Monday, July 27, 2015

Back to school sales are for you, too.

Back to school sales are all over the place right now! Don't think of them as just for the kids and school; they're for you and your home, too. 

There are sales on pencils, crayons, notebooks and so on, so as you buy for the back to school gang, buy some for yourself while they're cheap. Who couldn't use a few pencils or notebooks throughout the year?

Other deals you'll find right now are on computers and other electronics and inexpensive furniture (for dorm rooms, but who says you or  your kids can't use it at home?). Now's the time to get those storage bins for the laundry or the bright, comfy seating for the family room as well.

Grab some new bedding for the kids (thanks again to dorm rooms), then add a bulletin board and a stack of cube storage boxes and your kids' rooms will look new for very little cash.

Now's the time, but it won't last long. As soon as school starts and the stock is sold, we will be right back to the higher prices, so take advantage of the sales while you can. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

It's time to gather tea for the winter

Right now is a great time to gather plants for tea  (tisanes, actually) from your garden, yard or wild areas to use this winter.

You probably have a few plants (aka, weeds) available that make good tea and right now, they're free for the taking. Free is frugal, right? 

So what can you make tea from?

Dandelions (leaves and roots)
Berry leaves (strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, etc.) 
Rose hips (a little later in the season; don't forget them)
Mint (any kind, including catmint, horehound, lemon balm and so on)
Flowers like clover, chamomile, goldenrod, meadowsweet and yarrow
Some trees have bark that make tea, like cherry

Make sure you can positively identify any plant that you gather. Most plants are best when gathered early in the morning. Don't pick too many leaves from a plant or you will damage it. You can pick over a few days to minimize damage.

Dehydrate the plant material by putting it in a single layer on a food safe screen or cloth in a warm, not hot, place. Don't dry in the sun, as delicate flavors may be damaged.

Some leaves will be dry and ready to store in a day's time; others will take two days. They are ready when they're crunchy with no trace of moisture left. Store in a glass jar with an airtight lid. As much as you might want to show off your teas, don't store them on the counter. Put them in a cabinet or pantry where it will be dark most of the time.

This winter when the cold winds blow and you want something comforting, put a heaping teaspoon or two of your free tea in a cup and add boiling water. Let it steep at least five minutes or more, depending on the tea.

You will soon learn how much you need and next year, you'll know how much to harvest.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Working oline

Making money is as critical as saving it, and if you're a stay at home parent or between jobs or disabled or in any other position where you need to make money, working online is the ideal way to bring in an income.

There are still scams and "methods" all over the internet, so beware of them. They are usually overly enthused about how much you can make or how little it takes to get rich, but some of them have become a little more sophisticated. It's best to do some research on any company or site before getting involved with them.

You can make a few dollars here and there or, if you're really committed, you can make more than just a few. Honestly, unless you have a specific skill or are an entrepreneur at heart, it's very hard to make a living online. At best, most people will make enough to pay for their internet and maybe pay a bill or two each month.

For some, that's fine. It's perfect, as a matter of fact, for some people. There are several sites where you can work to do that: the ubiquitous Swagbucks is probably the most popular. It takes time, as do most rewards type of online programs.

Then there is Chatabout and InstaGC and many more. Once you start looking, you will find many and you'll have to choose wisely if you want to make the most of your time. Some sites, like Chatabout, have a social value that often outweighs its monetary value, so people who don't get out much can really appreciate that.

"Pocket change" means different things to different people, so you may or may not be happy with what you can earn at places like those.

From a little experience, I can advise you to stay with a site for at least a couple of weeks until you learn the ropes. They're all a little different and you will find new and better ways to earn as you get more comfortable with each of them.

And have fun. It's not all about work and money. Set goals, challenge yourself, enjoy your time and know that you're not wasting it.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Eat better on a budget

Healthy eating on a budget means eating seasonally, avoiding processed food, sticking to basics, cooking from scratch and using coupons with wisdom and caution.

Eating seasonally might take some getting used to, but you'll get the best of food for the least price if you do. Produce which is in season means sweet and tempting strawberries in the spring lucious, juicy watermelon in the middle of summer, firm, bright apples in the fall and plump and tasty turkerys in early winter. Sure, you can get those things other times, but they're just not as good.

When you avoid processed food, you avoid paying for chemicals that you can't pronounce and your body either can't process or does it to its own detriment. Processing makes a food shelf or refrigerator stable at the cost of nutrients and flavor. Other, simple foods are just as easy to prepare and much better for you.

Basic food is food that covers all the nutritional needs without any fancy sauces or flavorings. No exotic or expensive tastes, but good, simple food that satisfies your hunger. Save the expensive and fancy food for special occasions and you'll enjoy them more, anyway.

Cooking from scratch is a necessity if you want to eat basic food because nobody else is going to make it for you. A pot of beans and a pan of cornbread is easy to make, inexpensive and oh, so good! Simple recipes may be harder to find than complicated ones, but it's worth the hunt. Google is your friend.

Coupons can be really good budget boosters, if you use them right. Never use a coupon to buy something you wouldn't buy in the first place. To save money, make out your grocery list, then go looking for coupons to lower the cost of what you need.

There you go. Lower your entire food bill and eat better, too.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Parenting Syrup, Cars and Danger

You've probably noticed the links in the upper right hand corner. One of them is to "Parenting Syrup," and yes, I know that's an unusual name. If you've heard of it before, you remember it, though, right?

Anyway, there are some really interesting articles there and I should know because I edit the site. One that caught my attention is "Children Die of Heatstroke in Vehicles." You probably already know that, but you might want to read what this author has to say about it.

With summer heat coming on, it's something to beware of. Also, just leaving your kids alone in the car for a few minutes can be dangerous. "Danger: Your Kids are Alone in the Car" spells out exactly why.

Don't let your child be a statistic this summer.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket


That's a phrase usually reserved for expectations or investments, but it fits saving money, too.

If you clip coupons but don't bother to shop second hand for clothing and household goods, you're spending more than you have to. If you only shop the sales rack but you compare auto insurance every 10 years or so, you're probably spending more than you have to.

It's easy to get comfortable and even in a rut when it comes to cutting costs, but relying on one area without looking up and around at all the different ways to save will cost you.

Shop sales, plan purchases, avoid impulse buys, compare all kinds of insurance costs every year, borrow or rent instead of buying, find ways to save on utilities, etc., etc.

Don't depend on one or two things to save money.

Friday, May 22, 2015

No Vacation? Break Loose, Anyway!

Can't afford a vacation this year? You've heard of "staycations" but you're just not convinced it would give you the break you need? How about an overnight trip? Two full days, one night, and you'll feel like you've had a real break.

You will need a sense of adventure, a positive attitude, gas money and money for an overnight stay. Pack a cooler with food and an extra change of clothing, just in case. 

Start as early as you want to. I remember starting out on vacation when the kids were little. It would still be dark out; the coffee in our thermos was hot, the kids went back to sleep, the roads were quiet and the lull of the rolling countryside was peaceful. I griped about it then, but no more. It's a magical time to hit the road.

If that doesn't appeal to you, how about staying home for breakfast, then taking off? Wash up the dishes, unplug everything not needed for two days and away you go.

Where? Start here: Choose a direction. Any direction will do. Drive for two hours. Stop and look around. You might be in a different town or a rural area. Talk to the first person you meet and ask about local attractions. You will get a wide array of answers from the best fishing lake to free museums or maybe you've even stumbled on to a local celebration. If it's nothing more than a picnic in the local park, do it.

If you can't stay busy here the rest of the day, drive another hour and repeat. Near the end of the day, look for a place to stay the night. This could be a KOA cabin, a campground or a motel.

The next morning, take the next road in a different direction and slowly work your way back home, stopping to take in the sights and activities as you come across them.

That's what they call "foot-loose and fancy free" and it will refresh your mind, your body and your soul better than an extended, well planned vacation.

Go ahead, break loose. Take a little chance and you'll find you don't have a thing to lose.

image courtesy morguefile.com

Monday, May 18, 2015

Garage Sale Cautions

Lots of frugalites shop second hand and garage sales are the best way to do that. Not only are prices lower at garage sales, if you can find the right one, the offerings might be more up to date than thrift stores.

Clothing and entertainment items like DVDs and games may be last years editions or not. People tire of thing quickly.

What not to buy at garage sales varies with your location and your gut feeling. Don't ignore that. If there is "something" about a person you don't trust, don't buy electronics or other things that you can't fully check out. Even at ten cents on the dollar, there's no reason to waste your money.

Before you start out on a day's or morning's worth of garage sales, put together a list of things with sizes, colors, styles and any other pertinent information and take it with you!

Yeah, ask me how I know that part is important.

It's easy to get carried away at garage sales, so put on your best discipline before you leave the house. Take cash and only take as much as you can really afford to spend. That will help you slip past that beautiful vase and the throw pillows that would be gorgeous in your living room, right to the tops and shorts for the kids and the stock pot you've been needing.

As always, keeping a goal in your head makes it easier to meet!

image courtesy morguefile.com

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How to Stay at Home and Make Money

Do you want to stay at home with your baby but you're not sure you can afford it? There are ways to make money at home. Perhaps you can eat your cake and have it, too!

Read this and see:
Eight Ways to Make Money at Home

And if you don't find what you're looking for there, try this:
Seven Valid Ways to Make Money Online

And still more (but not limited to holidays!) Make Extra Money for the Holidays

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Are You Ready for Easter?

Easter baskets ready for the kids? Big dinner planned and bought? Family coming?

Whether you do these things or not, Easter can punch a hole in your budget if you're not careful. Planning ahead is important, as always, but even at that, it's easy to spend a lot of money on chocolate bunnies, new clothes and special food.

Okay, so that much we know. What to do about it is the question, right? You probably don't want to return that big, beautiful basket of goodies, but for future reference, you can make one just as nice, or nicer, yourself for at least half the cost.

If you are like many who think that a new Easter outfit is part of it all, for next year, look for that special clothing on sale right after Easter. You could even find it second hand and maybe in time for this year.

Dinner, too, can be bought on sale and not necessarily just before Easter. Keep your eyes open all year for specials that can be frozen or stored otherwise.

Stay alert to savings all the time and you'll be able to keep more money in your pocket.