Sunday, September 16, 2007

Info for new "Frugalites"

Many people that are new to frugality have a lot of misconceptions about the lifestyle. This article explains the basic idea of frugality. You can get the perfect idea of what you're "getting yourself into" (such as the phrase goes) by starting here. Knowing the basis for frugality lets you decide if it is a lifestyle that will assist you in meeting your goals.

Here is also an article dispelling some myths about frugality. You can bust this out when your friends tell you you're just being "cheap" ;-)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Jackie-isms in the home

Well it's been a couple of weeks since I posted. Have to apologize for that - I have been so busy with my cat's illness and our upcoming convention that I plain haven't had the time!

Today I had an inspiration for a post while showering. Looking around in my shower I was just noticing my little "Jackie-isms" and chuckling to myself about how odd other people might think these things are. Obviously, these things won't work for everyone, but here are some of the odd things I do in order to stretch my dollars!

In the Bathroom:
- Ya know that really thick shampoo, conditioner, and body wash you buy? It's like jelly it's so thick. It can be watered down 1/2 and 1/2 (or less than 1/2) with water and still be just as effective. Just save an old bottle from a used up item, and Voila, 2 for 1!
- I also mix different brands. I don't like shower clutter, so I'll often consolidate what I have left in each bottle. I just put a bit of water in the bottle I intend to pour out of, and shake it up. Then I turn it upside down on it's cap (or on it's side, if the cap can't support it), and after a bit it's ready to be poured into the other bottle. It's all made out of the same stuff anyway, so it blends perfectly fine, and no, your skin will not turn green or anything from blending these things!
- Do you bring home those leftover little sample bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc from hotels? Are you a freebie collector like I am? I generally think those hotel things are of low quality, and I don't like to use just a little plastic packet in the shower because they get slimy and leaky. Instead, for my son, or even for myself if I'm really almost out and don't want to go to the store and spend the money, I'll take each little packet/bottle and pour it into a larger one, thereby combining the powers of all the crappy little hotel stuff into almost a full bottle of ... whatever!
- After my rolls of toilet paper are done, I save the tubes to give to my small furry four footed friends. No need to buy chew toys. They like these tubes better! There seems to be a never ending supply as well!
- Get those Walgreens Free After Rebates. Rite Aid also has them (or is it Eckerd now? I can't remember which bought out which!). I've barely had to buy toothpaste, toothbrushes, body wash, or shampoo in the last couple of years since I started doing this (ok, well, I buy it and then submit the rebate, which equals out to $0.00). Yes, I may have mentioned this before, but it's worth repeating.
- I use my razors/razorheads for at least a month each. If you keep it dry and there's no rust, you can still use it. It may not cut as well, though, and if you find it doesn't do the job fully well, use it on less important areas (for women, I'd think that'd be the bikini area or legs when no one is looking at them), and use a new one (less frequently) on the more visible areas.
- Don't wash your towels after one use. You're drying your CLEAN body with them, right? Hang them on that towel bar or get a towel hook. I'd say you can safely use them for a week if you dry them out properly. Saves on the laundry bill!

- If you drink soy milk, you're familiar with that "goop" that gets in the bottom if you don't shake it up enough, and even sometimes if you do. My son drinks a ton of chocolate soy milk, and we always end up with the goop in the bottom. I just put water in there, shake it on up, and it "reconstitutes" into drinkable soy milk. Great way to stretch it!
- Reference above about toilet paper rolls and apply to paper towel rolls ;)
- Freeze things. Don't just toss those dinner leftovers in the fridge and forget about them. If you know you're a chronic non-leftover-eater, wrap it or box it in tupperware and put it in the freezer. If you have specific questions about what type of things freeze well and what don't, please comment and I'll respond.
- I save all of my plastic containers as long as they aren't extremely flimsy. I now have an endless supply of tupperware (i.e. butter, cottage cheese, sour cream, large yogurt containers) and I have barely bought any of it just for the container.
- I also buy my pre-packaged lunch meat in those "glad ware" containers. That way I get more bang for my buck. It really does keep the lunch meat more fresh for longer, and afterwards, I have another tupperware container!
- You know that trick I mentioned above about watering down shower soap? Take that and apply it to liquid dish soap as well (not dishwasher soap. The kind you use directly on a sponge in the sink).
- Soaking your dishes can really save you a lot of trouble and save your dishwasher the hassle of having to wash the same dishes twice. This also saves on your energy and water bill (if you pay for those things). Just get in the habit of filling dishes with water when you place them in the sink or rinsing them well if you place them directly in the dishwasher, and you can adapt to this one in no time.
- Buy the "select-a-size" paper towels. I buy them because I feel that the value is higher, even if they're a bit more expensive. How many times do you REALLY NEED that full size paper towel? Our rolls last A LOT longer when I'm able to select the smallest size for smaller jobs.
- I use mostly canned canned vegetables, even if the recipe calls for frozen. I use to buy frozen, but what happened was that they sat in my freezer for so long, they became a giant block of ice stippled throughout with greens or corn or whatnot. Buy them in cans. It's cheaper and lasts longer, and tastes the same in recipes (at least according to my standards).

Well I feel like I had more to say, but that's all my brain will allow for now.

By the way, if anyone wants the links to the better freebies websites, please post a comment and I'll make another post about that. I tend to use forums more than plain ol' websites, because the offers change more often and people post new ones every day.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Why do you need savings?

I've recently had a lot of reminders of why it's good to have a savings account (cat with cancer, child with many doctor appointments, car repairs, prescription bills, gift giving, etc). Interestingly enough, I also ran into a bunch of articles about savings. I'm going to post some excerpts from those articles here, to remind everyone what things you might run into that could cause you to need extra money.

Keep in mind, as well, that "I'll just use a credit card" isn't a replacement for savings. If you charge it to a credit card and pay interest, you'll just end up paying more in the end, not to mention having it hanging over your head for a long time. Here is a great calculator that illustrates my point.

How your savings can save you (original article):

1. Your car breaks down
It always happens when you least expect it. Your car requires routine maintenance, and those costs are bad enough. But even if you give it TLC, you can count on occasional mechanical disruptions. Plan for it.

2. You're terminated
Losing a job is painful on many levels. Unless you're a VIP with a big severance package, you'll need reserve savings. If you tap your 401(k) to cover expenses or pay debt, you'll pay taxes as well as penalties and jeopardize your retirement plans. Create your own severance package by funding a savings account.

3. You need shelter
Unless you plan to erect a cardboard home under a bridge, you need a roof over your head. If you want to rent an apartment (either your first place or a nicer one), you'll have to come up with first and last month's rent plus security deposit -- that's several thousand dollars. Get it together with an emergency fund.

4. You face foreclosure
Many subprime borrowers as well as those with exotic mortgages face big problems today, particularly if they put no money down or wrapped closing costs into the loan amount. Some homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages are sitting ducks for big payment increases. An adequate savings account could have funded a modest down payment, upfront closing costs and higher payments for a period of time until the home is refinanced or sold.

5. Insurance bills are killing you
Insurance is supposed to cover big risks that would otherwise mean financial ruin. But you don't want to overprotect yourself from nickel-and-dime calamities. You can control premium costs by opting for higher deductibles. Or you can choose low deductibles and enrich the insurance company by paying higher premiums on an ongoing basis. Pay yourself instead by using an emergency fund to save for deductibles in the event of a serious disaster.

6. Credit cards go out of control
Living paycheck to paycheck means robbing Peter to pay Paul. This can lead to using one credit card to pay another, paying bills late and juggling obligations in an effort to get caught up. Late payments trigger fees, higher interest rates and drag down your credit rating. Pay those cards off and enjoy financial freedom.

7. You miss opportunities
Your best friend from college asks you to be in his wedding. An emergency savings account could absorb the expenses of appropriate wedding attire and airfare if necessary. That's better than getting deeper in debt or bypassing the opportunity altogether.

8. Stress levels reach new highs
It may be intangible, but the worry and stress of how to pay the bills every month to meet unplanned expenses or stay current under less than ideal circumstances is taxing. And stress can cause a host of physical ailments. An emergency saving account brings peace of mind and fewer visits to the doctor.

Here is a great article about ways to start up an emergency fund and "find" more money to put into it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Reap the Rewards!

I'm a firm believer that everyone should get something back from "the system" (so to speak). Here are two methods that I use and have found most valueable!

If you use a credit card already, I suggest switching to a cash back card. Here is a selection of options from CitiCards. You can also search and compare others here. There are a few caveats to this though:
  1. DO NOT pay an annual fee. That shit is whack. Er, I mean. It's not worth it. There are plenty of cards available without annual fees.
  2. If you don't pay off your balance in full at the end of every month, you are negating your cash back by making yourself pay interest on your purchase. Treat a credit card as if it's cash that you already spent out of your checking account.
  3. DO NOT get a credit card if you don't think you can control yourself. This is a BIG warning!
MyPoints is a GREAT (THE BEST) rewards points website. You can opt to receive emails that give you points for just clicking on their links. You won't get any other spam from this site besides their emails. The points collect fairly quickly and you can also earn them by going through their website and clicking on their earnings links before you make a purchase online (they don't have every online store available for earning opportunities, but they have a wide selection). I would say I redeem from them about 3 times per year, usually a $25.00 gift certificate, but check out their other rewards as well. The rewards come extremely quickly in the mail as well! And now my caveats:

  1. Don't purchase things online JUST to get points from the site. That's wasting money. I'm pretty sure a lot of you shop online enough to earn a good amount of points just from your regular shopping.
  2. If you choose to accept their emails, create an email filter that will automatically send them to a certain folder so you don't miss the emails. They're always sent from the same email address.
  3. If you join, I'd kindly ask that you put my name as your referral :) Mypoints username is annieacid, email is mommieskullfish at
There are plenty of other rewards programs and credit card rewards out there. There are:
  • Gas rebate credit cards (I have one through AAA and get 3% back on all gas purchases made at the pump)
  • Hotel and Frequent Flyer rewards. Sign up for the free programs. Even if you think you'll never use the points, you may be surprised. If you're a frequent hotel visitor like me, they'll come in handy! Hilton Honors is the one I use the most.
  • Frequent purchase rewards. This is very basic. Some establishments I frequent use these programs, where they stamp a card every time you purchase something and you get a reward after so many purchases. Don't be afraid to ask at the places that you frequent. Rita's Water Ice even gives double stamps (at my location, anyway) on Tuesdays!
  • Walgreen's (if you have them where you live) has a good "Free After Rebate" program every month. The warning though is not to do this if you know you're not reliable enough to send in for the rebate! I've been doing this for about a year and have barely ever had to buy toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, or toothbrushes. I also have gotten some cool things I wanted to try for free.
Have a Rewarding Day!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Saving on entertainment

It's time for the weekend - how will you spend your money?

If you're going to a restaurant:
  • Drink water instead of paying for a soda/iced tea/etc.
  • Share a meal (we all know the portions are huge anyway, and everyone can afford to skip half the calories and fat in a restaurant meal)
  • Skip the appetizer and/or dessert
  • Limit yourself to one alcoholic drink (those damn things are expensive!)
If you're off to the movies:
  • Can you persuade your friends to go to an earlier showing? Matinee prices are better!
  • Skip the concessions (does anyone even buy that stuff these days?)
  • I hope this is a movie you REALLY want to see, or else you'll be wasting your money. Can you meet your friends after the movie if you're not really interested in it?
Pre-plan for your entertainment:
  • Ask for movie, restaurant, or amusement gift cards/tickets as gifts for Christmas and Birthdays. We get a $50.00 movie gift card for Christmas every year, and it lasts almost all year. We stretch it by going to early showings and only seeing movies that are "epic" or "must sees" in our opinion.
  • Look into purchasing pre-paid movie tickets. They're available through a lot of membership organizations (i.e. AAA), schools, and sometimes your place or work.
  • Look for coupons in flyers or on the internet for places you frequent. Visit their websites, and join their mailing lists if they offer one. You're likely to get a coupon once in a while.
  • Do any of the places you frequent offer "frequent buyer" programs. We love Rita's and they have a buy 10, get one free card we always remember to have stamped when we go.

Avoiding Unneccessary Spending

I know you want it, but do you NEED it? Here are some things to keep in mind when you're considering a purchase.

Ask yourself some important questions:
  • Do I need this? (usually, if the answer is "no", you should rule out the purchase unless you have a lot of extra money lying around)
  • How often will I use this? (The answer should be 50% of the time or more in order for this to be worth the money)
  • Can this purchase wait? (Considering the purchase for a week or at least a few days will usually lend you some kind of perspective on whether or not it's worth it)
  • Can I use something else instead? (something you already have, or something less expensive)
  • Can I borrow this from someone? (this is a good question to ask in the case that you will need the item on a very limited basis, i.e. a tool, a dress/suit you will only wear once, an appliance)
Know your inventory, and keep things organized:
  • Clothing - Do you really need another little black dress, or another funny t-shirt? You probably have enough shoes already as well.
  • Groceries - Make sure you know what's in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. You might already have the thing you think you need, but it's buried back there. Do you have the ingredients to make the thing you need or want, and can a substitute be made easily? Remember, the internet is great for recipes, even basic ones. For example, I now know how to make brown sugar from granulated sugar and molasses (which I happen to have).
If you decide you need it or MUST HAVE IT lest ye go mad:
  • Put it on a wish list. Kaboodle is a great wish list site, and you can use it to list all the things you want/need and go back and re-evaluate later to see if you still want/need it. I have done this and I find I take A LOT of things off my wish list that I thought I REALLY wanted or needed.
  • Comparison shop for price. Use the internet and store flyers.
  • What features do you really need (this usually applies on electronics/appliances)? Don't buy any more than you need just because it's "cool"! If you'll never use that feature, don't pay more for it.
  • Don't overlook thrift shops, garage sales, or eBay. Take time to look in these places before purchasing retail.
  • Put out word of mouth that you're looking for the item. You might find that someone has one they don't want, or knows where to get one inexpensively.
Above all, self control is key!

Budgeting Basics

budg·et (bŭj'ĭt): An itemized forecast of an individual's income and expenses expected for some period in the future.

Budgeting is one of the basic skills required for frugality to really become effective. Some people are overwhelmed at the prospect of a budget, but it needn't be difficult!

(I find a spreadsheet the easiest way to keep this information organized, but you can do it any way you find works for you.)

Step 1:
List all of your monthly expenses (for fluctuating expenses, go with a high estimate of what it would be every month). Leave out groceries and gas.

Step 2:
Calculate and list your monthly income.

Step 3:
Subtract your monthly expenses from your monthly income. The result is the amount leftover that you have to work with per month (i.e. spend on groceries, gas, etc).

With these very basic steps, you'll be in the know about where you actually stand with your financial situation.

I also recommend keeping track of all of your expenditures (yes, everything, even the snack from the snack machine). I have been doing this for years, and it's a wonderful tool to show me how much I SHOULDN'T be spending on certain things, and to let me know when I need to put a hold on spending for the month. It also keeps me in check when I go to the grocery store or when I want to make a purchase. It lets me know whether or not that money is actually available to me.

Check in on your bank balance weekly, so that you know a close approximation of how much is in there. This will also give you perspective on what monies are available to you.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Random Tips of the Day!

Random, but helpful tips!

- Don't wash your clothes after each wearing (excepting underwear and anything that smells or has had something dropped on it). I usually re-wear my pants once (at least) and once in a while my shirts. You can hang your clothes in the bathroom while you're showering to "steam" them clean.

- Start stashing those gifts! We get good stuff when we see it on clearance or in good condition in thrift stores or garage sales and put them away for Christmas and Birthdays. I find that book stores (B&N and Borders) have GREAT gift books in clearance, especially for kids, art enthusiasts, or people who like to cook.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Free Weekend Fun

It's coming up to the weekend (TGIF!!) and you may be looking for something to do, but saying "I'm such a poor college kid hobo, I just can't pay for this shit!". In my efforts to try to entertain my child without breaking the bank, I have discovered many a trick/tip to find free community events and entertainment.

- Look in your local newspaper (most can be found online, which negates the need to actually buy the paper) events section/calendar.
- Check your local news stations' websites for "community listings"
- Craigslist! Find your city and see what's going on in the events section.
- Go to your town's (and surrounding town's, depending on how far you're willing to go) website, or your state's tourism website. They will more than likely have listing for events that you can sift through.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Freezing and YOUR CREDIT!

Yes, you CAN freeze the following items:

- Milk! Freeze it in it's own container. Switch it to the refrigerator about two days before you'll need it, and by the time you do, it will be ready to pour. It may still have some ice chunks in it, but those will eventually melt. Shake it up before using.

- Old brown bananas! Ew, right? Well, just throw them in the freezer and pull one out about 30 minutes before you're ready to make a smoothie (reference the post "Recipes to Live By"). It will thaw just enough so that you can slit the skin with a knife and squeeeeeze it out into the blender to use as your fruit (or one of your fruits) for the smoothie.

- Pancakes! You might think they'll turn out rubbery when reheated, but I've worked on for a while, and have formulated 2 ways so that they turn out (almost) as good the second time 'round.
Method 1: place pancakes on a plate on the microwave. Heat for 20 to 30 seconds at a time, turning pancakes over between each 20 to 30 second interval. This avoids the "wetness" under the pancake (EW!) that you'd otherwise get when using the microwave.
Method 2: micro the pancakes for 30 seconds to 1 minute (depending on how many - you want to make sure there aren't any solidly frozen parts), and then place in a toaster oven (I suppose you could also use the regular toaster) for a few minutes. With this method, they'll be a little "toasted" on top, which I never find is a problem!
Yum yum, pancakes!

Check your credit report - FREE!
link to original article

I never pay for a credit report, because you really don't have to! You are entitled to three reports per year for free, one from each reporting agency.

Phone: (877) 322-8228

Fill out the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

Double or triple up on free report in these states: Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont. If you live in these states, you're guaranteed another score per year, per agency, for a total of six free reports annually. Georgia residents are guaranteed two reports per agency and year, for a total of nine free reports. (Jeez, wish PA was one of those states!)

And for the love of all that is sacred and holy, don't listen to those damn "" commercials or ads. It's not free if you have to buy something first!!