Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tax thoughts

You'll pay more money in your lifetime on taxes than on anything else.They are a bigger expense than your mortgage, car, or yacht. Too many people spend too little time studying this topic and reducing their tax bill as much as they rightfully can. If that's been you, spend some time on the Internet educating yourself on tax deductions, talk to an accountant or CPA, or read some books.

One thing you can do right away: Adjust your withholding to reflect any changes or to more nearly match the taxes you need to pay. Overpaying taxes isn't smart. A big refund might feel good, but it isn't. You'd be just as well off to take that money and put it under your mattress for a year, then take it out and spend it.

If you're afraid it will disappear in every day expenses, open a savings account and set up an automatic deposit each month for the amount you'd be giving the government. You'll be earning interest on it, and, if you want to, at the end of the year when you pay your taxes, you can take it out and do whatever you would do with a tax refund... you'll have more of it to do with.

Another thing you can do is look over your expenses and turn every one that you can into a tax deduction. Don't think you can? Do some studying to find out. You might be surprised.

As Ben Franklin said so many years ago, "A penny saved is a penny earned."
I'm saying to you today, "A tax dollar saved is a tax dollar earned."

Assessing and planning for next year's taxes is a GREAT place to start!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Blogging Fool

I've been called extremely frugal (and no, it wasn't an endearing term), so maybe I'm just trying to live up to it... anyway, I started a new blog. Why, you might ask, since I don't always keep up with the ones I already have?

Well, this one is easier! Extremely frugal tips, quotes, comments, advice and so on... now that, I can do.

Check it out and let me know what you think: Extremely Frugal

The site it's on isn't fully developed, but I'm working on it off and on as inspiration and time finds me, so feel free to comment about that, too, either here or there, or through email.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Newspaper Pots

Gardening fever is breaking out here and there, even though there's snow on the ground in much of the US. I confess to drooling over the seed catalogs and starting to get an order ready. I won't buy much because I've saved some of my own seed and have other seed left over. I haven't grown beets or okra in awhile, so that seed will be bought new this year.

It's almost time here to start tomatoes and peppers and other things that take a longer growing season than we have. I've tried starting seeds in saved plastic containers that other plants came from, and in egg cartons and a great variety of odds and ends, but the easiest way I've found is to start them in newspaper pots.

Newspaper pots are biodegradable, so you just dig a little hole and stick the pot, plant and all in the ground when it's time. No disturbing the roots, breaking plant stems or shocking the little fellows with a totally new environment...

To make newspaper pots, you'll need newspaper (imagine that!), a small jar or can for a mold and potting soil to fill the pot. A baby food jar or a 6 ounce can is about the right size.

Fold a sheet of newspaper in the middle fold then fold again so that you have a long narrow piece. The width of this will be the height of the pot, so fold it until you're satisfied with the size.

Roll up the can or jar in the newspaper as evenly as you can, then take the jar out, leaving the newspaper rolled.

Take a half sheet of newspaper, cut or tear it into fourths and stuff it into the rolled up piece, then, using the jar, tamp it down to form a bottom to the pot.

Fit them onto a tray or something similar, turning so that the free end of the newspaper butts against another pot to keep it from unwinding, or gently tie a string around each one. If you use cotton string, you won't have to remove it at planting time.

Fill with potting soil or your own good sterile soil if you like (bake one inch deep at 250 for 10 minutes or so). I seldom use sterile soil because the good things are killed with the bad things and plants grow better when there is good life in the soil.

Anyway, that's all there is to it. After the first pot, you can see how it works and you can turn out as many as you need in a short amount of time.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Everything but the squeal

That saying came from when people used to butcher their own hogs and use everything "but the squeal." Pigs ears, stomachs and feet even found uses. (Can you imagine blowing up a pig's stomach to play kickball?)

I was thinking of this today as I cut up some apples that were getting soft for apple sauce. The peels and core could have been used for apple jelly or syrup or to make pectin for other jellies or jams. There could have been nothing left "but the squeal," and since apples don't squeal (at least I've never heard one), there would have been nothing left but the pulp from which the jelly was strained. I suppose I could have salvaged a few seeds and planted them, too.

That's not extremely frugal. That's not being wasteful. Sadly, we live in such a wasteful time that not wasting things is thought to be strange or weird.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Plastic bags

If you're like most people, you deal with a bunch of them: grocery bags, bread sacks, bags the newspaper comes in when it's wet out and so on. Most of us don't throw them out. Some return them to be recycled and some recycle them right at home. I used to have pages full of ways to save them on the About site. There really are that many ways to use them.

Basically, though, there are only a handful of reuses: As waterproof containers, as raw material for crafts, as protective covering and as utilitarian material.


Waterproof containers can carry wet clothing or keep items dry in wet weather.

Raw material for crafts include cutting strips and braiding into door or shower mats, knitting or crocheting into any number of useful and beautiful items.

As protective coverings, slit a bread sack down one side and put it over a bowl bound for the refrigerator. Twist the end and slip it under the bowl for an air tight cover. Or tie grocery sacks around your knees before kneeling on wet or muddy ground (to change a tire or garden).

Make a utility rope from plastic bags by fastening them together like rubber bands, slipping the bag only part way through the hole made by the handles of another bag, then pulling tight. The strength is amazing.

That's hardly the tip of the iceberg, but I hardly ever have any to dispose of.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Matter of Degrees...

We've had some cold weather this winter, but no more than expected. More than it's been the last few years, if I remember right, though. I've been very much aware of how much each drop in temperature is making this old furnace run and what it's costing me because the price of fuel is up over last year.

I was surprised when my last bill showed such a real response to my heating miserliness. Comparing it to last year's bill and allowing for temperature variances, I was expecting it to be close to $200, but it was only $140.

("Only" irritates me because I lived in a house that cost about $100 to heat in the coldest of winters - below zero temperatures for days at a time. It hasn't been nearly that cold here (below zero only a few times at night only). How I wish for a wood burning stove again!)

Anyway, saving $60 a month makes me happy. Doing all those little things does pay off, so if you've put off checking window and door seals and around foundations, etc., don't put it off any more.

Other things you can do:

Insulate electric receptacles, cover windows during the cold part of the day/night, turn the temperature down at least one degree. Just one degree can make a difference in the cost of heating your home. When you're comfortable with that, turn it down one more notch and save some more.

Wrap up in afghans or blankets when you're not active and keep your feet warm with warm slippers and/or hot water bottles or rice pads heated in the microwave. Even a plastic soft drink bottle, filled with hot water and closed securely, will keep your feet warm.

Wear something on your head. Yes, people might laugh, but you'll be more comfortable than they are because we lose a lot of heat from our heads. Weird creatures, aren't we? :)

Stay warm! But stay frugal.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

After holiday blahs?

It must be the post holiday blahs. When I think "frugal" I think "do nothing," as in, "don't shop, don't drive (don't use gas) don't turn the heat up, don't eat anything more extravagant than peanut butter sandwiches on homemade bread."

Ok, maybe not that extreme, but you get the general idea. Passive frugality works just as well as active frugality.

Regardless, I probably should break out of the rut a little. I realized this when I found myself wondering if it would be more cost effective to not make the bed. You know, no wear on the blankets and sheets by unnecessary tugging and pulling.

Yeah, I think I'd better break out of this funk.

Friday, January 11, 2008

New Blog

From Dollar Stretcher, Gary Foreman has started his own blog! He's just beginning and we're still learning the software part, so take it easy if everything isn't exactly what you think it should be. He'd appreciate a comment just to let him know you've been there.

Dollar Stretcher Blog

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Lists, Resolutions and the New Year

In the buying frenzy of the holidays, it's easy to overdo it. They made January as a type of penance for that. When the bills roll in (regular bills - I hope you didn't go into debt for Christmas), the cupboard begins to look bare as Christmas leftovers of all kinds are finished off or put away, and thoughts turn to taxes, a little gulp of dismay is allowable.

So get back on track. Take paper and pencil, past bills, and a good afternoon and see just where you are, financially speaking. If you don't know where you are, you can't know where you're going.

Make lists; lists of what you want to accomplish this year, lists of what you need; lists of what you want to get rid of; lists of income, outgo and lists of things that need to be done. Lay it all out there, without thinking about what's the most important or what you think should be done first.


Now the fun begins. Prioritize everything. Make as many lists as you need and number each item in order of importance. Then, on a separate piece of paper, write down the number one priority from each list. What does that look like? Impossible? It may be. If so, go back and try again until you have a real, workable picture of the year ahead.

Then list the things that may not be of most importance in the wider scheme, but that might hold a special appeal to you. Compare these two lists and see if you can make them work together.

That's your working blueprint for the year, but one that you can always adjust by adding or deleting things as they occur to you. Keep your lists where you'll see them often. Having your goals on paper is a good reminder that you have long term goals which the present can serve.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I'm back

Happy New Year, everyone!

With first the holidays, then a bout with a virus, I've been off the computer more than on, but I think I'll live now, so on we go...

There's a new thread on Dollar Stretcher Community about milling grain, along with an old one called "Milling/Grinding Wheat into Flour." With the price of even white flour going up and up and up, it might be a good time to check into it. Not only can you save money, you'll get much, much better quality by using freshly milled wheat.

Finding the right grain mill seems to be the problem, but with a few guidelines on those threads you should be happy with your purchase.