Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Reason #1,735,380 for not using a debt consolidation loan

People who get a debt consolidation loan wind up farther in debt: Routine Order

Besides ruining your credit and being a land mine of unethical practices, loan consolidations can get you even further in debt.

The reason? It does nothing to address the problem that got you there in the first place.

Sad fact: Most people are in debt because they choose to be.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Summertime Treats

It doesn't take much warm weather before we're looking for cold treats around here.

I don't really use a recipe for popsicles, but instead, I freeze every little bit of left over juice or fruit drink in layers. Here's where an investment in popsicle freezer containers is well worth the money. That last half inch of orange juice, or the little bit of flat soft drink can be frozen in these containers, a layer at a time, until they're full. Each popsicle is then unique! (If you tend to throw out those little bits otherwise, then they're also free.)

Another summer time treat similar to a 'slushy' is made by using your blender, food processor, or ice crusher to crush ice, then make up Koolaid or a similar powdered drink mix at half strength, and pour over the ice. You can use frozen juice at half strength, too.

Those are a couple of good things about the heat. Otherwise, give me a snowstorm. :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Crunch Your Gas Prices

* Bike, walk, jog... the exercise is good for you and your budget.
* Carpool when possible, even when buying groceries.
* Use public transportation whenever you can. Subways and busses go there already, so just hop on board.
* Stay home when you don't need to go anywhere.
* If someone is going 'to town' anyway, ask them to pick up whatever you need to save a trip, and do the same for them.
* Do all your errands at one time whether you drive or use public transportation.
* Keep your vehicle in top running condition.
* Don't buy higher octane (read: more expensive) gas than your car needs.
* Keep your tires inflated to the proper pressure.
* Don't overfill the gas tank. When the pump shuts off, it's full.
* Drive gently. No roaring speed ups, no screeching halts.
* Watch your speed on the highway. 55 is still the most efficient speed for most vehicles.
* Don't let your engine sit and idle. If you're going to be in line or not moving for more than a couple of minutes, turn the engine off.
* Don't start your car ahead of time to let it warm up unless it's extremely cold.

Related posts:
Gas Prices, Again... Or, Can You Really Save Money On Gas?
Four dollars a gallon...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Garage Sales: Expensive Hobby

'Tis the season... for garage sales! What frugalite in her right mind would pass up a good garage sale? Well... I know a few. Me, anyway. Ok, so the "right mind" is debatable, but let's not get technical.

To put your mind at ease, I do shop at garage sales, when I need something that could be found there, and when I have time to go without watching the clock.

Garage sale prices need to be pretty good to be worthwhile. It's easy to blow $20 or $30 or more and come home with no more than what we could have bought at the Dollar Store for $5.

Add up the cost of gas, the items bought that didn't fit, weren't the right color, didn't work. Add in the soft drink you treated yourself to because the day was hot.
Multiply that by how many helpers you had. Possibly you can add in the cost of a fast food meal, a newspaper, something you bought that you didn't know you needed until you saw it.

It can get expensive, can't it? Here are a few thoughts that could lower those costs:

Many newspapers are online now, with classified sections and all, so check yours. You can save the cost of a newspaper if you'd have to buy it otherwise.

To help keep the cost of gas under control, make a map of garage sales that seem likely to have what you're looking for and try to stick to the route.

Be prepared before you go by planning lunch or dinner ahead of time. Make it simple and quick.

Take ice water or tea from home. If you don't have an insulated mug, make a nest from newspaper and set it in there.

Making a list of exactly what you need to keep yourself from buying the wrong color or size or style in the excitement of the find.

Garage sales are for saving money, remember?

Friday, May 18, 2007

The addition to the blogroll, called "The Oildrop" belongs to my son. He's taken some good pictures that will give you an idea of what this area is like to the east. On the west are mountains, so it isn't all flat plains. This area is very diverse, as a matter of fact. We have everything from high mountain lakes to sandy semi-desert.

There's another family blog on the blogroll, Cyberscryber's Scrybes, that I want to point out. That's my oldest daughter, who lives in Washington State.

Now, if my youngest daughter would get on board, we'd be a blogging family!

Blogs are a fun way to talk about whatever interests you. I didn't think I'd enjoy writing one until I tried it. I don't "let it all hang out," but I do share things here I never would elsewhere.

See? You're privileged! ;) (I do have a weird sense of humor sometimes, please bear with me...)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Part of a post on Dollar Stretcher Community called Conserving our budgets reminded me of some research I'd done in the past about "leaking electricity," or appliances that use electricity constantly, whether they're "on" or not.

Any electronic device or appliance with an "instant-on" feature (most have this now), uses a trickle of electricity all of the time that it's plugged in. TV's, answering machines, cordless phones and microwaves are good examples of this. Other electronic appliances that are rechargeable are often made to be left on the charging transformer between uses, which constantly draw a trickle of electricity.

According to American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the average American household pays 5% of its electricity bill for these phantom loads.

I've found that the best way to minimize this waste is to put appliances on power strips with an on/off switch. If you can put several of them on one strip, you can turn them all off at once. Since it can be a problem to get to some wiring, using a power strip also simplifies that problem.

After I did the research, I walked around my home counting instances of wasted electricity and, to tell the truth, I was ashamed at what I found. Today, I repeated the exercise and found that I'd become lax about it, so it's off to the store for another power strip and a little rearranging of some electronics.

Power strips are not expensive so it won't take long to recoup the cost. With summertime coming on, when electricity use usually rises, I'm all for saving wherever I can.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I'm a Proud Mom

...but I have been for years. (I won't say how many years because my oldest daughter may not appreciate it) Anyway, my Mother's Day was great, I hope yours was, too.

I have three great kids. What I like about them (besides the fact that they're my kids) is their sense of independence. All three think for themselves and refuse to go along with popular opinion just because it's popular. I know that doesn't make a smooth path through life, but it does make for a good conscience toward oneself.

Ok, before I get too philosophical on a Monday morning, I got my beans planted over the weekend and had time to putter around (my favorite hobby!) in between visits from the kids and a little work on the computer.

I've decided to go drip irrigation one more this year and use some 2 liter plastic bottles to water with. I'll bury them near the plants after poking some small holes in the sides of them. I can fill them with water and they should slowly release it to the plant's roots. That's what I should have been doing all along because we tend to have hot, dry spells during growing season here. It should save quite a bit on the water bill.

I've looked into rain barrels, too, but haven't sprung for one yet. It seems like a big initial expense and I'm not sure it would pay - especially if we have very little rain, like the last few years.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Consumer Debt is Good (They Say)

This is good?

A paragraph from the Norman (OK) Transcript makes me wonder if I'm living on a different planet:

The government reported this week that consumers boosted their borrowing in March at the fastest level in four months. That's far more than was anticipated and is indicative of a stronger than expected economy. Emphasis mine.

It seems to me that the concept is outdated. It used to be that people would borrow money and buy things in anticipation of higher income or overall better living circumstances so they could pay for it. Is that really so now?

With the lack of financial wisdom so many show, and an ongoing lack of real financial education to change that and an extremely materially oriented culture, I don't think it is.

People borrow money because they don't have any. Because they want something and can't pay for it otherwise. Because they can't wait, can't pay, can't do without and can't afford it... they borrow money.

And that's good for the economy? Somebody call an economist, I think we have an emergency coming on...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

New FL Guide, Gardens and DS Forum

I don't know if you've noticed or not, but About has a new Frugal Living Guide, Erin Huffstetler. She's doing a great job of filling the site with content, and she has a good handle on what frugal living means. Filling an About site is a big job and keeping it going is even bigger. Go there, look at what she's done, and if you're so inclined, drop her a note of support.

On a different note, I'm so looking forward to getting tomato plants into the garden. I thought I'd do it over the weekend, but forgot that it was Mother's Day. That, along with a couple of other projects, will keep me busy.

Last, but by no means least, they're updating my favorite forum software as I type.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Apologies in Advance (a post all about me)

I hate word games. You know, where someone calls up and asks, "Are you going to be busy tomorrow afternoon?"

I always wonder if I should be busy. Why can't they just come out and say, "Will you have time to take me to the mall tomorrow afternoon?"

Or, "Would you mind if I stopped by after work tomorrow?"

Other word games are as bad. I don't take hints. Anyone who has dealt with me at all knows that. If you want me to do something, you have to come out and say so. If you want me to know something, just tell me. If you want me to shut up... good luck.

I don't know what that means. Maybe I'm dense or maybe I'm low class. Or maybe I'm direct. I like the third idea better, it seems more like something done on purpose.

Believe me, though, this is not an "on purpose" thing. My mind just doesn't work through the polite, pseudo suggestions or the roundabout way of saying things.

Two days later, I may "get it." Or not.

I know... this don't got nuttin' to do with being frugal, but maybe it explains why I cut to the chase when I'm trying to save. Sometimes those extra frills just don't soak in.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

More Life After About

Wow, I've got a great day going. First, I woke up refreshed after a good night's sleep! That's a miracle in itself... but what really made me happy was an email from Mike Killian. He used to be the Credit/Debt Guide at About, but he just up and disappeared on us awhile back.

He has a web site called Learning Credit and Debt Management and some of his best content is there. One, called "Credit Cards- They're Just Like Drugs" is worth a read even if you don't have a credit card.

I was happy to "meet up" with him again. More proof that there really is life after About.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Where I hang out:

See that short list up in the left hand corner? The one that says, "Where I hang out"?

First, of course, is the Dollar Stretcher Community. That's the most important for several reasons. One is that it truly is a community of like minded souls (there's even a thread titled "Kindred spirits" that's been going for quite a few days). Another reason is that being a part of a community is inspiring and helps keep one balanced, but determined to keep money under control.

The next on the list is another blog I sometimes write to: 17 Ways From Sunday. It's not about frugal things, believe it or not. I can't tell you what it's about, because I haven't decided yet (and probably never will). I just like to sound off now and then without having to follow someone else's guidelines.

Then comes a cool place called Associated Content. A friend told me about this place when I was looking for a way to write about something different from frugal living. I love saving money and I love writing about it, but there are other things to life! The funny thing is now I write about frugal living quite often.

I don't even remember how I found Helium, but I enjoy poking around there and writing a quick bit now and then. They're nice people and it's chock full of interesting thoughts. I wrote a piece called, "Tips for debt management" which could have been called "How to get out of debt in five easy steps," but wasn't, thank heavens.

Somebody did a study or something that showed that "five easy..." Or "three steps..." or "nine ways..." caught people's attention. Maybe it did back then, but it's been so used and overused since then that it's become tiring.

I could have titled this "Four Favorite Sites" Aren't you glad I didn't?

Friday, May 4, 2007

Of socks, windows and brakes

I'm reprieved! Since setting my goal to wash windows by the end of the week, it's been raining, rainy, windy and otherwise unpleasant. I read a book instead.

It's called "Hey, Idiot!" subtitled "Chronicles of Human Stupidity" by Leland Gregory. (I never said I read classic or high brow books.)

There are some funny and some bizarre things in it, but the one that struck me was this one:

"'I just spent a lot of money getting my brakes repaired, and I didn't want to wear them down.' Excuse given for speeding to Anderson, Illinois, police officer."

Misguided frugality or miserly beyond measure? Laugh if you want, but take a moment to consider if you're doing anything similar. I found that I was.

This may sound silly, but I bought a package of socks earlier this year with the intention of giving them to a woman who needed them. When the time came, the socks seemed like a chintzy gift, so I kept them. They've been in my bureau drawer ever since.

You can guess what happened from here on out. The weather's been nice and I moved to sandals, which were a little uncomfortable, but I thought I could get by. I really didn't want to "wear my brakes down," but I do learn. Eventually. The hard way sometimes, but I learn.

They're nice socks, too.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Washing windows

I put off some things until I'm ashamed of myself. One of those things is washing windows. I just really hate to do it. I love to see them clean, though (Read: I like to see out of them), so they get done one way or another, at least twice a year. If I were a spendthrift, I'd hire someone to do them a lot more often, but I can't make myself do that.

Anyway... a lot of the chores around the house (especially the ones I don't enjoy) are done to the sound of music or audio books borrowed from the library.

Before I go any further, I have a question: Do you ever pretend?

I've found that I can fool myself - kind of, anyway - if I pretend that I'm paying someone else to let me exercise. Now, isn't that silly? But before you agree too heartily, I will tell you that I get a lot done that way. I just can't waste even pretend money.

Oh, well.

I wrote a piece about the easy and cheap way to wash windows while I was putting off the chore.

Now. What else needs to be done before I wash windows? I'll find something. :)