace with similar bricks, probably from a place that carries used housing materials. If replacing the bricks do not break up and throw away. Remove mortar carefully and simply turns the brick over and re-mortar in place. With time and weathering they will be identical in appearance. If the original brick was sealed, reseal with same sealant.

• Your son can help you. After all it has been a mutual experience up until now, don't turn it into punishment. Life's lessons learned. Michael

• Mayonnaise removes tar. Price

• In college I use to do roofing work we would clean it up with either wd 40 or gas just have to be careful it my take a few applications. Then just spray it down with the hose. BC52

Get More Cleaning Recipes.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Looking For A Warranty On Surgeries?

I am encouraged about an article I read of a hospital that rewards doctors and hospitals for taking better care of their patients. Also, they offer a warranty on surgeries. In 90 days or less if there any further treatment arising from complications that puts the patient back in the hospital within 90 days is FREE. Read the entire article.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Warm Weather Food Safety

Summer is often associated with cookouts, picnics and other outdoor meals. But the combination of warm weather and leaving food out at room temperature can cause serious food safety concerns. It's not always possible to see, taste or smell dangerous bacteria. Each year, many people will become the victims of some form of food poisoning. When transporting food and cooking out, it's especially important to pay attention to matters of food safety and keep Cold foods Cold and Hot foods Hot.

But you can greatly reduce any food safety risks for your family by following some simple guidelines, starting at the grocery store.

Always keep cooked and raw food separate during preparation to prevent the contamination of foods that will not be cooked (such as salads).

Buy cold food like meat and poultry right before checking out ... Read the entire article

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Shopping For Surgery Saves

An (uninsured) father of nine daughters had to have a triple-bypass surgery. Estimated cost was $80,000. Rodney Larson shopped around and saved over $60,000. Find out how he did it. Read the entire article.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Financial Decisions for College Grads

Recent college graduates have some important money choices they have to make soon after graduation. Some articles in the New York Times and on MSN Money Central take a look at a few of these big financial decisions.

Buy a Home vs Rent an Apartment

The subject of the New York Times article, Madison Nipp, is a recent college grad who earned a degree in financial planning. She warns graduates to look past just the price of buying a home and to keep in mind the costs of upkeep, taxes, and insurance. Typically young professionals are on a pretty limited income since they’re just starting out so if they base their estimated expenses on their projected mortgage payments and a bunch of other expenses crop up they could run into a cash flow shortage.

MSN Money reminds graduates that if they go the rental route they need to check into renters insurance that can provide coverage not only for stolen or damaged property but also for liability.

Of course, grads can always move back in with their parents to avoid mortgage payment, rent, or renters insurance.

Where to Find Health Insurance


How to bridge the insurance gap between graduating and getting a job that provides insurance is always a question for college grads.

MSN Money points out one thing that newly hired graduates may not be aware of, that some companies have probation periods before health insurance coverage goes into effect. That, of course, assumes a graduate has a job. In today’s economy, unless you have a degree in engineering or accounting you may be on the job hunt for a while.

Read the entire article.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Finding The Cheapest Flight

It's travel time. Summer vacation for the kids and the weather is so great you just wanna hit the road ... or it's so hot, you just wanna hit the beach. Read how this frugal traveler found the cheapest flight.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Yard Sale 654 Miles Long

On August 6th a five state stretch of US Highway 127 will transform into a roadside bazaar billed as "the world's longest yard sale."

Running from just north of West Unity, OH, south through KY and TN, the sale ends in Gadsden, AL.

Along the 654 miles of roadway dealers offer their best (and worst) castoffs at bargain-basement prices. The route also features more than 300 tourist attractions.

This year's sale - the 22nd annual - runs through August 9th. Want to make a vacation of it? Visit AARP's website to find travel expert Peter Greenberg's comprehensive guide to the whole route.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Keeping Your Car Is Cheaper

By William Jeanes, July & August 2009 Issue of AARP Magazine

With a little care, your car can last for decades—and save you thousands of dollars. The average car on the road in this country is nine years old and logs 15,000 miles a year.

The secret to automotive longevity turns out to be no secret at all: it's maintenance. "Do what needs to be done when it needs to be done," says Gordon, 68, a retired schoolteacher who lives in East Patchogue, New York. Sounds too simple to be true, doesn't it? Yet in talking to the uncrowned kings of the road for whom a quarter-million miles in a vehicle is just a beginning, the same advice keeps emerging: read the owner's manual and stick to its schedule.

Gordon monitors his Volvo's oil, transmission fluid, and coolant levels, as well as the tire pressure, at almost every fuel stop. He also checks all belts and hoses, replacing them when they show signs of wear. Start paying close attention at 50,000 miles and every 50,000 thereafter, he says. Read the entire article.

Monday, June 8, 2009

New Way To Dodge Auto Fraud

A new online data-base can help reveal secrets harbored by a car's vehicle identification number (VIN). The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, created by the U.S. Department of Justice, has gathered information from 36 states, including departments of motor vehicles, salvage yards and insurance carriers. The data let potential buyers know whether a used car is stolen or has been in a flood or a major accident.

• To access the data go to www.nmvtis.gov and link to one of the providers, currently Auto Data Direct Inc. and the CARCO group. Enter the VIN and follow the prompts. The cost is about $2.50 for each search.

• But don't stop there. "We recommend that you also take the car to an independent mechanic before you buy," says Linda Sherry, spokeswoman for Consumer Action, a national nonprofit advocacy organization. - by Cathie Gandel

From: AARP Bulletin - April 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Brain Defoggers

Losing your mental edge? These four simple strategies CAN boost your memory

Get Your B's...

Vitamin B12 is vital to clear thinking, but as you age, your body has a harder time extracting it from foods such as milk, meat, and fish. Read the other strategies.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Save the Planet the Right Way

We may think we're helping the environment, but sometimes—oops—our earth-friendly actions are no help at all. Check out these four common goofs (and how to fix them)

Myth: Organic fruits and veggies are the greenest foods. Read the entire article.

Friday, June 5, 2009

How To Make Your Own Drain Cleaner

Store-bought drain cleaners are expensive and caustic, learn how to make your own homemade drain cleaner using this simple recipe:

Here's How:

1. Pour half a box of baking soda down the drain. Get the rest of the recipe.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Frugal Cooking - Nut Substitute

From - About.com

Nuts lend a nice texture to baked goods, but they also add to the cost of baking. The solution? Replace the nuts in your favorite cookie, cake and muffin recipes with an equal amount of rolled oats, crisp rice cereal or granola. You'll get all that texture you're used to at a fraction of the price.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

How To Iron A Shirt

There are all sorts of ways to be frugal with your life. You can make your own laundry detergent, cut your own hair, shop at yard sales, or grow your own vegetables. All are great ideas! Another thing you can do is stop using the cleaners to take care of your laundry and ironing. Yikes! Did he say IRONING?

Ironing a shirt isn't the difficult process many claim. If you've seen the prices ($3+/each and up), you can only imagine how much money you can save each month by doing it yourself. I usually iron about 5 shirts at a time so I have a full week's worth of shirts available. Of course, this is also a great way to use a "carrot" for your kid's allowance! Read the entire article.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

26 Ways To Make Extra Money While Keeping Your Day Job

Quite often I hear from people who feel trapped in a job and need to figure out a way to make extra money. They hear about how I've paid off a lot of debt in a short period of time and they wonder if my income has changed significantly. My answer is, no, I have used a few unexpected windfalls from different sources but I've also adjusted our lifestyle to get those debts paid off. One lifestyle change is to create some additional income.

The old phrase "spend less than you earn" is made up of TWO factors: spending and earning. Sure you can reduce your spending by a great deal, but very few people have saved their way to wealth. They have also earned additional income and then put that money to work for them.

There are many ways to make extra money, but how you make extra money is dependent on your current sources of income. Since your day job usually pays the bills, how can you make extra money? Here's some ideas to help kick start your brain into thinking about how to increase the earning side of the equation. These aren't considered "passive" income (filling out opinion surveys for cash & rewards does take time), but they can help generate some take-home pay to help reduce your debt and potentially get you some breathing room.

Make Extra Money By:

1. Freelance writing. Have a unique ability to pen the written word? Have a solid grasp of grammar, spelling, and communicating? You could become a freelance writer for newspapers, magazines, or other local periodicals. THAT could help you make extra cash! Don't be afraid to endure a lot of "No's" and you'll eventually get that "Yes" that can give you some instant credibility. Don't know where to start? You can find thousands of freelance writing and editing jobs…fresh jobs daily.

2. Plant maintenance. Just like people need help taking care of pets, they also need help with plants. Make some extra cash by taking care of house plants and even outdoor gardens while people are on vacation. You could also offer to take care of the plants kept in local offices on more of a long term basis. Again, the mileage deduction! Find Out the Other 24 Ways.

Monday, June 1, 2009

How to Make Kettle Corn

Kettle corn is the perfect sweet and salty treat, but you'll pay dearly for it if you buy it at a carnival or street festival. Fortunately, you don't have to. Here's how to make kettle corn at home for a fraction of the cost.

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:
* 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* Salt to taste

Preparation:

1. Heat vegetable oil in a large kettle over medium heat.

2. Then, toss in three kernels, and place the lid on the kettle. Read the entire article.
"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