Sunday, August 31, 2014

Save $120-$798 a Month on Groceries for Four! That's $.75-$4.60 an Hour Raise Tax Free!

I knew this was going to be a very difficult blog. The reason it is so difficult is there are soooo many variables when considering food prices and grocery budgets. I found a couple of links online and have used these numbers in this blog for figuring. Here are some links:

To be honest, I haven't kept to a food budget for years. So, I had to save my grocery receipts up for a couple months and see what I spend. I did not change my buying pattern for this and told myself I wanted this to be as honest as possible so people could see what I actually spend and buy.

For the month of August, which has five grocery trips in it for me since I go on Fridays, I spent $447.15 for the month. That is $89.43 a week. We have four adults in my family. I took a picture of all my receipts. This price includes all toiletries, cleaning supplies, paper products, cat food etc. It does not include going out to eat, which I consider entertainment and we do that a couple times a month (rarely at full price, of course). When we were younger, I kept a very meticulous food budget. Now, I feel like a spendthrift! We eat well. I buy a lot of produce and good food. When we were younger, I had to make the money work no matter what. Now, if I want to buy something because it looks good, I can, but with my frugal genes, that happens only some of the time.

So, what do I buy? Let me take a look at these receipts. Almond milk, cheese, lots of produce, tortillas, pizza, chips, tomato sauce, juice, yogurt (yes it's very cheap to make but I hardly ever get around to it), bath tissue, beans, ketchup, brown sugar, eggs, real butter, chicken breast, hey, I even have two packages of ahi tuna in here! So that gives you an idea.

So, what is the process?

First of all, I think I used 3 coupons for all of this. I have been a coupon queen in the past. I could save more money with coupons, but I use the time to work on my business instead. I have to make my choices. Coupons can be annoying. But I salute people who do use them more than I do.

I am not store loyal nor brand loyal. I go where the deals are. These receipts are from Wal-Mart, Aldi and Marketplace Foods.

I do Wal-Mart ad match most weeks. To do this, I go online to all the stores within a 30 mile radius of Wal-Mart. I look at all the ads and print off the deals I am interested in. I make a list and highlight the deals. I keep the items for ad-match in one area of my cart so I am very organized when I get up front. This is more work for the cashier and time the people behind me have to wait, so I try to be as organized and courteous as possible. I save maybe $20-$30 a week doing this. It takes about 1/2 an hour to prepare. Ad to this that lately, Wal-Mart has started marking down the products for everyone, so you don't have to do it at the front. This makes it much easier. However, you still need to do the front work so you know what is on sale. You get the products and then when you get to the front, just show the cashier the ad and they will give you an equal discount.

Wal-Mart has Ad Match policies that need to be abided by. Actually, the cashiers and managers don't know what they are half the time. They will tell you one thing one time and another another time. I try not to get discouraged by this and just do the same things all the time. I do try and abide by the policies. Here is a link to the ad match policies.

I have a mental note of what items are cheaper at Aldi. If you are looking for the least expensive place to buy groceries, where you can blow through and not do any front work, Aldi is the place. However, they don't have every item you might want there. Some people recommend keeping a price log for comparison purposes if you can't remember prices. 

If you want to, you can use coupons. When I did this, I bought a couple of Sunday papers weekly. The inserts are a great place to get coupons. You can also print coupons online, but not all stores take online coupons. If I were using coupons, I would do the ad-match first and then try and match the coupons with items that are on sale. I would probably rarely use coupons otherwise or you can end up going backwards. Companies want you to buy their products with a coupon, thinking you are getting a great deal, but you may not be. 

Another way to save is to look for clearance items. I do this every week. Also, when items are on sale, stock up so you rarely, if ever have to pay full price for items. 

So, I rarely spend more than 30 minutes a week at home on this process. We eat venison for red meat and have some garden produce, which is why I say that I save about $20-$30 a week on groceries doing ad-match but I save $226.68-$798 a month more than the average costs. I also save shopping clearance items and rarely pay full cost for items. Did I mention I have a very full pantry? My family calls it my mini-Wal-Mart. ;) Happy shopping!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Free Haircut: Buy Nine Get One Free

I usually get my hair cut at Great Clips. They used to have a sale once or twice a year where you could prepay for haircuts at $7.99 each and then also use this buy nine get one free card. I have used prepaid cards for a number of years, buying enough for 10 haircuts or so when they have the prepaid sale. However, they have new owners now and are changing it to $9.99 each. I will probably still do the prepaid cards while keeping my eye out for any better deals. So, I used 9 prepaid cards at $7.99 each and then get a free one. That works out to $7.19 a haircut plus tips. Pretty good. I am going to use this freebie card tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Buying Propane: Give Yourself a $.67-$1.07 an Hour Raise Tax Free!

Some of us live in the country and need to buy propane for the cold season. There are a few ways that I know of to buy propane. One is summer fill. That is the least expensive buy. Then there is pre-buying, That is when you buy propane before the cold season starts but it is not put into your tank until later on. Then there is buying when you need it. Of course, buying on the spur of the moment when you notice you are about out of propane is the most expensive way to buy. Also, buying is less if you own your own tank than rent one from the propane company.

We do summer fill and pre-buy. We have two tanks, one that we own and the other is rented. When we first moved here, we had the one rented tank. That tank is 500 gallons. If we summer fill on 500 gallons we will run out before the year is over. My husband bought this second 500 gallon tank used (on craigslist) and had the gas company come out and make it so we could use both tanks. 1000 gallons is almost enough to make it through a winter here and might be if it were mild but for a very cold winter, it isn't enough.

Here, summer fill is $1.44 a gallon if you own the tank and pay in cash or check (.05 gallon more if you pay by credit card). Summer fill is $1.49 a gallon for a leased tank and pre-bought gallons are $1.69. With all things considered 1030 gallons for us (summer fill and pre-buy) is $1577.95. Okay, that's quite a hunk all at once. But let's look and see what it would be if we paid for it all in last year's peak prices.

Here is a link to some 2013 numbers:

I live in Wisconsin and it is showing $3.69 a gallon for last year on Feb 14th. $3.69 x 1030 gallons during peak at that time would have been $3800.70. Of course no one buys all the gas at peak so let's average it out to $2.89 a gallon (yes, I pulled that figure out of no where. :)) $2.89 x 1030 is $2976.70. So buying a summer fill and prepay we are saving somewhere between $1398.75 and $2222.75. So, if $1577.95 sounds like a big hunk, it's really not comparatively speaking for gas we are going to buy anyway.

That's a $.67- $1.07 an hour raise for a person that works 40 hours a week for the year. Tax free!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Is Canning Profitable?

I canned these yesterday. There are puff ball mushrooms from the woods that I pickled, okra and small cucumber pickles and dill spears. Altogether, I did nine pints. We love fried and pickled okra so I planted a lot of okra. My cucumbers just keep growing and growing. I have taken some bags down to the post office and left a free sign on them and left some at the end of our driveway for free too. I like doing this, it makes me feel a part of the community. (Not everything is about making money. ;))

Anyway, I garden because I enjoy it and because I like the top quality food. There is nothing like garden fresh produce picked a short while before you eat it! If you have never had garden fresh produce, you don't know what you are missing! However, when it comes to how much a person saves gardening, I am not sure it is all that much unless you compare with organic food prices (my garden is non-GMO and no pesticides).

Expenses can be:
Seeds (big difference between regular and non-GMO)
Tilling costs (tiller, gas, tractor?, maintenance
Canning jars
Freezer bags
Pressure Cooker
Boiling water bath
Canning supplies like spices, sugar, vinegar

So, it can be a lot or a little, depending on how involved you want to get. It can be real hard to figure out how much a person actually spends or saves gardening. So, my opinion is, if you love it for a hobby and love the fresh food, you may as well do it and enjoy it, but if you would hate it and would rather spend your time doing something else, you could do some small patio gardening and call it good (or none at all). Gardening is a big undertaking and may or may not be profitable. There are many ways to save money and I think a person should do what they enjoy to accomplish that.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cheapskate Thunk: Are you Cheap? Thrifty? or Frugal?

Just as there are many different religions in the world, there are also many ways to be a cheapskate. I have written online and shared my frugal ideas for a number of years in a few different places. I have gotten some interesting feedback, mostly positive, but there are a few who just do not like the idea that some people are frugal. These people push back and want you to quit saving money and join them (I guess) in frivolous waste.

So, I thought I would share some of my philosophy behind Cheapskate Thunk (See my previous blog, Turn Your Think into a Thunk).

Why am I a cheapskate? What is it exactly that makes me and others like me tick? Why are we always trying to squeeze a penny until it screams? I dunno. That's the short answer. But maybe there is more to it than that.

First of all, I think you need to be born with the frugal gene. This is the gene that, no matter your nature or nurture, no matter your upbringing or environment, your insides scream "Conserve that dollar!" That can't be changed or created. Either you have it or you don't. Some people are born with a spending gene that they have to reign in. But cheapskates also have to reign in their frugal genes or they end up alienating everyone around them. You can be too cheap. I have crossed that line a few times, against my best efforts. Regardless of this, however, a saver will never be a spender and vise-versa, but a saver can be more like a spender and a spender more like a saver.

To my way of thinking it is not okay to be obnoxious while you are saving boatloads of money. Well, it's never good to be obnoxious, however, it is especially not good to be obnoxious when you are saving a boatload of money. If you are in line at the grocery store and you have a pile of coupons and you are creating more work for the cashier and taking the time of the person behind you, you need to be especially nice. I think sometimes this obnoxiousness in some cheapskates may be created by guilt. Maybe guilt from significant others who have spending genes and give you a hard time for using coupons. Or maybe because you are getting a better deal than the next person and you have a false sense of co-dependent guilt. Regardless, be nice. It gives all cheapskates a bad name.

I think everyone should be a deal finder. However, I am glad they are not because then there are more deals for me. It's a simple case of cause and effect. For example, people buy expensive clothes and then give them to thrift stores sometimes without wearing them one time. I like this. This is good for me. I like nice clothes. However, I like nice clothes that someone else pays for and then gives them to a thrift store and then I get to wear what they paid for. This makes me feel really good. My Mom worked with someone once who said she can't even buy clothes on sale or she doesn't feel good in them. I think that's sad. I would always try and help someone like this become more like me because obviously, being born with frugal genes, I think it is better. But without people like her, it would be hard to buy clothes in a thrift store, now wouldn't it?

Some people think cheapskates are maybe mooching off of other people's hard work and not contributing to (our debt based) economy. I don't see it that way at all. There are so many reasons to be frugal. First of all, us frugal people work for what we get. We work for it with our minds, by being smart, by finding deals. We conserve natural resources by using and reusing. We recycle, we keep things sustainable, we usually use as little welfare as possible because there is a philosophy behind frugality that says that people should be smart and make their own way, work hard and not abuse any system. I hate to say it and at some risk I will say our society, in my opinion, is not only incredibly wasteful, but very entitled. People often don't know how to make a dollar stretch so when they get into a bind they want others to help them first thing instead of thinking about how they could make things work themselves. There is an incredible satisfaction in making your own way, in conserving, in making do, in having integrity, in standing on your own two feet. That's not to say that some people don't need legitimate help sometimes, but sometimes rather than giving people a fish, they just need to be taught how to fish. Sadly, maybe people want you to do the fishing for them and they want the government to do it too.

In America today, 47 million Americans are on food stamps. People say the economy has rebounded. Oh? We have bread lines now, only they are in a different form.

All of us, liberal and conservative views alike know things are not good or where they should be with unemployment where it is and food stamp usage where it is. I think where we may disagree a bit is on what the solutions are. Without getting too political here, because some people do legitimately need help ( and I think no one would deny that), I think what is different between now and the Great Depression era is the thought process of people. People want to be bailed out. They look at how the government bailed the banks out and want the government to bail all us out too. In a perfect world maybe that would be nice. But the world is not perfect and no one but the big guys are getting bailed out. Besides that, our grandparents had a work ethic and a certain sense of good pride that didn't ask for bailouts. They did what needed to be done for themselves and their children and America was strong. This doesn't mean that crooked people should not be held accountable. It just means that logically, we can't bail everyone out with a pretend money-tree.

So, back to basics, hard work, ethics, frugality and common sense. All with a smile :) Enjoy the day.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

$78.98 Worth of Gas for $2.18!!

My husband and I are a lot alike when it comes to saving money. This is one of his ideas. The one gas station that we drive by on our way to town (30 miles) is a BP station. This is the most convenient gas station for us to use, no matter what you think about BP. ;) You can see on the above receipt (that is kind of cut off on one side) that 20 gallons cost $2.18. My husband paid extra for non-ethanol gas, which we use because it gives us better gas mileage and we like the idea of non-ethanol better.

BP has a rewards card that we have. They have changed the rules a number of times and the deal isn't quite as good now, but still worth doing. BP is banking that you will both buy their gas and possibly get behind on paying off your card and pay interest as well. The goal is to always pay the card off at the end of the month so you both get your rewards and don't pay any interest.

Here's how it works. You get 1% cash back on any purchase (used to be 5% on gas if I remember all this correctly). So, we use this card for lots of purchases including groceries, hardware or anything else we need. (We also have an airline miles card we do the same with). But we always, always pay it off at the end of the month before any extra is due. Then, after a certain amount of time, we get up to 20 gallons of gas. The trick here is that if you use, say 10 gallons of your rewards, you forfeit the other 10. You only get one reward. So, every time we get the reward my husband makes sure to use the reward in his pickup truck and he brings a large gas can as well to get all the 20 gallons of gas. They will also offer you the reward early and ask you,"would you like to get this tank of gas for $2.19 a gallon?" and we always say no because we want 20 gallons for free or practically free. 

So I don't know all the minute details of this since this one is my husband's frugal tip. He saved me this receipt so I could put it in my blog. :) But here is the BP rewards program for you to read up on yourself. You can also do similar things at other gas stations and with other credit cards. But be sure to pay it off every month or it probably won't be in your best interest to do this.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

There's Food in Them Thar Woods!!

Now I am going to make a total disclaimer here. I barely know anything about mushrooms. If you are wanting to do mushrooming, don't take my advice. Look at books or online for information regarding mushrooms because if you follow my advice you might end up sick or dead. Okay? Now that we got that out of the way, more about my Hen of the Woods. ;)

I was very excited the other day as I found my first ever Hen of the Woods mushroom (Maitake). I started mushrooming a couple years ago. My Dad and I went for a walk in the woods and he told me about puff balls. Puff balls are in the last picture. Most people know what puff balls are. If you pick them before they turn to puff, they are edible. They are pretty good but not nearly as good as Chicken of the Woods and Hen of the Woods (My husband is waiting for the Rooster of the Woods, but I don't think they exist.)

I was working at the library at the time I started mushrooming and so I checked out a full color book on mushrooming in Wisconsin. I brought it home, looked it over and, excited, went out into the woods and brought a small basket of different mushrooms home. I opened the book happy with myself. Wouldn't you know, not one mushroom in my basket matched a picture in that book. Okay, that was frustrating. So next I did some online research. I found Chicken of the Woods and Hen of the Woods online.

Later I was in the woods as saw my first Chicken. It was beautiful but I was scared as this was my first ever potential chicken and I wanted to make sure I was for sure correct about what I was looking at. But I had to go to work and when I got out there a day or two later, the mushroom was past it's prime and definitely not good for eating. Sad, since I was sure this was a chicken.

Later that fall, I found another Chicken. Chickens are not Hens. Confusing, I know. This was definitely a Chicken because it was orangish. I brought it home and it was the best mushroom we have ever tasted.

So to the other day. I had never seen a Hen of the Woods before. I was walking around and spotted it and thought "I think I have found a Hen!" I wasn't sure though so I went home and researched. I went through the checklist a couple of times to make sure it was the right kind of mushroom. 1. Brownish gray. CHECK! 2. Matched photos. CHECK! 3. Base of an oak tree. CHECK! 4. Porous underside, not gills. CHECK!

Awesome! So, I cut it at the base as it said in the videos and put it in a bowl. I was very glad because a lot of bugs crawled out. It put it upside down in the rain for a while and shook it. I took a very small piece, cooked it and ate it. 5. No death or stomach ache. CHECK! So, time to feed it to the Fam.

It is very, very good. I read online that per pound, this type of mushroom fresh goes for about $18.00 a lb! Mine was about 5 lbs so that's $90.00 worth of Hen or $60.00 an hour.

It took a long time to clean it and process it (an hour plus 1/2 hour hunting) but I feel it was well worth it. I froze what I didn't think we could eat fresh as I hear it makes a great cream of mushroom soup. Also, I can see it in spaghetti and a lot of other dishes as well.

So, don't take my advice on mushrooming. You're on your own on this one. :) But sometimes life is a risk and you are glad you took it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I Got Paid $2.00 to Buy This Stuff and Said "No More Free Stuff Now, Please!"


Yes, indeed. They paid me $2.00 to walk out of the store with this stuff and I turned down more bug traps, more rug grippers, some party tumblers, some locking storage jars and I couldn't find the free Spic and Span so I didn't get any of that.

Here's how: whenever I am going up to one of our mini-storages for business anyway, I do a check online at I look through all their flyers. (They often have more than one.) I make a list of all the things I want to get. From this pile:

1. The flags were free.
2. The rug grippers were free (and I was allowed a lot more but how many rug grippers can you use?)
3. The bug traps were free. Again, I could have gotten a lot more.
4. The tank tops were .99 for each package after rebate.
5. The oven mitt/towel sets they pay you $1.00 for each of them you buy.

Seriously, I turn down free stuff all the time because I don't have room, space or need for it. However, I am always on the look-out for the items I might use.

Here's how it's done. For your first trip, you need to be able to spend the amount of money you are going to pay for the items at full price before rebate. You will need to wait maybe 6 weeks to get it back. It comes back in the form of a rebate postcard. You can redeem this card at the store for more merchandise. You can even redeem it for more free stuff if you want.

Some people might feel guilty about getting so much free stuff but I don't. Here's why. Whenever we need some serious home improvement stuff or stuff for the mini-storages, guess where we buy it? Menards is, in essence, purchasing our business with these freebies. That is the gamble they take. And they are smart business people who know what they are doing. They are taking a calculated risk when they offer free items to customers. So when I get free stuff, I simply enjoy it. :)

Here are some ideas for free stuff:
1. Personal use.
2. Donate them to charity.
3. Learn how to sell online with them.
4. Sell them at a garage sale.
5. Gifts for friends and relatives.

There are other stores that do these types of freebie offers. I am always on the look-out for them. Even if you don't have a Menards in your area, there will always be free offers of some type where you are. Happy hunting.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Freezing Broth

I am freezing the liquid from the roast in ice cube trays. This can be used for a natural flavoring instead of bullion cubes (which are terrible for you) for soups and whatnot later on.

I just grabbed this quick off the internet in a quick google search about bullion cubes and MSG. I rarely use bullion cubes. (I don't necessarily recommend this particular website for health information but in a quick search it says what I have read many times about bullion cubes).

A Crock-pot in the Summer?

Yesterday I made a roast in the crock-pot. It was pretty warm outside and I didn't want to heat up the house, so I put the crock-pot in the garage. I would have put it on the back porch but it was raining off and on and I didn't want to have to worry about it in the rain.

Crock-pots are great for saving time and an easy meal. They are great if you are working and want dinner ready when you walk in the door. But in the summer, it doesn't make much sense to heat up your house with a crock-pot and then run the air-conditioner to cool it down. Covered porches are nice for crock-pots too. All the heat from a crock-pot can be outside (or in the garage) in the summer, unlike cooking on the stove or in the oven.

This meal I made was practically free. It is a venison roast. My husband deer-hunts and then we butcher the meat ourselves and freeze it. Then, the red potatoes (you can't really see them in the picture as they are down in the bottom of the crock-pot) were fresh from the garden. The celery, carrots and mushrooms I bought at the store. I got the mushrooms for .99 and used about half of them in other things so .50 for the mushrooms and then maybe .25 for the carrots and celery. So this meal cost about .75 in materials and we will get two meals out of it for four people. I also served fresh garden cucumber with it.

Some men spend a boat-load of money on hunting gear. Fortunately, my husband is not one of them. "Free" venison can get very expensive if a person spends a ton of money on hunting gear. Then a person has to pay for the license, the freezer, the freezer wrapping etc., so it is a bit more than .75. However, if I were buying beef, I would also get that on sale in bulk and put that in the freezer wrapped as well. I wish I could find an old video I saw once. It is about a hunter saying "Only the best for my family!" and he is talking about venison. After his ATV and hunting gear, he was spending a huge sum per pound on venison so....only the best! It was pretty funny, but I was unable to find it.

So crock-pots can be great for summer the garage or outside and save time and effort as well.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Is Debt Good or Bad?

Some people teach that all debt is bad and should be gotten rid of. Although I believe that is partially true and those who teach this mean well, in the current system we use today, I do not agree with that assessment in whole. There are two kinds of debt: good debt and bad debt. Wait a minute! you say, I thought all debt was bad! Well debt can work for you or against you. The debt that works against you is bad debt, the debt that works for you is good debt.

Our whole monetary system is based on debt. The more debt that people have from banks, the more money they can issue. This is how bubbles are created. Remember the housing bubble? You might think that what happens is that a bank has money sitting in the building waiting for people to borrow it and then when you apply for a loan they borrow it to you. Well, that's not how it works. Banks create this money, practically out of thin air. Banks use a system called fractional reserve banking. What this means, in essence, is that they are borrowing you money that isn't actually there. (I have now decided I want to do that too. I will borrow you money I don't have and charge you interest! But wait! I am not allowed to do that. Hmmmm.) Anyway, for more on fractional reserve banking, See this link or just google it.: 

Here is a quote form the above article: Because the bank is authorized by law to create credit up to an amount equal to a multiple of the amount of its reserves, the bank's reserves on hand to satisfy payment of deposit liabilities amount to only a fraction of the total amount which the bank is obligated to pay in satisfaction of its demand deposits. This is why when people began defaulting on their mortgages in 2007-2008 (some before and after as well up to this day), eventually it had a ripple effect and sent the state of the economy into a crisis and congress voted for a massive bailout. 

So what is good and bad debt?

Bad debt is anything that makes money go out of your pocket every month. Some of this isn't even really "bad" debt, but it is a liability, meaning the cash flow is coming from you and going to somewhere else. Credit cards are an example of "bad debt". If you charge your groceries every month and then pay the minimum amount that is very bad debt and a spiral that will be difficult (but not impossible) to climb out of. But "Bad" debt can be any kind of a loan. Please keep in mind that "bad debt" doesn't mean you are a bad person if you use it, what it means is simply this "Liability" or "Outgoing money monthly". Some bad debts are more useful than others. For example, mortgage debt can fall under the liability category, but you may not want to call that "bad" debt. I call any debt bad debt that is a liability. (So please understand I am not trying to label anyone or anything with these terms. You can categorize these things however you want but for sake of ease, I will categorize them good and bad.) Does money go out of your pocket for a house payment every month? That is bad debt. Car payment? Bad debt. Medical bills? Bad debt.

Good debt is debt that creates cash flow monthly. This means you are using debt to your advantage. If you borrow money to create a business that creates cash flow for you, that is good debt.

So the difference between good and bad debt is that bad debt takes money out of your pocket every month and good debt creates money for you every month. 

That said, it is best to get rid of bad debt as soon as possible. However, sometimes you may want to use your extra cash for capital rather than paying down bad debt if that is more to your advantage. For example, you may want to start a business with your capital rather than paying off your house. Everything must be weighed as to what is most to your benefit.

If you have credit card debt with high interest, or anything with high interest, it is good to get rid of that first. However, psychology does play a factor. If, for example, you have three credit cards. You have:

1. $500.00 owed at 8% interest.
2. $3000.00 owed at 18% interest.
3. $300.00 owed at 15% interest. 

You need to decide if you are happier paying number 3 down first or number 2. Some people, psychologically need to pay down number 3 first so they can feel they've payed one off. And that is fine. Do what works best for you. 

That Starbucks latte? $5.00 towards your credit card bill instead. If you "treat" yourself to Starbucks twice a week, if you cut that out, that's $40.00 a month or so you can use to get rid of that debt. It really does all add up. Happy Savings! :)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Recycling Bags for Small Trash Cans

Ever wonder what to do with all those annoying little bags you get from the store? Do they reproduce like rabbits under your sink? These bags can be re-used for small trash can bags. (Also if you get too many you can recycle them at Wal-Mart)  Many ideas that are frugal are also green and can make you feel good twice over. You can save money and the environment all at the same time. You can actually make or buy a bag for these bags in which you put the bags into the top and then you can pull the bags out from the bottom like these:

A quick word about the environment. For many generations, people used and re-used whatever they had. This was a good system. Things were usually made of natural materials and would easily degrade back into the environment once their use was done. This has only changed in recent times. We create so much trash. It is my opinion that when we do the right things, life has a way of sustaining itself. You don't have to believe in global warming to believe in conservation. As our Grandmothers used to say:

Use it up.
Wear it out.
Make it do.
Or do without.

This is a philosophy that I think we would all do well to live by.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Stretching a Haircut

You can easily stretch a haircut without too much courage. There are two pairs of scissors in the upper photo. One is regular hair-cutting scissors and the one next to it is thinning scissors. If you look close, you can see that the thinning scissors have a straight edge on one side and a toothy looking edge on the other. These little scissors are rather amazing, because you can take some hair and think you are going to cut it all off but in reality all these scissors do is thin the hair out. They are pretty neat. I bought these at Wal-Mart. I think they were around $7.00.

So, if you comb the hair with a little mist of water around the frame of your face, hold the hair down so you can see the straight line. Cut with the first pair around the frame of your face about 1/2 an inch or so. Then, take the thinning scissors (if your hair happens to be thick) and thin it out a bit. This will keep the main shape of the haircut for the most part but it will feel lighter and look better until you get into see the hairdresser or barber and give you a couple of weeks reprieve. If you get a haircut once every 6 weeks, that's 8.6 haircuts a year. If your haircut is around, say, $15.00 (which I do not pay BTW, tips on that later, but I think $15.00 is about average) you will pay about $130.00 a year on haircuts (for one person). If you stretched every haircut an extra 2 weeks that would change to 6.5 haircuts a year for $97.50 for a savings of $32.50 a year. If you did this 6.5 times a year, you would be getting paid $5.00 per time you stretched a haircut. It takes about 15 minutes to stretch a haircut (at the most 1/2 hour). That equates to $20.00 an hour for your time, or at the least, $10.00 an hour, plus the gas and time you saved by not getting your haircut. Multiply $32.50 by everyone in your family that gets a haircut and that's how much you can save per year.

Revision: Apparently I was too cheap. Here are some US averages for haircuts:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Deck Staining Project Cost = $0.00

Here is a deck staining project before and after photos. Total cost for completion= $0.00. No, I didn't steal the stain. Well, almost. ;) It's like legal stealing. Some home improvement stores have regular rebates. If you buy the items there, they will give you your money back for purchase of more items at their store. You can use the rebate money for things you need or sometimes even for more free stuff, which ever you choose. A home improvement store in our area had free stain, free brushes and rollers and even free deck wash. All you had to do was pick it up, fill out the little card and mail it and wait for your rebate. The trick to this is to be sure to use the rebate check. So, with a little elbow grease from my son and I, we got this project and the back deck done as well and we still have stain left over for another day.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

From Poor to Not As Poor

Some of the tips I am giving in this blog might annoy poorer people because the tips are mainly geared towards people who have things like cars, washing machines, dryers, mortgages, student loans and things like that. I remember feeling that way when my husband and I first got married. Most people truly didn't understand what it was like to barely be able to make ends meet. To be honest, I probably don't remember it very well. But I do remember being there. The houses above are the actual houses my husband and I lived in when we first got married. He was 18 and I was 19. We both had high school diplomas. The brown house above? This is the first house my husband and I lived in when we got married. It was this threshold I was carried over. :) The landlord refused to fix a gas leak so we cooked on the grill and a little electric stove my husband borrowed from someone at work because the gas company refused to turn the gas on. We had no honeymoon. We literally cut the "lawn" (up close to the house) with a pair of scissors because we didn't have a lawn mower. And I walked around asking neighbors if I could borrow their vacuum cleaner. I got pregnant 3 months into our marriage and stayed home to take care of the baby, babysitting later on to make a little income. We call those our "chicken thigh and potato" years. We didn't eat very well and things were extremely tight but we climbed out. We lived in an apartment for a little while and then move into the white house. The white one was where we brought our daughter home from the hospital. (This pic was taken in later years, the boat was not ours.) The houses are older now, but I don't remember them looking much better back then. My husband worked as a glazer putting windows and mirrors into people's houses for $7.00 an hour. Minimum wage was $3.35 an hour. Now, it's $7.25. With my husband making close to twice minimum wage, he brought home about the equivalent of $14.50/hour today's money for a family of three. That's about $29,000 a year of today's money. I worked for a while at KMart for minimum wage, part time before the baby was born. With this, I saved money for a car, which we bought with cash. At first, we had one car and owned no furniture, no washing machine, no dryer, no lawn mower, no stove, no refrigerator etc. but slowly acquired those things as we could. The only loan we got from anyone that I can recall was a loan from my husband's grandmother to pay off the hospital bill. We paid her a few dollars every month at 6% interest (by law) for a few years until we paid off the debt for the labor and delivery bill. I did have a student loan debt from my one year in college. We did accept WIC from the state and it was like a huge boon, but we refused applying for food stamps, feeling that, although we probably would have qualified, we wanted to get along without being a burden to anyone. We also paid 10% of our income as a tithe to the church we attended plus gave some money to foreign missions, which I definitely would rethink if I had to do it over. So knowing that no two situations are alike, here are some tips for moving from poor to not as poor.

1. Get out of addictions if you have any. Addictions steal your time, money and energy. It is almost impossible to go from poor to not as poor if you have any type of addiction.

2. Don't fall into the trap of using pay day loans.

3. Generally, I don't have a problem with moderate credit card usage (there are certain rules) but I would not recommend any credit card usage while moving from poor to not as poor. It is too tempting and risky.

4. You could ride a bike everywhere or take the bus until you have enough money saved up for a car if at all possible. I walked to work a mile or 2 while pregnant every day for months (my husband's job was much further so he needed to drive) until I had saved enough cash to buy a car. Cars are expensive to pay for and maintain, but sometimes necessary anyway so this option won't always work. (If you take out a loan as a poor person, you will likely be looked at as a poor risk and they will sock it to you on your interest rate. That isn't fair, but it is how they often operate. You could keep saving until you can buy a car that isn't a total clunker, or you will be spending a lot of money on repairs. If you own the vehicle outright, you may have the option for cheaper insurance as well.) Then, once you own a car, maintain it as well as possible. Learn to change your own oil and keep up the other fluid levels and tires inflated.

5. Housing. If you are single, find the cheapest place you can that is safe. If possible, in the warmer months, to get a leg up and save some money, you could live in a campground in a tent (one that has showers). That way, you could save money and be ready for a place for winter. As a family, this is harder because you can't really live in a tent. But the cheapest, safe housing you can find is the best thing.

6. Try not to use the laundromat if possible. The laundromat is expensive. Wash your clothes in the bathtub and hang to dry. Iron what needs to be worn for work or wash in tub and tumble dry work clothes.

7. Don't eat fast food or convenience store food. It's expensive and makes you feel horrible if you do it on a regular basis. Try to stock up on healthy, cheap food like beans and rice, applesauce, puffed wheat, corn flakes, pasta and tomato sauce. Be creative.

8. Buy clothing at thrift stores or garage sales.

9. Don't believe that you were born poor and just have to settle for that. Remember that every time you buy that Mountain Dew at a convenience store, you are making a choice about your potential to climb out. It really does all add up.

10. Try not to borrow money if possible. Try to always earn your way. Keeping your integrity in all dealings with people is very important.

11. We really need little to survive. In America, we believe we need a lot and we need it now. This is a cultural thought process. We need food, shelter and clothing. Those are the basic necessities of life.

12. Show up for work.

I don't ever want to make light of the difficulty it takes to move from being poor. It is incredibly difficult. There are many pitfalls to overcome along the way. It usually takes years of diligent hard work. But it can be done. :)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Laundry Frugality

Some money saving tips for laundry:

1. Use cold water. I think this is usually a good thing, unless your clothes are really filthy and you need hot water to really get them clean. This link talks about how much money you may be pouring down the drain by using hot water to wash clothes vs cold.

2. Make sure there is a full load. Smaller loads use the same amount of energy as larger loads. You can use less water though if your machine has a water level knob.

3. Use less detergent than is recommended by the manufacturer.

4. My Mother-in-law makes her own laundry detergent. I have not personally tried this, but probably will at some point to see if I like the results. I like the idea of this natural detergent with less chemicals:

5. Use coupons or look for sales on laundry detergent.

6. Wear your clothes more than once before washing. I do this all the time, especially with jeans unless I get into a really messy job. We also use towels more than once. This not only saves money but time as well.

7. Hang your clothes to dry. I don't personally do this in more recent years because of allergens getting into the clothes and bothering us delicate, allergic types. ;) However, I try not to over-dry clothes.

8. Fold your clothes as soon as they are done drying to save on ironing.

9. I always rip my dryer sheets in half. That works just fine.

So, if you do none of these tips now, it looks like you could potentially save around $500.00 a year by changing a few small things. Give yourself a raise. You deserve it. ;) ($500/year divided by 52 weeks a year divided by 40 hours a week =.24/ hour raise for the year-tax free.)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Freezing Strawberries

I have a strawberry patch, if you can call it that. It doesn't produce hardly anything and I have not treated it well. I get so much going on. Too many irons in the fire and so some things get neglected. The strawberry patch is one of them. I may just till it under next year.

So, since I am a strawberry patch keeping failure, I look for strawberries when they are on sale and I freeze them. Yes, I am too cheap to get the wonderful strawberry patch ones, the ones that taste superb. But, at $15.00-$18.00 for a gallon, I just can't see fit to cough that up. That is on the bucket list for someday. :) Every year strawberries go on sale, usually for .99 for 1 lb. At that time, I buy a lot and freeze them. But, alas, this year they never were at .99 that I saw. Everything just keeps going up. So, while I was waiting for the .99 sale, I passed on the $1.19 sale. Finally, here we are in Aug and I bought these for $1.29 lb before I lose out altogether.

While I was at Aldi, I did some price checking. Right now while supplies last, you can buy 1 lb of frozen strawberries for $2.19, marked down from $2.29. I have a feeling this means they will go up come winter. So 6 lbs of frozen strawberries right now would cost $13.14. I paid $7.74 for 6 lbs. of the fresh ones. If we do this type of comparison, I saved $5.40. But what if I waited until winter? Fresh strawberries cost quite a bit in the winter, let's just say $2.49 lb for a rough estimate. That's $14.94 for 6 lbs. for a difference of $7.20 for the ones I bought today. So, I saved between $5.40 and $7.20 for what took me a half an hour of labor today. Let's multiply that and we get between $10.80 and $14.40/hour, tax free. Not too bad. Give yourself a raise with your labor today. :)

School and Office Supplies

Now is the time of the year to try and figure out what school and office supplies you need for the year and purchase all of them at all the great back to school sales! Most places have great bargains on back to school/office supplies this time of year to try and draw you into their stores. I did this every year when my kids were in school so I hardly ever bought anything at any other time of the year, which meant I got them very inexpensively. Some stores even have rebates on back to school supplies (sometimes Menards does this) so you could potentially get some of it for free.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Zucchini and Yellow Squash

Do you have a garden or a neighbor who gives you zucchini or yellow squash? Do you wonder what to do with it all? Do they rot in your refrigerator and end up in the trash?

These yellow squash I grew in my garden. (I bought special seeds for this as most zucchini and squash is genetically modified nowadays. I try to stay away from GMO and I do pay more for that and think it's a good idea if you can afford it.) Squash and zucchini grow like crazy and there is always more than enough, it seems. Fortunately, these can be used for making breads, muffins, and cakes. So, I washed them off and grated them and put them into reused freezer bags (these have been washed out for reuse as you can see by the scribbled out words. It is not recommended that you reuse bags that have had meat in them. Do so at your own risk.) I just put some hot water in the bags and a squirt of soap, squeeze and rub them and rinse them out and hang upside down to dry.

Here are some recipes.

So here are two money saving tips today. Use up your yellow squash and zucchini by grating them and making baked goods and reuse your plastic bags. :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I Love my Prius! But It Took Me a While to Get Here.

This year, I was able to buy a 2007 Toyota Prius. I love my car! As you can see in the photo, right now it is showing 57.1 MPG. The most I have gotten is 60.8. (That was a day that I drove to get the most gas mileage ever and I admittedly irritated every driver behind me! :) Sometimes, though, you just have to know what your car can do!) This car is a hybrid. I paid $8700.00 for it, cash. That means no payments. No interest. Nobody making boatloads of money off of me because I couldn't wait until I saved up enough money to pay cash for it.

How did I save the cash? By pinching pennies. By being frugal.

Now, when I drive this car, I hold my head up high because I look good in it. :) It suits me. It's a nice car.

But you need to know how I got here. Those that know me know that I drove a clunker around for a while. I can see the heads of those around me nodding. I had a Toyota Subaru that I drove around, but when my husband bought his hybrid (another story), he gave up his white Geo and was going to put it up for sale. Well, there was no point in my driving that Subaru when I could get 45 MPG with the white Geo. We decided to get rid of the GEO because there is a problem in the front end of older Geo's and the frame rusts from the inside out and it becomes dangerous. We found a guy to weld the frame on this one so we figured it was safe but didn't want to replace it with another Geo and the transmission on this Geo was starting to go that way, which is why my husband bought the Honda Insight Hybrid.

I could have bought another car earlier but didn't as I am prone to do. I drove this old rusty Geo for at least a year or more while my Subaru outback sat in the garage. Yes, I thought I heard people snickering while I drove the old rust bucket. I did it for the gas mileage. My Subaru got about 23 MPG and so I could double my gas mileage just by switching cars. Double the gas mileage meant half price gas. I wasn't going to miss out on that! (We got the Subaru when the kids were younger and needed more space.)

During this time, I drove 30 miles to work one way 3 times a week plus a trip to town once a week (30 miles) for shopping. That's 240 miles a week. Gas was about $3.85/gal maybe on average. I'm not a math whiz but you take 240 miles a week /23 MPG  and that's 10.43 gallons a week X $3.85/gal = $40.17 X 4 weeks = $160.70 per month for gas. Just to make this easy, I am going to cut that in half and then I was spending $80.35 per month driving the Geo instead. Over the course of 12 months, I saved $964.17 just by switching cars.

That doesn't add up to $8700.00 you say? No, it doesn't but this is one of many money saving tips. And they all add up.

So, my husband asked me what kind of car I wanted. I told him I didn't want any certain kind, I wanted certain criteria:

1. It had to get great gas mileage.
2. It had to have space and 4 doors for hauling people and stuff in.
3. It needed to be a good deal below book value.

When looking for cars or clothes or houses or anything, it is best to look for criteria more than emotional pullings. It's not that you can't look for something you love, but put the criteria first and then choose from the cars that meet that criteria.

My husband found this car for me on Craigslist (he reads CL almost daily). I LOVE my car! It makes me feel like a million bucks. (Geo's been sold for quite a while now, Subaru is up for sale.)

As cheap as I can be, it did make me twinge a bit to write that check out for $8700.00 (even though my husband said book was $10,000). But I have a great car and I am not paying some rich guy to use his money while I drive this car. That makes me very happy. :)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Change Your Think to a Thunk

Many people want to change their financial situation but either do something one time and wonder why it doesn't make a difference, or simply feel overwhelmed at making changes in their lives. After all, they are tired, overworked and stressed. Living frugally is indeed a lifestyle change and must be in order to make any real difference, but change should be made in small steps.

Change your Think to a Thunk.

Saying to yourself "I think things can be different" is the first step. In making small changes daily, you can turn that think into a thunk....meaning things are different because of choices you have made. I thunk it and so it became true. Okay, so that's a little corny, but the thought sticks. Every time you feel frustrated with your finances, you can say to yourself "I am going to change my think to a thunk". Or you can make up your own little mantra, whatever works for you. Just remind yourself that things don't have to be the way they are. They can indeed be better.

In this blog, I intend to post things that we regularly do around here that save money. Many of them are small things that all add up into a lot of savings.

If you could give yourself a tax-free raise, wouldn't you do it? Many people will work extra for some extra money because they know exactly what they are getting per hour. Translate what you save into per hour wage to help you figure out what you are doing for yourselves.

For example, (and I hesitate to use this example, lest men think this is a housewife blog....I will have many household tips but my husband also does many frugal things and I will be including some of those things in the blog too) if you normally run to the supermarket and pick up a few things.....after work you are rushing madly, grabbing things as you go, knowing that you don't have much at home....this looks good and that looks good, you have to eat after all.....that can cost you a lot of money. If you spend some time, even an hour per week preparing your shopping trips, you can save $20-$30 a week on groceries.

That's $20.00-$30.00 an hour TAX FREE!! Granted, you can only do this once a week, but are you better off working that extra hour at work or using that time to save on grocery shopping? Depending on your wage, you can make this decision for yourself. Or, you can do both. But there are many things this applies to, grocery shopping just being the tip of the iceberg.

So, make small changes every day. Learn what some of those small changes are and change your Think to a Thunk. Tax free. :)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Re-Purposed Swing

Many things can be re-purposed. We live in a throw away society. This swing is a case-in-point. I bought it at a garage sale maybe 7 or 8 years ago. It was great for a while until the seats got worn out and needed to be replaced. Wouldn't you know it, the seats were pretty much non-replaceable. The swing had been built so that when the seats wore out, that was the end of it's use!! You were forced to throw the set out and buy a whole new swing. This seemed ridiculous to me. Re-purposing sometimes takes creativity and patience. I really, really tried to get the seats to work. I found the cranberry set of seat covers at a garage sale for a whole $1.00 and tried to bungy them on, but it was hopeless. I thought about chair webbing, but there was no rod by the seat to attach it to. So, I finally gave up and was ready to have it hauled off to the salvage. Then, I was at a garage sale last week and voila! A chair hammock! I paid $5.00 for this. Finally the swing has been re-purposed and I feel pretty smug. :)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Welcome to Simply Frugalynne

Hello! Welcome to my blogspot! I have been thinking for quite some time about starting a blog on being frugal. Frugality is pretty much second nature to me. I remember as a small child trying to get every last bit I could out of that dime at the Ben Franklin store. I do believe some people are born with frugal genes. Others are not. But never fear! This blog is not about beating anyone into frugality or making you feel bad if you are as much of a penny pincher as some more frugal types! As a matter of fact, I am not as frugal as I used to be (truth be told). I think frugality should be fun, a challenge and something you enjoy doing! Frugality is not a competition! Frugality is about making your life more simple, peaceful and happy no matter how much you make or where you are at in your finances. I hope you will join me in this journey! So that's my introduction to my blogspot! If you are waiting for frugality tips, that will be in later blogs. If you want to see why I think frugality is very important, please continue to read this blog!

I see more of a need for frugality now than ever, especially since the crash of 2008. Do you feel like you have less money now than ever and are you beating yourself up over it? Well, you need to know it is not all your fault. Americans lost a great deal of wealth in the crash and we all need to be looking towards the future. Americans lost a great deal of equity in their homes and are even now as we speak losing money from pension funds and the like. The stock market and your 401k may look good right now, but I would not feel too confident that it is going to last. If it does, great! But I think we all need to do what we can to prepare for the future for our families.

Student loan debt is higher than it has ever been and some are calling it a bubble. Kids today fresh out of college are strapped with debt almost the size of a mortgage. According to the Wall Street Journal, the class of 2014 has the highest debt ever, averaging $33,000 per student.

We all need to do what we can to be proactive and make the most of what we have. I am not saying that some crooks on Wall Street, the Big Banks and Washington have not done their fair share to get the middle class where we are today, but protesting with signs and "feeling outraged" and demanding more things from the government is the wrong approach in my opinion. Those things may have a place at times but personal responsibility is a very good thing when it comes to finances and unfortunately, one of the most important to manage your money....gets little attention in the classroom. Ever wonder if that is by design? I do. After-all, the less you know about managing money, the more student loan debt you have and the more debt you have altogether, the more likely you are to happily hand your money over to someone else.

Half of all Americans can't come up with $2000.00 in a month's time.

How are people supposed to retire? Are you going to rely on Social Security? If you are in my age bracket, think of the demographics of that...The baby boomers are a huge generation. How are the younger smaller generations supposed to pay for all of them? Have you thought about inflation? That report you get tells you how much you will get every month if you retire at a certain age, but how much will that money be worth?

So, this blog is about personal responsibility. It is about frugality. And it is about fighting back. Not with fists raised in the air demanding more from an ever bloated government. But about taking charge of our own lives ourselves and doing what we can to make a happy, secure future for ourselves and our children. I hope you will join me.

I love feedback! Please feel free to comment!