Archive for the ‘Saving’ Category

Frugal Hacks: Choosing a Hobby Wisely

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Each Tuesday, I get the opportunity to guest blog on Frugal Hacks. My specialty is the entertainment category and what could be more entertaining than exploring your hobbies and passions?

It is a goal for me this year to get my craft supplies back in order and really make some time for myself to explore the hobbies that make me happy. I love to do crafts and make gifts, but my family and the website take up the majority of my time and I don’t have the time to really devote towards crafting it up.

As you can see in my notebook entries each week, I am constantly fascinated by creating crafts and the people who have made those passions a priority.

I hope you can check out this post and share some of your own tips for organizing your craft supplies and what hobbies you are interested in doing!

Frugal Hacks: Happy New Year (On a Budget)

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

Today on Frugal Hacks, I am sharing my recipes and tips for preparing a fancy dinner at home. I put together a cost breakdown of our New Year’s feast and why dining at home can be oh-so-nice!

Thank you for sharing your New Year’s plans with us! It sounds like everyone had a fun & festive celebration planned. I hope it was wonderful and that you all had a happy and safe NYE!

Five Positive Financial Goals For the New Year (Part One)

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

As the year draws to an end, we all begin to focus on the things that we would like to change for the new year. It is a great time to be reflective and see what didn’t work for us and also to find our opportunity to make positive changes for the upcoming year. Isn’t renewal great? A chance to start fresh and to begin the year on good footing. That is the best part for me about starting a new year. Sure, I am a year older…but I am also a year wiser too! Another year to draw experience from and to begin our reflective thinking on how we can be BETTER! How amazing is that?

Here are some great ideas for making a positive change in your finances this year:

1. The Power of Positive Thinking- One way you can begin the year on good footing is to begin the year by thinking positively and trying to carry that positive thinking with you throughout the year. This is one thing that I am really going to be working on and I believe that it will improve my outlook greatly.

Looking back in the year, you can maybe see things that you didn’t do correctly. Maybe you used your credit card? Maybe you had enormous medical bills for the year? Maybe you strayed from your budget?

While you can look back on your year and kick yourself for all of your stupid financial mistakes, the simple fact is that it won’t change anything about what you did wrong….But, what you can do is look at those stupid experiences and say, “Here is how I am going to change that this year.”

The pure and simple fact is that I have made dumb financial mistakes. I took out a lot of student loans and didn’t finish school. I got a gym membership that ruined my credit history and caused me to take out high interest loans for my schooling. I borrowed against our credit cards when we had no money coming in for almost a year. My life is paved with some really stupid financial moves.

BUT! I am pulling myself up by my boot straps and I am working my tail off to make things right. I have put pen to paper and made financial goals for my family and we are working to meet those goals. I am wiser with my money now and I am making positive changes in our budget to reach the goals that we need to reach. We are beginning to see light at the end of our tunnel and it feels GOOD!

Focus on these things- not the bad! That is a goal for me this year!

2. Get Organized- I have been flipping through this month’s magazines and am beginning to see a theme into what people are looking for. This is the time of the year where we say that we want to get organized. But how does organization relate to the financial situation? To me, finances and organization go hand in hand. Without organization, my finances would be a wreck and that is why it is a continual goal for me to get my stuff in order.

Organization in your life will lead to lots of positive changes and your finances can change right along with that.

Are your bills late? Are you always losing those receipts for your reimbursements for your medical expenses? Did you misplace important tax paperwork and won’t be able to use for your deductions?

Those scenarios can be sickening, especially if those are positive amounts that could be made into your account or you are suffering from fees and higher interest rates because you can’t get your stuff in order.

Figure out how you can get things in order so that you can make these scenarios work. For your medical expenses, a three ring binder divided by months can be great for keeping track of receipts and your Explanation of Benefits. Use this to keep track of what has/has not been paid. Then if the company calls and says they never received your payment, you have your written proof that payment was sent or reimbursements weren’t made.

Start keeping a calendar with dates for important account activities or send yourself email reminders from the company for your payments. Better yet, set up automatic deductions so you don’t have to stress about whether or not your bill has been paid.

There is so much that I plan to organize this year and the magazines are proving that I am not the only one looking for answers. Getting my life in order is top priority.

3. Get Healthy- Getting healthy and losing weight are top on everyone’s priority list right now. Getting healthy is important to me and it is not only important to me because I want to feel good, but being healthy is top on my financial priorities list too.

If I can make positive changes in my activities and I can get my health issues in order, I can save myself a ton of money. I will be making less trips to the doctor, purchasing fewer prescription drugs, and I will have more energy to help with our family finances.

Getting healthy, to me, will not require spending money. I will probably be discussing this more in a future article, but I really did want to say that. When people say that they want to lose weight or get healthy, many times these scenarios involve spending money. I don’t like to spend money, so I am trying to do this through cheaper means.

This means that I will get exercise through walking or jogging outside (during the warmer months) and renting free exercise videos from the library for the cooler months. No gym memberships for me because I can get exercise for free from home.

Drinking more water is also tops on my priority list and, lucky for me, this is free!

I also did make the switch to herbal medications and have seen so many positive changes from switching to these instead of my prescriptions. These are saving me tons of money and I feel a hundred times better. While this option might not be for everyone, I am saving hundreds of dollars for our family by seeking alternative medications.

4. Relieve Stress- Stress can do a number on our bodies and my stomach is living proof of why stress is so bad for you. I am trying to reduce the amount of stress in my life and this is an important goal for me.

How does stress relate the finances? Well, if I am constantly stressed out, I find that I am in stomach pain or I don’t feel good. If I am stressed out then I find myself going out to dinner because I am too stressed/tired to cook. Maybe my stress causes depression for me or it puts a strain on my family? These scenarios are not good for a family and they aren’t good for my finances.

I find myself stressed often and the thing about it is…I put it on myself. I volunteer for everything because I want people to like me. I am a people-pleaser. I am a bend-over-and-take-it-because-everyone-needs-me kind of person, when I should be more of a, “Sorry, I can’t help you this week!” kind of person.

This doesn’t mean I am saying no to everything, but this will mean that I am going to say no. This is a really hard one for me, but I am kicking myself six days out of the week because I s
aid yes to something that I shouldn’t have.

I am going to use that time to refocus my life AND my spirit. I am trying to renew hobbies that I am missing out of my life. For example, I love to read and I never had time to do that. I want to make that time for me because reading helps relieve stress and feeds my need to connect with myself.

Other things I would like to pick back up- doing Suduko, doing yoga, and reading things that feed my spirit.

5. Reach My Financial Goals- If you haven’t sat down and wrote out your financial goals for the year, there is no time like the present. Sit down and really think about what you hope to accomplish this year.

This year, my goal is to pay off the credit card. We have been working towards this goal for almost four years now and we are now under $2K. I will pay this off this year and we will be credit card free.

As we snowball our debt, we will move our credit card payment to the cars and get those paid off next. We are not that far away from owning them, but we do have some auto repairs that will need to be done this year. Our hope is to get these taken care of so that we can enjoy our first year (next year) car payment free.

These are just a few positive financial moves that we hope to make this year. I will be sharing five more positive goals you can make, in the upcoming week, and I hope that it will inspire you for making your resolutions and goals for 2008.

New Year’s Eve for a Frugal Gal

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

We are excited that my in-laws have volunteered to keep the kids for us on New Year’s. Getting a babysitter for the holiday is tough and a sleepover at Grandma’s will insure that we get a full-fledged celebration in as a couple.

Lots of people dine out and spend oodles of money on drinks or cover charges to go to the latest hot spots in town. We spend our New Year’s at home and avoid the crowds and the drunk drivers on the road.

A few years ago, I started doing a special dinner for us to celebrate the holiday. This one night out of the year, we don’t eat our usual bargain-basement fare. No, we splurge and have delicious foods like a fabulous steak dinner with a bottle of wine. The celebration is completed with cupcakes purchased from the bakery to end our old year in a sweet way.

Maybe that doesn’t sound that exciting to others, but when you are constantly crunching numbers for your grocery budget to work, a little vacation from that can be a wonderful way to celebrate the new year. It is a bit of a splurge, but it is a lot less than a splurge would be if we went out to dinner.

If you think about it, a dinner for two with a bottle of wine would cost between $50-60 for a meal. The food might not even be superb for that price and who knows how long we would wait for a table? We certainly wouldn’t get to have seconds and service, on days like this, is typically slow and has usually left me with little to be desired. We usually are paying the tab and saying to each other, “The dinner was good, but I really love the A, B, or C that we eat at home.”

Sometimes I feel like I am running a factory here because I try to make so many of the foods that people buy. Our desire to keep our grocery budget low has taken some of the fun out of cooking for me. I will admit, that there are times where I feel like cooking is just another chore to complete for the day.

That is why, when it comes to special date nights like these, I love to splurge and purchase fun ingredients that can showcase what I can really cook. This year we will be enjoying marinated steaks with blue cheese butter, baked potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, and crusty bread.

Our evening is spent watching movies (rented from the local library) and playing our favorite board games.

No, it isn’t a wild night on the town, but it will be a wildly delicious celebration to ring in the New Year!

Sound Off: How do you keep your NYE fun and frugal?

When Do You Let Your Car Go?

Friday, December 28th, 2007

When do you decide to let your vehicle die? At what point does the fork in the road become clear? I was hopeful it would be clear after I finished paying my car off, but now I am not even hopeful that we can even make it that far. This is the closest I have ever been to owning a car, and now I am just hoping that it lasts until my last payment is over.

I have heard some squeaking going on for a long time, and we had decided it was most likely the brakes. But then we had just replaced the front brakes, so this theory wasn’t making any sense at all. I was still hopeful it was just the brakes so we figured we would replace these after the holiday season.

Then we started to hear a sound like something was dragging under the car. Ryan assured me it was probably packed ice underneath, from all of our snow, so we decided to go with that theory. After all, it was the cheapest!

My car sat in the garage for three days after the packed ice theory, melting our theory in a puddle on the garage floor. Oh no, these things can’t be quite that simple.

Our theory came to a grinding (pardon the pun!) halt that day, as the dragging sound persisted. Ryan and I rarely made eye contact. He would start to talk about it and I would look out the window. “It’s Christmas. It’s the end of the month. This isn’t the right time.”

But when are these scenarios ever the right time? When is a good time to hear a dragging sound under you car?

I took it into the shop yesterday and got a twenty minute rundown of everything wrong with the car from their technician, just an hour later. The rear brakes were shot, but worse, the calipers were cracked and broken. The cost- $575. That would have to be done today.

The car is due for its 100K tune-up ($340), the car is leaking oil and requires a new timing belt ($1,200), the front brakes have 20% left on them ($240). All of these scenarios need to be happening within the next six months in order to keep my car running smoothly.

According to my calculations though, I just need the car to run another six years so that we can pay down all of our debts. Six years seems like twenty now that I receive the estimate.

I agree to the rear brakes and then wonder what is the next best step to take. Do I ditch the car (a ’99 Subaru Outback) or do I pay up and trudge on with my goals in mind?

Despite the bleakness of this, here is what I was thankful for:

1. It is the end of the month and Ryan is only paid once a month. This is a very lean time for us, and we were able to pay for this repair out of our account without putting it on the credit card. Although I felt sick as I handed my debit card over, I knew that we had that money.

2. Here is why we had the money…I have this site. No, I don’t make enough for a full-time income, no I am not rolling in it (by any means- see above for car description for further clarification) but I am a contributer to this household. A little pipe dream paid for my beat-up Subaru to have a little surgery. That made me feel really good. I realize my husband pays for everything else, but when it comes to emergency situations like these, my paycheck is the one that pays the bills.

So we ponied up the money and I have my car back and now we are faced with the decision on how to proceed. We sat down and decided that Ryan could definitely fix the front brakes, but a new timing belt and small oil leak would need to be done by the pros. And a 100K tune-up…well, don’t all cars need that?

With ten more payments to go, do I pay up or start hunting for something else? Sound off!

WSBT-TV: Is Buying in Bulk a Better Deal?

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Today on WSBT, I shared tips for shopping wholesale. Be sure to visit my wholesale club shopping article and print out our free price book sheet for figuring out all of those prices.

Don’t have price book? Check our Price Book 101 article for tips on getting started.

Hope you guys enjoy the segments!

Frugal Hacks: Entertaining Instead of Grocery Shopping

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Today on Frugal Hacks, I share a few ways that you can bypass time at the grocery store and spend it getting ready for all of those holiday guests.

Now if only I could find a way to bypass all of the cleaning that needs to be done too!

PS- Our last family member, my dear husband, has been struck with the stomach flu. Now that we have all had it, hopefully we can enjoy the rest of the holidays without illness. Fingers crossed for quick recoveries!

Frugal Hacks: Themed Gift Baskets

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Head on over to Frugal Hacks and you can read my ideas for themed gift baskets to give for the holidays. These are one of my favorite things to give (AND to receive!) so I hope it will help spark some ideas for the gift-giving season.

Sound Off: If you could pick a gift basket to receive, what would it be filled with? Remember, Santa just might be reading!

WSBT-TV: Holiday Gift Baskets on a Budget

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

This morning’s segment is on how to create holiday gift baskets on a budget. I just love putting these together and over the years have tried to put together gift baskets with great themes in them. I am hoping to talk more about themed baskets in our Frugal Hacks segment that I am putting together for today. I will post more on this topic later!

I hope this will give you some more ideas for putting together some fun baskets for the holiday season.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Frugal Hacks: Never Miss a Christmas Show Again

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Today on Frugal Hacks, I am sharing tips for recording all of your favorite Christmas specials and movies on television this year. Who would want to miss any of their old favorites? Plus, they added some great new favorites (did anyone else love the new Shrek Christmas special?) for the year too. Be sure to check out my post so you can set those recorders for some fun family nights together!

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, we checked out some of our old favorite movies and I happened upon a movie that we had not seen before called, “The Holiday Inn.” This has become my new favorite Christmas movie and I would recommend checking it out for your family this holiday season. There is lots of great singing and dancing in this film and although there is some political incorrectness for our time period, it is an excellent movie that really made us smile! Interesting enough, it was also the inspiration for the hotel chain name…Holiday Inn.

I am curious, what is your favorite holiday movie? Do you have any obscure holiday movies that might be overlooked by most families, but that is a favorite in your house?