Friday, July 31, 2009

Gourd Art - Making Useful Things

With dozens of available designs and entire books dedicated to gourd art, I knew I was onto something good.

I decided to create a basket out of a dried gourd that my friend gave me, but I couldn't find any instructions. I decided to come up with a design of my own, using a wood-burning technique. (You could also paint your design in a similar fashion.)

Now, my finished gourd doubles as a decorative basket or a bird feeder. And best of all, the entire project cost me nothing!"

Get Instructions.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Time to Unspoil Your Kids

Fourteen-year-old Dalyn Fountain has all the trappings of today's teens: her own cellphone, an iPod, a new laptop, and cable television in her bedroom. Until recently she also had a ready line of credit from the Bank of Mom & Dad - no payback necessary.

'We'd regularly give her money to go to the mall and keep up with the latest trends at Abercrombie and Aeropostale,' confesses her mom, Donna Kornegay, 41, a director of wellness at a law school in Durham, N.C.

But with the country in a recession, Donna and her husband (Dalyn's stepfather), Dexter, 36, feel an urgency to change Dalyn's spendthrift ways - and, frankly, their own as well. 'We've been extravagant with our kids and with ourselves,' says Donna. 'Now we're readjusting.'" Read the entire article.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kitchen Herb Garden - TFL

by Dori Fritzinger

If you love using herbs as much as I do, you will probably agree that fresh-picked herbs always taste better than store-bought ones.

If you have available yard or garden space, you can plant a kitchen herb garden. Herbs are easy to grow, don't need a lot of space, thrive in just about any type of soil, and many are cold hardy. An ideal location would be a few steps from your kitchen, but any ... Read the entire article.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When Paying Off Debt Is Bad Idea

From MSN Money Central

We have less equity in our homes and bigger balances on our credit cards than ever before. Bankruptcies continue to hit new highs, foreclosures are setting modern records and a big chunk of our disposable incomes pays for stuff we bought long ago.

Could anyone sensibly argue that now is not a good time to pay off your debt?

Yes, and that person is me -- the one who is usually telling you that debt is Financial Enemy No. 1 for many Americans. I haven't changed my mind about the importance of getting, and staying, debt-free. But I've seen enough examples of people who are taking the wrong approach to paying off their debts, and doing more financial damage to themselves in the process, that it's time to speak up.

Here are some examples of when it's not good to pay off what you owe.

Monday, July 27, 2009

5 Easy Ways to Save on Your Move

From Relocation.com

No matter how much planning, study and shoe-leather you put into it, moving isn’t cheap.

But there are some easy ways to save on your move. Relocation.com came up with 5 that could help you shave more than $1,000 off your moving expenses (OK, that’s more than a shave, more like a full cut and trim).

We also offer you some other resources for easy ways to save on your move. (Savings are based on someone making a 3-bedroom, coast-to-coast move, which carries a roughly $7,000 tab.)" Read the entire article.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

How Often Do You Eat Out?

A couple years ago we ate out every Friday night, and then again on Saturday nights. We also grabbed something out a couple times during the week. We still enjoy the occasional meal out as a break from coming, but now we attempt to make it more of a treat than a routine. For instance, if the kids have a school function and we know we’ll be out anyway, we’ll plan a dinner out to celebrate something (we recently did this to celebrate paying off our family vehicle).

Of course, just because you eat out it doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to do it. When we do eat out, or pick something up to bring home, we like to split meals, skip drinks (order water only), pass on dessert, order a lunch portion for dinner, etc. There are plenty of strategies for surviving a meal out at a restaurant." Read the entire article.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Frugal or Tight: Where's the Line?

Blogger J.D. Roth knew exactly when he crossed the line from frugal to cheap. His readers told him.

Roth, who writes the Get Rich Slowly blog, described his attempt to lower the cost of his favorite gourmet hot cocoa mix by using two tablespoons instead of the recommended three. Yes, the flavor suffered, he noted, but he saved 29 cents per cup.

Enough already, many of his regular readers responded.

'They said, 'J.D., you're on the edge. You're being cheap,' Roth said.

My editor has a theory that the tightest tightwads are converts like Roth who find frugality belatedly after driving their finances into the ground. My editor's idea is that FCs (frugality converts) are more likely to try weird or extreme stuff than us BFs (born frugals)." Read the entire article

Friday, July 24, 2009

Credit Limits and Credit Scoring

We've known the basics of how credit scoring works for nearly a decade now. Yet I still hear from readers who think they can improve their credit, or their finances, by closing accounts or having their credit limits lowered.

This behavior stems, I believe, from the still-widespread myth that you can have too much credit.

Here's the reality: There's no such thing as too much credit, unless you're a debt addict. If that's the case -- if you've never seen a credit card you couldn't max out -- then this column is not for you. You should cut up your cards, seek counseling and pay off your debt.

Most people, by contrast, handle credit more or less responsibly. Forty percent of cardholders regularly pay their balances in full, according to Federal Reserve statistics, and half of those who do carry debt owe $3,000 or less.

It's those folks I'm talking to. And I'll say it again: There's no such thing as too much credit, particularly these days. Read the "Here's Why?".

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Half Price Tickets

If high prices keep you from attending plays, concerts, sporting events or exhibits, consider joining Goldstar.com, an online seller of half-price tickets—with a service charge averaging about $4.50 per ticket.

Goldstar operates in eight cities: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Boston, Chicago, San Diego and Washington, D.C. Sign-up is free and gets you a weekly e-mail list of current and upcoming local events. You may find about 100 events at any given time, from classes (how to become a mystery shopper) to concerts.

Although the top events may not make the list, there are plenty to choose from. You order online but the theater chooses the seats, so there’s no guarantee you’ll get great ones—but Goldstar says you probably won’t get the worst either.

Source: AARP Bulletin.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Free Hotel Night For Volunteering

Give 8 hours of community service and get a complimentary night stay or 50% discount on hotel rooms at all 53 Sage hotels across the country.

Complete 8 hours of volunteer service to a registered 501(c)3 non profit organization to qualify to receive 50% off the published room rate -- or maybe a complimentary night (limited availability). Read terms and conditions here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Frugal Guide to Helping Others in Need

Helping others in need is a difficult concept when you you count your pennies yourself. It is especially difficult when you know that the person in need of help is quite wasteful with money normally. You will feel it is their fault for ending up in dire straits and not want to help at all. Still, if they have children, or medical issues, your heart-strings will beg you to help. Here are some things you can do to help without compromising your ideals, or harming your own budget. Frugal Guide to Helping Others in Need

Monday, July 20, 2009

Understanding the Pressures on Your Husband

We hear a lot about the supermom syndrome, but rarely about our superdads. We place higher expectations on fathers in today's society than ever before. Unlike previous generations, dads today are expected to take a proactive role in caring for the children physically as well as financially.

Gone are the days when a man arrives home from work, loosens his tie, slips off his shoes, and reclines in the Lazyboy with his newspaper, which he thumbs through as he waits for his dinner to be served.

Today, many dads don't get that Read the entire article

Sunday, July 19, 2009

No Fee ATMs

Automated teller machines generated some $4 billion in revenue last year in fees of up to $5 per transaction. But convenience doesn’t have to be costly. Try these websites:

* Allpoint offers fee-free ATMs nationwide. Enter an address or ZIP code to find one near you.

* MoneyPass lists fee-free ATMs coast to coast—and includes driving directions.

You could also consider an account at an Internet bank, such as Bank of Internet or EverBank, which reimburse for some ATM fees.

Source: AARP Bulletin.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Convenience Meals Without High Prices

Did you know that a recent survey declared that the number one consideration when people are deciding on dinner is convenience? Convenience trumps cost, nutrition and even taste. Modern food manufacturers understand this information all too well. They use it to their advantage to provide high cost convenience foods in small portions. What is more, these foods usually contain quite a number of artificial ingredients.

There are more and more convenience foods on the market than ever before and less staples out there. Did you know that cereal was once the ultimate convenience food
? Now it is often seen as a usual part of breakfast.

The problem with convenience foods is that unless you have the time to match up high value coupons and sales every single time you purchase a convenience food, you'll pay anywhere from twice to four times the cost of creating the same food from scratch.

Still, your time is worth some money, right? So let us talk about having the convenience without the convenience foods. Read the entire article.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What Spouses Should Know About Money

Through death or divorce, many women will be alone at some point in their lives; they should be aware of their husband’s financial plan because someday they may have to live with it,” said Beth Wood, assistant vice president, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

“Conversely, for the growing number of households where the woman is the CFO, there’s no excuse for the man not to know what’s going on with the family finances,” said William Dougherty, assistant vice president, MassMutual.

Wood and Dougherty have developed five questions spouses and partners should ask each other. Ask Your Spouse Tonight!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cut Costs At Theme Parks

Some parks are offering massive discounts this summer. According to Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com, families can get more for their money in 2009 than ever before. "Universal Orlando is offering free tickets for kids, Disney World is offering free dining for the whole family, and Busch and Sea World parks are offering year-long passes for the price of one-day ticket," says Niles.

Families in other areas can reduce day-at-the-park expenses, as well. For our three boys, a trip to Six Flags or a water park always launched our summers. Though getting a family of five in the gates without draining our bank account was a challenge, planning ahead made it possible. Here's how you can cut costs without cutting out fun.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Getting Household Items For Less

If you need a bathtub, antique French doors, concrete blocks or just about anything else for your home or business—and you want it cheap—scout out one of the 550 Habitat for Humanity ReStores around the country.

Stocked by donations from retailers, contractors, demolition crews and individuals like you, these locally run, nonprofit outlet centers sell new or used items at a fraction of normal price. So if they’ve got what you need, you can save while aiding Habitat’s mission of recruiting volunteers to build or rehabilitate homes for low-income families.

To locate ReStores in your area, make a donation or volunteer to work, call 1-800-422-4828 or visit www.habitat.org/env/restores.

Source: AARP Bulletin.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Our FIV Cat's 13th Birthday

In February 2006, our 10-year old cat was diagnosed with FIV. She had been a feral and we had her as an inside cat for about 5 years. She was always a healthy and playful cat so when she got suddenly very sick with a pupil totally dilated in one eye, we were surprised when the vet said she had FIV after testing.

He said the eye problem would probably lead to blindness but he did not expect her to live through the end of the week. We didn't accept that prognosis and took her home to give her 24-hour attention with herbs every few hours and water by dropperful. We used the antibiotics that the vet suggested alongside the natural treatment and in a few days she was responding better and was a tiny bit interested in food.

Well ... the end of that story is that she made a comeback and we have treasured the time with her ever since. I read a lot about FIV and some natural options to keep the immune system strong and she's appeared even healthier than she was before the diagnosis. We've used a variety of immune-building and supporting products but the constant one has been Nature's Sunshine Colostrum and Nature's Sunshine Spirulina, alternating the Spirulina on 3 weeks and off 2 weeks.

We have been VERY particular in her food and decided on Dr. Jane Bick's Life's Abundance because it's a small enough company that they are controlling their ingredient sourcing. They've never had a recall and the way they have their production set up, they certainly never should.

We're thrilled that she's having her 13th birthday today and wanted to share our rejoicing with you and to remind you that there is always hope no matter what a vet says. Research and gather information ... pray and put a plan in place to proceed. You have more vested interest than a vet that sees hundreds of animals each week.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Cost of Health

During his March health care summit, President Obama referenced statistics that the cost of health care now causes a bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds and by the end of 2009, could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes.

Some medical conditions we have no control over but there are definitely ways we can help reduce our risks and control our health care costs, here are a few:

Take off the weight: While dealing first with the numbers on your bathroom scale will have immediate health benefits, it will also make your health insurance options and potential out-of-pocket costs more affordable over time. A recent Stanford University and Rand Corporation study reported that lifetime medical costs related to diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension and stroke among the obese are $10,000 higher than among the non-obese. It added that lifetime medical costs could be reduced by $2,200 to $5,300 following a 10 percent reduction in body weight.

Grill your agent or HR person: Whether you buy health insurance through an agent or your employer, insist that they explain exactly what you’re getting for your premium, and where deductibles do and don’t apply. If you’re purchasing your own insurance policy, compare the premium savings from a higher deductible plan with your usage pattern of health services. What you save can often cover your high deductible.

Weigh life insurance options while you’re healthy: Make sure you’re carrying the right amount of life insurance to support your family and other heirs as well as cover any remaining medical bills that might remain after you die.

Discuss potential cost of any diagnosis: If your physician diagnoses a particular illness that requires tests, prescription drugs, a hospital stay or ongoing therapy, be very blunt about what you’ll be charged, from the doctor’s bills to ongoing ancillary costs associated with treatment. Ask the doctor or his office manager to possibly negotiate a discounted fee for service. It’s possible to get discounts through cash payments as well.

Ask for generics and samples: Many physicians are willing to recommend a generic substitute or at least supply you with a few samples of the drug they’re already prescribing. While doctors can’t get away with passing sample drugs to all their patients, always ask. As long as they are prescribing the medication, samples with the proper dosage can provide cost savings to patients.

Check local pricing resources: In non-emergency situations, you should always compare prices on treatments. Check with local medical boards and state health officials to see if they have online databases on costs for various medical procedures. Also, if there is a support group for your condition, talk to members about what they paid locally for care.

Investigate long-term care: If you or a family member is diagnosed with a chronic illness, that’s a financial issue that requires a plan. As tough as it may be to focus on money issues at a stressful time, make an appointment with a tax professional or planner to discuss affordability options that will safeguard your assets.

Begin negotiations before there’s a problem: The best time to speak with hospital bean counters isn’t when you’re behind on your payments. Once a diagnosis is made, either you or someone you designate as your agent needs to contact the hospital business office to check on payment schedules and possible discount plans if you are uninsured or fear your insurance may not cover a significant portion of costs. Any creditor appreciates a customer who’s willing to come to the table first.

This post about money and your health is produced in association with the Financial Planning Association (FPA), the leadership and advocacy organization connecting those who provide, support and benefit from professional financial planning.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

ReUse It Network

The ReUseIt Network is an on-line forum that serves as a tool to make connections between community members who want to help each other, themselves, and their environment. In a disposable society where many items are discarded long before they have actually outlived their use, The ReUseIt Network helps get things from people who have them but don't want them to people who want them but don't have them.

Our goal is to find new uses for unwanted items that would otherwise be thrown into the trash. The primary benefit is that it reduces the amount of reusable items that end up in the trash with a secondary benefit of reducing the overall amount of items thrown into landfills. Reusing items not only cuts down on goods in landfills, but also helps reduce the strain on our natural resources by keeping useable items in circulation, reducing the need to manufacture additional goods.

The ReUseIt Network also provides an opportunity for those looking for an item to ask for it. Requests for items may jog the memory of someone who has an unused item stashed in the garage or basement waiting to be used. It is a great way to help get rid of those things which we may have forgotten, giving every member the chance to ReUseIt! All transactions must be free, legal, and family-friendly. Find Out How It Works.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ice Cream Recipes

How about some good old fashioned ice cream for a special occasion or holiday?

Here's a few links for recipes:

Sugar-Free, Non-Dairy, Sorbets and more
Special and Decorative Ice Cream Recipes
Vegan Soy Ice Cream
Unusual Ice Cream Recipes

Friday, July 10, 2009

Make A Sweater Bag

Take your old sweaters you have lying around or hit the thift store for some good cheap finds and turn them into these versatile bags -- all in 30 minutes!

Whip Up has a full tutorial on how to felt the sweaters and use a little bit of hand sewing to create your own unique-looking bags. Get the scoop.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Electronic Grocery Coupon Service

Shortcuts.com is a free electronic grocery coupon service that links coupons to your participating grocery store savings card. Once coupons are selected from this site, they are added to your registered grocery store savings card and are redeemed automatically at checkout when you scan your card. This way there's no clipping and no paper to take with you to the store. It's the easiest way to save on groceries.

Not all areas are being serviced, but you can sign up and be notified when something comes to your area. The diversity of coupons for some areas is not that great also, but this too is improving as time passes by. Register today.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Quicken Keeps Extra Fees Down

Quicken Online was developed with the goal of helping people live within their means. In my conversation with Barron, he discussed how many people only have a little bit of money left over each month and can’t afford to pay late fees or bounced check fees and need to watch their money carefully.

Since Quicken Online is available from anywhere via a mobile device it’s setup to help consumers make quick buying decisions when they’re at the store. You can set it up so you can check your bank balance on the go so you know before you buy something what your balance is and whether you can afford it. Read the entire article.

Outdoor Kids Crafts

When the weather is nice, it can be a welcome change to create crafts that make use of ingredients from Mother Nature -- and ones that are meant to be enjoyed in the great outdoors.

Create a new Bird Feeder for the winged neighborhood. Use nature from the yard to create an artistic collage. Let the sun help you create lasting Sun Print memories. Or craft a Bug Box and Windsock. Get instructions here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Make A Plant Trellis

Trellises are popular for growing climbing vines like morning glories or pole beans. But the ones sold at garden centers are often expensive. Saplings can be used, but these rot quickly. Using fairly cheap materials, you can make a very sturdy support on your own, and it should last for years. Get step-by-step instructions.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Snake Scare Tactic

To keep unwanted birds and squirrels from my garden, I take an old pair of pantyhose, tie knots in it to make it look like a snake and hang it in my garden. – Norma Jean Pettyjohn, Bement, Illinois

Source: Birds and Blooms

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Watch What You Are Signing!

Doctors don’t like getting bad reviews, and now they’ve possibly found an antidote. So far, about 1,000 physicians have asked their patients to sign a legal form promising not to “publish or air” any unfavorable information about the doctor’s care, manner or office staff. The waivers mainly target online ratings sites such as RateMDs.com .

“We think bad information is harmful,” says Shane Stadler, marketing director for Medical Justice Services, the Greensboro, N.C., company that developed the waiver language and began licensing it for a fee to physicians about two years ago. He characterizes the document as a “mutual privacy agreement” good for both doctor and patient.

But patient advocacy groups disagree. “It’s critical that the doctor-patient relationship be open and Read the entire article.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Find Highest Interest Rates Online

Looking to stash your cash in a bank that offers the highest interest rate? At MoneyAisle.com, banks bid against one another to offer the best rate on savings accounts or certificates of deposit. Enter your location and the amount of money you wish to deposit and some nifty websites will point you to the bank offering the best rate. You have to register to follow through on an offer, which carries an expiration time, so you’ll need to think fast.

If a checking account is more your speed, consider CheckingFinder.com. Plug in your ZIP code to find banks in your area. Some rates may go as high as 6 percent but require a certain amount of activity each month, so be sure to read the fine print.

From AARP Bulletin

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Proven Strategies For Beating Stress

Socialize. See friends, relatives, go to club meetings. Stay connected. This is paramount.

• Talk, laugh, cry, get angry. Let it out.

• Exercise regularly. Studies show exercise reduces anxiety, releases tension and spurs the brain to pump out endorphins, chemicals that create a sense of well-being. Try for 30 to 60 minutes three times a week.

• Eat a healthy, balanced diet.

• Block stress by losing yourself in activities you enjoy deeply—reading, playing music, gardening, visiting friends. Add these activities to your daily or weekly schedule. Be disciplined about this.

• Get perspective. 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