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Saturday, August 31, 2013

More Ways to Earn by Not Spending

Yesterday I posted ten ways to earn money by not spending it. My savvy friend Melody also posted ten ways she earns money by not spending it. She and I are very similar in many ways and are constantly sharing ideas for saving and earning money with each other.

After publishing yesterday's post, some additional things I do to keep money in my budget came to mind so I thought I would share those before I get too busy.

My grandmother used to quote the following saying to me, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." This has been a guiding philosophy for me pretty much my whole life.

7 More Ways to Earn by Not Spending

1. Don't replace anything before it is necessary. Don't be a compulsive up grader. If your computer, couch, shoes, etc. are still in good, usable condition then continue using them. Keeping up with the Joneses is expensive! They are most likely broke and living on credit cards anyway!

2. Give careful consideration to where you decide to live. My husband and I purchased 3/4 of an acre and set up a large mobile home on it outside of the city limits of our small town. Our property taxes are under $1,000.00 per year. Our utilities are much lower than those of my friends who live in the city limits of our town. My home isn't increasing in value but I also don't have the large house payment many folks I know do and I can improve my basic home to be whatever I would like it to be as time goes on.

3. Find a beauty school in your area and use its services. Beauty schools offer hair cuts, colors, permanents, highlights, facials, manicures, and other services for a fraction of regular beauty salons. The students are supervised by qualified instructors. I have been very satisfied by the services I have received at the beauty school nearest to me.

4. Learn to bake and decorate birthday cakes for your family. Many craft supply stores host cake decorating classes for a nominal fee which often includes cake decorating supplies and discounts for the purchase of additional cake decorating supplies. My children loved the theme cakes I made for them when they were young and I loved the savings over bakery purchased cakes.

5. Buy a haircut kit and learn to cut your family's hair. Developing hair cutting skills saved us hundreds of dollars over the years I was raising my five children.

6. Learn to groom your pets. We acquired a darling little Shih Tzu a year ago who requires regular trims. I didn't realize until we got him how expensive having a dog groomed can be so I am learning to groom him myself.

Watson taking a break from being groomed. You may notice his name tag doesn't say Watson. He needs a new name tag because the one he is wearing has his previous name on it. 



7. Get your pets vaccinated at local vaccination drives held by various organizations. Pet vaccines from your vet are much more expensive than those at these vaccine clinics. Our local grocery store hosts a pet vaccine clinic at least every other month.



I hadn't realized that these ideas and the ones I shared in yesterday's post are not commonly done until my youngest son relayed a conversation he had with someone awhile ago. In the conversation, my son shared how we exist on a very low income. The person with whom he was speaking was incredulous at hearing that our family lived on under $25,000/year for quite a while. People have lost the ability to do many things for themselves and don't even realize that they CAN do the things they pay others to do.

People have been conditioned by the media and the government to think that a certain income means a certain lifestyle. While it is true that the problem for some folks is that they have a low income, for many others the problem is that they need to learn to use their income more wisely. I would rather enjoy my life on a lower income than to work all the time to earn more money and not have time to enjoy my life.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and related topics!








Friday, August 30, 2013

Ten Ways to Earn Money by Not Spending

So many times I read an article that tells me how to "save" money by doing this activity or that activity. Unless I actually save that money somewhere, what I did was to earn it back by not spending. When my budget is tight, every dollar I don't spend in one area is freed up for me to spend in another.

Here are my top ten ways to "earn" money to spend elsewhere-


1. Plan meals from what I have on hand instead of going to the store. Most of us have plenty of food in our homes that we can use to create meals but we get too tired or lazy to make an effort to use what is on hand and we run to the store for something easy to feed our families. Need help with meal planning? There are lots of places online where you can put in the ingredients you have and get meal suggestions. I like this one quite a bit from Kraft Foods http://www.kraftrecipes.com/home.aspx.

2. Check out movies from the library instead of renting from Netflix, Blockbuster, or Redbox. I recently terminated my Netflix account that was costing me $12.00 a month. Instead of renting movies for a monthly fee, I take advantage of the large collection of DVDs my library stocks for FREE. I now have $60.00 per year more in my budget to use elsewhere.

3. Trade no longer needed items with a friend. I have a wonderful friend who wears the same size clothing as I do. We often pass on our no longer needed items to each other. I have quite a few articles of clothing in my closet that she gave to me. The money I didn't have to spend on clothes was able to be used in other areas of my budget, like utility bills.

4. Go to sleep earlier. There are many studies that show the later we stay up, the more likely we are to overeat and have a myriad of health problems. Being overweight can lead to expensive doctor visits. Money not spent overeating and/or visiting the doctor is money that can be used more enjoyably and profitably.

5. Learn hobbies that can generate or save money. Some people have hobbies that take money out of the family budget like going for manicures or collecting expensive trinkets. My family cannot afford those kind of hobbies. My husband likes to garden, a hobby that has fed us with healthful, tasty food. This past spring, he got paid to install raised bed gardens for other people so his hobby has now generated money for our family. I enjoy writing and have sold articles to various publications; another example of a hobby that generates money.



6. Learn to launder and iron your clothing. One of the first skills I taught my children (daughters and sons alike!) was how to wash, dry, and iron their clothing. Folks who take their clothes to the dry cleaners just for simple washing and ironing amaze me! I also avoid purchasing or acquiring clothing that requires dry cleaning. I just don't have money in my budget to expend in this way. Most washing machines tell you how to sort clothing and wash it so even if your mom didn't teach you this skill, you have no excuse for not learning.

7. Take proper care of your possessions. Everything we own lasts longer if we take good care of it. Clothes last longer if stains and sweat are not allowed to linger on the fabric. Furniture lasts longer if not misused. Cars last longer if we maintain them regularly. We can often get extra months and years out of our possessions just by being good stewards over them.

8. Terminate your gym membership and work out at home. I found several exercise programs on one of my local PBS stations and began doing them instead of going to the gym. Not only do I save (earn!) money by not having to pay a gym membership, I also save money by not having an additional driving trip. My favorite workouts are Classical Stretch (http://www.classicalstretch.com/) and Wai Lana Yoga (http://www.wailana.com/), and Functional Fitness (http://healthwiseexercise.com/). I have worked out consistently for a year with these shows and I feel great!



9. Use your library regularly. Being a regular library patron has improved my financial life in many ways. My library offers free wi-fi, which gives me all the advantages of going to Starbucks without the expense. Our library even allows us to consume food and drink in the lobby area. There are lots of tables and chairs where we can sit with our laptop computers and work. My library offers many classes for free: fitness classes, computer classes, foreign language classes, and more. The library has a summer reading program for children and adults that allows participants to enter to win prizes for turning in reading logs. One year, my youngest son won a 4 pack of tickets to a local water park! I have already mentioned borrowing DVDs from the library which is a savings, but how about reading the latest books, borrowing music CDs, and getting free downloads?

10. Scrap your magazine subscriptions and read blogs! Especially mine and my friend Melody's blog. Melody's blog is called Quirky Cottage and it is informative, delightful, and inspiring. Check her out at http://myquirkycottage.blogspot.com/.

I hope you find these ideas useful and helpful in making your money stretch in these challenging economic times. What do you do to "earn" money back from your budget?









Monday, August 26, 2013

Are You Ready for Christmas?

Christmas is coming, ready or not!


As of today, August 23, 2013, there are 120 days until Christmas (http://www.xmasclock.com/). Yeah, I hear some of you sighing. I understand. The gift giving holidays can cause a lot of stress, especially if you have a tight budget.

Take heart though, because I am here to help. Don't you feel better already?

I just received an email from Amazon.com informing me that my textbook trade-in was accepted (woo-hoo!) and that I now had $10.44 in my gift card balance. This is pretty sweet because I bought the textbook for my son two semesters ago for about $18.00 somewhere on Amazon. This is a way better return than selling to a bookstore on campus.

Now, don't get me wrong. I know I am not going to be buying all the gifts I need to buy for my kids, son-in-law, almost son-in-law, "adopted" son, son's girlfriend, grandsons, etc. with a $10.44 gift card balance at Amazon.com. But, I am empowered to look a little more closely at textbooks I see at the thrift stores I frequent to see if Amazon wants them for their trade-in program.



There is my first suggestion for getting some funds together to use on Christmas gift purchases. Keep reading...

Here is another idea- join Listia. It is a very cool site that allows you to give and get free stuff. Go to my link to get started-https://www.listia.com/signup/4087751 (just fyi, I do earn credits when you sign up under me and you earn credits for signing up too!). Last year, my husband earned enough credits to allow us to Christmas shop for some very nice items for our children. So, go ahead and give it a try, it doesn't cost you anything but giving away some stuff you need to get out of your house anyway!

Recycle or redeem cans and bottles- this idea is an oldie but a goodie, especially if you live in a state where certain cans and bottles have a deposit. I just read a blog post on Money Saving Mom where a reader's son earned $161.00 collecting and redeeming cans and bottles. I don't live in a state where these items have a deposit but aluminum is paying well so I am collecting and selling  aluminum cans. Two 13-gallon trash bags full of crushed cans netted me $7.00 recently. Again, I am not going to retire on soda can money but $7.00 here and there is very helpful when saved over the course of a year.

Save change-if you clean out the change that accumulates in your purse or off the top of your dresser, you will be surprised at how much you end up with at the end of a month.

What if you ended up with $50.00 each month through all your ventures? Would $500.00 be helpful for Christmas? We are such frugal shoppers that $500.00 goes pretty far for us.

It is a really good feeling to be able to buy our gifts without putting them on a credit card. We don't cringe when January approaches because we fear the arrival of the credit card bills incurred for holiday gift giving.

How do you pay for Christmas gift giving? What money raising ideas do you have?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Do You Feel Achy and Tired?

Life got really busy last week for me. For reasons I can't seem to remember right now, I didn't get to work out for five days. I woke up on Monday feeling achy and tired.

I have been doing lots of cleaning and organizing lately. 


My right shoulder ached from a job I did on Thursday (oh, yeah, that is one day I didn't work out because I was working, which is not the same as working out). My feet are sore from wearing some sandals that have seen better days. My lower back aches from sleeping on the couch (hubby has restless legs, a gigantic fan going 365 days a year, wears a noisy C-PAP at night, and is a bed hog, so if I actually want to sleep, the couch is where I go). So, the poor 50 year-old body was griping and complaining.

I finally got in a workout this morning and my body was so thankful. People are always telling me that they don't have time to work out. I reply that they don't have time not to work out. It seems that I need to take my own advice!



I will be resuming my practice of rising around 6 a.m. in order to exercise before I leave for my various jobs. I have felt the results of neglecting to exercise on a regular basis.

If you are tired, achy, and wonder what you can do to feel better, I would encourage you to find some exercise to do that you enjoy and start doing it. I highly recommend Classical Stretch (www.classicalstretch.com) which is also called Essentrics (www.essentrics.com) and yoga. These are great exercises for people of any age but are especially good for those of us in the forties, fifties, or older age brackets. Flexibility, balance, and strengthening are very important in avoiding many of the ailments that are considered to be age related.

I never thought I would be a yoga person but I love yoga! 

Let me know what you do for regular exercise or what you start doing if you are just getting started. I love hearing from you!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Home Management- Saving Money Everyday


I recently decided that I needed to do better at making good use of all the various drugstore sales in my area. I have been a pretty consistent Walgreen's shopper and have done pretty well shopping there. But, CVS runs some great sales too and I need to make my precious dollars work as hard as possible. I am always trying to do better at managing my home and money. I work at this on a daily basis. 


Even those pennies add up when you save them consistently!


So, I went to CVS today with vitamin coupons in hand. I stopped at the CVS coupon kiosk as is my custom. I got a coupon that gave me $3 off a $12 vitamin purchase. I decided to buy some acidolphilus as we are out. Sundown vitamins were buy one get one free. I had two $2 off coupons and at CVS shoppers are allowed to use a coupon on each item, even if one is free, and to combine the CVS coupon with the manufacturer's coupons. The acidolphilus was $12.49 and I got two bottles, saved $7 and ended up only paying $5.49! That is $2.25 per bottle! Can you tell I am really excited? 

Because one of my main contracts is tied to the school year and my husband's work slows in winter, we don't earn as much during the major holiday season, which is also when three of our five children have birthdays, so I need to do all I can to be prepared. I stock up like a squirrel storing nuts for the winter on everything: non-perishable foods, toiletries, pet needs, gifts, and more. 





I am not one of those Extreme Couponing types-my stock doesn't have a room of its own, nor do I have enough pasta for the next ten years. What I do try to accomplish is to have about 3-6 months worth of goods on hand. I try to get items at the most rock bottom prices possible. This frees up money for items where it is harder to save, like the house payment. 

Another way I work my savings into a daily occurrence is by only stopping at stores that are along routes I already travel. Today, I had to pick up one son from the bus stop so I went to the CVS where he would be getting off the bus. Another time I might stop at a store in another area of town. An advantage of going to different stores is that I have access to more stock. My local store might run out of a certain item, but another store could still have it. I don't have to wait for the item to be restocked and hope that I don't lose my rain check while waiting. 

An additional motivation I have to stay stocked up is to manage my home the best I can. As a Christian I follow the teachings of the Bible. I have been inspired by this passage in Proverbs 31:10-31.


Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

10 [b]A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

I will keep you posted on how I am doing on my restocking and home management and I hope to hear from you readers on what you are doing. I am always interested to learn new ideas!




Monday, August 5, 2013

Manic Monday




My Mondays are really crazy. Everyone has crazy, busy days, I know. But, check out how my Monday currently goes-

6:00 a.m. I get up.
6:30 a.m. I do the Classical Stretch workout on my local PBS station-KLRU-Q.
7:00 a.m. I make sure my 19 year-old-son and 21 year-old sons are both awake and I make coffee and eat breakfast while walking my dogs.
7:15 a.m. I get dressed, fix my face and hair.
7:40 a.m. We leave the house and head to Austin.
8:00 a.m. The 19 year-old gets dropped to catch the bus to downtown Austin where he has an internship and takes college classes. Then the 21 year-old and I head to his workplace about 25 minutes further in southwest Austin.
8:30 a.m. I drop my son and head to work myself.
5:00 p.m. I finish work and head to my 21 year-old son's workplace which is a combination martial arts and fitness studio. I do child care for the yoga and crossfit particpants children.
5:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Child care.
6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. I get on my netbook and do writing projects (like this!) while waiting for my son to finish his training.
8:45 p.m. We start the 45 minute trip home.
9:30 p.m. We arrive home, I take out the dogs, feed the dogs and cat, and get something for us to eat.
11:00 p.m. I start getting ready for bed and hope to be asleep by 11:30 p.m.

Yep, that is my Monday. I am always trying to make my schedule more productive.

Today, I didn't end up having to go to work so I baked some chicken leg quarters to eat because they can be eaten cold or hot. Sometimes I make breakfast for dinner on Monday nights. This won't always be my schedule because once my sons have money to buy their cars, I won't be the only driver in my "car pool". For now, I am enjoying my time with my guys. We have lots of great conversations on these long drives-some serious, some funny, and sometimes we don't talk at all.




What do you do to manage your crazy days?


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Super Saver Saturday- Get Cooking!

Just washed organically grown okra ready to be sliced for tonight's dinner. I could eat okra everyday I love it so much!

Hello Everyone! What's for dinner tonight? ; )

One of the biggest expenses in a household is money spent on food. Check out the USDA food budget info at http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2012/CostofFoodJan2012.pdf. They have four plans listed: thrifty, low-cost, moderate, and liberal. According to their thrifty plan, I should spend $162.60 to feed three adult men ages 19-50 and one 50 year-old woman. Occasionally, my 27 year-old daughter and her nearly 1 year-old son are here eating also.

I don't think I even come close to spending that much weekly, unless we include pet foods, cleaners, and toiletries (and I use coupons and sales on those!). Lest you are now worried about us, let me assure you that we eat at least three times a day and we eat well. I cook the majority of our meals at home and it is extremely rare for us to eat out. Being able to cook and shopping for bargains has been a huge help to keeping our costs under control!

Let me share some of what I do and hopefully shed a little light on what others can do, too.

On Thursdays, my husband brings home a variety of groceries that he finds on markdown at the grocery store. I am never sure exactly what he will have when he gets home. Talk about life being like a box of chocolates.

This week he purchased two packages of already prepared vegetable kabobs that had been marked to $3.25 per package, about a 50% reduction from the regular price. They had mushrooms, red onions, yellow squash, zucchini, green peppers, and red peppers. I did not immediately pop these on the grill for the evening meal. Instead, I took stock of other items we had and decided to take the kabobs apart to use in the following meals: red and green peppers, and mushrooms were reserved for eating fresh in salads and with hummus for lunch. The zucchini, yellow squash, and onions went into two different dinner dishes; Mediterranean Stew, and Ratatouille. To these dishes, I added our homegrown Japanese eggplant and okra. Both of these meals are served over brown rice, which I made from scratch on my stove. A 2-pound bag of brown rice at my local grocery store was $1.18.
Japanese eggplant grown organically from our garden. These ones are headed into Mediterranean Stew.



So, the cost to produce or enhance three meals to feed 2 women and 3 men was $7.68 AND there were leftovers for lunches. Take that USDA thrifty meal plan! Also, we are consuming a lot of vegetables in these dishes and everywhere where we turn we hear that we need to eat more vegetables.

I didn't begin my adult life with a Ratatouille recipe in my back pocket. But, thankfully, I had a grandmother who was very practical and had given me a Betty Crocker cookbook when I turned 13. The edition I received had wonderful illustrations that showed the most basic of cooking skills, such as scrambling an egg.
My poor cookbook is falling apart so I had to find a stock photo to show you what I think is the best cookbook ever. I know that my grandmother would be very pleased to know that I have used it and loved it so much over the years. 


If you don't know how to cook., there are resources everywhere to help you learn: YouTube, the Food Channel, libraries, blogs, 4-H, The Cooperative Extension Service, your mom or grandma...

Don't waste another minute or another dollar at the fast food places, learn to cook as soon as possible!