Thursday, November 19, 2015

Black Friday Countdown

It really is that time of year, isn't it? Black Friday, that day where super sales can make a huge dent in your gift list, well be here in barely over a week from today.

You've no doubt seen ads for it already as stores start building anticipation for the frenzy, but don't just jump and run Friday morning. Plan, plan, plan... and look closely for the best deals.

Personally, I am not one to get up at 12:05 AM and stand in line for the latest gadget at the lowest price, or fight my way through crowds to it, but online? Oh, yeah.

Whether you shop Black Friday in brick stores or online, the folks at The Penny Hoarder' Black Friday Deals Blog are hard at work this year, keeping on top of the best sales from everywhere. It's well worth checking now and a few times before the rush, and of course, on Friday morning!

Not only the sales, they're ready with tips and tricks to save even more. They're putting out an ongoing effort to keep up with everything and we can really benefit from it.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

6 of the Best Free Things You Can Find Online

Some of us get our internet free or at a very reasonable price, while others pay dearly for the service. Either way, an internet connection can be used to save money during the holidays (and every day). Why not use it to save money and make the holidays go easier by using it for free things? Things like:

1. Music. There are many "radio" stations online, with every kind of music you could ever want. Just search for them by genre or search for "Christmas music" or "Irish music." It's out there and it's absolutely free.

2. Games and puzzles for you and the kids. Crossword puzzles that you can print out or work right online, jigsaw puzzles, mazes and many variations of games and puzzles for the kids are available. Search for them by name or just put "puzzles" into the search box.

3. Stories and books to read, either to yourself or to the kids. Free audio books can be found, too! How much free reading and listening material out there still amazes me.

4. Free software and not just little snippets some kid put together because he was bored. I'm talking about full blown, very usable and portable software programs. Open Office rivals Microsoft's pricey alternative. Older, free versions of almost every program in use now can be found by searching for "old apps" and clicking on the site of that name.

5. Coupons and rebate offers. To get the best coupons, go to the site of the product you want. You might have to get on a mailing list, but you will get the best coupons there are for the product. You can use the coupon pages that many sites offer now. Most stores accept coupons printed from the internet, but check before relying on them.

6. Ideas, directions, instructions, patterns, recipes and advice, whether you're preparing for a holiday or want to paint your house yourself, you can find out how online. It's the greatest, biggest, most complete do-it-yourself encyclopedia ever. Take advantage of it!

If you're not familiar terms with a good search engine, maybe it's time to cozy up to one!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Why You Should Use Less Laundry Detergent

Manufacturers' scoops are bigger than you need! As a matter of fact, most laundry will come clean with about half the recommended amount of detergent. Try it yourself and see. Be aware, though, that your washing machine probably holds enough detergent to wash a load without adding any.

As a matter of fact, it's a good idea to run a load of laundry through your machine without adding detergent now and then, especially if you've been using the recommended amount, but even if you haven't.

Why should you?

1. It's frugal. There's no need to use as much as they say because it isn't needed. If the manufacturers had their way, you'd be using a half a box for every load.

2. It's hard on your clothes because it wears on the fabric. Laundry detergent has fillers in it and they get trapped in the fibers and scrape, cut and wear it out.

3. It builds up in your washer, causing it to trap dirt and smell, as well as coating the insides of hoses and so forth.

4. It's not the healthiest product. Read the label. The less used, the better.

5. It's hard to rinse out and the buildup on the fabric traps dirt and germs. Laundry detergent that's deep in the fibers makes a garment look dingy and old and it can also smell. It makes it harder to remove stains, too.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Make a Penny, Save a Penny?

Benjamin Franklin said "A penny saved is a penny earned," and that's a fact, even these days.  Depending on your tax rate and other circumstances, you could "earn" more than a penny if you saved it instead of making another one. If you invest a penny, it will earn on its own with very little further input from you. If, however, you earn another penny, by the time you pay taxes on two pennies, how much difference is there going to be in how much money you actually have?

Of course you have to make money in the first place, or you won't have any at all to save or invest. If you don't make enough to pay for your basic needs, you need to make more and that's all there is to it. We don't always have a choice of what to do at the moment, but we always have a choice of what we can do in the future, barring great emergencies.

If you have a choice of working harder to make more or working harder to save more, what would you choose?

Friday, October 2, 2015

What If You Missed a Paycheck?

Would you have enough money in savings to tide you over until you could get something else going? Unemployment helps, but not everyone is eligible for it... and if you're not? Then what?

According to the Springleaf Financial Strength Survey of 2014, almost half of Americans have nothing to fall back on if they lose their job or source of income or if it's simply delayed. How about you?

Do you think it's time to start sticking a little back into savings, just in case?

You may not think you have enough income to put any in savings, but you may be surprised at how quickly five or ten dollars adds up. Set a minimum that you will save each payday, and just do it. Sure, it takes some self discipline, but probably not nearly as much as the discipline it will take to go to the food bank, beg the electric company for a little more time to pay the bill or have to park the car because you don't have money for gas or insurance.

Here are some more statistics:

  • Almost a quarter of adults have less than $250 in their checking accounts on the day before payday, meaning that if they don't get their money, they are in trouble quickly.
  • Almost 20% of adults don't have enough of a savings cushion to make it two weeks without a paycheck.
  • Almost one in five would rather go to the dentist than spend a half hour learning how to manage their own money!

So what if you missed a paycheck? What would you do? Would you try to sell something to get you through? Would you borrow money from family or friends? Would you draw what you need from your savings?

The choice is up to you. And yes, you can do it. Read, study and save. Anyone can save a little, and I mean anyone. I know. I've been there.

Pick up aluminum cans, use coupons, turn out the lights... there are hundreds of ways to save. When you do, put that money into a savings account. You can do it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Decorate Naturally and Frugally

Far from being a time of decay and ending, autumn usually gives us a sense of refreshment, of starting over and looking forward. In that mood, our minds often turn to decorating our homes, or at least putting on a coat of fresh paint. Decorating naturally and frugally not only it refreshes our surroundings, but it refreshes our minds and changes the moods of our homes as the seasons change.

A little creativity goes a long way in getting the natural look and feel you want without having to spend much, if any at all. Half the fun of decorating is in rediscovering something you already have, inside or out, and using or displaying it a new way.

Decorating with naturally occurring colors, shapes and textures is so frugal that you can afford to experiment - or change your mind every week.

    1. Think natural.

  •      Flowers wake up a room anytime; in the fall, gather winter bouquets, grasses and weeds that have seeded out and have attractive colors and shapes.
  •      In the spring, gather wild flowers (even if your neighbor calls them weeds).
  •      Small pieces of weathered wood, varnished against splinters, make interesting paperweights.
  •      Gather large baskets of pine cones and just put them on the floor.
  •      Fill baskets full of anything interesting - wood, dried flowers, rocks...

    2. Think color.

  •      Find a new color that won't clash with your floors and walls, for a quick makeover of any room.
  •      Paint a wooden chair, add an inexpensive throw, or use brightly colored napkins under lamps and on coffee tables.
  •      If you don't want to change your color scheme, find another color that goes with it, or deepen (or lighten) the color for accessories.
  •      Add a bright throw rug or two, and don't limit them to the floor. Put them on the coffee table, on the back of the couch, on the wall.

    3. Think fun.

  •     Small rocks, arranged on a tray or plate, in some sand with a miniature house or animals make a fascinating coffee table display. Use a small mirror for a pond and get creative with the scene.
  •      Display kids' art prominently on a bulletin board so you can change the artwork frequently. Add your own flair with cutouts or small objects you can pin up.
  •      Have vintage clothing, or almost antiques? Display them! Hang clothing on hangars on wall pegs. Teddy bears? Old toys? Lamps, dishes, whatnots - group them for impact.

    4. Think recycle.

  •      Old picture frames look new with a fresh coat of paint or gilding.
  •      Dye your own curtains a deeper or different color, or embroider them.
  •      Use an old trunk for a coffee table.
  •      Use an old freshly painted dresser for a hall table or sideboard.
  •      Use an empty can for a planter, covered with fabric or spray paint.

Monday, September 21, 2015

7 Uses for Extra Tote Bags

Have you managed to gather more tote bags than you think you need? They can carry a lot more than just groceries from the store. If you have more than a few of them, don't just put them in the closet and forget about them. Bring them out and make use of them! How? Try these ideas.

1. Carry knitting, crochet or other needlework projects in one. Most of them are big enough to carry several skeins of yarn along with needles, pattern, scissors and any small tools you may need. If you use a box or plastic bag for your tools, you won't lose them in the bottom of the tote bag.

2. The kids always want to take toys along with them no matter where you go, right? Just grab a tote bag let them put their toys in it and away you go. They can put the toys in the bag when they're through playing with them and everyone is happy. If you go to the pool or beach, a tote bag can hold wet swimsuits as well as toys.

3. When you're traveling, tuck a tote bag in your suitcase to hold dirty clothes as you change. An extra bag is great for holding extra shoes so the rest of your clothes stay clean.

4. Washable tote bags are great for bringing in garden produce. Put the dirtiest root crops in the bottom and fill the top with lettuce, beans or other clean crops.

5. Take one to the farmer's market, of course, but don't stop there. Keep an extra one in the car for those unexpectedly found roadside stands.

6. You can store any number of things in them if you put the handles around the neck of a hanger and hang them in your closet. Use one for scarves, gloves and hats or even socks and underwear!

7. If you don't need them for clothing items in your closet, put one in the hall or guest room closet and use it to store such various things as extra soap, electric cords, Christmas decorations or whatever else you need to store.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Uses for Old Pantyhose

I'm of the school that says "Never throw anything out if it can possibly be used for something else." With that in mind, here are my favorite uses for old pantyhose:

Cut appropriate size lengths and put a simple knot in one end. Fill the resulting sack with herbs for a bath or potpourri for a dresser drawer and tie the open end closed.

Use them as Halloween masks. They will flatten your facial features and make you unrecognizable, but you can breathe and see through them - the perfect mask for a small child.

Slit the side and cut a piece the right size to stretch over a small embroidery hoop. Fasten securely and use it as a strainer.

If you have several, make a washable, soft throw pillow from them. It's easy!

  1. Cut off the waist bands of panty hose and discard or find another use for them (use them like huge rubber bands - hold flowers together in a vase, keep mail or papers together, etc.).

  2. Cut two cloth rectangles the size you want the pillow to be and sew three sides.

  3. Stuff the pillow with pantyhose until it's full.

  4. Turn under the open edges and whipstitch or blindstitch the pillow closed.

  5. To help keep the pantyhose stuffing in place, use a large needle with yarn or small ribbon and make a single stitch in the center of the pillow, leaving both ends of the yarn or ribbon loose. Draw these up and tie in a bow.

Make a granny doll with one leg of an old pantyhose:

  1. Start at the toe and stuff the first two or three inches with another piece of old pantyhose. Tie a string around it, then stuff another section, this one four to five inches, with yet another pantyhose piece. Make yet another section about six inches long, but before tying off the last section, put something heavy at the very bottom so the doll can stand up. A few washers or nuts, sinkers or a handful of small pebbles will do the trick.

  2. With a needle and thread, make a firm running stitch up the center of the last section, making "legs" for the doll. For the arms, make a running stitch about a half inch from either side of the body section.

  3. To make the face, using a needle and thread, enter the doll's body from a point several inches away and bring the needle out on either side of where a nose would be and draw the thread firmly back into the face to make an indent. By using the needle and thread, you can create a facial shape, indenting where eyes and mouth should be.

  4. Using yarn, embroider eyes and mouth. Add yarn for hair and dress granny in an old fashioned doll dress or let your imagination run with it.  You can make a dress for the doll by cutting a circle large enough to drape from shoulder to toe. With needle and thread, tack along the inside of the arms and around the waist, gathering the excess material to make a full skirt. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Gas Prices and the Economy

I'm sure you've noticed gas prices at the pump, going down and down. According to Bankrate, "The lowest prices may still be on the horizon."

Good news, right? In the short term, yes. It costs less to fill your tank when prices are so low. In the long term, the picture may not be so bright, however. 
The fact is that gas prices are tied to the overall economy of our nation and when they go down this far, companies lose their profits, causing workers lose their jobs, causing retailers lose sales, causing more workers to lose their jobs... When enough workers lose their jobs, it affects the housing market negatively and it affects savings rates and retail sales, all of which have powerful effects on the overall economy. 
Just in case you wanted to be happy about saving money at the gas pump... really, I don't like to be negative about everything, so enjoy your savings. But remember that one person's gain is another person's loss and be ready for it to boomerang. We're all in this together. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Saving Seeds

One of the things a frugal gardener does is save seeds from year to year. Not only does it save money, each year your seed becomes more and more acclimated to the unique conditions in your garden, so that they become hardier and more reliable.

Saving seeds for most things is fairly straightforward and simple. Let a plant to to seed, pick it off and save it. Here are some radish and onion seeds I have been working on saving. The radish seed here will probably be sprouted this winter rather than planted because the crop was disappointing. I don't want those genes to reproduce, but they do make some fine salad and sandwich material once they've sprouted.

The onion seed (on the paper) are not quite dry enough yet to remove, so I will leave them out for a couple of days. Since onion seeds only last one year and they're not nearly as reliable as onion sets, I'm going to experiment with winter sowing a few, keeping a few just as they are and planting next spring and keeping another few in the garage to bear the freezing temperatures of nature.

We shall see what happens next year!

I have lettuce seed saved already, from an heirloom type that I've had for around four years now. There is still seed from tomatoes, peppers and a few other things. Okra is on a string drying right now.

There are a few things that I've not had good luck saving seeds from, though. Summer squash and sweet peppers never seem to work out. If you know how to do either of those, let me know!