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The Frugal Duchess: Recovering My Frugal Groove



From Sharon Harvey Rosenberg: A Return to Frugal Living



Updated: 2018-01-31T11:11:46.185-05:00

 



From the Vault: 5 Things to Do When You Get Bored With Being Frugal

2014-07-09T20:56:31.844-04:00

My frugal hobby: snapping photos with my iPhone. Digital photography can be low-cost activity for those times when I am bored and looking to spend some quality time without spending a lot of money. But sometimes, the frugal path can be boring. Fortunately, I've found some inspiration in a post I wrote a while ago:5 Things to Do When You Get Bored With Being FrugalTurn off the lights. Check the receipt. Clip the coupons. And so on....Being frugal can get old and boring after a bit. It's like adding 1 + 1. The answer is simple. Frugal living boils down to one principal: Save more than you make, and the rest is just commentary. But boredom is dangerous. When I get bored with being thrifty, it's easier to fall of the thrift wagon. Here's how I keep frugal living real and fresh.1. Pay Attention. When I'm fully engaged -- really connected to the here-and-now -- I'm constantly learning and acquiring new insights. When I look for frugal lessons and metaphors on bus rides or radio commercials, the creative spark prompts me to save more money.2. Check Financial Statements: Reviewing bank statement provides a reality check. If the account looks good, I'm encouraged and energized. If the account is anemic, I've scared myself out of a few frivolous shopping trips.3. Call Frugal Friends: There are certain friends -- online and in-person -- who really inspire me to save. A conversation with them is like a booster shot.4. Review Goals: A periodic review of financial and personal goals, usually provides fuel for another savings drive. I am instantly reminded of my plans to build an emergency fund, college savings accounts, a retirement nest egg and even an account for vacations.5. Invest in Small Treats: Well-timed luxuries provide safeguards against binge spending. For example, my almost daily servings of organic blueberries fills me with a sense of wealth and well-being, and those feelings make me less likely to binge spend. Consider this post: Why Organic Blueberries Make Me Feel Rich [...]



Frugal Mail Escort: Date Night With My Unopened Letters

2014-07-08T22:39:34.733-04:00

This is an open letter to the unopened mail in my home.Dear Mailbox and Letter Piles:Yes. I am ignoring you. You’re full of it. It being: bills, checks, notices, warning letters and coupons and other junk. I am addressing our relationship because dealing with unopened mail is the fourth item on my list of 14 Declarations of Financial Independence.Where do I begin? In general, I could talk about the different types of anxietiesand avoidance issues that can prompt anyone to avoid dealing with mail. But let’s not go there right now.Let’s be frugal with our time, and focus on solutions to the alienation that has developed between me and you—my dear unopened mail.Can this relationship be saved? I think so.  Let’s start with a date night. How about tonight? I’ll meet you at the mailbox. Then we can move to the bar stools in my apartment. I’ll make time and space to deal with my mail problems. Plus, there could be possible bonuses. Every letter could spell financial savings and redemption.So let’s commit to this:·         Steady dates with the unopened mail in my life.·         A concerted effort to locate the problem, get to the bottom of the pile and to sort through the issues.·         A promise to open up and be accountable.And let’s be real, and keep our options open. I want to be free to explore other mail options, including additional electronic bill-paying services. Sincerely,SharonDay 8 Lesson: I can address my anxieties.  ______________ Here's how to buy my book: @ Amazon.com@ Barnes & Noble@ Borders@ Target.com [...]



5 Banking Tips From Ronda Rousey's TKO UCF Victory

2014-07-07T21:33:47.259-04:00

Ronda Rousey — a  mixed martial arts boxer (pictured left) — throws a mean punch, and her July 6 bout is a spot-on demonstration of the knockout power of NSF (non-sufficient funds) and overdraft fees.I am not a mixed martial arts fan, but I learned a lot about frugal living from watching Rousey's recent performanceHere are 5 things I learned about NSFs and other bank fees:1.  Speed and stealth are powerful weapons. 16 seconds. That's all the time it took, for Rousey to knock out Alexis Davis, her opponent.The speed of the July 5 UCF battle reminded me about the speed in which fees and finance charges can hit my account if I'm not careful. I also need to be mindful of my own spending. I can be a speed shopper and technically knockout my own financial well-being.2. Watch the balance. The first few seconds of the MMA fight foretold a long exchange of punches: round after round.But after about 8 seconds Davis lost her balance — thanks to a strategic maneuver from Rousey — and the fight was cut short and ruled a knockout. From that martial arts moment, I learned the importance of maintaining a healthy financial balance. 3.  Know your opponent.  Rousey is an Olympic Judo Champion, my oldest son told me. If I faced Rousey in the ring, (heaven forbid), I would be very wary of her ability to pull off a Judo flip.  Constant high alert!Likewise, I need to know and be mindful of the rules and regulations that govern my financial accounts. 4. Know when you’re hit and hurt.  After the knockout, Rousey's dazed opponent was not aware of what hit her or the fact that the bout had even started.Her experience is a cautionary tale about concussions.And it's also a pointed reminder of the danger of financial pitfalls. It's possible to stumble so hard and so quickly that we may not even realize that overdraft fees and NSF charges have inflicted serious danger on our financial well-being.5. Be open to lessons from the universe. Boxing is not my sport. But I earned a handsome bonus by keeping an open mind when my oldest son asked me to watch the match with him.We can find life and finance lessons in unusual classrooms and from unlikely teachers.Day 7 Lesson: We're all teachers and students. Every moment offers an opportunity for growth and recovery.That's what I believe...and you?______________ Here's how to buy my new book: @ Amazon.com@ Barnes & Noble@ Borders@ Target.com [...]



Sweeping the Floor, Sweeping Away Late Fees

2014-07-06T14:27:06.333-04:00

Freedom from late fees tops my 14 Declarations of Financial Independence. And I've found one frugal path to financial freedom after sweeping the white tile floors in my apartment. I see money-saving connections between sweeping, bill-paying and late fees.Daily SweepI have to sweep every day or else face increasing tracks of dust and dirt. Likewise, financial management is a daily chore and failure to pay bills on time can leave dirty tracks on my credit record and a trail of expensive late-fee penalties. You can rack up late fees from:Mortgage or  rental payments.Overdue library books.Credit-card paymentsUtility bills.Cable contracts.Store charges.Most of us don't plan to create a pile of late fees. But life happens, and any kind of life event or unexpected expense can knock us flat. And it doesn't seem fair that when we're hard-pressed to pay bills, we can also face higher charges in late fees--which makes it still harder to pay. It's a vicious cycle.  But there are money-saving options.Here's what sweeping taught me about late fees: Reduce tracks and footprints: One dog owner in my apartment building places red outdoor booties on his dog to cut back on the amount of dirt that his pet tracks into the apartment. Other folks keep a welcome mat by the door or have a ban on shoes in the home. These steps cut the amount of dirt that enters the home from outside. The same principle applies to fees. I can reduce late fees by cutting back on how much stuff or services I track into the home.Sweep often: Household chores like clearing clutter and sweeping floors work best with constant discipline, including clean-and-tidy rituals in the morning and evening. Likewise, financial discipline is more than a once-a-month, weekly or even once-a-day ritual. With moment-to-moment vigilance, I can cut back on fees.Find better tools: I should buy a better broom. My sweeping duties are made more difficult by an older broom and an inefficient dust pan. An electric broom or a vacuum cleaner with useful attachments would make it easier for me to clear away dust from the floor and corners of my home. Likewise, there are a variety of financial apps and electronic tools that can help me track my finances and automate savings.Day 6 Lessons: I can sweep away dirt, dust and costly financial fees.______________ Here's how  my book: @ Amazon.com@ Barnes & Noble@ Borders@ Target.com [...]



My 14 Frugal Declarations of Financial Independence

2014-07-06T14:43:40.765-04:00

In honor of the 2014 Fourth of July, I've penned :


14 Frugal Declarations of Financial Independence


I declare myself free from the tyranny of:

  1. Late fees.
  2. Overdraft or NSF penalties.
  3. Disorganization and clutter.
  4. Unopened mail.
  5. Unrealistic expectations about costs, deadlines and income.
  6. Mindless or forgotten automatic monthly charges and subscriptions.
  7. Anxiety.
  8. Thoughtless purchases.
  9. The need to impress others.
  10. Multitasking.

    I declare myself free to:

  1. Open an online savings account.
  2. Establish a Roth IRA with some of my retirement savings.
  3. Carefully invest in a classic wardrobe.
  4. Break free from the tyranny of paycheck-to-paycheck living.

In  my next 14 posts, I will write about a different declaration with insights from experts and others.

Day 5 Lesson: I can create liberty and independence with a financial plan.

What's on your declaration of independence?



______________ Here's how to buy my book:
(image)
@ Amazon.com@ Barnes & Noble@ Borders@ Target.com



No Dixie Cups in My House...Saving Money With Glass Jars

2014-07-02T21:03:18.795-04:00

There are no Dixie Cups in my home for political, financial and environmental reasons. I am saving money by using recycled glass jars instead of paper cups.

Here's how it works: After I finish up spaghetti sauce, pickles or whatever, I run the empty container through the dishwasher. Recycled and re-purposed old glass jars become new drinking cups, and I have dozens of them. And that means, I'm saving a small bit of the environment and saving money.

A package of 450 5-ounce cups costs about $22. If each person in my family uses 2 cups a day, here's the math:

  • 2 cups x 4 people = 8 cups a day or 56 cups a week.
  • 56 cups x 4 weeks = 224 cups a month.
  • 224 cups a month x 12 months = 2,688 cups a year.
  • 2,688 divided by 450 cups in a package = 5.97 packages.
  • 6 packages x $22 = $132 


So I am saving $132 a year by avoiding paper cups of any brand, especially Dixie Cups--which are affiliated with the Koch Brothers. (I can stand my economic and environmental ground by shopping carefully.) We can all vote with our dollars and good sense. And I vote to save money and save the environment.

Lesson 4 from my frugal recovery: Do the math. Small savings can make a big difference.



______________ Here's how to buy my book:
(image)
@ Amazon.com@ Barnes & Noble@ Borders@ Target.com



Saving Money With Recycled Glass

2014-07-01T20:40:24.701-04:00

When it comes to saving money, I should give myself more credit. That's the clear-cut frugal message from more than 50 recycled glass jars in my kitchen. Those containers once held: spaghetti sauce, pickles, olives, mayonnaise and other stuff.I started saving glass jars because the ocean-front place where I used to live did not have recycling bins. After emptying and washing the jars, I started storing the glass with a plan to find a nearby recycling collection bin. Ha! I did this once or twice, but let me tell you: carting around large bags of glass jars is very hard work.But in the meantime, I discovered that glass jars have many money-saving uses that are also eco-friendly. Here are a few:Measuring cups: My favorite glass jars come from the Farmer's Garden brand by Vlasic Pickles. The pickles are tasty, and the glass container has measurement markings, which come in handy when I am cooking. The same type of 26-fl. oz jar sells for $2.95 each at some specialty stores. And that's without the pickles. Trendy drinking jars: There's a popular bar in South Beach that serves drinks in old jars. I also set a festive table with an assorted variety of recycled jars.Pen and marker holders: We store school supplies in empty jars. (Please see photo to the left.)Emergency cash bank:  We toss loose change in to jars. This type of bank is always open for deposits and withdrawals.Random uses:  Storage of seedlings, flowers, toys and buttons. How much have I saved with the recycled jars? Stay tuned tomorrow for calculations.Day 3 Frugal Lesson:  With clarity, examine and celebrate your frugal successes. My recycled jars remind me that despite the setback in my frugal lifestyle, I have had some financial victories. ______________ Here's how to buy my book:@ Amazon.com@ Barnes & Noble@ Borders@ Target.com [...]



Time Crunch; Money Crunch

2014-06-30T21:49:11.679-04:00

I am a blur in a financial relay race. In the first leg of the race, a shortage of time led to the second leg of the race: a shortage of dollars. And faced with a time crunch,  I passed the baton and  took expensive shortcuts.Here's how my time crunch sprinted into a money crunch:Step One: One night, low on time and energy, I fixed a frozen pizza and made a fresh salad for dinner.Step Two: Running even lower on time and energy, I bought a bag of pre-washed, pre-cut salad and a frozen pizza.Step Three: (Weeks later) I called the neighborhood pizza place and ordered a takeout meal: a large pie and a gourmet salad.Step Four: Too exhausted to stand in line for takeout, I had a pizza and salad delivered to my home. The bill included a delivery charge and a tip for the driver.Step Five: Six weeks later: I was eating out or ordering in several times a week.My personal finance intervention has involved a slower pace and deliberate meal planning. Slowing down gives me time to plan frugal menus based on weekly supermarket sales. Here's my new process:Step One: Write a one-week menu plan based on ingredients that I already own and the sale items listed in the weekly flyer.Step Two: Shop for groceries on Sunday afternoon.Step Three: Cooking marathon. Yesterday, for example, I prepared several main dishes for the work week ahead: spaghetti and meatballs, a large pot of vegetable-and-bean soup, rice and beans (from scratch). Victory at the finish line: Tonight -- one day after my cooking marathon --  fixing dinner was a snap. I even had time to blog and bake cookies.Lesson 2 from my frugal recovery: Time is worth way more than money..______________ Here's how to buy my book: @ Amazon.com@ Barnes & Noble@ Borders@ Target.com [...]



Finding My Inner Cheapskate (Again!)

2014-06-29T12:51:09.506-04:00


Stuff happens. Life happens. And setbacks are inevitable, especially when  it comes to frugal habits, money and savings. So I don't think I'm alone in confessing that I've fallen off the frugal path.  And I won't be alone as I try to build up my savings and rebuild healthier financial habits.

I'm not alone. I have emotional support from my family and a few good friends. Plus, in this space, I have public accountability to help with my personal accounting.

Please follow my new online journal as I adjust my personal balance statements.

As the Frugal Duchess, I am confident that I will find my frugal groove--again! My inner cheapskate is in there--somewhere. You can help me find my way back by sharing your favorite money-saving strategies and your efforts to recover from financial setbacks.

Day One Lesson:  Self-awareness, honesty and accountability are the first steps toward recovery.

So what do you think?

_____________ Here's how to buy my book:
(image)
@ Amazon.com@ Barnes & Noble@ Borders@ Target.com



Visit Me on Twitter

2012-08-06T22:13:55.635-04:00

With only 140 characters,  I have become very frugal with words. Please follow me on Twitter -  @frugalduchess.

BTW, I am now researching a  nonfiction book about Athletes and Mental Health. Watch this space for more details. Thanks, Sharon

_____________ Here's how to buy my book:
(image)
@ Amazon.com@ Barnes & Noble@ Borders@ Target.com



How to Trim Fat From the Family Budget

2009-09-25T18:47:54.046-04:00

Small changes have reduced electrical charges in my home. On a year-over-year basis, we have used 20 percent less electricity due to two minor adjustments. We have switched most of the light bulbs to compact florescent bulbs (CFLs), an energy-saving option. Additionally, during the day and vacations, we turn off the water heater, a move that generates cool savings.(photo by Yael Rosenberg)Those are just a few of the ways of finding additional space in a tight budget, according to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) of Palm Beach County, Fla., and the Treasure Coast. How do you cut the fat if your budget is already lean? A reality check will help you write smaller checks for household bills, according to the folks at CCCS."Successful saving starts with a realistic look at how you are spending money now and what changes you can realistically make," said Jessica Cecere, president of CCCS.For example, consumers can cut electric bills by $50 or more by washing clothes in cold water, using energy-efficient bulbs and installing a programmable thermostat, Cecere said. Here are other recommended changes:•Trim salon visits. It's possible to save several hundreds of dollars annually with do-it-yourself haircuts, manicures and pedicures. If you're hooked on salon pampering, stretch out visits to the professionals with home-grooming sessions.•Free movies. Libraries and community centers are a source of free movie rentals. One credit counseling client saved $20 to $40 every month by borrowing movies from the library. Another option: Set up an informal movie library with friends, neighbors and co-workers.•Review monthly expenses. Periodically review automatic bill-paying charges, credit card statements and other monthly bills. Automatic debits may include gym fees, vacation clubs, publications or other subscription services that you may no longer use, according to CCCS. Scan bills for overcharges and other errors.•Go green. Energy efficient appliances use less energy and save money over the life of the product. In my home, we were surprised to learn that our old refrigerator and stove were energy hogs. Likewise, a CFL bulb uses 75 percent less energy than a standard light bulb and last 10 times longer, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. [...]



Currency Exchange & Other Tricks to Save More Money

2009-09-21T17:58:07.655-04:00

Currency exchange is a thrifty tool in my home. To save money, my 11-year-old daughter has swapped five single dollars for a five-dollar-bill and has traded up for even larger denominations. She uses the larger bills to preserve capital.“When I see smaller bills, I think I have more money to spend,” my daughter said, adding that it’s tempting to buy treats with single dollars. “I’m not going to buy a chocolate bar with a $20 bill.”It’s a numbers game that we all play with our budgets and wallets. In fact, banks, financial planners and marketing gurus have launched a variety of programs built on different savings techniques. Here are a few of my favorite money-saving tricks.•Loose change: Bank of America has a “Keep the Change Program,” in which purchases made with a debit card are rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference is transferred from the customer’s checking account into a savings account. My do-it-yourself version of that program is simple. Just toss your loose change into a jar every day and watch the coins accumulate. It’s a painless way to create additional savings.•Dollar matching: While saving for a home, my brother created an unusual program. For every dollar he spent, he placed 20 percent of the purchase amount into a savings account. That system helped to create a nest egg for his first home. Other savers recover from frivolous purchases with a dollar-for-dollar transfer into a savings account. This dollar-matching strategy discourages careless expenditures and forces you to cut fat from the budget in order to fund the matching transfer.•Pause button: Whether shopping for clothes or cars, cooling-off periods can eliminate impulse purchases. Some families hit a 24-hour pause button when considering merchandise over a certain dollar amount. I’ve also met shoppers who use the checkout line to debate the necessity of smaller items in their cart.Related Posts:10 Creative Ways to Save Money: Bank Survey6 Ways I Scam Myself into Savingphoto credit: Sharon Harvey Rosenberg [...]



Rosh HaShannah: New Year Greetings From an Ironing Board

2009-09-18T19:02:18.413-04:00

We can iron out past wrinkles in money, relationships and clothing. That's what I learned as I ironed clothing for Rosh HaShannah, the New Year on the Hebrew calendar.Even if you don't celebrate the holiday, September is still a time of beginnings and renewal, including a new school year, a post-Labor Day cycle on Wall Street and changes in leaf colors.Long before I converted to Judaism, I always felt a shift in September. Here's what I learned while ironing garments this September.1. Restoration: Wrinkles can be removed from shirts, relationships and money. The process requires time, tools and enough heat.2. Execution: It's a cliche. But it's so true: Anything worth doing, is worth doing well. If I'm balancing my checkbook, reading a story to a child or ironing a blouse, it's important to give my best to the moment and the task. We only have the present moment, everything else is an illusion.3. Housework: Don't overlook the value of housework. Sweeping floors is important. Washing clothes is valuable, and ironing creates value. Household chores represent an investment in our personal space. What's more, the process can create a valuable meditative exercise in humility and patience.4. Frugal values: It was tempting to go shopping for new clothes for the new year. But time and budget restraints detoured my shopping trips. Instead, I plugged in the iron and pressed dress clothes that were laundered. With the investment of time and heat, all of the garments --including my sons' dress shirts -- looked near-new. I also found shirts, skirts and jackets that I had forgotten about.5. Pay attention: I burned the thumb on my left hand in a moment of carelessness. My hand was on the iron, but my mind was elsewhere. Likewise, I have made financial and personal mistakes through reckless actions. Time has taught me to pay attention to duties, responsibilities, commitments and my higher self.Rosh HaShannah is a time of apology. I offer a heartfelt apology to anyone I may have injured through carelessness, thoughtfulness, bitchiness or other moments of insecurity or inconsideration.6. Do for others: This afternoon, I applied a hot iron to garments for my entire family. It's not enough for me to look pressed and cleaned; my family should also benefit from my work. It's the same with money and health. I enhance my own wealth when I share with my extended family and community. It's not enough for me to have health insurance; it's important that we all benefit from wellness, preventive medicine and cures.I wish everyone a sweet New Year, filled with healthy new beginnings, universal love and peace. And of course, universal healthcare. L'Chaim...To Life!!L'Shannah Tovah! [...]



Kiplinger.com: 7 Lessons From the Financial Meltdown

2009-09-16T21:17:57.314-04:00

(image)
In this guest post, Kiplinger.com offers 7 Lessons from the Meltdown, including:

"1) Where's the money? You'd better know—literally. The reported $50-billion swindle orchestrated by Bernard Madoff and other fleece jobs should put to rest the notion that you can get rich from unpublicized investment opportunities unavailable to mere mortals. If you give any adviser discretion to buy and sell investments without your prior go-ahead, you must demand to know where your money sleeps.

2) Cash is never trash. True, you'll never get rich earning 1% a year in a money-market fund. But that's no reason to insult a larger-than-usual cash reserve. The beauty of cash in times like these isn't that it protects you from losses in stocks and other stuff, although it does do that. The lure of cash is that it enables you to pick up investments on sale. Gobs of quality stocks fell more than 50% but have now risen substantially in the last six months. You couldn't buy them unless you had some money in reserve.

3) Wild swings over short periods are the new normal. How many times in the past year and a half have the market and sector averages fallen hard one day and soared the next? Or bounced more than 1% up and down several times during the same day's trading? "Fire, ready, aim" describes how traders act today. Don't expect any change soon, if ever.

4) Don't deify those who warned about losses. Few people who get paid to predict the market's fluctuations get it right. However, if you have an adviser who isn't habitually negative but urged you to switch more into cash and Treasuries a year ago, then you should shower him or her with praise. Sending over a nice bottle of wine or a bouquet of flowers would be an appropriate thank-you gesture."

Here's the link: For the other financial meltdown lessons.



Cheap Cleanup: Washing the Stove & Tiles With Vinegar

2009-09-14T23:20:40.094-04:00

You don't have to spend a lot for eco-friendly household and personal care products. I use vinegar and water to sanitize my home without the expense or waste of harsher chemicals. Beyond toss salads, I use white vinegar for the following cleaning duties:•Kitchen surfaces: With two capfuls of vinegar and a half cup of water, I have cleaned and polished a white enamel stovetop. The homemade solution cut through a mixture of cooking oil and splattered tomato sauce. The same solution works on kitchen countertops and stainless steel sinks. White vinegar also effectively cleans cookware, coffeemakers and carpet stains, according to How to Clean Practically Anything, a reference guide published by Consumer Reports.•Tile floors and walls: My husband cleaned our white tile floors with a bucket of vinegar and water. He mixed one cup of vinegar per half-gallon of hot water, with a few drops of essential lemon oil. That mixture cleaned the floor and left a fresh lemon scent. I have applied a similar mixture to the bathroom tiles and countertops.•All-purpose cleaning spray: Earth911.com recommends filling a spray bottle with equal parts of water and white vinegar. Use this solution to clean appliances, countertops and other surfaces. Some restaurants and daycare centers use vinegar and water to clean tables and chairs.•Hair conditioner: Organic apple cider vinegar (ACV) provides a great hair tonic. Mixed with water, ACV conditions the hair and combats dandruff. As a hair rinse, ACV has left my hair cleaner and softer. The acid in the vinegar removes the buildup left from commercial hair care products and kills bacteria, according to Ehow.com, which recommends mixing one-third cup of apple cider vinegar with a quart of distilled water [...]



Finding My Money Leaks: The August Report

2009-09-11T19:11:37.496-04:00

Yup. I could have saved more and spent less in August. As promised, I paid careful attention to my spending, saving and consuming habits in August. We all have money leaks. Here are my downfalls & solutions:Lost items: I use paraben-free cosmetics from Origins and Burt's Bees. Unfortunately, while at the zoo with my kids, I lost my favorite lip gloss. I was careless and should have paid more attention. The replacement cost represents money that I could have saved or used for other expenses. My goal for September is to lower or eliminate careless costs.Expired coupons: As a member of the frequent shopper program at CVS, I often receive coupon offers that are attractive. For example, during the summer, I received a coupon for $5 off a $20 purchase, which would have been perfect for school supplies. But I didn't check the offer date, and the deal expired before I used the coupon. My goal for September is to be more vigilant about deals and deadlines. I also plan to make better use of my calendar by flagging important expiration dates and stashing my receipts in the folder section of my home calendar.Light check: We have made tremendous progress on our electric bill and have converted our home to CFL bulbs. With the exception of the light bulbs in the display case and the the lava light, my home is illuminated by energy-saving CFLs. However, sometimes when we are rushing out of the home, we have forgotten to turn off lights, the air conditioner the fans. One ceiling fan can cost up to $7 a month if it runs nonstop. My goal: No matter how busy, I plan to double check lights and power before the morning or afternoon rush hours.Costly delays: I traveled a lot during the summer, including short trips to Pittsburgh and Orlando. Travel specials offered great deals, but I could have spent less if I had not procrastinated. My goal: Book early, save more.Keep records: My August money leak challenge prompted me to pay closer attention for 30 days. On a scale of 1-10, my attention span hit the mid range of 6-7. I can do better. My September goal: From September 15 -30, I plan to keep an expense journal. With a shorter tracking period, I hope to gather more insights and cut more waste. Watch this space. [...]



Poll: Saving $50 Beats Diets, Love & Time

2009-09-10T22:08:24.439-04:00

If you had a choice between saving an extra $50 a week or gaining an extra hour daily, what would you do? I vote for the extra hour, (seven hours a week). But more money beat out diet, time and sex, according to this recent survey from allyou.com/Shortcuts.com. Here is a snippet from the full survey results:- Over half (57%) of those surveyed would rather save $50 an extra week- vs. 31 % who would rather lose one clothing size- or 6% who would opt for more sex- or 6 % who would rather have an extra 60 minutes each day.The Real BonusMy choice: Please give me another hour every day! With an extra seven hours a week, I would use 33 % of the extra time to earn more money, 33% of the bonus time would be spent relaxing, and I would spend the remaining time with my children.Here's another nugget from the poll:"More women (45%) feel better when they’re cutting grocery costs vs. sticking to an exercise regimen (24%)."Once again, I disagree with that allocation of time. A commitment to an exercise program can yield both long-term savings and better health. Preventive medicine and exercise represent savvy investments of time and money. Consider the cost of obesity.The Power of Coupon Clipping"Consumers are changing their spending habits, but not drastically. The survey, conducted by DMS Research with 5,877 respondents (5,250 females and 627 males), uncovered that small changes such as clipping more coupons, are taking precedence over large lifestyle adjustments like driving less or cancelling gym memberships.Across all categories of spending, more women tend to be tightening their belts than men, cutting back on vacation, spending, and dining out.The survey revealed:Almost three-quarters of respondents (71%) are now clipping coupons;Four in ten respondents (41%) consider treating themselves to something under $49 to be a splurge;Even in a tough economy, just over one-quarter (28%) of respondents won’t give up purchasing quality items and 17% won’t give up buying their favorite beauty product'We know how important saving money and saving time are these days, so we aren’t surprised with the findings that something as simple as using coupons – and increasingly, electronic coupons – is on the rise,' said Tara Trocki, director, AOL’s Shortcuts.com. 'This is a testament that using a free, simple service can lead to significant financial savings without having to make a major lifestyle adjustment.' " [...]



Cut Your Beverage Tab at Bars, Restaurants & Resorts

2009-09-08T22:07:03.121-04:00

It's possible to spend less for drinks at bars, restaurants and resorts. Here's my list of do-it-mostly-yourself drink recipes.Spiked & flavored coffees: At bars, restaurants and resorts you can save a lot by ordering plain American coffee and a shot of Baileys Irish cream liqueur or other liqueurs. One shot of liqueur is good for spiking several rounds of coffee, especially if the establishment offers bottomless cups of coffee. Final ingredient: Tip the waiter or bartender generously.Virgin drinks: When lounging poolside at a resort, beach or hotel, save money by ordering the non-alcohol version of pina coladas or other mixed drinks. Spike your virgin drinks with your own small bottle of rum or vodka. At one one resort, virgin drinks were $4-5 each, compared to $8-12 for the spiked versions. Note: Only use this recipe at resorts where it's customary for guests to carry DIY snacks, sodas and food. Many resorts have no problem with customers bringing brown-bag treats from hotel rooms, beach bags, the food court or other take-out establishments. Final ingredient: When you order the virgin drinks, be sure to tip the waiter or bartender generously. Watered down drinks: One area resort serves strong drinks. When I asked for a watered down version, one fellow customer chided me. She told me take the strong drink as-is and to request an extra glass of soda to dilute the original drink. In this fashion, it's possible to create your own two-for-one drink special. Final ingredient: Tip the waiter or bartender generously.DIY iced tea or iced coffee: Some hotels and resorts offer guests free (hot) coffee and tea bars, with high-end herbal teas and gourmet coffee. At one resort where we were staying, I made a cup of hot passion fruit tea and requested a cup of ice from the bar area. With the ice cubes and the hot herbal tea, I was able to create a tall glass of iced tea at no charge. The same strategy works for turning hot coffee into a chilled-out drink. And of course, it's good karma to tip the bartender for the ice.Drink water: It's healthier. It's cheaper.______________Sharon is the author of the Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money -- a coming of age memoir about money -- and a contributing writer in Wise Bread's 10,0001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget. [...]



How to Find Cheap Food at Airports

2009-09-04T18:11:21.980-04:00

Stormy weather delayed my flight plans and prompted me to spend over 10 hours traveling through three airports. My growling stomach felt like extra baggage as I tried to find a frugal meal plan. I fed my appetite without starving my wallet with the following steps:


Find a drugstore. Many airports have vast shopping malls, which include national or regional drugstore chains, where prices are competitive. At a chain drug store in Pittsburgh International Airport, snacks and beverages were cheaper than comparable items at other shops in the airport mall. For instance, a package of two large peanut butter cookies was 79 cents, compared to prices of $1.50 to $3 per cookie at other vendors in the food court area. Yogurt, iced cappuccino, crackers, nuts and other food items were also good bargains at the drugstore.

Drink tea. Beverage carts, cafes and specialty stores sell hot coffee and specialty espresso drinks for $3 to $4 per cup. In contrast, from one high-end coffee stand, I purchased a large cup of Earl Grey tea for $1.80. With cream and a dash of cinnamon, the tea was a taste of luxury.

•Go green. Basic green salads are reasonably priced at many airport food courts. Veggie-only salads cost $2 to $4 at fast-food restaurants. What's more, packets of mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard can be mixed with pepper to create French dressing. Ask for crackers.

•Pack food. I often carry small bags of baby carrots, single-serving cans of tuna fish and snacks when I travel. This survival kit becomes valuable when late afternoon travel plans stretch beyond midnight.
———

Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of the "Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money" — a coming of age memoir about money — and a contributing writer in Wise Bread's "10,0001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget," both available on Amazon.com.



Fixing the Ferret: Lessons From a Faulty Toy

2009-09-02T21:03:01.272-04:00

(image) My daughter fixed her ferret with a foot of fishing string. As such, our story about a defective toy has a happy ending. Our quick repair taught us valuable lessons. Here's what we have learned:



  • Hit the return button. Why didn't we return the broken toy, asked one reader after reading the original story: Cheated By a Ferret: One Child's Lesson. We have several reasons: 1) We lost the receipt; 2) we trashed the original packaging, and 3) most importantly, we were too annoyed to think of the obvious. Anger can be counter-productive. Anger can be expensive. The faulty ferret should have been returned for cash or store credit.


  • Be creative: My daughter found inspiration in a piece of clear fishing string, which resembled the original "invisible" string that made the ferret move. From her repair, I learned to think outside the tackling box and to constantly consider ways to find new uses for everyday materials that are around the home.


  • Repair, recycle, reuse: It's tempting to toss out worn, broken or outdated merchandise, including toys, clothing and shoes. We live in a disposable society, and we're often quick to contribute to landfills. My goal is to find new uses for old items, including an old teapot, worn out socks and old calendars.

______________



How To Give School Lunches Good Grades

2009-08-31T21:44:12.048-04:00

(image) The school year is new, but early grades for brown bag lunches have not been promising in my home. For example, servings of leftover lasagna recently failed the lunchroom test. The pasta tasted great, but looked unappealing in a small sandwich bag, the kids said.

It's a challenge to assemble lunches that are nutritious, tasty and frugal. Aria Kagen, co-owner D'lish, a private chef company, offers these tips:

Be a cookie-cutter. Update boring sandwiches with interesting shapes. Kagen uses cookie cutters to style sandwiches in to unusual shapes. Even tuna fish or peanut butter can appear exciting when shaped into hearts or stars.

Invest in containers. Packaging counts, and attractive food containers can upgrade the taste, texture and freshness of school lunches. Kagen recommends purchasing containers in different sizes for hot and cold food, including a thermos for soup. Reusable lunch containers also deliver an eco-friendly lesson plan about recycling.

Spice it up. Pack a taco shell, re-fried beans, ground meat, sour cream and chili sauce into small, individual containers. With those ingredients, your child can put together a taco in the lunch room.

Prepare ahead. Fresh vegetables, fruit slices and green salads can be prepared and stored on Sunday night and packed into lunches as needed during the rest of the week. That menu plan will save time and money.

Add a few flourishes. Kagen uses festive paper napkins decorated with action heroes for her son's lunch. Other families slip in hand-printed notes or hand-decorated napkins into brown bags or lunch containers. "Make it an experience," Kagen says. "It doesn't take a lot of money."

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What Airports, Hotels & Places Offer Free Wi-Fi?

2009-08-30T19:01:28.691-04:00

(image) I am trying to fly home to South Florida from Pittsburgh. My flight is delayed due to weather in Atlanta, where I have a connecting flight. But Pittsburgh International Airport has free Wi-Fi, which is making this long delay productive.

Free Wi-Fi is important, and if I have a choice between two airports in a region, I will book the cheapest flights in airports with free Wi-Fi. I am assembling a list: Which airports, hotels, cafes and stores have free Wi-Fi? Please leave a comment, with your travel experiences.

I will also make constant updates.

Aiports:
Pittsburgh International Airport (If you have to be stuck in an airport, this one is great!)
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

Hotels:
Hampton Inn
La Quinta
Inns & Suites

Malls & Stores
Shops of the Sunset (Coral Gables, Florida)
Whole Foods
Barnes & Nobles

Restaurants
Dunkin Donuts 41st Street on Miami Beach




Kiplinger.com: 10 Things to Avoid Buying for College Students

2009-08-28T19:15:03.579-04:00

When I was a college freshmen, I wanted to buy every item listed on the school shopping list. But there is no need for parents or students to snap up every item on the shopping list, according to Kiplinger.com’s list of "10 Things College Students Don’t Need." Here's a sample from that list:"1. New Textbooks. To avoid paying unfathomable new-book prices, see whether your university offers a rental program — or rent from a Web site such as Chegg.com, where you can save up to 85%. Order the book for a one-time fee—for example, about $60 plus shipping for a $180 calculus book—keep it for a semester, then return it with free shipping, or you could buy it. Or, head to the used-book lot. For example, BigWords.com searches the Web for the best prices on used textbooks.2. Big Meal Plan. Brain food is important, but avoid loading up your child's meal account with enough money to feed the football team. It’s best to start with a low number of meals and see how much your student uses. Many colleges will give you the opportunity to replenish the meal plan midyear. You could also supplement your kid's meal plan with gift cards to the local grocery (or the local pizza joint). Or you can buy gift cards at GiftCertificates.com.3. A High-End Laptop or Desktop Computer. An inexpensive laptop should meet your student's computer needs. For example, you can buy an Acer Aspire One, which has a 10.1-inch screen and weighs just 2.4 pounds, for less than $300 at Best Buy, WalMart or Target. Be aware, though, that netbooks don't have DVD drives or huge amounts of storage space, so it'll cost extra to get plug-in external drives or memory cards.4. Printer. Here's what you can save by skipping this unnecessary item: about $50 for a printer, $30 for replacement ink and $9 for a pack of paper. For about $10, your child could buy a flash drive instead, save his 20-page term paper on it and print the paper in the campus computer lab, which you may already be paying for. Some schools include a technology fee in room and board costs—$100 per semester in some cases.5. Cable TV. These days, you don't have to foot a hefty cable bill when your child can catch the latest movies and TV shows online. http://www.hulu.com/, http://www.veoh.com/ and http://www.fancast.com/ let you download current TV shows for free. The movies offered on these sites are slightly old, but you can get a Netflix DVD-rental subscription for as little as $5 a month. "The full list of 10 Things College Students Don’t Need.Kiplinger.com’s Back to School 2009 package [...]



Shopping Alarms About Kids & Money: A Grocery Store Lesson

2009-08-27T12:04:50.832-04:00

An alarm went off when my friend Yael recently paid for her groceries. It was a basic transaction. She paid for the food with a debit card and requested cash back.However, when her pre-school son watched the exchange of plastic for food and cash, a siren sounded. "Mommy," he shouted. "You won a prize." Alarmed, Yael decided it was time to teach him more about money.Nationwide, other parents are finding gaps in their children's financial education. For instance, according to a recent T. Rowe Price survey, nearly 60 percent of parents feel as if they should be doing more to school their children about finances. Here are a few lesson plans:Child labor and allowances: My school-age children get a boost when they earn money from household chores, baby-sitting or lemonade stands, and it's not just about the cash. Earning and managing a few dollars improves their common sense and self-esteem. Such lessons can begin with toddlers, with small chores and rewards.Shopping trips: Going to the grocery store with children typically leads to higher food bills. But the short-term detour around sugar cereals and other treats can create long-lasting "teachable moments" about unit-pricing, marketing gimmicks and nutrition.New age tools: The Internet has a wealth of finance games for kids. My daughter, for example, has spent hours at http://www.webkinz.com/ and http://www.neopets.com/, which offer imaginary financial systems in which children earn salaries, build homes and make virtual purchases. The money is not real, but the lessons are valuable. Other sites include: http://www.thegreatpiggybankadventure.com/ and www.ustreas.gov/kids/ (from the Treasury Department).Old school tools: A game of Monopoly can last for hours with lessons about saving, spending and investing. Over that board game, my kids have become savvy about the value of budgets and delayed gratification. It's not just about paper money or color-coded blocks of real estate. [...]



How To Get Free E-Books

2009-08-25T21:24:35.833-04:00

(image)
During a recent bus ride, Jessica Goldstein, a fellow passenger, was staring into her cell phone. But she was not sending out text messages or checking e-mail. Classic literature had bookmarked her attention.

Goldstein, a technical writer, uses her cell phone as an electronic book gadget. She downloads free books through Project Gutenberg, www.gutenberg.org, a nonprofit organization that enables readers to download free electronic copies of books onto desktop computers, smart phones or palm organizers.

"It's like going to the library on a bus," Goldstein told me as she read "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" by Friedrich Nietzche.

Project Gutenberg has a catalog of about 30,000 titles that are available for free. Additionally, the site has affiliate relationships with other sites that offer access to 100,000 free books.

Here are other resources for readers seeking free electronic books to read at home or on the road.

- Barnes & Noble. The company offers a free application that works on smart phones and desktop computers. The app can be downloaded at www.bn.com/ebooks and provides access to free e-books.

- DailyLit (www.dailylit.com) is a service launched by a former Random House editor and a social media guru. Classic titles, such as "Moby Dick," "Pride and Prejudice" and "The Prince and the Pauper" are delivered by plain text e-mails to your computer, cell phone or other handheld devices. Each e-mail has an installment of the book and you pick the frequency of the e-mails. The service also includes a fee-based subscription for new titles, but books in the public domain are free and there are lots of them, including many titles on school reading lists.