Monday, February 28, 2011

What daily expenses can you cut?

In the last Frugal Living post, I talked about tracking your expenses and cutting 75% from your weekly expenditures. I know that saying, "do it" without giving you a clue as to how to go about it can leave you wandering around in the dark, so this time, I'm going to tackle how to cut some of those small expenses.

Frugal living doesn't mean that you have to go without things, but it does mean that you have to become creative and actively find ways to obtain the things you want without spending money, or at least as much money as you have been.

Here are some examples to get you going, but remember that this frugal living adventure is yours, so these are only examples:

  • Instead of buying a cup of coffee on your way to work, make it at home and take it in a insulated cup. Instead of buying coffee from a vending machine later in the day, take some of the same coffee in a thermos.
  • Instead of going out for lunch, bring your own. If your coworkers think you're nuts, tell them you're on a special diet.
  • Instead of buying the newspaper on your way home each evening, get a subscription and have it delivered for less.
  • Instead of shopping for office wear at the mall, check out some thrift stores. You might be surprised at what you find there. Go with an open mind and open eyes.
  • Instead of paying extra for someone to watch the kids when you have to work late, see if you can find someone to swap babysitting with. You can watch their kids and they can watch yours.
  • Instead of picking up fast food on your way home, or ordering pizza when you get home because you're too tired or stressed to cook, buy some convenience foods at the grocery store when you shop and save them for times like this. Frozen pizza and other dinners may be more expensive that cooking from scratch, but they're usually cheaper than eating out.

Only some of these may apply to you or maybe none of them do. The idea is to think hard about how you can substitute or get the item differently to save money. If you embrace living frugally, you will be able to come up with ideas that fit your situation.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Frugal living: where to start?

I get questions about frugal living and many of them are the same, so I'm going to try to answer a few of them in the next few posts. The most frequently asked question about frugal living is simply, "Where do I start?"

You start where you are. Overly simplistic? Maybe, but let me explain.

Some people ask their question in the form of a wish list. "I want to get out of debt and buy a house. Where do I start?"

Others say, "I just want to quit living paycheck to paycheck. Is that even possible? I don't make much money so what can I do?" 

Both of these people need t start where they are, and neither of them know where they are, so that's the first step. Find out where you are. Frugal living isn't about magic or wishful thinking. It's about getting a grasp on your life. It's about controlling your money instead of letting it control you.

Anyway, if you're not sure where you are, how can you get away from it? So start here:

Track your expenses every day for at least a week. All of them, from a cup of coffee to the mortgage payment. Don't overlook anything because it's a small amount. Every penny is important for this.

Look over your expenses. Sometimes this is all that's needed to open your eyes to where you are wasting money. If not, separate them into categories, like bills that need to be paid, impulse purchases, things bought from guilt (office party, gift for someone you've ignored, etc,). Make your own categories as you sort through your records.

Now comes the fun part. Pretend that you had access to only 75% of the money that you spent during that week. What would you have eliminated? This will give you a look at the things that are unnecessary expenses.

Now you know where you are and you can get to work getting to where you want to be. Cut out the unnecessary expenses and pay off bills with it or put it in a savings account.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fire King and Quaker Oats

I'm beginning to wonder if the title of this blog is a misnomer. I do enjoy frugal living and writing about it, but since I'm semi retired (again!), former interests have taken a larger part in my life. It's been fun, being able to bake a loaf of bread when I want to, planning a garden more thoroughly, knitting bed socks and blankets and rummaging through thrift stores for favorite treasures.

Some of these favorite treasures are collectibles, mostly from the 20th century. I enjoy Depression Glass and marketing history, among other things, so I thought, "Why not?" Why not write about that, too? I couldn't find a reason not to, so I did. :)

The Story of Fire King from Anchor Hocking

Quaker Oats Premiums Through the Years

Maybe that will give you a clue as to why I love to shop at thrift stores. Besides clothing, books and more modern household items, they can be great sources of collectibles to keep, give as gifts or sell. Why not?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Should College Students Have Credit Cards?

Should College Students Have Credit Cards?

Brian Jenkins, a member of the BrainTrack writing team, contributes feature articles that offer great advice for college students. For more information, check out BrainTrack's Facebook page.

Many college students see a credit card as a piece of plastic that let's them buy whatever they want. They don't think about the debt they're piling up. College students should realize that by using a credit card they're taking out a loan that has to be repaid. Also, people without an established credit history might pay the highest interest rates, and that group usually includes students.

Qualifying for a Credit Card

People under the age of 21 can't obtain a credit card unless they have an independent source of funds to pay the bills or a parent cosigns the application. The parent has to provide written permission before the credit limit can be raised.

If a parent cosigns the application, then they're jointly liable for any debts their child piles. If this happens, the parent's credit gets harmed along with their kid's if they don't pay the bills on time.

Problems with credit cards, including late or missed payments, stay in a person's report for seven years. A credit report is needed to buy a car or apply for an apartment lease. Also, many employers review a prospective employee's credit report.

Is your college student responsible enough to have a credit card? Will he damage his credit report by not making payments on time? One option is to make a deal with your kid that a credit card can only be used for emergencies.

Sallie Mae Report

Check out the following information before you cosign a credit card for your college student:

According to a 2009 report by Sallie Mae entitled "How Undergraduate Students Use Credit Cards":

  • College seniors graduate with an average credit card debt of over $4,100.
  • Almost one-third of undergraduates put college tuition on their credit card; an increase from 24 percent in 2004.
  • About 92 percent used credit cards to pay for school supplies, textbooks, and other direct education expenses.
  • 84 percent of undergraduates have at least one credit card. On average, students have 4.6 credit cards.
  • Many college students use credit cards to live beyond their means and more than three-quarters have incurred finance charges by carrying a monthly balance.
  • According to the survey, sixty percent of students were surprised at how high their balance had reached.
  • 40 percent stated that they charged items knowing they didn't have the money to pay the bill.
  • Just 17 percent stated they regularly paid off all credit cards each month.
  • 84 percent of undergraduates reported they need more education regarding financial management topics.

This report by Sallie Mae underscores the importance of parents educating their college students about using credit cards wisely.

Marie O'Malley, director of consumer research for Sallie Mae and author of this study, said, "too many students are at risk of overpaying for college by pulling out credit cards to pay for text books or even part of their tuition bill, instead of using less expensive financial aid to cover these items."

Reasons College Students Should Have a Credit Card

The length of a person's credit history is a factor in their credit score. If your child doesn't get a credit card until he's 21, it probably increases the cost of borrowing money to buy a car when he's 23 or so.

College students can use one or two credits card with a low credit limit to establish a credit history. However, students that take out student loans may actually begin their credit history at age 18.

Prepaid credit cards are a good idea for college students. However, they function more like debit cards and they won't help establish a good credit history.

College students should be aware that their credit record can have a lasting impact on their lives. Should you cosign a credit card application with your child? Your college student's financial maturity is an important factor when determining if they should have a credit card.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

High and low in the grocery store

Did you ever have to stand on your tippy toes to reach your favorite brand on the top shelf? There's a reason for that. Grocery stores (and other stores; I won't just pick on grocery stores) display the most expensive items, and the ones with the most impulse appeal, at what is eye level for most people.

Surprising? It shouldn't be. We need to be aware that all stores do everything they can to get us to buy as much as possible every time. That's the name of the (marketing) game and we play it whether we know the rules or not.

Products on the lower shelves often appeal to children, which is a good incentive for keeping children in the shopping cart! Generic products are often down there, too, so they don't compete directly with brand name products which are, of course, at eye level.

The next time you go into a grocery store, compare the prices of the items on the lower shelves with those on the middle to upper middle shelves, then compare those with the prices of items on the very top shelf. Do it in several different areas of the store and see what you come up with.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How to Make Your Own Kitchen Cleaners

Guest post from Bailey Harris. Bailey writes about insurance and other topics for the Home Insurance Blog.
 If you are concerned about the health of your family, the environment and your budget, why not make your own kitchen cleaners? We all have a cupboard full of dangerous toxins and wasted money. It only takes a few simple non-toxic items and a couple of empty spray bottles to make your own cleaners. Not only will you be making your household eco-friendly, you will also save a considerable amount of money. There are six basic ingredients needed to make all of these cleaners, and you probably have most of them in your household already.
Floor Cleaners
There are many different recipes for homemade floor cleaners. I will give you directions for a basic all purpose floor cleaner. All you need for this all-purpose floor cleaner is a 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 2 gallons of hot water, mix these in pail or bucket well, mop once with the solution and once with water to rinse. Add essential oils such as orange, lemon, or lavender for a great scent and to help to cut the grease.
Oven Cleaner
All you need to remove those stubborn grease stains from your oven is three simple ingredients and a little time. Mix 3/4 cup of baking soda with 1/4 cup salt and a 1/4 cup of water in a bowl to form a thick paste. Dampen the inside of the oven with a wet cloth and apply the paste. Let it sit overnight. In the morning wipe clean with a damp sponge. You can use a steel wool pad for hard to clean spots.
Clogged Drains
The first step of getting a drain unclogged is to remove as much water as possible and plug the drain on the opposite side. Pour  a 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain followed by a 1/2 cup of vinegar, let it sit for 10-15 minutes, then pour a pot of boiling water down the drain. You should not try this if you have already used commercial cleaners; it is possible that they will have a bad reaction.
Microwave Ovens
Cleaning your microwave oven can be extremely easy and low cost. You will need to mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave 3 minutes or until boiling. Let it sit in there a couple minutes, and then wipe clean with a sponge or paper towel. Not only will this clean your microwave, it will also deodorize it.
All Purpose Spray
This all purpose spray can be used on just about any surface in your kitchen. You will need 2 tablespoons of baking soda, 1 quart of warm water, and a clean spray bottle. Put the ingredients in the bottle and mix it up. Although this is a great cleaner it is not a disinfectant.
Disinfectant All Purpose Spray
This is a great spray cleaner to use on kitchen surfaces such as cutting boards, garbage cans, counters, and walls. This spray does not work well on glass, the oil causes striking. Mix 3-5 drops of natural dish soap with 15-30 drops of tea tree oil and 2 cups of water in a spray bottle. Clean away. This spray also works to destroy mold and mildew.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Inexpensive automobiles. Why not?

Why can't we manufacture cars that almost everyone could afford to buy new and many could buy without having to finance them? India does. Check out the Tata Nano and the Bajaj Auto. Both of these are under $3,000 in cost. Why?

Why not? Maybe we have too many government controls, too much union power and too much greed. Possible answers? I think so.

I'm sure some of you will disagree. Some of the standards these automobiles are built to may not comply with the standards enforced in the US. The low price would mean that Detroit would either have to make some drastic changes or go out of business - or get more government funding. These are things to be considered.

Still... if it's possible somewhere else, why isn't it possible here? It wouldn't even have to be done all at the same time, but if the automobile manufacturers would start to move in that direction instead of adding more and more bells and whistles and charging more and more... maybe they'd sell more.

And maybe more people would have more jobs making more cars and selling more cars and cleaning showrooms and transporting new cars and... just maybe.