Saturday, July 31, 2010

Frugal ways to cut your auto insurance

When we think about frugal ideas, we often focus on things like reusing plastic bags and not throwing out leftovers. They do save money, but things like auto insurance premiums can often stand a little adjustment that will save you quite a bit more.

How? Go through your auto insurance with a fine toothed comb. Check each item that you're charged for. Is it necessary? Are you paying more than your state requires? Are you paying twice for the same coverage: Hospitalization on your car insurance and hospitalization on your health insurance, for instance, just isn't frugal.

If you've recently paid off your vehicle, make sure full coverage is dropped unless there's a real reason for it. Most people don't need it unless their lending institution requires it.

Make sure you're getting all the discounts you're eligible for. If your agent doesn't offer them, ask. Some discounts to ask about:

Clean driving record
Multiple vehicle
Good student
Low mileage
Driver education
Safety equipment
Armed services

Other than that... it never hurts to look around. Check some online sites that allow you to compare different automobile insurance companies and never let loyalty to your old company stand in the way of saving money.

I was surprised when I checked mine out recently. I thought I had the most frugal insurance possible, but I found another one that saved me around $30 a year. Why not? Now I can do something else with that money.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Frugal shopping and seasonal sales

With back to school sales and end of season sales, now's the time to dig out that stash of cash you put back for sales. (Didn't you??)

Don't just think "school" when you see pens and pencils, jackets and shoes and backpacks on sale. First, check the price to be sure it's a real sale price, then you can shop for what you need, and not just what the kids need. It may be time to buy a few extra pens to have on hand for your checkbook (or to sign those notes to the teacher), or you may be in need of socks. Take inventory and see what you can save money on by buying it now.

End of season sales brings up all sorts of possibilities. Buy for next year, of course, but if you're buying for children, make sure you can estimate what size they'll be by next spring or summer. Think summer gifts, too. Birthdays and other celebrations may be covered less expensively if you buy on sale now.

Again, take inventory and see what you may need for next year. You will find great discounts on sandals and summer wear now.

As you shop, always think ahead but be careful. Don't overbuy or assume that things will always be the same. For instance teenager's tastes can change overnight, so stay away from fads and extreme fashions when you buy ahead for them.

With some caution and a little common sense, you can save a lot of money by taking advantage of sales for future needs.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Make Your Own Iced Tea

By request:

It's so easy to make iced tea that I can't see spending money on another appliance just to do that, or even worse, buying it already made. People have made iced tea for years (probably centuries) without the aid of a plug in contraption that eats electricity and counter space.

Anyway, here's how, and it's a lot easier and faster to do than it is to tell about it.

First, if you can find it, buy loose leaf tea. It's much better for iced tea. It has a fuller flavor, and it keeps better in the refrigerator.

You'll need a small pan to boil water, a strainer of some kind - cheese cloth or a handled fine mesh strainer will work. You'll also need some tea, sugar if you like it sweet, water, a jar or glass pitcher and a long handled spoon.

Put a cup or so of water on to boil and meanwhile get your jar ready. If you're going to use sugar, put it in the jar now. For sweet tea, southern style, use about a cup of sugar for a gallon of tea, but adjust it to your own taste.

Put some cold water into this, a couple of cup's worth, and mix the sugar into it. Use the cold water even if you don't use sugar, to keep the hot water from cracking the jar.

When the water boils, remove the pan from the stove. For each quart of tea, add a scant tablespoon of looseleaf tea (four per gallon). Cover the pan and let the tea steep for 10 - 15 minutes.

Strain the tea into the jar or pitcher, add cold water to fill, and stir.

This is the best and most frugal tea you'll ever drink.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Frugal summer work

Summer is not my favorite season, although I enjoy the fresh vegetables and fruits that it offers. That means it's time to can and dehydrate and freeze and put up what we can for those cold days ahead. I bought a LOT of canning jars from my sister and brother in law last year at a very frugal price, so I won't worry about that.

There are canning lids and rings left from last year and the little dehydrator is still working. I will use the car again this year to dehydrate, too, but I still want a solar dehydrator. One of these days...

Anyway, there are gaps and empty spots in my pantry now, just waiting to be filled with wonderful and brightly colored food. It's satisfying to take the filled jars from the canner and line them up to cool. It makes me feel snug and frugal when they're all stored in the pantry. It makes me ready for winter when it's all done.

Isn't that the way life is supposed to be? I think so.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Christmas in July

Have you thought about Christmas yet? It's coming, you know. (And as fast as time is going, it will be here day after tomorrow!)

Christmas is usually a big expense, so it's wise to prepare for it ahead of time. Either save money each month or payday so you have enough to spend on gifts, or start buying gifts now, as you can find deals for them.

On the Dollar Stretcher forum, there's a thread about the good deals people have found and how they are putting them away for Christmas: Early Christmas Shopping

Another way to gather gifts for Christmas or any other occasion, is to stalk the thrift stores and garage sales for collectibles that the giftee would like. Antiques are found there at times, too. Of course, not everyone is into antiques and/or collectibles, but if you have someone on your gift list who is, now is the time to find the perfect gift.

For those who aren't into that sort of thing, retail shopping can be done very frugally since you have the time to wait and watch for the best deals possible. One place to keep an eye on is a site called Sustoo that keeps you up to date on all things Amazon - at least the greatest sales and mark downs. Amazon has almost everything, so if you shop online, it's worth bookmarking this site and checking it often.

Then there's eBay. You can get some really good deals there, but you can get burned, too. If you buy from them, make sure the seller has a good record and check the retail price. You don't want to pay more than it would cost you down at the local store.

If you craft, don't wait another minute! Get started on those stocking stuffers and other gifts.

It may be sticky hot out there right now, but Christmas is just around the corner. Really. :)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Eat well; eat cheap

I once salvaged a bowl of liquid left after we'd eaten the asparagus at a holiday dinner. My daughter-in-law gave me one of those looks, but I kept it anyway. It makes a rich, delicious and frugal cream soup as does the liquid from other things like potatoes and broccoli.

Another example: I made "half-baked" potatoes - a family "recipe" in which baking potatoes are sliced in two lengthwise, the put face down in a little oil and baked. They're really good, but I digress. ;) Anyway, there were three halves left after dinner. They don't reheat well, like fried potaotes, so I pulled the skin off of them and trimmed off the browned part, grated them, added some salt, pepper and a beaten egg and made very frugal hash brown patties from them. Good eating!

A tablespoon of corn or green beans or peas or whatever... when that's all that's left over, it doesn't seem worth doing anything with. Hold it, though... I don't throw it out. I keep a pint size container in the door of my refrigerator freezer and add the little bits and dollops as they're available. By the time the container is full, I have a good assortment of vegetables for soup or stew - for free. Since I don't eat much soup or stew during hot weather, it gives me a chance to stockpile a little!

Besides things like these, don't throw out radish greens if they're fresh. They're a good cooked green. Salvage large broccoli and cauliflower stems, peel them and eat in a salad or cook as a vegetable.

Got a little leftover rice? Or some chopped raw onions or celery or carrots? How about some leftover hot cereal? Make a frugal meatloaf with it. Add it to ground meat, add seasonings, an egg or two and top with tomato sauce.  

The most frugal way to eat is to not throw out anything, but the best way to eat is when you become creative with food.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dehydated vegetables for Christmas

So call me nuts. I listen to Christmas music at odd times all year long. When it gets hot outside, I turn on the air conditioner and make Christmas ornaments. When the garden is doing well and summer produce is abundant... I think of Christmas! As in soup mixes (for gifts, of course!)

It's very inexpensive to dehydrate a variety of summer vegetables if you grow them yourself or can buy them inexpensively. I've dehydrated squash and onions on trays in the car when it's in the sun. Any tray with a net or screen bottom can be used anywhere it gets very warm and can be protected from insects and birds. A light cloth will do it if you can clip it to the edges of a tray and keep the tray off the ground where insects will find it.

I wrote a article about dehydrating without electricity that may interest you:
Simple Dehydrators and Other Ways to Dry Food

When you have a good variety of dehydrated vegetables on hand, take a cup or two of each kind or mix them according to your preferences. When you have all the vegetables mixed well, distribute them in individual containers or plastic bags. Remember that dehydrated vegetables are about 1/8 to 1/2 of their original volume, depending on the vegetable, so a cup of dehydrated food will be anywhere from 2 to 8 cups once they're rehydrated.

If you have an abundance of zucchini or yellow squash, powder them in your blender or food mill after they're dehydrated. They make great thickener for the soup mix. Just add it to the individual packages.

Note: Try it before you package up a lot. Make sure you like the combination of vegetables, and make adjustments to that and add spices or other flavorings.

If you're like I am, you'll want to find pretty packaging and maybe tie them with Christmas ribbon. But if you're not thinking that much of Christmas, just think of how good a vegetable soup from the garden will taste when the snow flies.