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.