Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Simple, Easy Recipes for Beginners

A while back, I was listening to someone who works at a food bank. She said if there are fresh potatoes available, most people won't take them, they want boxed potatoes because they don't know how to do anything with the fresh ones. I thought that was tragic for many reasons. First of all, fresh potatoes are healthier. They are also less expensive. Years ago, in school, we had a class called Home Economics that taught kids how to do some of these things. Apparently, they are not teaching people these things now. So, people really need to take it upon themselves to learn some of these things for their own benefit.

One of my favorite and very easy ways to make baked potatoes is in the microwave. First, wash potato. Next, put in microwave wrapped in small towel for about 6 minutes or until tender. Take out, load with butter, sour cream, cheese and bacon bits or ham. Voila! Easy breezy meal.

Here are some links to some other easy meals for beginners. Cooking has a bit of a learning curve but it is much healthier and less expensive and tastes so much better! And once you learn how, it gets easier and easier.

I would scrub some potatoes and cook them with the next two. I also would throw in some onion and carrots with the Roast Beef. It all cooks at once!

Roast Chicken:

Roast Beef

I would heat some tomato soup with the next one!

Grilled Cheese

Scrambled Eggs

These are good to start with and there are many easy recipes to be found online. Pretty soon, you'll be cooing like a pro!

Happy Eating and Happy Savings!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Change Your Think to a Thunk: Average American Pays 9% of Income for Interest!! Don't Let This Be You!

I just read an article by Clark Howard that says that Americans pay 9% of their income to interest every year!! This seems just incredible to me. This means that 9% of most people's income is going right out the door and into the pockets of bankers.

I am not sure how this interest is broken down. I don't know how much of it is credit card interest and how much is house payment interest and how much is car payment interest etc. but 9% is a huge amount to be paying for the privilege to use money.

How would it be if Americans could simply put that 9% into a retirement account so they could afford to retire someday? There are many, many Americans who aren't even able to think about retirement and believe they will never retire.

If you make $35,000 a year and you are the average American, $3,150 of your income goes straight out the window. What could you do with $3,150 more per year?

Can we change this? Many people are choosing to give 9% of their money away per year to interest. Now, I understand bringing that down to 0% might not be possible, but certainly it could be brought down some. Contrary to some political pundits, we do have a much larger amount of control over our own financial destiny than some would have us believe. The big bankers do take our money but we have to consider that we might be somewhat complicit in this. Sometimes we have emergencies and sometimes we have needs that must be met but sometimes, we just want what we want when we want it and this is what gets us in trouble.

In the book The Millionaire Next Door, it talks about how people who are self-made millionaires do two things.....they work on the offensive and the defensive. This means they both make as much money as they can and they save as much money as they can. Most people who live in affluent neighborhoods are good at the offensive but not so good at the defensive, meaning they spend what they make and sometimes more than they make. Not too many will make it to being a millionaire but we can all work on both the offensive (making as much as we can) and the defensive (spending as little as we can).

Most people who make it into the self made millionaire categories do not live in affluent neighborhoods. They live like a regular Joe and save their money.

What does this have to do with the average American paying 9% interest? It means that people often live beyond their means.

Many financial advisers advise that people pay off their credit cards and get out of debt. Dave Ramsey calls this the debt snowball. You decide that big bankers taking 9% of your money in interest is offensive. You decide that rather than help them live the good life, you want to help yourself live the good life. Instead of spending, you save and put that onto either your smallest credit card bill (some say this has a better immediate gratification) and pay that off or you put it on your highest interest credit card and pay that off. After that, you work to pay the next one off etc. Doing this, you work your way slowly out of debt. When you pay off the first credit card, you take that money that you would be paying onto that card and put it on your next one. Hence, the snowball.

Just think if Americans everywhere did this. This would be 9% more (potentially or at least a percentage of that) in our pockets for our retirements, our fun, our charity work, our communities.

Let's stop supporting the big bankers and support ourselves. The first step is acknowledging that most of us can.

Happy Savings!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Venison Stew with Cheese and Buns, Pickles and Caramel Brownies for About .45 a Serving

Sometimes I feel kind of bad making blog posts about these extremely frugal meals because I know not everyone has the resources I have. I hope though, that it can inspire frugal meals that you can do within your own resources. 

Tonight I made Venison Stew with buns, pickles and caramel brownies for about .45 a serving! This is not unusual for me because of the way we choose to live and the resources around me. 

First of all, a couple of nights ago I made a 3 lb venison roast. We harvest and butcher our own venison, so the venison cost was negligible. With this roast, I made potatoes that we harvest from a field in this area after they get done harvesting. We get enough for all winter every year and so I have more potatoes than I can use! In addition, my Dad gave me some garden carrots that I also made in this roast. The only things I paid for were the minced garlic and the green onion. So, we ate that for two meals. There was plenty of roast left, so I decided to make a stew with it. 

With the roast, I served these marked down buns from Wal-Mart. I heated them up and slathered butter on them and heated them some more until the butter looked good and slightly bubbly. The buns were .09 a serving.

In this stew, besides the venison, potatoes and carrots, which I paid nothing for, I added some fiddleheads that I foraged last spring. I also added some garlic, barley, wild rice, dried mushrooms, celery flakes and a few other spices which I guess to have added up to make the stew about .06 a serving. There are about 10 servings so we ate well tonight and will also eat well tomorrow.

 I bought shredded cheese on ad match at Wal-mart for .99 for 8 oz. This made each serving of cheese .12.

 I served the stew and buns with garden pickles and the cost of those is negligible.

For dessert, I made caramel brownies. I paid .99 for the box of brownies on sale and when I added up the rest of the ingredients and added homemade caramel topping, the cost per serving for the brownies is about .17 a serving. 

I also have a bit of roast left which will be enough to make roast beef sandwiches for about two days of eating plus scraps for the cat, who loves venison scraps, especially in the winter!

Any situation we find ourselves in, we can be creative with our resources. It's fun and it saves $$$!

Happy Savings! 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Buy Christmas Items Now!

 Time to shop for Christmas clearance now! I usually check all the stores I go into for Christmas clearance and pick the best of what I find. I don't need a whole lot. Today, I spent .60 on Christmas clearance. I got:

Four rolls of wrapping paper at .10 each and :

Two tissue sheets (5 each) for .10 each. I'm not sure if I'll buy more clearance or not this year. I have most of what I need, so it depends on what I might see.

Happy Savings!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Changing your Think to a Thunk: Frugality Ethics

Sometimes when people think about saving money, couponing etc, ethics comes into play. I thought I would outline my thoughts on the ethics that I believe are good guidelines when being frugal.
I like to think of myself as an ethical person. I don't believe in trying to save money while taking advantage. Different people will draw these lines in different places. However, I believe that sometimes people can also be TOO ethical when it comes to saving money and end up shortchanging themselves!

  • If you have an opportunity to take advantage of a company deal that offers you so much percent off or three free months with no obligation, I don't feel it is unethical to take them at their word when they say "no obligation". This means you can take advantage of one deal and then hop to the next one. Some people feel they are being unethical when they hop to the next deal from the next company, especially if this means they are getting more stuff/months for free. I look at it this way: companies are taking risks and assessing those risks along the way. This means, they are going to account for a few smart people who are going to take them at their word (no obligation) and get the deal and move on. They know and assess that there will be a group that will take the deal and stay and this is why they offer the deal. You are not wrong for taking the deal and leaving after three months (or however long the free time is for).
  • Time share deals. I have a couple of these coming up. I have agreed to sit through a time-share presentation for a great vacation deal. I have no qualms about this. I just plan to say no to the time-share. The companies know that they will have to give out so many vacation deals to get one time share sale and this is a risk they sign up for and take. I have a deal with the company that I get the deal from to I sit through the presentation and I have no obligation to buy. I get some great vacations this way and I fulfill my obligation by doing what I said I would do....sitting through the presentation.
  • Once I got a free hotel night because the room a hotel gave us was not cleaned. By this I mean there was hair on the sheets, urine on the toilet seat and used soap bars in the tub. I felt if I was the management of this hotel, I would want to know and have the opportunity to make it right. However, there are people who try to scam companies by complaining about things. I feel this is unethical. I try to put myself in the shoes of the management in these situations and ask myself how I would feel. Is it a legitimate complaint? If it is legitimate, I will complain. However, I don't want to complain about smaller things and get employees in trouble. I will only complain if it is a reasonable complaint.
  • I worked at a social services agency for a while and I knew some clients that would go around to restaurants, order food and complain about anything for free coupons. In a word: unethical. 
  • Dumpster Diving: I have no problem with dumpster diving. I tried it once and came back empty. I was going to try it in a far away city on vacation once but looked up the ordinances and saw it was illegal in that city. I want to try it sometime in a far away city where it is legal for the experience. I can't say I would do this on a regular basis but I have a bit of admiration for those who do. We throw away way too much in this society. So, I think dumpster diving is entirely ethical. 
  • Free coupons. There are people who sell free coupons and it is a huge business. However, I think much of it is tantamount to counterfeiting. Companies now are usually putting strips on free coupons that can't be counterfeited to try and keep this from happening. I love free coupons, but I won't use them if I think they are counterfeit. All this does is cause companies to raise prices for all of us. 
So, to sum up, I think people should save money where they can. Sometimes saving money can go against societal convention, but I have no problem with going against societal convention if I believe societal convention is wrong. When you look at the huge debts people have in their lives and the stranglehold it has on them, I believe society is headed the wrong way with material goods. There is a difference between societal convention and ethics. Societal convention tells us what we "should" or "shouldn't" do based on what the majority do or don't do. This has nothing to do with ethics. Ethics is about being a good human being and not hurting others while you try and do the best you can for yourself. So, I want to do the best I can for myself and I view that as a good and healthy way to live. But I also want the best for my fellow human beings. Companies take risks, that is part of life. We can play this"game" and we can win. And we should win. But we should be ethical while we play.