Sunday, September 26, 2010

They Will Not Come For You

We saw a devastating picture of human need when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans a few years ago. People who depended on the government and other organizations lost their entire support. They didn't know what to do or how to help themselves so they waited, some with patience, some without. Frustration grew and violence broke out while they waited for someone - anyone - to come and rescue them.

In some cases, nobody came. Ever.

The lesson was learned by some.

While there are safety networks through the government and private organizations, churches and charities, those networks can be overwhelmed quickly. Snarled communications, missed cues, lack of information, exhaustion and apathy kept help from getting through.

The chances of you facing a natural disaster of this size aren't all that great, but the chances of you facing your own personal disaster continue to climb and that can be just as devastating. Unemployment and economic uncertainty continues to plague the US and the world. The government has paid unemployment benefits in huge amounts, but there will be an end to them. When the checks stop, when the jobs still aren't there, will you be ready?

Maybe you still have your job and maybe you're making your payments and even putting money in savings. You don't really feel as if the recession has touched you, although you probably know someone it has.

It may not - ever. But why take a chance? You cannot depend on the safety nets in place right now. They may not be there if - when - you need them.

Preparing for personal devastation doesn't sound like a fun way to spend time or money, but it could make all the difference to you and your family.

Remember what some of the Katrina survivors said: "They will not come for you."

If "they" are not there to help you, to feed you, to give you shelter and clothing and dignity... who will?

Photo courtesy of Morguefile

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fast food made simple

The taste of fast food is what draws people in, right? Or is it the smell? We make a lot of decisions on what something smells like. Want to increase your family's appetite? Make something that smells "good" and they'll eat it.

Fast food restaurants cook onions on a grill to get the smell out there... why not you? Or... you could just make plain old good "fast food" that they'll eat!

Fast food is not always fast, but it's nearly always faster to cook at home than to drive to a fast food place, put in your order, wait for it, pay for it, drive home and finally, eat. Save time? Nope. It does save some energy, if you don't mind spending the extra money for gas and food.

Frugal living isn't about spending money, though. It's about saving it and if you can save time, too, why would you spend both money and time for something that's not good for you?

If you're "too busy" to cook, you're better off to buy boxed or frozen meals than to go to a fast food place. Make some food ahead on your days off. There are ways to eliminate the fast food habit; we just have to work at it.

You'll be money, health and time ahead if you do that.

Do you make your own fast food?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Frugal ways to prepare for cold weather

Cold weather is just around the corner for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere. Every fall, I start thinking of frugal ways to keep warm without spending everything I have on a heating bill. There are lots of ways, but some of them only return small savings and some of them require a lot of effort, so here are three of the easiest, most frugal ways I've found to save prepare for cold weather.
My snowy back yard (2009)

I've seen people walking around in short sleeved shirts and complaining about how cold they are. Layering clothing is a very frugal way to keep you warm without having to turn up the thermostat (or put more wood on the fire). A sweater or overshirt or even a jacket makes frugal sense when you're chilly, whether that's inside or out.

Men wear undershirts in cold weather, why not women? And children? An undershirt, a long sleeved shirt or sweater and a jacket will keep you toasty warm. Do the same with pants. Long underwear is a frugal alternative and is available for men, women and children. Use them, along with heavier weight pants like jeans and corduroy and if you're still too cold when sitting, put a blanket or throw over your legs.

Another frugal way to stay warm is to eat warm things. Cold weather calls for soup and stew, but any other meal served hot is good, too. There are two reasons for this: One, is that the heat really does warm you up from the inside out and the other is that the richness of the dishes give you energy that helps the body maintain an even temperature.

Drinking hot fluids like tea, hot chocolate or broth will help, too. Avoid cold drinks except for water.

Another way works only if you heat with gas or oil: Use an electric space heater only in the room where you are. Close off the rest of the house and turn the thermostat down so it doesn't have to heat the rest of the house much at all. Even two space heaters can be more frugal than running the furnace enough to heat the whole (unused) house.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Come on, autumn!

I don't know about you, but I'm eager for cooler weather! It's begun to cool down at night now and the days are shorter so even a hot hour or two doesn't really seem bad. This is a perfect, frugal time of the year because the air conditioner isn't sucking electricity and the furnace isn't sucking gas so my utility bills are reasonable.

It won't be long, though, until it's cool enough to need a little heat in the mornings and evenings and the gas bill will begin to creep up if I use the furnace. I put off doing that as long as I can. Instead, I do these things:

Put on long underwear in the morning, even if it's going to be in the 80s or even 90s later on. I take them off when it starts to warm up. I also wear a sweater or jacket as long as it's needed.

Never drink cold drinks until it warms up. I like hot tea and sometimes will drink a cup of hot chocolate or broth to keep me warm. It keeps my hands warm, too!

Keep my feet warm by wearing socks and warm slippers. So what if the weatherman calls for 88 degrees by midafternoon? If my feet are cold, I'll do what I can to warm them up - short of turning on the furnace.

Have a hot breakfast. Hot cereal, eggs and toast or even a cup of soup sure tastes good on a cool morning.

Actually, I love these things. That's one reason I'm excited for the changing of seasons. I love getting back into my soft sweaters and wearing warm house slippers. It makes me feel pampered somehow.

Then add fall colors and the last of the harvest coming in... smells of late onions and fresh apples and first wood fires... is there anyone who doesn't like autumn?

Sights, smells, tastes, and even saving money. What's not to like??

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Financial Advantages of Online College

Guest post by Tim Handorf

Although traditional brick and mortar colleges are still a very popular option, more and more students are realizing that online schools offer several advantages, one of the most important being a cheaper overall bill for school. From tuition and textbooks to commuting and job opportunities, you will often find that you can get more education for your money simply by going online.

Many online colleges offer a base tuition and fees that are cheaper than brick and mortar schools, and it makes sense. Unless your online school is the virtual branch of a traditional university, there are no extensive libraries to fill and maintain, student centers to manage, or sports teams and stadiums to support. Online colleges are simply able to focus on curriculum without spending money on the extras typically found at schools with a physical presence.

You may find that the absence of a campus to go to will be good for your bottom line in more than tuition. If you are able to study completely online, you don't need to drive to class every day. You're able to work on school at home, at work, or wherever you may be without any extra driving, gas, or wear and tear on your vehicle. This can also result in fewer meals on the go, which tend to be more expensive than what you can make for yourself.

Although some online schools will require you to buy textbooks and other supplies in order to complete course work, others will allow you to access books, journals, and more completely online. For many students, they are able to leave behind the back to school bookstore rush found in traditional college behind, and instead just download or visit websites for their text as they go along in the semester. Some online students may find that the only supplies they need are a computer, Internet connection, and maybe a good pair of glasses.

At a brick and mortar school, you will typically have to stick to a rigid schedule, with classes at regular meeting times that usually fall into business hours. This can keep many students from pursuing a part time or full time job while they're in school. However, with the flexibility found in most online college programs, you can generally work at any hour, which will free your schedule up to allow you to work and earn money while you're still in school.

These are just a few of the positive financial considerations offered by online schools. Research the programs that interest you to find out the advantages that they may offer for your bottom line to see how online college can save you money as a student.


Tim Handorf writes on the topics of online colleges and universities. He welcomes your comments at his email:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The relativity of an apple harvest

It's almost ready! My one lonely apple... not bad for a first harvest, though. My other little apple tree died so my daughter got me another one for Mother's Day this year. It was already blooming and formed five little apples which fell off, one by one, until this one was left.
My apple harvest

I've been watching it all summer. How good it will taste! Shall I invite my daughter to share it? Should I eat half the first day and half the second? When will I know it's the perfect time to pick it? Will a squirrel get it before I do? Does it have a worm in it?

Isn't it strange how important things become when the amount is limited?

I could go to the store and buy as many apples as I wanted, but none of them would taste as good as this one will.

It's the same with "things." Kids who have so many toys that none of them are truly appreciated. People who have so many clothes that none of them are important. Houses with so many rooms and so many square feet, cars with so many bells and whistles. None of it has as much value as two toys will have to a child who has none other; an extra set of clothes to the man or woman who has nothing else to wear; a built on leanto to a family that lives in a two room home, a car that runs to a person who has walked to work for the last year.

That's what relative is. Do you have enough? Do you have too much?