Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Back to School - Being a Student Online is More Frugal

Kids going back to school - bright colored pencils, new shoes, notebooks and bookbags. Almost makes you wish you were getting into something new, doesn't it?

Most people say they feel enlivened by the return of cooler days (I know - not yet!) and look forward to doing something new or different. It could be the perfect time for you to study something new or to fill gaps in your education with a few online courses, or even more - gain a few college credits or get a complete degree.

Going back to school may be a tough financial road to walk if tuition fees are over your budget. Even getting a GED costs, and more so if you need to attend classes to brush up on required subjects. There are ways to study cheaper - on the 'net.

Online education has grown up from the 'email your answers' courses of a few years ago to sophisticated materials and scripts that grade and advise you as you go. This allows in depth study and along with email interaction, it's like having your own private tutor - but better. Learning at your own pace in your own time makes a lot of sense, frugal and otherwise.

Cost of courses? Anywhere from free to a few thousand dollars. You can even pay as you go on some of them.

Reasons to get an education online range from saving money to saving time, too. A stay at home parent can get a degree without ever having to hire a babysitter or buy a new wardrobe, to say nothing of bus fare or gas for the car, and in some instances you won't even have to buy textbooks. You'll still be at home with your children, and still be there to do things to save money around the house.

A full time worker can spend an hour or so before or after work studying without much of a disruption in normal routines, besides all the advantages above - no transportation, babysitter or clothing expenses. Of course, full time students will have the same advantages, too, and be able to move through courses as quickly or slowly as needed.

Although it seems easy and is inexpensive, it takes a certain kind of student to be able to take full advantage of online learning. Can you do it? Do you want to? Is Distance Learning for Me? will help you answer those questions. (You can skip the part about "Moodle".)

If you need a highschool diploma or a GED:

The price of taking GED tests varies from state to state from nothing in Connecticut to $160 in Virginia. Add to that the price of any courses or studies you might have to take and it can seem daunting. A highschool diploma is a near necessity and a GED is still cheaper than 4 years of highschool.

There is an impressive array of courses for almost anything, whether it's a trade or a college degree, online. You might want to check your local or state schools first to see if they offer online courses. If you want to work toward a college degree, make sure the online study is accredited because if it isn't accredited, you won't be able to get a real degree. Also, make sure that you can transfer those credits to a brick and mortar school if you want to. It's always a good option to have.

You'll have to do some work to find a school that fits your needs. Look for "online accredited schools" or "trade schools online." Guide to Online Schools  is a good place to start, but don't stop there. Take enough time to know what you're getting in to, then go for it.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Gardening? Save seed!

 No matter how much you garden, whether it's one pot on a windowsill or a full fledged garden, there's no sense in spending more money than you have to, to do it.

One good way to save money is to save seeds from year to year. A lot of seeeds on the market are hybrids which means they won't always produce true, so if you haven't already, start growing heirloom vegetables, which produce true to their seeds.

The easiest seeds to save are things like beans and peas. Just let a few pods dry on the stalk, then pick and shell them and save them for next year. There are many sites that tell you how to save seeds from specific vegetables, so I won't go into that here, but do save them when you can.

To add to your savings, trade your excess or especially good seed for other seed you might need. Neighbors, family and friends who garden will all benefit as much as you do.

Keep saved seeds dry and not too hot and away from light. I keep mine in an old shoebox, in envelopes saved from bills that I pay online. Junk envelopes work, too. Label, date and seal and that's it.

Just so you will know, there are whispers that seed saving and sharing will become illegal as corporations continue to try to own our food. For your own sake, keep up on the news there and make your choice. I personally will go down to the bitter end, protecting our freedom to save and share seed as freely as we should.

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Imagination Challenges

These challenges that I posted were written several years ago and prices have changed quite a bit since then. At the time, you could buy a pound of beans, a pound of rice, two cans of tuna and a loaf of bread for five dollars. You might be able to do that today if you find a good salvage store or double coupons or work at it pretty hard otherwise, but not on a regular basis.

The point I was trying to get across is that we can learn by imagining how we would survive in extreme situations. As you imagine the situtation you will come up with solutions you might not think of otherwise. Remember those solutions and apply them whenever possible to your daily life.

Think "out of the box" when it comes to getting the food in the first place. Foraging, bartering and growing your own are only three ways of doing it. In some places, you can glean fields after the harvest. Some farmers and grain elevators will sell way below price if you buy in bulk. A 50 pound bag of beans can cost as low as half the price of that in the store. If you devide it with friends or family, your cost can be as low as 50 cents a pound, a far cry from the $1.30 I saw recently.

Foraging is a viable alternative to grocery store buying if you have a safe place to forage. For some, that can be your own back yard. Leave a small area for a year or two. Don't mow it, don't fertilize it, don't weed it and don't poison it with weed killer. You will soon have food growing on its own, without cultivation. You might want to throw a little water on it if you have a long period of hot and dry weather, but otherwise, leave it alone except to harvest. If you want to jump start the process, dig up the area and leave it. Some grass will grow back, but there will be more room for wild food.

What will grow there? Different things in different areas, but look for dandelions, lambsquarter, plantain, mallow, wild salsify, wild lettuce, dock and purslane. From these crops you can get greens, seeds and roots. Dandelions are the most versatile and common. You can eat the young leaves as greens or make tea from them. You can fritter the blossoms, cook the buds and eat with butter. You can eat the roots, boiled, or you can roast them for "coffee." The entire plant is edible, but the latex- like white liquid in the stem is bitter. It's best used to treat warts and other skin problems.

If you live in farming country, gleaning can stock your pantry amazingly. Here we have sugar beets, potatoes, carrots, onions and beans, besides feed corn. We once fed out three turkeys pretty much on gleaned corn and watermeion that would otherwise have been wasted. Think of what you can do. I made sugar beet molasses for fun and to eat. Onions can be dehydrated so even the split ones are useable. I have picked up cabbage, both red and green, from a corner where a farm truck made a turn and they rolled off.

If you can't grow, forage or glean, try bartering for some of your food. It won't  hurt to ask and to offer whatever you can do. If you do crafts that people want, if you can bake a special cake, if you can clean house or mow yards or watch someone's kids while Mom  goes shopping - whatever you can do can barter you a few dollars' worth of food.

If you do have a garden, make the most of it. Read up on what you plant to see how to put it up for winter, what parts other than the traditional ones can be used, etc. For instance, you can eat the whole radish plant, from root to seed. Chop radish leaves for salad or cook as greens. The flowers can go in a salad, too. When the seed pods are young and tender, pick them for salads or to eat just out of hand. Some are a little hot, some are very mild. If some seed pods get too mature to eat, let them finish setting seed for next year and/or sprout them for salads and sandwiches.

See how much of the food you need you can get for free or half price. It's probably a lot more than you think.

Image by photoAC from Pixabay