Saturday, September 15, 2007

Enjoy (And Celebrate) Being Frugal

Frugality is not a chore. It is not painful and it does not mean dumpster diving (unless of course you enjoy that.) Many jokes have been made about the extremes people go to to be frugal. Many stories are told about relatives who lived through the depression and thrifty steps they took to save and reuse what they could. In fact, until recently people actually were frugal because that's how the world worked. It was not until the 20th century that things were designed to be disposable and ready in minutes. This helped contribute to the fast paced society we live in today.

Over at No Credit Needed, Day 16 of the 33 Days and 33 Ways to Save Money and Reduce Debt the challenge is to Enjoy Being Frugal. The idea is that you should enjoy taking whatever steps you can make towards frugality.

For anyone who is interested in being green, frugality is the kissing cousin of eco-consciousness. Reduce, reuse, recycle is a mantra for saving money and the earth. Buying products with less packaging is usually less expensive and creates less garbage than wasteful counterparts. Weatherizing and changing to CFL light bulbs will save money in the long run by having lower power bills. Going to a local farmer's market to purchase fruits and vegetables at the peak of flavor will not only benefit your wallet because you are cutting out the middle man, but also reducing fuel consumption because its not being shipped in from foreign countries.

Personally, I appreciate frugality most when I can spend a weekend taking advantage of free community events, spending time with friends and family, and knowing that I didn't have to pay an arm and a leg.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Weekly Round Up

One step forward and two steps back...
This was not a good week for goals. I purchased a meal almost everyday this week. Not good because it affected my budget with a weekly total of $104 versus the $25 goal. The culprit? I didn't make a menu and I didn't buy food for lunches. I will add that to my weekend "to do" list and not give myself anymore excuses.

Goals for the week:
  • Limit my meals out to $25 including lunches and nights out
  • Sort through and find three items to sell on ebay (I'm working on earning Christmas money.)
  • Send $50 to Roth IRA
  • Earn and snowflake $25 from "other" projects including taking back popcans, selling on ebay, focus group, or selling back books

Thursday, September 13, 2007

How Do You Prepare For Payday?

For those of you that are on the steep side of the early stages of getting out of debt, you are not alone. Thanks to the recent developments in the mortgage industry, there are probably a lot more joining our ranks.

Payday can been depressing those suffering from debt overload. Mostly because we discover they are spent before we ever see a cent. I have had a tradition of sitting down and methodically pulling out all of the bills I owe. Then I list them with their due dates, total amount owed, and minimum due. This has helped me to decide how I spend my paycheck. Not exactly the American Dream and definitely not the best answer to getting out of debt, only half of the equation is there. Planning is essential to any good project. In my quest to make the adjustments needed to reach my goal, I must also remember the lessons I have learned while following the challenges of other bloggers. Even the smallest Snowflakes will contribute to a Snowball. Make every dollar work for you. CYA with an emergency fund and no, the morning Starbuck's is not an emergency.

Personally, I need to stick to my original plan rather than updating it depending on the emergency. Luckily, I am paying off another bill at the end of this month and one more the next month. My enthusiasm needs to keep this momentum because after those two, I have to start tackling the big daddies.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Back to School Isn't Just for Kids

The school supplies have been packed, new school clothes have been purchased, and the excitement of the first day of school has come and gone... or so you thought. Back to school is not just for kids, it is also an excellent time to get organized and de-clutter.

Take a couple of minutes and select a project to complete to help you get in the fall mood.
  • Take a moment to review your New Year's Resolutions or your list of goals. Its not too late to pick them back up and work on them.
  • Sort through you winter clothes and sell or donate anything that doesn't fit.
  • Don't put of your clothing repairs. Mend them if you can or hire someone who can.
  • Get rid of any summer clothing that has seen its day.
  • Write a "to do" list of projects you have. been putting off. Set "due dates" for each item.
  • Check smoke alarms when you change clocks back to standard time.
  • Gather all of your school/office supplies. Test pens, glue, erasers, etc. If it doesn't work, it needs to be tossed. If you find that you have too much, consider donating it to your favorite school.
Many wonderful posts have been posted on the topic. Some of my favorites include:

No Credit Needed ~ Day 13 of the 33 Days and 33 Ways to Save Money and Reduce Debt series is Get Organized

The Simple Dollar ~ The One Hour Project: Create a Visual Reminder

One Frugal Girl ~ Simple Lives With Less Clutter

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How to Deal with Used Car Salesmen

This last weekend I decided to do a little research for fun. I decided to spend two days driving from car dealership to car dealership and throw in a private owner here and there. Okay, the truth is I, like most people dread the idea of dealing with car salespeople. I actually ran away from a dealer. After asking what the policy was on having the car checked out by an independent mechanic, I was told it could be written into the sales contract. He had the nerve to push a sale before I even saw a car. This even beat out the old trick, "I'm not sure where the car is... lets walk over to the other lot." Yeah, the back forty. I never did find out what happened to the car that was advertised. I thought bait and switch was illegal.

My trick is... Tell them you are on your lunch hour and your buddy (that went with you to act as the voice of reason) has to eat or you're in deep trouble. I'm not sure why it worked, but it did. Other suggestions include:
~ Do not leave your car at one lot and drive to another with the salesperson. You will be trapped.
~ Take a spare key to give to the shop if they want to inspect it for trade in. Keys have a way of disappearing. Do not give them a full set. Only give them your car key.
~ Decide what you are willing to pay before you set out. You may need to adjust it after you look at a few cars.
~ Be prepared to walk no matter how much you love the car.
~ Take the time you need to make sure you are comfortable with your decision. Over at No Credit Needed, he writes in Day 12 of his 33 Days and 33 Ways to Reduce Debt and Save Money series to Be Sure.

So, why am I telling you this story? Two weeks ago, my 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme was totalled. It was parked when a drunk driver missed a turn and ran into her. I have a long history with this car. Although I have owned much newer cars, this was my grandfathers Olds and I learned to drive on her. (Yes, I realize I am referring to the car as her... her name is Bessie because she's an old cow.)

Now I've been struggling with the financial decisions as well as the grief and loss. I am really working to get out of debt and the idea of adding a car payment really doesn't appeal to me. Unfortunately, my savings doesn't give me much to buy one outright either. You can't get much that you trust with $3,000. (This does include the money the insurance company paid me.) If anyone has a thought on this, please share.

How to Keep to Your Budget When You are Going Stir Crazy

The Simple Dollar has been running a series called the One Hour Project. The idea is to take one hour a day to get financially fit. Today's project is to Make a Free Entertainment List. The idea is to prepare for those days when you are looking for something to do and considering spending money on entertainment. Everyone has fantastic resources in their community that is free if they just prepare ahead of time.

Take the time today to compile a list of free things your community offers and be prepared for those days. Be sure to check:
~ the newspaper
~ library
~ local community center
~ gym
~ school

Monday, September 10, 2007

Small Batches, Big Savings

A frequent question I find when reading all of the wonderful blogs out there is “How do you keep the grocery bill cost down?” A few weeks back, the Oregonian published an article written by Leslie Cole, called “Small Batches, Big Rewards.” In it Ms. Cole interviewed Laura Ohm about her system of incorporating small batch preserving as part of her meal making routine. The idea is to take advantage of all of the wonderful fruits and vegetables during their peak season and when they are least expensive and save them for later. Now, I’m not a big “canner” or “preserver,” but I am big on saving money and this article had some great tips on how to do that. First, you will need to stock up on some supplies such as canning jars and freezer bags. Then follow Ohm’s simple “preserve-as-you-go” guidelines. Remember to keep it simple; keep it small; incorporate it into your everyday or once a week meal preparation time; and eliminate any unnecessary steps.

* “Think about how you cook.” There is no reason to make anything you aren’t gong to eat.
* “Stock up.” You will need 1-quart freezer bags, permanent-ink markers, stock-pot, jars, canning supplies, sugar, kosher salt, etc. It is better to purchase these items when they are on sale than when you are “inspired.”
* “Mind you time.” Be aware of how much time you have before endeavoring to start a project you can’t finish. Also, be aware of the freshness of your vegetables. Do you need to freeze them tonight, or will they last a day or two?
* “Eliminate unnecessary steps.” If you don’t need to peel it, don’t. Skip the ice-water bath to cool vegetables if running them under cool water will work just as well.
* “Piggyback tasks.” While you washing vegetables for the evening meal, wash enough to freeze for later. If you’re already boiling water, use some of the water to blanch the vegetables for freezing.
* “Remember the payoff.” Opening your freezer to find vegetables at their peak versus buying them when they are hothouse ripened and mealy will remind you that it was all worth it!

“Laura’s Preserving Favorites include:
Berries of all types – Pre-freeze on a cookie sheet then transfer into a freezer bag
Plums – halved and pitted
Rhubarb – trimmed and diced
Whole cherry tomatoes and Whole Roma tomatoes – cored and squeezed to remove seeds
Corn – sliced off the cob
Raw, sliced Zucchini
Shelling peas and Green Beans – blanched
Sugar snap peas – blanched (add 1 teaspoon baking soda to blanching water to preserve color)
Bok choy, Spinach, and braising greens – blanched and drained

Green Beans
Whole Chiles
Spring onions and shallots

From the canner
Berry jams
Diced tomatoes
Tomato sauce”

Written by Leslie Cole and Published Tuesday, July 3rd in the Food Day Section of the Oregonian.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Breaking Habits and Making Money

I confess that I am a ex-smoker. I have quit and started a couple of times, but this time seems to have taken for good. On the web, you can find a plethora of sites that will quote how much it costs the average smoker to sustain their habit as well as the cost of health care. This is a well known and document expensive habit, but it is only just recently that people are considering the costs of other habits including David Bach's "Latte Factor." Along those same lines I will refer you to an excellent article on the Motley Fool by Dayana Yochim called Kick Bad Habits and Save $2,600. It discusses Cable T.V., bargain shopping on the web, and other acceptable vices.