Monday, September 26, 2016

Make Your Electric Bill a Bargain: Save Pennies

Are you worried about your electric bill this winter? According to the US Energy Information Administration, US households pay an average of $110.20 each month for electricity.
That's an average, so if you use electricity or fan forced heat to stay warm in the winter, the chances are that your bill will go quite a bit higher.

Since the average residential rate is 12.50 cents per kilowatt hour, it doesn't take much to rack up the bill. One kilowatt is 1,000 watts. A hundred watt light bulb burning for 10 hours will burn one kilowatt (100 X 10 = 1,000) so that single light bulb will cost you twelve and a half cents. That doesn't sound so bad, does it?

But let's say you replaced that hundred watt bulb with a 75 watt bulb. You would pay 9.375 cents instead of 12.50.

I hear you. You're saying, "Pat, you're really pinching pennies! That's not going to make much difference in my monthly bill!"

Well, yes, it will. Here's why. First, multiply that times 30 days for an average month: a little over $2.81. Okay, still nothing to lose sleep over, right?

We're talking about one measly light bulb. One. How many do you have in your home? Oh, I know you don't have all of them on for ten hours every day, but you do have some of them on some of the time, and it's quite possibly more than ten hours' worth each day.

Let's add in the refrigerator. How about the freezer? TVs? Computers? How about the electric cookstove or the electric heater? Or the fan on the gas heater? The microwave? And those are just the most common appliances and electronics the average household uses.

IF - and that's a big "IF," and of course it's nowhere near true, each appliance only burned the same as that one hundred watt bulb, then these basic appliances would cost you (theoretically) $33.72. That's figuring two computers, two TVs, one of all the rest and ten hours worth of lighting per day. Of course, most households use quite a bit more than that. Add in hair dryers, sewing machines, radios, etc., and start figuring the wattage for each one and you'll see what I mean.

Why all the figures? I am trying to show you how little things add up. If 25 watts can make a difference in your total monthly bill, how much can ten times that make? Did you know that it's your choice how much to spend on electricity? Sure, it is. Do away with that high wattage bulbs. Unplug the TVs and the computers when you're not using them. Minimize use of the cookstove (no, that's not an excuse to go out to eat!). Layer clothing and turn the heat down another degree. It all adds up... or rather subtracts down.

It's real money and it's your money, so why not keep it instead of blowing it by overusing electricity?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Create a Prescription Bottle Sewing Kit

Next time you finish or refill a prescription, keep the bottle and make your own travel sewing kit. The lid will stay secure and the bottle is big enough to hold all you will need.

Cut a small square of cloth and weave a couple of needles into it. Fold it over with the needle points inside and fasten with a couple of safety pins.

White and black thread will handle just about any emergency repair, but finding spools small enough to fit into a prescription bottle is quite a feat. Instead, wind them on straws. Just cut a couple of one inch pieces from a plastic straw, then cut a small slit on both ends of each one. Start winding thread on each one by pulling the beginning end through one slit. When you have enough, pull the end of the thread through the other slit to keep it secure.

If you don't have tiny scissors, a pair of nail clippers will snip thread or clean up a frayed area.

Slip it into your purse or pocket and don't worry!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Can You Have Fun Without Spending Money?

Let's face it. Times are tough for some of us. We have learned to cut corners and budget and coupon and barter and... but money is still tight and it's just not much fun.

Here are some ways to cut loose, have a good time and forget about money for awhile.

First, if you have electricity in your home, running water, a TV and a computer connected to the internet, you're in good shape. Don't forget that. There are a lot worse situations.

Now... want to have some fun?

Call up a few friends or family members or text them and ask them to come over for potluck. What are you good at and what can you provide? Can you bake bread? Have fun making a few special kinds and tell them that will be your special contribution. Or if you have a knack for salads, do that. One of my aunts used to make a killer vanilla wafer and pudding dish that everyone loved. Whatever your specialty, do it.

Don't be shy about guiding others in what to bring.

The really fun part is to plan on some games or other entertainment. If someone is a musician, ask them to play for a dance or two or for a singalong. If someone is good at it, have them recite a few favorite poems. The photographer of the family might be interested in doing a slide show or other presentation. Get it?

Before television and movies and a glut of books, people would entertain themselves with proper debates or spelling bees. Why not? It can be a lot of fun. Choose carefully, though, you don't want one or two to make the others feel badly.

Another thing you could do is take the whole kit and caboodle to the park. Don't just eat. Get on the swings, try the tennis court, play ball, play hide and go seek. Even the older folks will enjoy what isn't too strenuous for them.

In the summer time there always seem to be free events of one kind or another. Use the internet to find out what is free to attend or take part in, then do it!

Don't sit out the summer because you don't have a lot of money to spend.You don't need it to have fun.

Take Advantage of What Stores Know About You

Stores and businesses make it their business to collect private information on their customers. That's no secret. We complain about it and sometimes try to stop them from getting it, but that's pretty hard to do. Instead, you can take advantage of what they already know anyway, and save money!

Those "loyalty cards" are information gathering tracers that tell the store what you buy and how often you buy it. Stores sometimes use this information to give you "personal" coupons to lure you back into the store. So... why not? Use the coupons if you will buy the product anyway. Just don't buy anything else at the time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Are You Ready for Christmas?

I know. It's only July and no, you are not ready for Christmas! Well, maybe it sounds pretty good if you're having as hot a summer as we are, but we have a few weeks to go..  17 weeks from the end of July.

Putting it that way doesn't make it sound so far away, does it? And as fast as time flies nowadays, it's really not.

I'm not trying to stress you! As a matter of fact, if you follow this advice, next Christmas could be the easiest one you've ever had.

Right now, while garage sales are going strong, is a good time to go looking for gifts. I don't mean to give "used gifts" but to look for collectibles, "almost antiques" and special items that those on your list would like.

If you know someone who collects penguins or angels or whatever, it's entirely possible that you could find a plate or necklace or statuette or something cool with that motif on it.

Does someone on your list love old music? Just look. One time I came across a stack of old piano sheet music. That was a real find!

Look for materials for hand made gifts, too. If you're a knitter or crocheter, yarn can sometimes be found for pennies on the dollar.

Make a list of people you will need to buy for, then brainstorm the list and add any special interests they have.

Then go garage saling and see what you can find! You could very well have your gift list well under way before school starts!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

7 Ways to Enjoy a Frugal Summer Staycation

Not all vacations have to be taken away from home! Some of the most memorable time outs from the rat race can be taken in your own back yard (literally or figuratively), but if you decide to make this year a staycation instead of a vacation, you may have made a very wise choice.

First, a staycation can be a lot less stressful. You don't have to juggle traveling schedules or find someone to water the lawn or care for the pets. You can sleep in your own familiar bed and won't forget to bring your allergy medicine/jacket/toothbrush.

Secondly, a staycation

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why worry about plastic bags?

In my last post, I asked what you would do if they quit making plastic grocery bags, but why worry about them, anyway? Sadly, most of the trillion or so plastic bags used each year are simply tossed in the trash and taken to landfills where it takes hundreds of years for them to degrade.

Besides the more mundane uses like carrying things other than groceries, plastic bags can be used very creatively. Just look at some of the things I found on Etsy that are made from plastic bags!

According to Reuseit, the average family in America

Monday, June 20, 2016

What will you do if there are no more plastic grocery bags?

The threat of making them illegal has been around for years. I first wrote about it well over 10 years ago. Nothing happened then and nothing happened the next time I heard about it. It's back again. I won't say nothing will happen, because someone keeps trying.

What will you do if there are no more plastic bags? They've become such a part of my household that I would hate to do without! I understand the ecological concern, but I am not on board with it. If they outlaw free plastic bags, we will just have to buy the non free kind. How does that help?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Independence Day, USA

Its not so far away! The Fourth of July is probably the most frugal of holidays - or it could be, anyway. If yours is filled with expensive carnival rides and even more expensive fireworks, it might not be.

Those two things are tradition for many families, so I won't tell you to forget them, but I will tell you to use common sense when paying for them. Buy a "bracelet" if they sell them, to get cheaper rides at the carnival and go easy on the fireworks. Extravagance doesn't always equal wow power.

Other than that, how can you save when celebrating Independence Day?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

My Money, Your Money, Our Money

Even in this age of equality, women generally still have a better grasp (not to be sexist, just stating a generality!) of what is required daily to run a household, from safety pins to bath towels and from how many apples are in the refrigerator to who took the last shower. Thus, it makes sense for whoever fits this role to put the frugal eye on the countless ways a household wastes or makes money.

Who wants to do that alone, while their partner spends what s/he has with no thought of whether they need toilet paper? To solve this problem, many couples have turned to "my money, your money and our money."

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Cut Your Water Costs

Most of us are entering into a season of high water use. Besides watering lawns and gardens, kiddie pools need filling, we take more showers and baths because of outdoor activities, and we tend to want to play in water because of the heat.

Along with recent increases in utility bills, water bills will no doubt be rising in the near future so now is the time to get a head start on saving.

Outside, only water your lawn or garden when it needs it. I know... surely everyone knows that!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Outgo and Income

Frugal living is mostly about controlling the outgo of your resources, but what if, after all the cuts and controls you can make, there still isn't enough money to do what you need or want?

The next step is increasing the income. It's not always the easiest thing to do, but getting a second job or adding some freelance work is usually an option. Even a few hours a week can make a difference in your bottom line.

What to do is the big question.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Debt as a Matter of Life

Credit cards make debt, not safety nets

Disclaimer: There are times when going into debt is simply unavoidable. Unexpected bills, a loss of income or major life changes can throw anyone's finances off. Those are not the people I'm talking about here. I'm talking about those who go into credit card debt continually and unnecessarily.

Some time ago, I was sent a link to an article in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star called "Americans Using Credit Cards to Pay for Basics." Unfortunately, the page is no longer online, but it was disheartening to read. It's not because I think times are so tough that people are having to go into debt just to survive, but I hated it because it showcased people who really don't know how to survive without credit cards. It even evokes sympathy for them.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Easter is on its way

Keeping costs down at Easter time can be frustrating. Those big, beautiful and pricey Easter baskets and popular retailers seem to make fun of smaller efforts, but you can create an Easter basket that looks just as good (or better!) for much less.

The Basket

Start at your local dollar store or low cost outlet. I have seem some intricately designed wire woven baskets for a dollar bill that would thrill a girl of any age. The baskets could be used later to hold things on a dresser or in the bathroom.

Traditional woven baskets are cheap at dollar stores, too, but the ones I have seen are not sturdy enough for a day's worth of egg hunts. Try thrift stores, and go now before the Easter rush is on. Check thrift store baskets for stains or worn areas that could mean a candy and egg disaster.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Answers To 5 Excellent Questions About Reverse Mortgages

Can you get a reverse mortgage? Should you? What are the pitfalls and benefits of this popular way to use your home for retirement income? Guest author Matt Allen answers these and more questions that will help you really understand what reverse mortgages are all about

When is a homeowner eligible for a reverse mortgage?

In the past, a homeowner only needed to be 62 and have enough equity in their home to qualify. Today there are several other things that come in to play as far as being eligible for a reverse mortgage.

You need to pass the financial assessment. The whole purpose of the assessment is to look at your willingness and ability to pay your taxes and insurance. They look at your credit history, your mortgage / rent payment history and your property tax and insurance history for the last two years. You are also required to have a minimum disposable income based on household size and region you live in.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Send Your Car to Work

There are only two ways to get ahead financially in this world. One is to learn to control and save the money you make and the other one is to find ways to make more money without working 24/7. I talk a lot about saving money and that's what this blog is all about... but if you don't have it to save, then what?

Then you go looking for ways to make a little more. To do that, you can work longer hours or start your own side business. Both take a lot of time and energy but I have a better way! ;)

Monday, February 1, 2016

9 Ways to Use Cardboard Tubes

Image courtesy
One of the best parts of being frugal (and the part that sometimes will get you the strangest looks) is finding uncommon uses for common or throwaway things.

So did you save the tubes from the wrapping paper at Christmas? Neither did I. Thinking about it today, though, I wish I would have!

There are so many things one could do with them. They're part of the "raw material" of consumerism and as such, they can be ultimately useful and just plain fun.

Tubes from toilet paper (yes, those...) aluminum foil, plastic wrap or wax paper tubes, and miscellaneous other sources, such as rolls of plastic gloves, are all fair game for these uses. Since you use many of those things anyway, you might as well get some frugal use from them!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Low Gas Prices Are Not Good for Everyone

Sure, it's good that gas prices are low, especially if you have to drive to work every day or you are planning a driving vacation. It's true, also, that eventually, low gas prices should drive down other prices because of the lower cost of transportation. (Isn't that what they told us when food and other things got so expensive when gas prices went high?)

So, what's the kick?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Real Money Versus the Other Kind

I remember 'way back when, as the cashier would ring up my purchases, she (few men were cashiers then) would ask "Cash or check?"

Remember that?

Now, it's "Debit or credit?" Meaning "Which kind of plastic are you using?"

I paid for some groceries with cash the other day and the cashier did a double take. He had to try twice to get the right change, although the cash registers do it for them now.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Owe it to Savings

If one of your New Year's Resolutions was to save more money this year, you may be wondering how you're going to stretch your money far enough to do it.

Sometimes, mind games work very well, so here you go:

Treat your savings account as if it were a debt. Whatever savings goal you want to meet is the amount you "owe."

Do whatever you have to do to keep your mind working that way. Make up a pad of payment coupons, or make a spot for it in your list of bills or write a note to yourself every month, reminding you that a payment is due. Put it in your budget.