Monday, October 14, 2019

A Little Extra

Every year about this time I start thinking of ways to increase the "little extra" income to help cover holiday expenses without having to dip too far into savings or ordinary income.

That means I am a little more serious about making pocket money to cover Thanksgiving and Christmas expenses.

Over the years, I have done some "rewards programs" like Swagbucks and MyPoints and it really helps. This year, I discovered another one that seems easy to make a few dollars now and then, and they pay fast, like within a couple of days, if not faster.

It's called Grabpoints and I really like it. If you're looking for a way, or another way to earn a few dollars, check it out. Let me know what you think.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The real cost of canning food

I watched a video where a woman set out to prove that canning your own beans is cheaper than buying them already canned. She was careful with her dollars and cents, buying a bag of beans from a dollar store, then showing the price of one can of Great Value brand beans at 58 cents.

I don't know if this is the going price for canned beans. It seemed a little low to me, but I don't ever look at them, so I don't know.

She measured out a half cup of beans to a pint jar 9 times with a few beans left over, then she filled her jars with hot water and canned them. (This is not the USDA recommended way, but many people do it like this.)

All good, right? So she was happy that she wound up with 9 pints of canned beans for a dollar, while it would have cost her $5.22 to buy them. She only spent a half hour of work and the rest was up to the canner. It all sounds very good, and, yes, she did save money. Just not as much as she thought she did.

Let's do the math.

Pinto beans at one dollar plus tax, depending on where you are, anywhere from 0 to 12 cents.
Cost ot rinsing and processing water may be tiny, but it's there.
Cost of pressure cooker can be spread over many times, but it depends on how often and how much you can.
Cost of jars, the same
Cost of lids and rings are around $3,00
Cost of fuel, either electricity or gas, to bring a pressure cooker up to pressure and keep it there 75 minutes, which is how long it takes to can beans. That depends on the fuel and your local rates.

Even at that, she saved money and I do recommend that you try canning beans if you'd like them for recipes or to season quickly for a meal, but remember to think of everything else, too, and not just the cost of the food itself.

Spending pennies adds up, just like saving pennies does.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Frugal Dry Skin Remedies

If you have trouble with dry skin and it seems like lotion only makes it worse, it might very well be. Lotions have so many ingredients that it's not uncommon for some of them to irritate skin. Stick to natural or simple products when it's possible and you might find your dry skin improves quite a bit.

Here are a few ideas that could help.

Use Vicks for extra dry areas like knuckles and elbows. It just takes a little bit. Rub it in thoroughly. This is especially effective at night when you won't be washing your hands for awhile.

Use Vicks on rough, dry feet after a shower or after soaking your feet in warm water. Rub it onto your feet and put socks on to keep it from getting in your shoes or on your floor. This is a treat on a cold winter's night.

Coconut oil is a good, lightweight moisturizer, but it won't last if you're using your hands much. Save it for when you're relaxing. It smells good and it's goodness soaks into your skin.

Use olive oil immediately after a shower while your skin is damp. It takes very little, so don't use too much. If you do, wipe off the excess with a cloth.

When you're cooking, don't wash your hands every time you turn around, unless, of course, it's to remove meat or something you don't want to mix with other foods. Keep a cloth handy and wipe them instead.

Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated will make a difference. There are so many choices when it comes to drinks (coffee, tea, sodas, juices, milks) that we forget that plain old water is the best. Water without anything added is the best hydration.

Protect your skin when you are going to be in the sun, wind or cold for very long. Use any natural oil or fat.

If your lips are dry , try Vicks, olive oil, lard or shortening, butter or vegetable oil. Experiment to see which one you like best. Commercial lip balms often make your lips worse over time.

All of these things are very frugal, since it takes a very small amount to treat your skin and quite often, they are things you already have so you don't have to buy anything extra. What little you use on your skn will never be noticed. 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Savory pumpkin dishes

Pumpkin is more versatile than we usually give credit for. It's fallen out of favor for some reason, but it shouldn't have. Not only is is healthy, it's tasty in a variety of ways and it's frugal. Fresh pumpkin is very seasonal, although you can buy canned pumpkin year 'round. Canned pumpkin is a poor substitute for fresh and it's more expensive, too.

If you can, get a pumpkin from the farmer's market or a pumpkin patch or grow them yourself. If you can't do any of those things, get one or two at the grocery store.

Try pumpkin cooked and seaasoned like mashed potatoes.

Slice raw pumpkin thinly, salt lightly and roast like you would pumpkin seeds.

Add cooked pumpkin to a meatloaf instead of tomato sauce.

Alternate sliced pumpkin, potatoes and ham in a casserole.

Cook pumpkin, onions and ham or sausage together for a warm and hearty soup.

Go back and get another pumpkin so you will have one for pies, bread and cookies!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

How to Save When You Don't Have Money to Save

If you're living paycheck to paycheck or it seems like there's more  month than there is  money, it can seem like an impossible task to ever save enough to get ahead.

You can do it, though, with some self discipline and a little creativity. The first thing you need is to have to want to. Once you can say you honestly want to, then you can do it.

You might have to start with a dollar or even less. Where to find it?

Do without that cup of coffee.
Use a coupon if you can find one for something you need
Walk instead of drive whenever you can.
Take $5 with you (cash) to a garage sale and only buy what you need if it's at a good price
Got a Kindle? Read free Kindle books instead of buying them. (Look up "free Kindle books" on Amazon, but double check the price before "buying.")
Change your seasonal looks by using different accessories instead of buying new clothes.
Do it yourself whenever you can. This includes yardwork, mending, painting, building or repairing.
Cook from scratch instead of buying convenience food, but check prices first.  A certain cornbread mix is actually cheaper than buying cornmeal. Of course, you might use cornmeal in other things, so take that into account.

Every time you do one of these thing to save money, take that money and put it aside, no matter if it's only a dime. It will add up and faster than you think.

Most banks won't allow you to open a savings account with only a few dollars so keep your cash in a place that's not easy to get to until you have enough to open an account. Online banks can pay the highest interest, so look around and find the best.

Put the money into the bank. At the end of the month or whatever time period that suits you, take your saved cash and put it into your regular bank, then go home and immediately transfer it to your online savings account.

You can do it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Back to School - Being a Student Online is More Frugal

Kids going back to school - bright colored pencils, new shoes, notebooks and bookbags. Almost makes you wish you were getting into something new, doesn't it?

Most people say they feel enlivened by the return of cooler days (I know - not yet!) and look forward to doing something new or different. It could be the perfect time for you to study something new or to fill gaps in your education with a few online courses, or even more - gain a few college credits or get a complete degree.

Going back to school may be a tough financial road to walk if tuition fees are over your budget. Even getting a GED costs, and more so if you need to attend classes to brush up on required subjects. There are ways to study cheaper - on the 'net.

Online education has grown up from the 'email your answers' courses of a few years ago to sophisticated materials and scripts that grade and advise you as you go. This allows in depth study and along with email interaction, it's like having your own private tutor - but better. Learning at your own pace in your own time makes a lot of sense, frugal and otherwise.

Cost of courses? Anywhere from free to a few thousand dollars. You can even pay as you go on some of them.

Reasons to get an education online range from saving money to saving time, too. A stay at home parent can get a degree without ever having to hire a babysitter or buy a new wardrobe, to say nothing of bus fare or gas for the car, and in some instances you won't even have to buy textbooks. You'll still be at home with your children, and still be there to do things to save money around the house.

A full time worker can spend an hour or so before or after work studying without much of a disruption in normal routines, besides all the advantages above - no transportation, babysitter or clothing expenses. Of course, full time students will have the same advantages, too, and be able to move through courses as quickly or slowly as needed.

Although it seems easy and is inexpensive, it takes a certain kind of student to be able to take full advantage of online learning. Can you do it? Do you want to? Is Distance Learning for Me? will help you answer those questions. (You can skip the part about "Moodle".)

If you need a highschool diploma or a GED:

The price of taking GED tests varies from state to state from nothing in Connecticut to $160 in Virginia. Add to that the price of any courses or studies you might have to take and it can seem daunting. A highschool diploma is a near necessity and a GED is still cheaper than 4 years of highschool.

There is an impressive array of courses for almost anything, whether it's a trade or a college degree, online. You might want to check your local or state schools first to see if they offer online courses. If you want to work toward a college degree, make sure the online study is accredited because if it isn't accredited, you won't be able to get a real degree. Also, make sure that you can transfer those credits to a brick and mortar school if you want to. It's always a good option to have.

You'll have to do some work to find a school that fits your needs. Look for "online accredited schools" or "trade schools online." Guide to Online Schools  is a good place to start, but don't stop there. Take enough time to know what you're getting in to, then go for it.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Gardening? Save seed!

 No matter how much you garden, whether it's one pot on a windowsill or a full fledged garden, there's no sense in spending more money than you have to, to do it.

One good way to save money is to save seeds from year to year. A lot of seeeds on the market are hybrids which means they won't always produce true, so if you haven't already, start growing heirloom vegetables, which produce true to their seeds.

The easiest seeds to save are things like beans and peas. Just let a few pods dry on the stalk, then pick and shell them and save them for next year. There are many sites that tell you how to save seeds from specific vegetables, so I won't go into that here, but do save them when you can.

To add to your savings, trade your excess or especially good seed for other seed you might need. Neighbors, family and friends who garden will all benefit as much as you do.

Keep saved seeds dry and not too hot and away from light. I keep mine in an old shoebox, in envelopes saved from bills that I pay online. Junk envelopes work, too. Label, date and seal and that's it.

Just so you will know, there are whispers that seed saving and sharing will become illegal as corporations continue to try to own our food. For your own sake, keep up on the news there and make your choice. I personally will go down to the bitter end, protecting our freedom to save and share seed as freely as we should.

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Imagination Challenges

These challenges that I posted were written several years ago and prices have changed quite a bit since then. At the time, you could buy a pound of beans, a pound of rice, two cans of tuna and a loaf of bread for five dollars. You might be able to do that today if you find a good salvage store or double coupons or work at it pretty hard otherwise, but not on a regular basis.

The point I was trying to get across is that we can learn by imagining how we would survive in extreme situations. As you imagine the situtation you will come up with solutions you might not think of otherwise. Remember those solutions and apply them whenever possible to your daily life.

Think "out of the box" when it comes to getting the food in the first place. Foraging, bartering and growing your own are only three ways of doing it. In some places, you can glean fields after the harvest. Some farmers and grain elevators will sell way below price if you buy in bulk. A 50 pound bag of beans can cost as low as half the price of that in the store. If you devide it with friends or family, your cost can be as low as 50 cents a pound, a far cry from the $1.30 I saw recently.

Foraging is a viable alternative to grocery store buying if you have a safe place to forage. For some, that can be your own back yard. Leave a small area for a year or two. Don't mow it, don't fertilize it, don't weed it and don't poison it with weed killer. You will soon have food growing on its own, without cultivation. You might want to throw a little water on it if you have a long period of hot and dry weather, but otherwise, leave it alone except to harvest. If you want to jump start the process, dig up the area and leave it. Some grass will grow back, but there will be more room for wild food.

What will grow there? Different things in different areas, but look for dandelions, lambsquarter, plantain, mallow, wild salsify, wild lettuce, dock and purslane. From these crops you can get greens, seeds and roots. Dandelions are the most versatile and common. You can eat the young leaves as greens or make tea from them. You can fritter the blossoms, cook the buds and eat with butter. You can eat the roots, boiled, or you can roast them for "coffee." The entire plant is edible, but the latex- like white liquid in the stem is bitter. It's best used to treat warts and other skin problems.

If you live in farming country, gleaning can stock your pantry amazingly. Here we have sugar beets, potatoes, carrots, onions and beans, besides feed corn. We once fed out three turkeys pretty much on gleaned corn and watermeion that would otherwise have been wasted. Think of what you can do. I made sugar beet molasses for fun and to eat. Onions can be dehydrated so even the split ones are useable. I have picked up cabbage, both red and green, from a corner where a farm truck made a turn and they rolled off.

If you can't grow, forage or glean, try bartering for some of your food. It won't  hurt to ask and to offer whatever you can do. If you do crafts that people want, if you can bake a special cake, if you can clean house or mow yards or watch someone's kids while Mom  goes shopping - whatever you can do can barter you a few dollars' worth of food.

If you do have a garden, make the most of it. Read up on what you plant to see how to put it up for winter, what parts other than the traditional ones can be used, etc. For instance, you can eat the whole radish plant, from root to seed. Chop radish leaves for salad or cook as greens. The flowers can go in a salad, too. When the seed pods are young and tender, pick them for salads or to eat just out of hand. Some are a little hot, some are very mild. If some seed pods get too mature to eat, let them finish setting seed for next year and/or sprout them for salads and sandwiches.

See how much of the food you need you can get for free or half price. It's probably a lot more than you think.

Image by photoAC from Pixabay

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Disposable Plastic Bags

They're talking about "one use" plastic again and at least one state has banned one-use plastic bags altogether. I know something they don't know and that's many "one use" plastic bags (as in the ones your grocery store uses) are used many times over in various ways. For some of us, they take the place of trash bags, beach bags, toy bags, dirty clothes bags, doggy clean up bags, yarn for knitting or crocheting, garden produce bags and more.

That's one way to look at disposable plastic bags, but when the cost comes from our own pockets, as other states have added fees or fines to using plastic bags, a frugal mind begins to think of other things.

Cloth bags are inexpensive, sometimes found in thrift stores and the simple ones are easy to make with a sewing machine, by hand, knitted, crocheted or even of plastic canvas/needlepoint. Once made or bought, they can be used for food and other shopping for a very long time.

But what about the other uses? The most important use for plastic grocery bags in my house in for trash can liners. How much progress will we make if we need to buy plastic bags instead of getting them for free?

I speak from a frugal point of view. I realize that not everyone reuses those bags and even the most frugal of us probably can't reuse every one, so there are still many that wind up in landfills. And, by the way,  how do they get into the ocean?

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Learn Through Your Imagination, Scene Three: Toughing It Out

You can't survive this without being extremely frugal

This one is for those with pioneer blood! Let your imagination carry you away from the city streets (or the barnyard) to this place where you can learn by dreaming up frugal methods. Your imagination is the only way to experience such an adventure, so let it roll!

Scene 3: Toughing It Out

It's late summer, fall is coming on quickly. You're about five miles from town and have one acre of land in farming country with a snug, but empty, one room structure on it. It has cold running water only and two single pane glass windows. You have no electricity, therefore, no lights or refrigeration. You do have a small wood stove already set up, a pickup truck, a hand saw and a hammer. You can choose three more hand tools. You also have a tank of gas for the truck and you have a supply of canned and dry food as well as soap, but nothing fresh or that would keep without refrigeration.

You don't have any bedding, dishes, pans or other household things, including a mop, broom, etc. You don't have any wood for burning, although there are three trees on the property and a few bushes, but you can't strip the land because it's yours and you don't want to destroy it. You have no money except for five dollars. How would you make yourself comfortable and wash clothes, cook meals, etc?

This could be fun. Imagination makes you a pioneer in a new age. Remember that you live in the most affluent and least frugal society in the world. Think of what is thrown away every day of the year and how to use other people's trash for your treasure.

Keep an imaginary journal to show how you obtained what you needed to meet the cool nights and cooking and cleanliness needs. Your imagination will probably show you other things you'll need, too.

In all of these scenes, use your imagination and frugal creativity. Be as realistic as you can. Live it in your imagination so you'll realize what you need to survive.

You should come away from these exercises with a better sense of how you can apply yourself to your own, real, circumstances and get away from the consumerist mindset. Living frugally is an attitude and a way of life that, up until the last century, was the only way to survive for the common folk. Because we can't live the way our ancestors did, going there in our imaginations will help us see what we can do in the here and now.

You can learn through using your imagination. Creativity is within each of us and once it starts flowing, it's there to meet needs in ways you might never have thought about before.