Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Where I Shop

If you're wondering why I don't post CVS deals or Rite-Aid deals or any other store deals, its probably because I don't shop there, and most likely because we don't have them nearby.

The places I DO shop are Walmart, Target, Walgreens and then my local grocery stores depending on who is having better sales on items I like which I compare through Pinching Your Pennies which is very active in my state and has a pulse on all my local stores, (though it also covers other states).

So there you go! Now you know!

Monday, April 28, 2008

No New TV For Me

Just because tv's will be switching to digital next year doesn't mean you need to throw away all your old tv's and buy nice, shiny new flat screens or anything (though I admit, that would be nice!).

No, my tv's still have a lot of good life in them. So we will be getting a converter for ours instead. And if you hurry, you can too! Not that there is a current run on converters or that they are going to sell out quickly or anything, but if you hurry, you can get a $40 off coupon! Limit two per household.

Now I haven't priced these myself, but rumors have it they run about $50-$70 normally, so a nice little $40 off coupon is freaking awesome!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Getting Organized

Last night I was having so much fun getting my finances organized!

First I listed all my expenses, and the order they need to be paid in (I've done this one for a few months now and it has been super helpful in keeping me on track and paying on time) using these worksheets from No Credit Needed.

Then last night I made my own Net Worth Calculator, then did some comparisons with Dave Ramsey's online Gazelle Budget Lite and realized that my spending in certain categories is all out of whack and that my net worth isn't anywhere near where I want it to be.

This also helped me realize that I should probably get going on some alternate income streams sooner rather than later. Hopefully I will have a brainstorming session on that this weekend.

It will be much easier now to set goals and see my progress. And I now have some nifty spreadsheets and figures to back me up when I talk to my husband about our situation.

It feels good to get organized!

What To Do With Your Freebies

You may be wondering why you should get all these freebies? Well, because they can save you a lot of money!

If you have a stash of oh say, toothpaste freebies that you are constantly getting and replenishing, then why buy toothpaste again? Who says a trial size only has to be for traveling?

Same thing with shampoos. And if you don't like the shampoo on your hair, then what about the kids hair? Or use it as hand soap or body wash? It still cleans!

An extra diaper? Why thank you very much! I can always use those since the kids are little!

Feminine products? Much needed, thank you very much for making it so I don't have to buy them as often!

See? Very handy.

Now if you have oodles you don't know what to do with then we can do some other things with them. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

*Create a little hygiene kit for your desk at work
*Stash a small hygiene kit (toothpaste, floss, lotions etc) in your different purses so you always have them with you
*Stock your workout bag
*Put them in your 72hour emergency kits
*Create a basket for your overnight guests
*Create gift baskets (hey not all the freebies are hygiene stuff!)
*Use them as fillers with other (non-freebie) gifts
*Make hygiene kits for disaster relief organizations to donate (check their requirements though first)
*Donate to womens or homeless shelters

What other ways can you think of to use them?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tracking Net Worth

One of my favorite kind of posts on personal finance blogs are the ones that track net worth. It is exciting to see people take control and increase their net worth.

Tracking my net worth was something I've wanted to do too, except I didn't really know how. I'm not the best technically speaking, and I wasn't that great at math in school either, so it was with relief that Trent at The Simple Dollar posted about how to set up your own net worth calculator and it looks super simple!

Now I will be able to keep track of my financial progress! I'm so excited!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Goal

We have a side business that keeps me pretty busy during the day. We could probably survive just on my husbands income, but we've let ourselves get accustomed to having the extra money from the other.

Part of my focus on becoming frugal again is so that I can get our expenses down so that we are living off just my husbands income. That will leave all the rest of the money to be able to go towards our retirement and other investments.

Thats my goal anyway! And once I've met this goal then my next goal will be to create some new income streams. But that's a discussion for another day!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Small Changes Can Make A Difference

If you don't think small changes can make a difference, then read these:

How Much Does a Clothesline Save?

How Much Does Pre-Rinsing in Cold Water and the Short Dishwasher Cycle save?

How Much Can You Save By Wearing Things Out?

You'll have to read those to find out the answers! Bonus points to anyone who can give me the answers in the comments!

Monday, April 21, 2008

New Friday Night Tradition

We seem to be starting a new Friday night tradition at our house. Well, for the past two weeks anyway.

It's Pizza and Movie Night!

We splurge and go for the $5 pizzas at Little Caeser's, then run across the street to pick up a free movie from Redbox.

Did you catch that?

FREE movie from Redbox and it's totally legit! If you're new to the whole Redbox thing like I was, here is the lowdown.

Redbox lets you rent movies for $1 a day. But you have to return them by 9pm the next night. But redbox gives out free codes for movie rentals all the time. You can get current redbox codes here. {Handy tip: Take more than one redbox code with you because sometimes they don't work}

I suspect they make up the money with late fees if you don't return them on time. I'm sure it happens all the time. But still a late fee of $1 is still cheaper than a movie from Blockbuster.

The cool thing too is that you can return them to any Redbox you feel like, not just the one you rented it from. Makes it easy to go drop them off anywhere along your merry little way!

How cool is that? Dinner and a movie for $5!

They're Talking About Me!

CNN wrote an article about me. Ok, well not me in particular, but about people like me. Read Mom's New Battle: The Food Price Bulge.

I admit, rising food costs among other things are what has gotten me back into the frugal mindset. That, and retirement are my big things these days.

What about you? Are you feeling the pinch too? How are you keeping your costs in line?

It's The Small Things

We all know that small things can really add up. And I know this is true with all my heart because I see it happen at the grocery store all the time. What? Two gallons of milk, block of cheese, string cheese and ziplock baggies costs $30??? How did that happen?

As I was writing this, Trent at The Simple Dollar wrote a great post about How Little Moves Can Create Huge Effects Later that really shows how the small things can really add up. You really must go read it. Then begin thinking about some small changes you could make to better your own situation.

Click on this handy calculator if you want to see how spending a little less and saving a little more can make a difference.

What small changes can you make today?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Book Review: The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches, Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Fiscal Fasting: The First Step Down the Road to True Riches

This was a good chapter for me to re-read in The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches this week because I have really been wanting to go spend some money. Books, some new clothes, a few things to organize around the house and it didn't help that I was dreaming up ways to spend my stimulus check either.

In this chapter he recommends a fiscal fast which entails denying yourself the use of money for a specified perioid of time, usually a week or longer. It is important to note that ALL SPENDING IS PROHIBITED no matter what it is for. You can however make some exemptions if clearly stated at the begining of the fast like commuting costs. But if you can, try to avoid having to spend anything. You can even pre-pay your bills in advance so you don't have to spend during the fast. If you really want to be hardcore, some people go without electriciy or other utilities during the week.

Everyone in the family should play but if someone isn't, its against the rules to make purchases on someone elses behalf or luring them into spending something. No hoarding in advance is allowed and it's a good idea to keep a notebook during the process.

The benefits of doing a fiscal fast include a clearer perspective on your spending habits and where all that money goes everyday and your perspective on life will change as you realize you already have more than enough.

So if you think it sounds hard, he suggests the following reads during your fast to help you keep your perspective {you'll have to check them out at the library, for free of course!}:

Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Children of the Great Depression

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

Follow the River

Into the Wild

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

Trail of Tears

Voices from Slavery

I was also going to check out The Greatest Generation, a story about American citizens who came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America.

So I think I'm going to gear up for this challenge. I need a little more perspective and I can't wait to read some of these books! Chapter 2 actually has two exercises in it, but I think I will go over the next exercise next time, after I finish the fiscal fast.


Re-read Chapter 1

Friday, April 18, 2008

Stimulus Check Spending Ideas

I haven't given much thought yet to what I will do with my stimulus check when it arrives, until this morning. There are so so many things I could do with it.

My first thought was, "well, it's meant to be spent and help stimulate the economy so I should go buy some things I've been wanting for a long time, like bookshelves or a new sofa for the basement".

But then I started to wonder if that was the best idea or not. I mean, this is like some nice free money, maybe I should use it to buy things that will help us out in the long run. Things that I maybe wouldn't be able to do as easily in my normal budget, or things that are worthwhile but maybe not as high priority.

Here are a few ideas I came up with to use the money:

Food Storage: I've said before, you would be glad to have some if you needed it.

Items to Organize Your Food Storage: It's no good to have food storage if its not organized or easily accessible. I need some more shelves in my storage room, like these. I already have a few and LOVE them!

72 Hour Emergency Kits: If a disaster strikes, you need to be able to survive for a minimum of 72 hours before help arrives. It would be good to have a kit in your car, as well as in your home to grab should you need to evacuate quickly.

Things to Help Improve Energy Efficiency (and Reducing Your Energy Costs): Updating and upgrading your appliances to more energy efficient models, lining your draperies with thermal liners, putting in SolaTubes or getting Smart Powerstrips or any other ideas from this post.

Gardening and Canning Supplies: Plant some fruit trees. My parents planted a small orchard in our front yard as kids but the way they did it looks nice. Not much room? Try espalier fruit trees along a fence or the side of your house. It's an investment for food for your future. Basic canning supplies will help you preserve your bounty.

Well, those are just a few of the ideas I came up with as jumping off points. If I come up with more, then I'll add them. What are you planning on using your check for?


Still wondering when your check will arrive? Then read, Wonder No More, to find out when you can expect it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fighting the Urge!

I'm really fighting the urge to go buy some books I want to read. Old habits die hard. I need to goto the library instead. And read the book for free!

And if they don't have what I want then I need to request it. { Learn how here.}

I don't need to buy more books.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Inspiration

Kacie over at Sense to Save posted some thought provoking questions yesterday.

What inspires you to be frugal? And what keeps you in that frugal mindset long term?

I've been joking around that my changed habits are so my husband will be able to pay for my medical bills when I'm old. I kid around, but there's truth to that. I have already been an expensive patient for my husband.

I do worry about my retirement. I want to make sure we have enough to live on and to care for our medical bills and prescription needs etc.

How much does it cost for you to have sound peace of mind?

I haven't nailed down a specific dollar amount yet. I just know that once upon a time I had a huge savings account {to me} and that it can be depleted very quickly!

I'd like at least a six month emergency fund-- so the dollar amount on that should be pretty easy to figure out--I just need to sit down and do it. Sitting down to figure out what amount I need/want as my retirement savings goal seems a little trickier.

If you want to try and figure out yours as well, may I recommend the following from some of the financial blogs I enjoy reading:

*Spousal IRA's for the Stay-At-Home-Mom from Mrs. Micah

*Save and Invest for Your Retirement: Are You On Track? from The Digerati Life

*How Much Does It Cost Per Month to Fully Fund Your Retirement? from No Credit Needed

*10 Ideas On How to Retire on Less from Millionaire Mommy Next Door

Once upon a time retirement seemed a far off place. It still is, but now that I'm solidly in my 30's I realize how much time I've wasted already. Retirement isn't something I can worry about later. I need to be planning for it now. And I wish I had realized that more fully during my 20's. So that is what inspires me today to be more frugal.

Food From The Dollar Store?

Now I've seen two seperate things recently on food from the dollar store. One from the Ultimate Cheapskate that I posted recently, watch it again here, and now this ABC News Clip . And now there is a book out called The 99-cent Store Cookbook .

According to this article, the dollar store saved the authors pocketbook one particularly broke summer. At the end of the article are a few recipes for Chicken Pot Pie, Green Chile and Cheddar Scalloped Potatoes and a homemade Apple Pie. Sounds yummy!

I haven't been a big dollar store shopper in my days, and I have never seen the kind of food these people are getting at the dollar store other than a few rows of slim pickings of canned foods and snack foods. But maybe I need to start revisiting some of them?

You can check here to see if "The 99-cent Only Stores" are near you. Unfortunately there aren't any by me, but maybe there are other similar dollar stores with similar offerings.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Summer Movies

When I was little, I remember going to the summer movies at the theater. It was always fun. You can still do it today.

For $5 you can goto the Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse and watch ten rated G or PG movies throughout the summer. AMC theaters also have a similar program.

Check to see if there is a participating theater near you! Helps break up the summer boredom without breaking the bank, if you know what I mean!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Book Review: The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches, Chapter 1

I have been reading The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches. The first time I read through it I wanted to highlight a bunch of things as I was reading because I really enjoyed a lot of what he had to say. So I thought I would review it chapter by chapter and how it applies to my life.

The first chapter introduces us to two main concepts he talks about in his book frequently. The Money Steps and the Enoughasaurus.

The Money Steps refer to the default setting for most people today. The assumption that we must earn money, to spend money, to get what you want. Kind of like a dance.

The Enoughasaurus is your inner beast that must be satisfied. Slaying or at least satisfying your Enoughasaurus is a matter of deciding what's enough for you and then designing your priorities around it.

These two concepts get expounded on more and more as you go through the chapters, really helping you understand how they apply in different areas of your life.

What I really like about the book is how he helps put things in context for you. The author, Jeff Yeager, used to work in the nonprofit sector, which I think helped ground him and give him real perspective when working with the ultra-rich donors and very needy clients--both sides of the economic spectrum.

Even with our relative wealth today, we have a negative saving rate that means we spend all our disposable income and MORE. We borrow money to spend money. And on what?

He offers up this get rich quick plan at the end of the chapter:

Housing: About 1.1 billion people have inadequate housing or none at all
Food: Worldwide 840 million people are malnourished, and 6 million children under the age of five die every year as a result of hunger.
Water: Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.
Education: Nearly 1 billion adults in the world are unable to read a book or sign their names.
Energy: On average, 1 American uses as much energy each year as 531 Ethiopians.
Automobiles: Worldwide 8% of all people own autos; in the US, 89% of all households own one or more autos.
World resources: As much as 30% of the world's resources are consumed by Americans who represent just 5% of the world's population.

Presto! You are already rich! Compared to a lot of the rest of the world you are extremely wealthy. Transplanted into a remote, undeveloped region of the world and you would be a freaking "Rockefeller". Even the poorest 1/5 of US households would be "well healed in that imaginary scenario".

Remembering that nearly 3 billion people live on less than $2/day makes you realize just how rich you truly are. You just didn't realize it!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Get An Attitude and Stick It To The Man!

Repeat after me in your best bratty voice: You don't OWN me! You can't tell me what to do!

Now haven't you always wanted to stick it to the man?

If so, then start snowflaking! Send small deliberate payments whenever you find them in your budget to your debts in addition to your monthly payment. It doesn't matter what the size. Don't let the bank dictate to you how much you can pay at a time! And you can pay more than once, or twice, or even six times a month if you want!

YOU are in charge of your money and so if you want to pay, oh say, $27.10 because you just got a nice little rebate from somewhere, then send it off.

Got that? YOU ARE IN CHARGE of your money! YOU can be your OWN CFO!


Read here for a great Snowflaking Primer from I've Paid For This Twice Already who inspired my little rant and a $27.10 payment on something of mine.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Reducing Energy Costs: Electrical

Let's take a break from grocery shopping shall we? Another area I'd like to reduce costs in are my energy costs. Here are a few ideas.

I love the idea of daylighting. Good daylighting. And I'm intrigued with SolaTubes. I think they would be fabulous to have in my closets, bathrooms, and well basically any of my upstairs rooms. They can also act as night lights reflecting the moon into the room or you can shut them for complete darkness. I have actually seen these at the Utah House on a cloudy and rainy day and they still provided plenty of light.

Solar lighting is also an idea that can be brought indoors. You can purchase these easily at home improvement type stores. If you buy the hanging ones you can use them as decorative wall sconces. Place them by the windows to charge during the day then you can take them wherever you need to by night. If you placed them in your hallways and bathrooms, then you wouldn't need to turn any lights on during middle of the night bathroom breaks. You could also hang them outside instead of flipping on your porch lights.

CFL's .
Unless you've been living under a rock you probably know the benefits of CFL's and how they can save you money on energy costs so I won't go into that really other than its something to use in areas where you need lights that maybe daylighting or solar lighting won't work for.

Motion sensors.
This is another thought I came up with to use in areas where people tend to forget to flip the switches off, like my walk-in closet, bathrooms or the hallway. Just don't install them in bedrooms or you'll be awake all night!

Smart Power Strips.
This is something new I've just learned about recently. These aren't your ordinary power strips! These automatically switch on and off based on what one device on the strip is doing. Which is important because even if something is turned off, but still plugged in, it is using electricity (just not as much). But these smart power strips somehow cut them all off, even though the power strip is still plugged in. Don't ask me how that works, but somehow they say it does!

So for instance, a smart power strip on a desktop computer setup would be tied to the main unit, and when the main unit is off, it cuts power to the monitor, speakers, printer, or whatever else is hooked up. This would cut down tremendously on electrical usage, particularly on computer setups and home entertainment centers.

There are plenty of options out there like the SmartStrip LCG4, and most larger home improvement stores should have at least one option of power strips that are smarter than the others!

Green Switch is another product option that can power things off for you

Rechargeable batteries and charger
So if you have a lot of electronics or things that use batteries then by all means save yourself some money with rechargeable batteries and a charger! They can add up to some serious savings over time.

There are plenty of other ideas to reduce energy costs that I haven't even begun to cover yet, but we'll stop here for now.


I was just looking over payment terms on some of my bills. I have a credit card to New York & Company {because I love their no iron shirts and their City Knit Pants fit me awesome!} and their late fee penalty is $25. Twenty five bucks! That is like you’re buying another shirt without ever getting to wear it!

Late fees stink and I vow never to pay one again!

Monday, April 7, 2008

How Long Could You Survive?

How Long Could You Survive Trapped In Your Own Home?
Created by OnePlusYou

I'm a big believer in food storage. You never know when you might need it. A flu pandemic. Natural disaster. Even a job loss. You would be glad to have it.

I went and counted all my cans of food and entered it into the calculator at OnePlusYou. Apparently we could last quite a while. I don't feel like I have that much food in my basement, but supposedly I could last 323 days so I guess thats good!

How about you?

Menu Plan Monday

Saturdays seem to be the best day for me to go shopping. I wake up nice and early and hit the stores before too many people are there {and won't get as upset if I have a bucket full of coupons I'm using} and dh gets to take care of the kids.

Sundays are the days I review this weeks purchases and bargains and what I have already in the pantry and food storage and create the menu's off what I have {though I do a little preliminary planning before I go shopping}.

And finally we get to Monday and this weeks Menu's!

Cereal and fruit
Eggs, omelets {with leftover veggies}

Chef salad
Turkey panini, fruit
Mac n Cheese, fruit

Chicken Fettucini, crumbed zucchini, salad, apricot juice
Taco salad, peaches
Hamburgers, potato salad, applesauce
Deluxe bean burritos {think 7-layer bean dip in a tortilla--YUM}
Grilled Chicken Sandwiches, salad, applesauce

So there you go! Now scoot on over to OrgJunkie to see what other people are making this week!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Be Flexible

I'm trying to learn the lessons from Coupon Mom and The Ultimate Cheapskate, and it seems they both say not to be too brand specific. Give the store brands or the generics a try, try the food from the dollar store before you write it off as not an option for you.

It got me thinking~~Am I a brand snob? I do think of myself as being pretty flexible most of the time. I buy generics if they're cheaper and most of the time don't really notice the difference in taste or quality.

But some things I am definately a snob on because they're the only products that work really well for me. I buy a certain deodorant because the others don't work on me. I buy a certain hairspray {luckily an inexpensive one} because the others don't hold the style in for very long on my poor finicky hair.

In this case, I think its ok to be a snob because I have tried the others and found they don't work. If I bought the others just because they were a good deal, but they don't work for me and I never end up using them, then thats a waste of money. And I AM willing to try other brands in other areas.

What about you? Are you brand specific? Are you willing to try new brands?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Shopping Around Town

So I did do some coupons this week, but only for items we will actually eat or use. I use canned tomatoes a lot so that was a good buy for me, plus baby lotions that I use on the kids, {the scents are so yummy that I use them too}! Plus a trip to the day old bread store where I can get the more expensive breads {that I think taste better than the stale, dry cheapo store brands} for less.
The Walmart Load
Muir Glen Organic Canned Tomatoes .16 cents
Honey Bunches of Oats .08 cents
Lady Speed Stick .96 cents (not as good but still better than normal)
Johnson and Johnson lotions/bath wash etc $1 avg
Mens Speed Stick Deodorant FREE
Buddies Soaps FREE +.30 cent overage paid back to me
Zantac Heartburn Medicine FREE + $1.02 overage paid back to me
The Hostess Bread Store
Hamburger buns, English muffins, Sourdough bread, 2 loaves of Whole Grain White bread
Total $6

Quotable Quotes

"Find a modest home and strive to make it beautiful".
~~Gordon B. Hinckley~~
This quote is one that helped keep me sane during the whole housing boom craziness. I didn't need a bigger house like all the other people around me. People were so excited that their houses were worth this amazing amount of money that they wanted to sell, get all that huge equity and buy something bigger and better.
Me? Not so much. I have a nice house already. Not too big, not too small. And I kept trying to tell my friends that the house they want to buy has gone up in price just like their current one. I mean, to buy a house that was comparable to the home they were already in, they were going to have to pay a lot more. So if they wanted an even bigger, nicer house it would be even worse! And I just wasn't willing to pay that much more. I also kept telling them I like my mortgage amount where it is right now, why increase it?
So this quote rings true with me. I remember hearing it vividly while driving around on a sunny October afternoon a few years ago {while showing houses no less} and I have never forgotten it!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Thoughts on Food

I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about couponing. I've done it in the past and easily ended up with a lot of food in my pantry which was nice. There are tons of websites out there that will tell you which coupon to use on what sale to get the cheapest product.

But most of the food is processed and that doesn't quite jive with my food philosophy. I don't like extra additives, high fructose corn syrup and other fillers that just aren't healthy for you. I prefer more whole foods and coupons don't really help with that.

So I guess I am more along the lines of The Ultimate Cheapskates philosophy which is under $1 per pound year round and more natural, healthy foods. But I will need to figure out how to get some of my food at that with rising food prices. I wonder how long before it will have to be $2 per pound year round instead. I mean, even the basic staples of life like rice and wheat have gone up.

Which bring me to my next point. I really want to grow my own garden this year and preserve any excess for eating later in the year. Seems like such a prudent idea. I still have to plant a few fruit trees and grapevines that will take a few years before they really start producing anything for me, so its important to at least get them started now.

In the meantime, I've made a list of what I have available to me and what I like to eat that I can grow.

Access to:
*Corn {farmer down the road}
*Apricots {moms house}
*Cherries {moms house}
*Apples {moms house and our duplex}
*Blackberries {pick your own farm}

What I'd like to plant:
*Grapes~~a concord and a seedless red table grape
*Apple tree of my own?
*Peach tree
*Green onions
*Pumpkins~~pie pumpkins and large ones for Halloween
*Melons~~watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew
*Peppers~~red, green and jalapeno
*Green beans~~pole

Preserving food is still pretty new to me though but it is something I definately want to do and learn more about. If I can grow a lot of my own, then my independence on the commercial food chain is lessened and my budget will be freed up a little more.