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Category — Frugal Living Tip

Living More Frugally By Trimming Your Monthly Expenses

Often, when people discuss living frugally, the discussion turns to saving a little extra cash by skipping that daily gourmet coffee or dining out less often. But when circumstances warrant trimming more than a few discretionary purchases, it is time to find ways to save more significantly on the monthly expenses. A close examination of one’s budget often reveals that savings, in amounts both both large and small, can be found.

1. Getting A Grip: In order to find ways to trim the budget, first one must know where the money is going. A review of spending habits over the past twelve months is helpful, as it will take into account seasonal expenses, but even a review of three months’ spending is a good starting point. Keeping a journal of every penny spent will provide a detailed perspective of any wasteful discretionary spending.

2. Look At The Big Picture: Once the household budget records are collected, start the review with the largest expenses, as they offer the largest potential savings. For most people, that means housing. By reducing housing costs, households can often trim hundreds of dollars per month from their expenses. If homeowners cannot or do not wish to downsize or move to a more affordable home, savings can still be realized by looking for a less expensive homeowner’s insurance policy, or by adopting energy saving practices to reduce utility costs. Another large expense that can often be reduced is vehicle expenses, by continuing to drive one’s current vehicle after paying it off, or choosing to purchase a pre-owned or more fuel efficient vehicle when replacing one’s current car.

3. No Savings Too Small: For recurring monthly bills, even small amounts of savings can quickly add up. For instance, by choosing a pre-paid cellular service rather than a monthly service plan, a cell phone user may save fifty or even one hundred dollars per month. While that in and of itself is a sizable savings, consider also that, over the course of a year, this snowballs into a $600 to $1200 savings! Similarly, reducing cable television subscriptions, eliminating landline phone service, and cutting subscriptions to magazines or online entertainment, can yield several hundred dollars of savings per year. Even transferring a credit card balance to an account with a more favorable interest rate can save a borrower significant interest charges.

4. Find Money At The Grocery: Many household purchases, such as food and household necessities, are essential expenses. However, how much a family spends on groceries can be significantly reduced by smart shopping at the grocery store. Clipping coupons, and then using them when the product is on sale, can add up to substantial savings on grocery bills. The recent return to popularity of coupon shopping, and the ease of printing coupons from online couponing websites, can give a household significant relief from rising grocery bills.

5. Keep Trimming The Fat: After considering the household budget and making a first round of expense cuts, commit to making a periodic review. By undertaking quarterly reviews of the household budget, additional savings opportunities may surface.

February 15, 2012   No Comments

Top 10 Things To Stock Up On Before Having House Guests

When house guests are on their way, there’s always a last minute flurry of cleaning and preparing. Don’t forget to stock up on the necessary items to make your guests feel pampered and right at home. Whether the holidays are approaching, you’ve got a family reunion coming up, or the old college gang is in town and wants to crash at your place, make sure you have these 10 things on hand to keep your house running smoothly!

1. Tissues: Putting extra people in the house means more chance of spreading the current cold or flu. Having tissues ready and waiting means your guests will keep their germs where they belong, instead of passing them on to your furniture and you.

2. Snacks: People from different households tend to have different eating habits. To ensure that no one’s getting grumpy waiting for meal time, keep a few sure to please snacks around like granola bars these snacks are no muss, no fuss, and easy to pack along for a day trip.

3. Travel Toiletries: If you really want your guests to feel special, stock up the bathroom with a variety of individual size toiletries.  It’s 4 star hotel treatment, and it keeps your personal toiletries off limits!

4. Batteries: It seems random, but more people means basic things like the remote control are going to be used more often. It never hurts to have a few extra batteries in your drawer so you don’t have to run out while your company’s around.

5. Paper towels: This one is a no-brainer. The easiest way to clean up spills and keep your home tidy is a roll of paper towels. For casual guests, you might even use them for serving up pizza instead of washing the extra plates!

6. Blankets: You never know how different people will prefer their climate. One guest is comfortable at 70 degrees while another is shivering on the couch. Having a few comfortable blankets draped on the sofa or rocking chair will help your guests feel at ease, so they don’t need to go looking.

7. Toilet paper: Does this really need explanation? Better to have some leftover after your guests leave than to run out mid-stay.

8. Towels: Some people can get away with one towel when they’re on the road. Others need a towel for their hair, one for their body, a washcloth, and a separate face towel. Don’t go in to take your shower and find out there are no towels left for you. Get a second set to spare  for your guests.

9. Magazines: No, it’s not like the doctor’s waiting room, but it never hurts to have something available for your guests to entertain themselves. You might be cooking dinner or running a quick errand. Keep your guests out of trouble with something to read  while you’re otherwise occupied.

10. Chocolate: It’s hard to argue with chocolate. You may want to put it out to share with your guests, or just keep it for yourself to de-stress once they’ve left!

January 4, 2012   No Comments

Live Large With Less

Living large does not have to mean having the fanciest house and car in the neighborhood or out doing all your friends in lavish decor within the home. Insecurities about having enough money and showing the world you do by using credit cards or digging yourself deep into debt will only result in having nothing to show for it. Live large with less by living within your means.

First time home buyers may expect to start out with a lavish home, much like their parent’s have now. What they do not understand is most likely their parents started out in a home much smaller when they bought their first home. Starting out with a smaller home, then trading up later as you build equity, helps you afford that 3 or 4 bedroom house with the spacious kitchen and large lot. Don’t feel like you are settling for less by starting out with a small cottage; envision your dream, but use logical steps to reach it.

Everyone likes to have a sleek-looking car to drive in, but when first starting out, you may want to forego that little sports car or giant SUV for a more affordable vehicle. Flashy cars not only cost more, the insurance rates are higher and SUVs take more gas to run. Living in the city you may be able to get by with mass transportation which saves you money on the upkeep and insurance for a car. If you live outside the city, purchase a good used car that has ample room for a growing family. Research the best used cars and avoid purchasing new as the depreciation rate is high for a new car.

Look for used furniture instead of buying new when starting out. Used furniture may look new, especially if people used it for living rooms or dens that were barely sat in. Some people just want to change the style of their furniture and sell perfect pieces for half what they paid for them. Look in your local paper, at garage sales or an online community bulletin board for furniture purchases.

Visit your local dollar store for cheap items for a new home or apartment. When you move into your own place there are many items you need, but you don’t necessarily need the expensive dishes or decor to make your new home special. Trash cans, clothes hampers, eating utensils, drinking glasses, wall decor and lamps are just a few of the things you can purchase cheaply that do not have to be top of the line. While skimping on some pieces you can perhaps spend a little more on a fancy bowl that catches your eye or better than average pots and pans for cooking.

Live frugally but live large at the beginning of your life’s adventures. You will thank yourself later in life.

December 14, 2011   No Comments

Festively Frugal for the Holidays

As the holiday season approaches, many among the ranks of the newly frugal may be asking themselves, “How can our family enjoy the holidays while sticking to our budget?” Gift giving, holiday meals, entertainment, and travel are a part of the season, and these tips can help keep the holidays festive AND frugal.

Generous Gifts on a Grinchy Budget: Whether it is a gift exchange at the office, or shopping for the family, gift giving can put a large dent in the budget. For those preferring to shop online, holiday promotional codes offering discounts and free shipping are often available. If a discount or promotional offer is not advertised on the site, run a quick search engine inquiry. Consider establishing a designated email account to receive discounts and coupons, then sign up at your favorite retailers for their e-newsletters, special offers or mobile coupons. Have a credit card or travel rewards program membership? Those points or credits can often be converted into gift cards, which then can be gifted or used to purchase gifts without paying out of pocket.

Festively Frugal Feasting: Hosting the holiday meal? Instead of making one large trip to the market, start early, adding a handful of shelf-stable items each week. By late October, grocery displays include holiday items such as cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin, baking staples and gravy. Make sure to clip the coupons from the Sunday paper, and use them to purchase sale items to increase your savings. By spreading out the purchases over several trips, you can avoid the sticker shock of having to stock up all at once!

Economical Entertainment: Take advantage of free local gatherings. Many cities and towns host holiday parades, town
tree lightings, concerts, and cultural performances. For outdoor events, bring your own thermos of hot chocolate and
candy canes and avoid spending on pricier treats. Invite family and friends to a holiday movie marathon, or host an open house and invite guests to bring their favorite holiday comfort foods.

Thrifty Travel: To find the best holiday travel deals, start as early as possible and comparison shop. Does the destination require air travel, or is it feasible to drive or take a train? Avoiding peak travel periods, even by shifting the travel dates by only a day or two, can result in large savings. It may also be less expensive to stay in a central location and take advantage of public transportation, rather than incurring rental car expenses. Save on hotel expenses by staying with family or friends, or perhaps arrange a house swap. Another savings benefit of finding accommodations with kitchen facilities is that it reduces dining expenses.

Reducing holiday spending does not have to be daunting. By following these frugal tips, a budget savvy holiday season is just around the corner!

December 12, 2011   1 Comment

Saving Money Through Conservation

Times are hard for everyone, and people are looking for ways to save money. Many techniques involve doing things yourself or doing without, but there are many things that a home owner can be done that will not feel to be a sacrifice and will result in a noticeable savings, not just now but for years to come.

Increasing the shade around your house will keep the house cooler in the summer and decrease power use for both the homeowner and the rest of the community. Plant shade trees in the spring in locations where they will eventually provide shade to south facing windows will reduce the amount spent by the homeowner on electricity. To further increase savings, the homeowner should make one or more rain barrels. Fifty-five gallon barrels can be purchased used for a minimal amount of money anywhere and after cutting a hole in the top and attaching a spigot at the base can be placed under drain spouts to catch the water falling off of the roof. One inch of rain will fill a barrel this size and then can be later used to water the trees planted for shade.

Another way to save money by lowering electrical bills is to install a hot water timer. By turning off the power to the hot water heater for up to 18 hours a day, a timer will reduce the electrical use of the most power hungry appliance by 75 percent or more without affecting the service provided by the heater. A timer can be installed using just a screwdriver and pliers and takes less than an hour to complete.

In many parts of the country, governments are tasking people to reduce waste, even going so far as to charge for trash collection by the amount of trash picked up. Recycling is a common way to reduce the amount of trash processed and sent to landfills, but an additional task to consider is composting. Almost 50 percent of all household trash is compostable; plant matter, vegetable matter, fruit, paper towels, toilet paper rolls, dryer lint, and egg shells are all very good compost material although any other animal product, meat, fats, bones, should be avoided as should any bodily waste from any animal that eats meat. The compost bin can be as simple as a basic pile or as complex as a rotating drum, but the end result will be the same: rich organic material ready to add to gardens and plants that will eliminate the need for potting soil and commercial fertilizers.

As the need to cut costs and stretch the household dollar becomes more critical, much can be done that involves changes in attitudes and practices and that have the added benefit of helping the environment. Regardless of why a homeowner makes these changes, they become a win-win scenario for the homeowner, the community, and the environment.

December 1, 2011   No Comments

Frugal Living in the Holiday Season

The holidays can be an expensive time for anyone. With the economy gone so far south, many are wondering if its possible to have as nice a holiday season as in years past. The short answer is that it is possible to be frugal and have a great holiday season, with just some forethought and ingenuity.

First, sit down and think about priorities. This doesn’t just mean reminding yourself of the “reason for the season,” but also deciding what you really want out of the holidays. In all the planning and prepping, would you rather have a fantastic sit-down dinner with family or take a great vacation? What gifts do your recipients <i>really</i> want more than anything else? Keeping your priorities in mind will help make sure your limited resources go where you really want them to.

Next, look at ways to scale down what you already do:

1. Instead of sending a heap of Christmas cards, send e-cards instead. You can also send postcards, which are much cheaper to mail, or hand-deliver cards to people you’ll see in person during the holiday season.

2. Buy gift wrap at dollar stores instead of high-end gift shops, where it’s usually the same quality, or giveifts packaged very simply. A nice bow or gift bag can be just as pretty as lots of paper wrapping.

3. For parties, try having a potluck with friends instead of buying all the food yourself. You’ll usually end up with some great recipes and conversation trays.

4. Instead of buying a bunch of expensive decorations, use nature for inspiration. Collect pine cones to make ornaments or wreaths, along with pine boughs or a brightly-colored poinsettia. If you have kids, sit down one afternoon and make your decorations. Paper snowflakes decorated with glitter look lovely in a nighttime window.

There are other ways to save money and still have a nice holiday season. If you’re exchanging gifts with a large family, consider a “Secret Santa” drawing instead of everyone purchasing gifts for the whole group. If you’re the crafty type, try making a few of your gifts. Even non-crafty people can put together a gift basket with things like popcorn, a DVD, and hot cocoa, or other items. Gift baskets are great for couples, kids, and co-workers.

You can also save money on entertainment and travel by thinking creatively. Instead of paying entrance fees for skiing or ice rinks, go sledding instead, even if you don’t have kids. Adults can have just as much fun as kids when hurtling down a snowy slope together.

If you’re traveling for the holidays, try alternative transportation, like a train ride, rather than paying for airfare or gas. Stay with friends or family instead of in an expensive hotel. Plan ahead as much as possible to avoid paying holiday prices for your trip.

Being frugal doesn’t have to mean having a stringent holiday season. With these tips and your own creativity, have fun this holiday season without breaking the bank.

November 24, 2011   No Comments

Bartering In Order to Save Money

In these difficult economic times, people are looking to save money in a variety of ways. One of the best ways to live frugally is to barter for goods and services whenever possible. Bartering is the act of exchanging goods and services without using money.

During the Great Depression in the 1930′s, bartering was common. Many people would pay their doctor’s bills with eggs and milk from the family chickens or cows. Other people paid their bills in produce. For a time, bartering fell out of popularity. However, the practice is making a comeback. How would you barter with someone for goods and services? For example, you may want to have your lawn cut, but you cannot cut it yourself. You may also not have the money to pay someone to cut it either. In such a case, you might think about trading services in exchange for having your lawn cut. Perhaps you would be willing to make and decorate a cake instead of paying money. In this case, the cake is what you are willing to barter.

If you have a tight-knit community or a support network of family and friends, you may not have any problem-finding people with whom to barter. In fact, you may have already been bartering and not actually known it! If you do not have a support network or if you do not live in a tight knit community, it may be more difficult to find people who are willing to barter with you. However, it can be done.

One of the best ways to find people willing to barter is to search online. There are actually many different bartering forums that exist in order to help introduce people to each other and to educate people about the practice. One such site is called SwapAce. Here, you can trade goods and services, learn more about bartering, and learn how to improve your negotiating skills. Another way to find people willing to barter with you is to advertise on Craigslist or other similar sites. If you own your own business and want to barter with other businesses for goods and services, you may want to join a group like ITEX. Bartering for services can actually help you to get your business up and running without using a lot of capital.

Of course, it is important to mention that you should take precautions and be careful when joining any online group or participating in a group online. Before joining the group, it is important to read over the rules and to obey them.

Although it may take you some time to find a person will to barter for goods and services, most people who barter say that the effort and time is well worth it. Take some time to look into bartering and join the ranks of those who enjoy living frugally.

November 18, 2011   1 Comment

Tired of the F Word? Then Let’s Get With the W Word!

Frugal, or the F word, has beaten down so many people dealing with this awful economy that more and more people are searching for ways to use Win, or the W word. Facebook questions about what to do on a day off with no money can get answers like window shop for fall fashions, feed the ducks in the park, or search online for silly jokes. Sometimes, though, it’s not about having no money, but about ideas. Stress over today’s economy has affected people and left them dazed, so ideas are a commodity in great demand right now.

Remember What Fun Means?

Somewhere around us all is a college. Watch those kids and you’ll see thousands of them having fun on no money at all. They live on a strict budget because once their classes are paid for, they have little left, aside from donations from their families, to live on. You’ll see them sitting under trees on campus talking, walking around the river or lake nearby, cruising the mall or playing ball after their classes. They are spending time together, shaking off worries and stress by socializing with friends. These kids share ideas using sites such as collegenet.com, which not only gives them a forum, it makes them feel less alone. Win.

Group Hug

Online research will net the stressed out ideas offered by families plus those who read the site, then send in their own ideas. Sites like simpledollar.com take an idea for a “no money at all” weekend and turn it into what is fast becoming a family tradition. And a good one it is, too, for individuals and families have forgotten what it feels like when people concentrate on each other. Zeroes in the checkbook doesn’t give people a warm and fuzzy like shared laughter and hugs do. Win.

Going Green – Literally

Have you ever wondered what the Earth looked like before mankind happened to it? What did the trees look like, what did truly pure water look like, taste like and sound like? Could you eat snow without getting sick from its passage through the atmosphere? Well, grab a tent, my green friend, but before you do, check out survivalspot.com and click on How to Live on Virtually No Money. The piece includes articles written about people getting back to nature, but literally. These folks are an inspiration to us all. Win.

The stress of everyday life, not to mention everyday life in an economy gone severely south, can kill people. It makes them ill in a hundred ways, but they never understand why. Ditching the causes of the stress, even for a weekend with those we love, can save our lives and bring us closer to each other. Sharing ideas with those suffering equally extends the caring while possibly generating more, and possibly better, ideas. In the end, that’s what it’s all about – helping each other, caring and sharing with each other. So forget the F word and get out there and win.

August 30, 2011   No Comments

Hosting Home Parties to Save and Earn Money

When you’re trying to save money and to embrace a frugal lifestyle, there may be many challenges that you face. Fret not. Here are a few ways to save money will still enjoying your favorite products and services. Host an in-home party and get your friends in on the action. You’ll find a lot more money in your wallet at the end of the month.

Have a Clothing Swap Party
This idea works especially well for families with babies or young children who outgrow their clothes quickly. Gather your gently used clothing and accessories and invite a few of your friends to your home to do the same. Give each party-goer a tag with a number equal to the amount of pieces they contributed to the party. Then swap your clothes for their duds, and get an almost-new pair of shoes for your little ones. Host a clothing swap party at the end of each season and gear up on clothes and accessories for the next few months. You will be surprised at the treasures that can be found in your friends’ closets.

Have a Toy Swap Party
The same concept as the clothing swap, the toy swap party will save you hundreds of dollars on new toys. Dust off those dolls and give those teddy bears a new fluffing and put them on display at your toy swap party. Tired of the same song from your baby’s crib mobile? He’ll enjoy a new tune and a change of scenery when you get a new one at your swap party. Invite the children to participate and make a fun day out of it.

Host a Craft Party
Are you good at making soap? Do you have a friend that’s a whiz at baking or one that sews beautiful aprons? Host a craft party in your home and have fun while earning a few extra dollars on the side. Set up your living room to resemble a boutique display table and allow your “vendors” to sell their wares. Serve light refreshments and pocket some extra cash in the process. Collect one freebie from each of your guests as their “vendor fee.” Craft parties are great at any time of the year, but are especially popular during the holiday season when people are shopping for gifts for friends and family.

Host a Spa Day
Tired of spending hundreds of dollars every month on spa treatments, manicures, pedicures and hair-styling?
Purchase low-cost bottles of nail polish, facial masques, and makeup. Treat yourself and your friends to a day of pampering and skip the salon. Try out different styles and colors and experiment from the comfort of your living room. As an admission fee, ask each guest to bring their favorite nail polish or makeup to share with the group. A spa day is a great way to bond with your friends without the expense of the salon. No tip necessary!

Hosting a home party is a great way to enjoy the company of friends while saving money on clothing, toys and beauty treatments. With just a small investment of time and space, you can save hundreds of dollars every month while enjoying your favorite luxuries.

August 25, 2011   No Comments

How to Live Within Your Means

Many people find it hard to survive in a stunted economy while inflation flourishes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not impossible. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to live within your means. You need to set up a budget and stick to it. This way, when you’re in a bind, you won’t be wondering how you’re going to pay for that emergency car repair or medical bill.

A good rule of thumb to live by would be to split up your earnings into categories. Only 30% or less of the money you take home should go toward rent or a mortgage. You should always put 10% away in your savings account to build your retirement, and you should only dip into your savings in an emergency. The last 60% of your income should go toward other bills, food, gas, and entertainment. Entertainment is the last on the list for a reason. It is not a necessity. You should always make sure your money goes toward necessities and savings first. If there happens to be any money left over, you can play. Otherwise, find fun free activities.

In order to follow this budget, you have to save money on everything possible and sometimes just not spend at all. First think about your dwelling place. Is this as cheap as you can rent? Maybe there is another apartment a few blocks away that is $100 cheaper. If you have a mortgage, ask your lender if you can get a lower interest rate. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. If you are able to sell your house and not lose on it, try downsizing. Downsizing is hard because you end up having to get rid of some of your stuff, but it can be invigorating to throw out or give away the items that you really don’t need or use. The other positive side to having a smaller place is that you’ll end up saving even more money because you’ll be less likely to buy more stuff. You know you don’t have the space to put any of it.

Next, figure out how you can lower any of your other bills, like electricity. Only use high-powered electrical devices if you really need to. Set your AC thermostat to one degree higher and you’ll save quite a chunk of change each month. Put your electronics on a power strip so you can turn it all off at once when you’re not using any of it. Does your trash company have the lowest price in town? If not, switch companies. You shop around for all the things you buy, why not shop around for your bills, too? You can save lots per year by shopping around for gas prices. If you have a commute, figure out where the cheapest gas station is along your route and stop every other day to fill up.

Remember to save before you spend and you’ll never be in a pinch when that imminent emergency takes place.

August 23, 2011   No Comments