How Can I Be Frugal? Buy everyday items you use in bulk. Buy the biggest package you can find, which gives you the most for the money. Cut out most frozen foods. Some frozen foods make sense, like buying frozen bread dough. It is cheaper to buy three or four unbaked loaves together, than to buy one loaf of bread in the bread section. You can dress up frozen bread dough by rolling it out, brushing it with butter and spreading cinnamon-sugar. Just roll it back up and bake. Voila, you have cinnamon bread. Throw in raisins or pecans for variety. Buy less convenience foods, and more staples like dry beans, rice, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, milk and butter (store brand.) Buy food in bulk when possible. Forego the nicely packaged pre-made honey butter, mashed potatoes, or other prepared foods. Eat out less. If you must eat restaurant food, get the whole meal as a take-out. That saves you from buying pricey mixed drinks, paying gratuities, and buying that fancy dessert you couldn't live without but didn't need. Instead of going to the theater, buying popcorn and expensive tickets in prime time rent it at Blockbuster later. Maybe the movie won't be "new" when you see it, but you will save a bunch of money. Call the museum or zoo and see if there's any price discounts for certain days of the week If you need to buy clothes, avoid any that need to be dry cleaned only. During tough times, shy away from outfits that have special care needs. Go for anything that can be thrown in the washer and dryer. Use the car less. This is obvious but worth mentioning. Combine trips, so you aren't wasting gas. If your car doesn't require high-octane gas, forget about it. Regular works fine. To save even more money, use public transportation. Stay Cooler Frugally It can take a lot of money to stay cool but there are ways to stay cool without busting your budget. There are many ways to beat the heat during the summer without spending too much money. Stay cool and frugal at the same time. All you have to do is look for ways to cool off your home without turning the air up higher Wear loose, flowing clothing that allows air to flow around your body. Keep air circulating in your home through the use of fans. You should also try to keep the level of humidity down in your home. The higher the humidity, the warmer you will feel. This is due to the slow down of evaporation. Use cold water when hot isn't necessary and keep your showers and baths short. You can use a small fan to blow the humidity out of your bathroom if you don't have a exhaust fan. You can help cool your home by shading the windows with awnings. Plant trees for shade. You can even plant quick growing vines and flowers, such as morning glories and hollyhocks, around your house. The evaporative effect of living plants will have a slight affect on the coolness of your home. They also keep your home from the direct heat of the sun. You should turn off all lights that aren't necessary. They produce a lot of heat. If you question this, try taking the temperature of the air near a light bulb. Now take it away from the light bulb. You will see a difference for sure. If you have a home that has little natural light, look for energy efficient, low wattage light bulbs. They will produce less heat. Keep your appliance usage to a minimum during the day. Your television, your dryer, your stove, and your computer -- all of these items produce a lot of heat. . Frugality Can Equal Happiness Frugality and happiness aren't something society usually puts together. Frugality often brings up images of great sacrifice. We think of the miser who lived in poverty only for others to find millions saved after the miser passes away. What was the use? Frugal living isn't necessarily what you may possibly consider it to be. Frugal people live very happy lives. They find happiness in meeting goals, reducing their financial burdens and living stress free. How happy can you be when you are drowning in debt and struggling to make ends meet? You aren't living frugally, but you aren't happy either. The frugal person often sees each step towards being debt-free or early retirement as a great success. They don't focus on that outfit they didn't buy or that new car they aren't driving. They focus on having spending money left over at the end of the month. They focus on the things that really matter. Frugality is also a huge challenge. You get to be very creative with your money and the way you live. Many people love moving from one thing to another, looking at the way to cut costs for each category. For example, you've cut your utilities, now what about your groceries or gasoline consumption? The goal is what keeps the frugal person going. The daily victories and challenges keep them interested. The penny saved keeps them adding it all up. And the debt free life keeps them stress free. Imagine a life where you have no debts to pay. All you have are your living expenses. Think about having two thousand extra dollars a month. Dollars that aren't already spent before you make them. Think about retiring early to do something you enjoy instead of something you have to do. Think about following your dreams. Think about having money left over each month. Frugality will get you there. Now wouldn't that make you happy? Frugal Food Saving - Plan Your Lunche Daily: By packing your lunches every day, a family of three can save about forty-five dollars a week or around $2,340 a year. This is based on a nutritious lunch that includes sandwich, water, fruit, carrot or celery sticks and yogurt. You will not only find yourself saving money, but feeling healthier and fuller. Plan Your Home Cooked Meals -- Weekly Home cooked meals are great, and cooking them does not have to be an unpleasant task. One method is taking two hours on a Saturday or Sunday, cooking three main dishes and three vegetables. Then section the food into different microwavable containers to make separate meals. It's usually enough to last three days. In the evenings instead of cooking or eating out, put a container in the microwave and within seconds you have a home cooked meal. You end up cooking about two or three time per week. You save time, money, and get variety. Plan Your Road Trip Snacks When you go to the park, visit friends, the movies or just away from home -bring our own snacks. It saves an average of twenty to thirty dollars a week or $1,300 a year. Also, when visiting family and friends you don't inconvenience them by having them feel like they need to feed you, and you know your food was prepared with clean hands in a clean place. Plan Your Dining Out When you do eat out, plan and budget for those occasions. By planning ahead and allowing for the cost of the meal, you find yourself able to enjoy it more and not worry. Do try to limit these outings to once a month as they can add up quickly. One dinner for four could easily cover a week's food budget for the same family. Frugal Rules Frugal living is something that you undertake for the long haul. It isn't something you can pick and choose to do one day and not the next-that is, not if you expect to see progress toward your goal. You do have a goal, don't you? If not, read the final tip here first. Below are several things you need to keep in mind if you are considering a frugal lifestyle: 1. Not every frugal idea is workable for everyone. There is a balance between frugality and time hat is unique for each person. Some people have time to grind their own wheat into flour and make their own pasta from scratch. Some people only have the time to do simple things. You don't have to use every idea you hear about. 2. Start saving your savings. When you save money, you need to go ahead and put the money in a jar until you have enough to put it in the bank. If you save $20 on a shirt you didn't buy, put that $20 in your jar. If you save $1.59 on groceries, put that money in the jar. Many grocery stores receipts will even tell you how much you save. That makes it easier for you. Spending money you save in one place on something else is still spent money. 3. Set your goals and stick with them. You have to have a reason to be frugal. Whether you want to get out of debt or go on a cruise, you have to have a goal. Don't just leave it vague. Write down the specific steps you are going to take. Look at your goal every day. Keep it at the forefront of your money thinking. When you consider whether or not you will buy something, look at how it affects your goal. The Road a Frugal Life: Know your destination. You can't stay on the path towards your goals if you don't even know what your goals are. Have you ever gone into a grocery store without a list? You wander up and down the aisles, not really knowing if you are getting what you need. This is a lot like your frugal living. You have to know where you are going and what you need in order to follow the correct path. Step Two: Don't take every path. You will quickly find that if you follow every single frugal path that you encounter, you will go crazy! It just isn't possible. Not everything works for every person. It simply depends on where you are at in your life -- and how much you want to take on. Step Three: Keep searching for new paths. You know your destination, but you don't always know how to get there. Frugal living is an ongoing challenge. There is no end to it. You keep learning and you keep pushing yourself to save a little bit more. Step Four: Budgeting is your gasoline. You have to know where you are spending your money in order to spend less. It often helps to track every penny that you spend. Right down to the penny. Don't cheat. Those small expenditures can really add up. Your budget will keep you working towards your goal and spending less each month. This is where you can really sit down and see what is necessary and what isn't. When everything is on paper, it is easy to see the changes that could be made. Step Five: Save your savings. If you save money on groceries, what happens to it? Do you spend it somewhere else? You should save your savings. Immediately write out a check to your savings account for the money you have saved. This ensures that the sacrifices you made in cutting back really pay off. If you don't save it, it really isn't saved money. Do Your Homework: There are lots of ways to save money, no matter how much of it you have -- or don't have. All you need to know is where to look to find the savings. The first thing you need to do is eliminate ALL of your unnecessary expenses such as eating out on the weekends, buying lunch at work every day subscribing to magazines and newspapers and cable television. It's OK to reward yourself once in a while, but if you are really looking to live frugally, you owe it to yourself to save every single penny you can! To find other ways to reduce your expenses, take a close look at your checkbook and credit card statements. You should also call your credit card companies to see if they will lower your interest rates. You'll be amazed at how many ways you can save money, especially once you start looking carefully at how you spend your money every month. For those expenses you can't eliminate, it's time to start shopping around for the best prices. Things like car insurance, groceries, clothing and gifts can be found at very reasonable prices if you take the time to seek out the bargains. The same is true of many of your monthly expenses -- like long distance telephone service, internet service, all types of insurance, mortgages, and in some places even your utility bills. So, if you'd like to save yourself lots of money every month -- and who doesn't -- start shopping around and looking for ways to lower your monthly bills right away. Add this to cutting out unnecessary expenses and you could find yourself being able to save thousands of dollars each year. The initial investment of time to seek out the best values will be well worth it in the long run. Low or No-Cost Gift Ideas: It doesn't have to cost anything in the way of money to give a loving gift. Try one of these frugal gifts and see how thrilled your recipient is. * Print them off a handmade coupon for a back massage. * Cook a special dinner for a friend or loved one. * Give someone a special a day of pampering. * Write a poem or a quote in honor of someone's birthday. * Create a drawing or painting that has special meaning. * Make them a piece of jewelry out of seashells or pinecones. * Print off information on a topic of interest to someone. * Pass along a family heirloom or something that has sentimental value. * Surprise someone with a picnic using food that you already have on hand. * Make cookies or fudge and wrap them in tissue paper. * Send an e-mail that lists out the reasons why they are special or why you love them. * Give them an old photograph that has been tucked away for some time. * Create a hobby scrapbook with images, articles and tidbits about their favorite activity. * Give them a seedling to grow using one of your own plants. * Find a funky shaped rock and write a story about what it reminds you of. * Sew together pieces of old clothing for a truly unique table runner. * Create a gift voucher for one hour of doing whatever they want. * Weed their garden for them or rake their lawn. * Decorate a household utensil with craft items you have on hand. * Give them a hug. * Give them a kiss. Don't be embarrassed if you are a little short on cash or if you want to try one of these free gift ideas. The best gifts really do come from the heart. Frugal Living -- What It Is and What It Is Not: There is a lot of advice out there on how to live a frugal life. You can go from anything as simple as turning off the lights when you leave a room to grinding your own flour. There are forums out there where people discuss the way they use the rainwater they collect to do everything from watering plants to flushing their lavatories. These have their place. Being frugal is not about washing out Ziploc Baggies and reusing them. It is not about grinding your own wheat or collecting rainwater. It is not even about that new dress you did not buy. It is about thinking before you spend. It is about conserving what you have. It is about saving money and managing your finances. The point is that every household has to look at their own situation and then decide where they can -- or need to -- become more frugal. Frugal living does not mean doing without. It does not mean that you do not have what you need. In fact, it means the opposite. Frugal shoppers are careful. They take care of their money and make the most of it. Many frugal shoppers actually have everything they want and the satisfaction that it does not hurt them financially. They spend time to make wise decisions. They learn how to make their dollars really work for them, instead of against them. They have more for less money. Frugal living is about reducing what you spend, living within your means, using what you have and taking care of your belongings, including your money. It is about making goals and working to reach them. Which would you rather be: the person who decides when and where to spend his money or the person whose money is spent before he makes it? . Frugal All-Purpose Baking Mix Pre-packaged store-bought box mixes are expensive. Have you considered homemade alternatives? Made-from-scratch mixes are healthy, cost beneficial, store well, and taste great. Often times, you're paying for the packaging of commercial "convenience" foods and you don't have any control over the additives and preservatives they contain. When making your own mixes, you tailor the ingredients, so have control over the quality and quantity. Making your own bulk mixes is a great way to stock your pantry. Creative containers make homemade mixes a terrific frugal gift idea too. There's something deeply satisfying when cooking from scratch. It takes some minimal preparation, but many of the ingredients are already a staple in your pantry. It's not as time consuming as you may think. Supplies Plastic baggies Glass containers with tight fitted lids Prep area Labels Appropriate ingredients Storage area Basic kitchen tools Plastic containers Decorative items for gifts. (Ribbons, printable recipe cards, labels) Master Baking Mix 9 cups sifted all-purpose flour 1/3 cup baking powder 1 Tablespoon salt 2 teaspoons cream of tartar 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar 2 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk solids 2 cups shortening (which does not require refrigeration) Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cream of tartar and sugar three times. Add dry milk. Mix well. Cut in shortening until mixture looks like cornmeal. Store in covered container at room temperature. Below is a Banana Bread recipe you can make quickly and easily with the above basic baking mix. Banana Bread: Beat 2 eggs and 1/4 cup sugar together in a bowl until well blended. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 1/4 cups (about 3) mashed bananas. Stir in 2 1/2 cups Master Baking Mix. Pour into a greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 55 minutes or until brown Have you ever ran around at the last minute, looking for gifts, only to end up buying something you really don't want at a price that is far more than you intended to spend? Holidays don't have to be expensive. You can make gifts, of course, but if you want to buy them, here are a few suggestions for saving money. 1. Make a list. It's always convenient to make a list of all the people that you will be giving a gift to. 2. Make sure you know what their interests are so you get a gift that they will appreciate. It will make it special for them and for you. 3. Buy in advance. Don't wait until the last minute to go Christmas shopping because you'll end up paying high prices for stuff you don't even like. This happens especially with the popular toys each year. If you decide to go a local mall, make sure you do it during the first two weeks of November. You'll avoid the majority of Christmas shoppers and you are guaranteed to find what you're looking for at lower prices. 4. Take advantage of online pre-Christmas Sales. Most stores offer deep online discounts (up to 70%) on toys, clothing, accessories, gifts, candles, and more before Christmas during the months of October and November. They even offer Free Shipping with your order. 5. Buy from the comfort of your home. Every year, more people buy online to save time and money. By buying online, you'll be able to see every item on every gift category you're interested in without the hassle of searching a whole store or waiting in long lines, only to find out that what you're looking for is not available or is overpriced. You'll also receive the items you purchased early, giving you time to wrap them in advance. Just a Few Changes With a little adjusting, you can save a ton of money on everyday necessities such as food, personal items and electricity. It may take a bit more adjusting in the food area, as we all tend to have our favorite brands of food. You don't have to forgo all your favorites, but the more you change, the bigger the savings. Food & Toiletries * By far, making lunch at home is one of your biggest opportunities for saving! I made lunch and snacks and brought them to work. * Instead of buying shower gel, go back to soap bars. They last longer and are much cheaper. * Don't wash your hair every day, and when you do wash your hair, only wash it once. That saves lots of shampoo. * Make your own coffee at home -- or cut it out altogether and put that money aside in your financial freedom jar. One guru calls that the "latte factor." * As a nation, we eat out a whole lot more and buy convenience foods to just heat in the microwave -- but these can be expensive. Cooking may take time, but it does save you lots of money. * Buy generic! Seriously? They don't taste different from the name brand. Try it. Ok, some things may be non-negotiable, but you'd be surprised what is. Your grocery bill will go way down. * Take the effort to cut coupons, take advantage of sales, and go to discount warehouses, like Sam's Club or Costco. Heat & Electricity * If you don't already have one, get an electric thermostat with a timer, so you can change the temperature automatically during specific times of the day. Lower the temperature when the family is out of the house. * Use space heaters and lower the heat in the rooms you use. Use an electric blanket at night. * There is plastic covering you can get at the hardware store and cover your windows. That keeps the heat in the house. Starting to Live Frugally Downshifting by definition means trading a high standard of living and low (often highly stressful) quality of life for a higher quality of life. A downshifted life is a simpler life and often richer in time rather than in money. So, in order to downshift, one needs to have some money to spare at first. This might not necessarily be a lump sum in the bank. It might be equity tied up in your home or other possessions that you could sell. Downshifting might then involve moving to a smaller home or a similar home in a less expensive area or selling some of your possessions. If you are in debt then this is an issue you will probably want to tackle as a matter of urgency. Living frugally and downshifting your lifestyle may well form part of your plans for lifting yourself out of debt. It can be a very satisfying way to decrease your living costs without feeling that you are depriving yourself. Here are a few simple things to try for one week to demonstrate to yourself that you can reduce your costs and change your money spending activities: - have a week that is media-free i.e. no television, radio, newspapers or magazines and notice how you are less tempted to spend money on what you feel you "ought to have." - Stay away from supermarkets. Buy your food only from local independent retailers or farms. Notice how much less you spend on food now that you have to work a little harder to get it and that you are less tempted to impulse buy. - No eating out or takeaways. If you feel like having a food treat, make yourself a special candle-lit dinner. There is an important difference between poverty and frugal simplicity. Poverty is involuntary and disabling whereas frugal simplicity is voluntary and empowering. Spices the Frugal Way: One way people can save money is by preparing things at home that you use often in cooking. Spices are among the most expensive, yet, with a bit of time, you can create your own spice blend for a fraction of the cost of premixed blends. Below are some ideas to help you get started. All Purpose Spice Mix 1/3 cup Grated parmesan cheese 1/4 cup Sesame seeds 2 Tablespoon Paprika 1 Tablespoon Poppy seeds 1 chicken bouillon cube 2 teaspoon Dried parsley 1 teaspoon Onion flakes 1 teaspoon Garlic powder 1 teaspoon Celery seed 1/2 teaspoon Salt 1/2 teaspoon Pepper Crush bouillon cube into fine powder, put in screw-top jar. Add remaining ingredients and shake until well mixed. Store in refrigerator for up to 4 months. May be used on fish, meat, stews, casseroles, salads, vegetables. Onion Soup Mix: 2 cups powdered milk 3/4 cup cornstarch 1/4 cup beef bouillon crystals 2 Tablespoons dried onion flakes 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves, crushed Mix and store in an airtight container in refrigerator. To prepare: Mix 1/3 cup dry Onion Soup Mix with 1 1/2 cups water. Cook and stir until thickened. Italian Dressing Mix 2 teaspoons oregano 1 teaspoon onion powder 2 teaspoons basil 2 teaspoons paprika 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper 2 Tablespoons garlic powder 6 Tablespoons granulated sugar Mix and store in an airtight container. To make dressing: Use 3 Tablespoon mix with 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil and 1/2 cup wine vinegar. Ranch Dressing Mix 15 saltine crackers 1 cup dry parsley 1/2 cup dry onions 2 Tablespoons thyme 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt 1/2 teaspoon onion salt 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1/2 teaspoon onion powder Whirl in blender until crumbs are very small. Store in an airtight container. It will keep for 1 year. To use: Whisk together 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 cup buttermilk, and 1 Tablespoon Ranch Dressing Mix. Frugally Safe You don't have to spend a fortune to insure the safety of your family and home. I have listed several things you can do for little money to help make your home a safer place without having to install a complete home security system, which is definitely not frugal. In fact, few have the money to install such a system. * Install alarms First things first. You might want to buy one of those small door-installed alarms that cost about $20 or less. Powered by cell batteries, once it's turned on and the door is opened, the alarm emits a sharp warning to alert you. It's cheap, unobtrusive and it works. * Bolts and locks For doors and windows, you can install bolts and locks to reinforce an existing lock. As long as the bolt is solid and the hinges are properly screwed in place, you will have little worry. If you have sliding doors that don't have an anti-lift device, it would be a good idea to install one. Or, you could install two door locks -- one on top and another at the bottom -- to reinforce the hook lock. * Keep the light on Illuminate your porch, back door and garage. If you're willing to spend a little, invest in dusk-to-dawn lighting powered by photoelectric cells. These save a lot of energy and will be cheaper to use than electric-powered lights. Even less expensive is a solar-powered spotlight that collects the sun during the day and lights the yard at night. * Keep things thorny If you don't have a fence or wall, keep thorny plants and shrubs around. Plants like roses, holly and hawthorn have spiny leaves and thorny stems are great deterrents because they can produce punctures and tear at the skin. They not only provide you with security, they are also great ornamentals. Go Fly a Kite! Frugal family fun is easy to find. Enjoying an outing doesn't need to cost a lot of money. Below I list several ideas for frugal outing for the family. Pick one, or even all of them, and enjoy. * Be patient and wait to see new movies on video. Some communities even offer free video rentals at local libraries and will order new movies if library patrons request a certain title. * Check to see if there are any discount movie theaters in your area. Most of these places show movies just before they're released to video. A amily of four can go out for an evening at the movies and spend less than five dollars for a fun family outing. Keep a list of movies you want to see, and then check the discount theater listings each week. These theaters often keep the movies for just one or two weeks, so stay alert to what's playing. * Go to the first show of the day at first-run theaters for the best prices (and shortest lines!). * Check your area for free days at museums, zoos, etc. * Check for free concerts, plays, and other live family entertainment in local parks. * Call and find out if your local college stage production group, ballet or orchestra will let you watch them rehearse for free. * If you want to eat at an expensive restaurant, go for lunch rather than dinner. The menu is usually the same, but the prices are often half. * When dining out, drink water only. Ask for a lemon or lime wedge if you want to make your drink seem special. This trick can easily cut $10 off your family's total dining bill, which could mean the difference between going out for a fun meal or staying home eating frozen egg rolls again. * Go fly a kite. Literally! Save on Communication and Electricity With only a few barely noticeable changes in how you communicate electronically-by phone and internet-and how you deal with electricity, let's face it we all have to deal with electricity, will start to show a savings in as little as a month. Below I have listed several things in both areas that will start you on your way to saving. Cell Phones, Internet, and Communication Utilities * Avoid pre-paid cell phones, even if you just want the phone for emergencies, unless you are careful to use a plan with minutes that don't expire. You pay exorbitant rates per minute. * Never underestimate the minutes your teen may use. Be careful not to get the lowest plan. Constant overages are very expensive overall. * You don't necessarily need a home phone if you have a cell phone. With free nights, weekends and long distance, you may save considerably. Be careful with phone plans that have low rates, because the taxes add significantly to the bill. * For your Internet connection, you don't have to get the highest rate of connection speed. For the average user, you won't be able to tell the difference and that can save you $20 a month. If you switch to broadband, don't keep your dialup (unless you travel often outside the country or in rural areas). Also, drop paying for AOL. All AOL features are free if you have broadband. Heat and Electricity * Make sure your boiler and hot water heater are maintained properly. * Wear layers of clothing and keep the heat lower. * Use kitchen and bathroom vents sparingly in the winter * Replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescents * Wash laundry in cold or warm instead of hot * Use a clothesline instead of using the dryer Use a ceiling fan instead of an air conditioner. Frugal Recipes Below are two very special recipes that will save you both time and money. The first is a basic coating mix that can be used not only with chicken, but also with pork and fish. The second is a stuffing mix-just waiting to be put in that Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas goose. Chicken Coating Mix: 1 cup bread crumbs 1/2 cup flour 2 teaspoons onion powder or dried minced onion 2 teaspoons dried minced celery 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon paprika 1/2 teaspoon cayenne 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container. To use: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Gently beat 1/2 cup milk and 1 egg together in a bowl. Wash and pat dry chicken. Fill a bag with 1 cup of the coating mix. Dip each piece of chicken into the milk-egg mixture and then drop a piece of chicken into the bag and shake. Let pieces dry thoroughly before baking. Place chicken on a shallow, lightly greased baking dish and bake for 45 minutes or until tender. Stuffing: Mix 6 cups large bread cubes 1/4 cup dried minced onion 1 Tablespoon parsley flakes 1 teaspoon leaf thyme, crumbled 1/2 cup dried minced celery 1/2 teaspoon leaf sage, crumbled 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon pepper 3 cubes chicken bouillon, crumbled, or 3 Tablespoons chicken bouillon powder Bake bread cubes on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes, turning a few times to brown evenly. Toss bread cubes with remaining ingredients until the cubes are evenly coated. Store in a tightly closed container on the shelf for 1 to 4 months, or freeze for 1 year. To use: Melt 3 tablespoons butter; stir into 2 cups Stuffing Mix in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup chicken broth or water, stirring gently. Warm in a pan on top of the stove, in the oven, or in a microwave. Frugal and Safer Air Fresheners Most commercial air fresheners do not freshen the air at all. Instead, they mask one odor with another, coat your nasal passages with an undetectable oil film, or diminish your sense of smell with a nerve-deadening agent. For a safer alternative, you may wish to try one of the following; not only will your home smell as fresh and clean as it is, you will also find yourself feeling healthier. * Distribute partially filled saucers of vinegar around the room or boil 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in 1 cup of water to eliminate unpleasant cooking odors. * Boil cinnamon and cloves for a fragrant smell. For ease of cleaning, make a cheesecloth bag to contain these spices, and boil the cheesecloth bag. An excellent alternative when entertaining is to steep spiced tea or cider. * Potpourri. Buy or make your own potpourri from your favorite herbs and spices. Place the potpourri in a small basket or jar or in small sachet bags. * Place pure vanilla on a cotton ball in a small saucer and place the saucer in the car or refrigerator to remove odors. It is reported to remove even skunk odors. Keep the cotton ball out of reach of children; vanilla has high alcohol content. * Place a partially filled saucer of baking soda on the refrigerator shelf. Replace every two months and when you do, pour the contents of the used box down the drain to remove odors and keep the drain clean. * To avoid or remove onion odors from your hands, rub white vinegar on your hands before and after slicing. Rubbing hands with the end of a celery stalk will also remove the odor. * Cover a fresh orange with whole cloves and hang anywhere you want a fresh smell. This also helps keep many insects and other unwanted houseguests away. Low-Cost Frugal Vacations: What makes a perfect family vacation? That depends on your family; what they like to do, where they like to go, the ages of your children, even your parenting style. But most families will agree that a perfect vacation needs to be relaxing and fun with something for everyone. There is a seemingly endless list of resorts in the United States that fit that description. But for many parents, there is one more essential aspect of the perfect family vacation. It needs to be affordable. One of the most fun and inexpensive vacations is camping. Yes, you could spend a fortune on supplies, but why not plan a survival camping trip? You can find nearly free campsites at most National parks. Fish for your meals or collect berries and other plants. If you want to really make this an experience, do some research and have everyone pitch in to create your own shelter, make fishing poles and other cooking items. Study books on what plants are edible and go on treks to find tem. Another idea is to study pioneers or Native Americans and make this an experience of trying to spend a few days as they did. Vacations can be both fun and educational. You could also take day trips to tour historical landmarks. You can peruse brochures and set up your own family tour, rather than joining an organized one. Pack a lunch and picnic on the field where the Battle of Gettysburg was fought or on the banks of the Delaware River. Once you start looking, you will start to get ideas from every direction. Packed lunches and the cost of gas and you can have a day that will live in your memory and the memories of your kids for years to come. Where will you spend your next vacation? Painless Ways to Cut Vacation Spending Vacations are another way you can save money. Below are a few tips to help you save on your next vacation. * Learn the exchange rate -- This seems like common sense, but knowing the exchange rate will permit you knowing when you're paying too much or at least more than you want to be spending. * Make a budget -- By setting yourself a boundary on what you can spend each day, you'll start to subconsciously limit yourself. * Make it a game -- If you're traveling with someone else, try to make it a game to see who can spend the smallest amount of money. * Walk -- Instead of paying for transportation and taxis, why not get a little exercise and save money at the same time? * Eat where the locals eat -You have certain places that you eat because they're good and they're inexpensive. So do people in other countries. * Take some risks -- Visit the less significant stores that you find but aren't all that crowded. You will discover beautiful things at lower prices because they're not catering to the tourists that are going to be there. * Talk to locals -- When you're interested in something, talk to the locals about where you might be able to find it. You will learn things that you wouldn't get out of your guidebook as well as where these activities are cheaper. * Don't drink your money away -- Try to limit your alcohol wherever you can or save it for a few special days. It's easy to spend too much. * Choose one thing -- And then spend a lot of money on that. * You only live once -- When all else fails, just spend a little more than you thought that you would. You aren't going to be there everyday, so why not make the most of it when you are? Frugal Homeschool Tips Home schooling can be a gratifying experience for the whole family. However, it can also be tough on your wallet. Frugal home schooling is becoming a popular term among the majority of families living on limited income or for those wanting to cut back on expenses. Here are several ways you can save money and still offer your child a wonderful education. The Internet is a valuable source that most families can't live without. From researching essay papers to curriculum, anything you need to search for is available online for free and right in the convenience of your own home. Online auctions are a great way to purchase used curriculum programs and books. A trip to your local library will probably fit most of your needs. Not only do you get to borrow books for free but also it makes a fun family outing. Before heading off, make a list of the books and topics you need to borrow so you don't forget what's needed. If you are a member of a home school group, suggest starting a swap meet or book sale of used curriculum and other teaching aids. This is a great way to buy good material for reasonable prices as well as selling some material you no longer use. Do you know someone that has a book or program you would like to use? If they're not using it, then ask them if they wouldn't mind you borrowing it. If you have a book or program that they could use, consider either trading or just borrowing from each other for a short time. Look in your local paper for garage sales and yard sales that have books and craft supplies. Be creative while looking around, something you may not normally think about using could be perfect for a certain craft or science project. Frugal Recipes: Using a Basic Baking Mix Below I have listed several recipes that can be made with a basic baking mix. Once you see how much you can do with this mix, you'll never spend the money for prepared mixes again. Biscuits: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Combine 1 1/2 cups Master Baking Mix and 1/3 cup milk in a bowl. Add milk and stir. Knead lightly on floured board. Roll 1/2-inch thick; cut and place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Makes 8. Options: Add grated cheese and chopped herbs. Increase milk to 1/2 cup for drop biscuits. Muffins: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Beat together in a bowl 1 egg, 1 cup milk and 2 tablespoons sugar. Add 3 cups Master Baking Mix. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon into greased muffin pans or into paper muffin cups and bake 20 minutes. Options: Add drained fruit, chopped nuts or dried fruit. Replace 1/3 cup of Master Baking Mix called for with quick-cooking oatmeal or All-Bran(r) cereal. Add chopped dried fruit and nuts to recipe and bake as a fruit bread in a greased 8 x 5-inch loaf pan. Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees F. Pancakes or Waffles: Beat together 1 cup milk and 1 egg. Stir in 1 1/2 cups Master Baking Mix. Bake on griddle or waffle iron. Dumplings: Mix 1/3 cup water to 1 cup Master Baking Mix. Drop into hot stock and cook 10 minutes, uncovered, and 10 minutes, covered. Coffee Cake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Beat together in a bowl 1/3 cup milk and 1 egg. Add 1/4 cup sugar and 2 1/4 cups Master Baking Mix. Stir until well blended, about one minute. Pour into a greased 8-inch square baking pan. Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 3 tablespoons margarine and 1/4 cup chopped nuts and sprinkle over the top. Bake 25 minutes. Have Fun Frugally You don't need to cut out entertainment completely in order to live a frugal life. Below, I have listed some very inexpensive ways to save money and still have fun. * If you live in a city, just try walking around. In New York, I have found impromptu concerts by street musicians or just sat in the park and people watched. You'd be amazed how much fun you can have! * Instead of eating out or going to bars with friends, host a potluck at home or just have friends over for drinks. It's much cheaper to buy liquor than to buy drinks at the bar. * For movies, go to matinees or the two dollar movie (a number of communities have them). Yes, those movies are second-run, but hey, it's worth financial freedom to me. You can also always rent movies. * Cable. When times are tough, the cable needs to get going. It can get so expensive! If you do need it for the reception, get basic and then rent movies. Buying a great DVD player and renting movies is cheaper than cable in the long run. If you rent rooms in your home like I do, keep the cable -- it's a perk for your tenants that are worth paying for. * Take your kids to the bookstore and hang out. * Find free community shows, like Shakespeare in the park or fireworks. * Take the kids on the subway trip -- as far as you can and go explore. In New York, take the train to Coney Island. * In the summer, there is always a local food festival or street fair, usually several Check the local section of your newspaper. * Get your kids involved in a community group, like a theatre. They develop skills, make friends and have fun. Looking Like a Million Without Spending a Million You can actually look gorgeous without breaking your wallet. You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars just to get the latest trends then find them out of style after a few months. The commitment may take a little time, but it is surely worth it. Seasons come and go. So goes with the trends. But, there are certain outfits that never go out of style. Buy classic pieces. Such staples include blue jeans, black pants, white shirt, and a sultry black dress. Pair bargain finds with the basics. With a couple of designs and colors in your wardrobe, the main rule to follow is very simple: mix and match! Use your imagination! Go thrift shopping for your clothes and accessories. For fall clothes, they typically hit the racks in July and they start getting marked down by around September. If you buy a sweater by October or November you can save up to 75%! Everyone likes a bargain. Buy at the end of every season as the price is marked down. Add pieces as the season progresses and the prices fall. Go to clearance sales, if it's possible, target the mall's opening and start shopping as early as possible -- when there are less people and the best buys aren't sold yet. Accessorize accordingly. Learn to sew and put on decorations to your wardrobe. If you have time, overhaul your unused clothes to make them more fashionable. Like scrap booking, it can actually be therapeutic! Vow to stick to your budget. Have that as a challenge for yourself. Remember, fashion is what suits you, not what fits the model from the magazine. Remember, you can look fabulous for less. Know what styles can be in par with your body type. This is definitely more than merely following what is going on in the forefront of the fashion world. The woman who always manages to look like a million bucks on the skimpiest budget is a true achievement.
Saving Money on Car Gas With the cost of gas today, we are all looking for ways to save money. Below are several tips that will help you save on car gas. Every little bit adds up. * Get A Gas Card Almost all major gas stations offer their own brand of gas credit card that will allow you to save 3-5 percent on all your gas purchases at their stations. Saving 5 percent off every gallon of gas means a savings of around $3.75 per tank. * Avoid Aggressive Driving Hitting the gas pedal hard when the light turns green and braking hard when you stop will increase the rate at which your car using its gas. * Use Your Cruise Control Cruise control not only helps you drive at a steady speed but also saves you gas. On average, you'll save about seven percent more gas than if you don't use cruise control. * Slow Down Sure, going fast can be fun. It can also get you a nice collection of speeding tickets, but more importantly, the faster you drive the more gas you use. * Stop Idling If you going to be sitting and waiting some place without moving for more than about a minute, turn off the engine. It probably goes without saying that if you can avoid rush hour traffic, you should. * Plan Ahead Map out the places you will need to stop at and figure the shortest route. This not only saves gas, it save time.. * You have legs -- use them Really want to save money on gas? Then use your legs. A lot of trips aren't really that far, and while it takes a little longer to walk somewhere than to drive, it's a good chance to get outside for some fresh air and get some exercise in the process. If you don't want to walk, think about getting a bicycle. Frugal Pest Control Ants Vinegar. Wash countertops, cabinets, and floor with equal parts vinegar and water to deter ant infestations. Flour and Borax. Mix 1 cup flour and 2 cups borax in a quart jar. Punch holes in the jar lid and sprinkle the contents around the house foundation. Keep borax out of the reach of children and pets. Bone meal or powdered charcoal or lemon. Set up barriers where ants are entering. They will generally not cross lines of bone meal or powdered charcoal. If you can find a hole where ants are entering the house, squeeze the juice of a lemon in the hole or crack. Then slice up the lemon and put the peeling all around the entrance. Pennyroyal, Spearmint, Southernwood, and Tansy. Growing these plants around the border of your home will deter ants and the aphids they carry. Fleas Vinegar. A ratio of 1 teaspoon vinegar to 1 quart water (per 40 pounds of pet weight) in their drinking water helps to keep your pets free of fleas and ticks. Fennel, Rosemary, Red Cedar Shavings, Sassafras, Eucalyptus, or Pennyroyal. Spread leaves or shavings of these plants under and around the pet's bed. Flies Orange. Scratch the skin of an orange and leave it out; the citrus acts as a repellent. Cloves. Hang clusters of cloves to repel flies. Mint or Basil. Mint planted around the home repels flies. A pot of basil set on the windowsill or table helps to repel fleas. Keep basil well-watered from the bottom so that it produces a stronger scent. Dried ground leaves left in small bowls or hung in muslin bags are also effective. Sugar and Corn Syrup. Make your own fly paper by boiling sugar, corn syrup, and water together. Place mixture onto brown paper and hang or set out. From Two Incomes to Frugal Living: Many families start living a frugal lifestyle because one partner wants to stay at home with the kids. If you are going from a two-income household to one, you may be afraid of what all has to be done to live frugally. Here are several steps you can take to make the transition easier. 1. Start with cutting down your debt. Credit cards have to go. They are way too tempting to have around when you are trying to cut back on spending. Cutting your debt is the easiest way to find extra money in your budget. It will take a while, but is worth it. 2. Look at what is necessary. For example, do you really need to pay a water service for a water softener when they are relatively cheap through a home improvement store? For less than one year's rental on a softener unit, you can purchase one and cut the rental from your monthly bills. 3. Be frugal in your decisions. You are looking to keep your household running smoothly without having to go to work. Work with your partner to make a list of financial priorities. Make plans for the future. 4. Take on extra work. If you are highly skilled, you will probably be able to find some way to add to the family income while staying at home. Whether it is crafts that you sell locally, babysitting or catering, you can do things that you enjoy and make a little extra money for the budget. 5. Have an emergency fund. hen only one person works, if they are injured or have an accident, chances are that nothing will be coming in. If you are a stay at home mom and become ill or hurt, you will need to have someone watch your children. An emergency fund helps cushion your budget from emergencies. You should have at least three months worth of expenses in an emergency fund. That way, when things go wrong, your budget doesn't suffer. The Frugal Lunchbox: Go to the Dollar Store and buy a few of those individual serving-size storage containers. These are very inexpensive and they are worth every penny. You can use them for any number of things--like making your own fruit cups and pudding cups. And they can also be used to hold dip for carrot or celery sticks or fill with peanut butter and pack a zipper bag of pretzels for dipping. Also at the Dollar Store or discount store, you can pick up one or two of the small "blue ice" cold packs. They will help keep lunchbox items cold and safe. Sandwiches such as egg salad or tuna salad need to have a cold pack. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, on the other hand, can be packed without one. Muffins hold up well in a zipper-top bag, as do slices of banana nut bread, or most any other quick bread. When the weather turns cool, a small thermos will come in handy for homemade soup or chili. I see lots of these for sale at garage and yard sales, sometimes for as little as 25 cents. A thermos is also handy to hold whatever drink your child likes to take. Try to put some fun in the lunchbox: keep a stash of small, inexpensive toys, cut sandwich bread into cool shapes with cookie cutters, write little notes to your child, cut out funny cartoons. Children love surprises. A good routine to get into is while you are cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, put leftovers in the storage containers, or make sandwiches and place in the fridge in a designated area for lunch items. Get your kids to help--the more they are involved, the better! Put napkins, etc. in lunch boxes or bags and place them where all anyone has to do in the morning is fill with the prepared items. Now you can all be out the door in minutes! Save a Fortune on Food: Your food budget is the most flexible area of your household budget. Grocery savings will free up a significant amount of money if you need to balance the budget, or fund your savings accounts. Eliminate eating out! Period! -- O.K. if you're family is screaming mad at you then take them out at least once a month. Make it an occasion. Your family will appreciate a dinner out much more when it's not such a regular event. Consider it "quality time out". And, remember to look or coupons good at local restaurants for additional savings. Minimize the use of convenience foods. -- You can make it yourself for a fraction of the cost, try it! Many of us are so accustomed to convenience foods that we forget we can make it ourselves. You'll find substitute recipes for everything from baking mixes to shake and bake and salad dressing. All it takes is a little extra time. Even if you had to pay yourself for doing the cooking you would come out ahead. Do your homework! -- Know what's on sale and plan your menu around the weekly sales flyers. Investing a little extra time in planning will help maximize grocery savings and reduce the food budget! Eat meatless meals at least twice a week. -- Beans and rice are a good example. Egg dishes are a nice change in routine for dinner. Try a vegetable stir-fry or casserole. Don't use packaged mixes. -- Cake, breads, muffins, pastry, pizza dough, pancake, and waffles all come in a variety of pre-packaged mixes. Make your own for not much more effort and a lot less money! Build your coupon file! -- It seems coupons are available everywhere now. Your newspaper is a great starting point. Pay careful attention when looking through magazines. These are easy to miss. I often find coupons in home, ladies, or cooking magazines. Frugal Winter Fun: You don't need a wallet full of cash to enjoy the cold, snowy days. There are all kinds of frugal ways to enjoy the winter season together both indoors and outdoors. Here are a few frugal boredom busters to keep your kids happy this winter, and to keep your pocketbook even happier. * Homemade Snowman Kit: It's just not winter fun without building a snowman. Assemble a snowman kit to have handy. Your kit can contain the following: A hat, scarf, mittens, plastic carrot nose, charcoal briquettes, (place in plastic baggie) buttons, and can add two dowels or branches for arms. * Obstacle Courses or Winter Olympics: Jump over the mounds of snow or have relay races. * Snow Paint: Mix food coloring and water and add to spray water bottles and spray the snow to make colorful works of art outside. * Homemade Bird Feeder and Bird Identification: Need large pine cones, peanut butter, and birdseed. Add peanut butter to pine cones and roll in birdseed. Keep a journal of birds in your yard. Can borrow a field guide from your local library. * Snow Ice Cream: Mixing together a quart of milk, an egg, 1 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract in a pan. Cook on stove top until mixtures thicken and cool to room temperature. Pour this mixture over fresh snow. * Snow Golf: Use a tin can buried in the snow for the holes or just carve out holes in the snow. * Winter Photography: Take pictures of nature. Icicles, birds, trees, etc. * Identify Tracks in the Snow: Check out a book from your local library on animal tracks. Once you get started, you and your kids will find lots of ways to have fun without spending money this winter -- maybe you'll even build your own igloo! Ten Frugal Gardening Tips Whether you are an avid vegetable gardener, a beginning herb gardener or just like to have a pretty yard, these frugal tips may help you save a little money! 1. Stale coffee and coffee grounds make great organic fertilizer. They provide many trace minerals and low, gentle levels of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. 2. Remember that a good soaking of water less often is better than a light sprinkling every day -- for veggies and for your lawn. 3. If your neighbor has a plant you particularly like, ask for a cutting, instead of going to the nursery and buying one. Maybe you could trade a cutting from one of your own plants. 4. To easily water a tomato plant, bury a bottomless coffee can next to the plant and pour the water into the can. This allows the water to go straight to the roots. 5. Plant marigolds in your vegetable garden. They will attract insects that eat aphids and other pests. 6. My husband bought some used carpet at a garage sale, cut it into wide strips and laid it down between the rows in our garden. Now we can pick peas with getting our shoes muddy. 7. Use grass clippings as mulch around your vegetable plants to keep moisture in and weeds out. Just don't use the clippings right after you have fertilized your grass or treated for weed control. 8. If you have access to them, pine needles make excellent mulch. 9. A natural, frugal garden pest spray: mix 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap and 1 cup of cooking oil. Use 3 tablespoons of this mixture to 1 quart of water and spray on plants. 10. In the herb garden, to keep plants like mint from taking over too big an area, put it in a clay pot and simply plant the whole pot! "He who plants a garden, plants happiness." Finding it Used, Yet Usable: Where can you buy items in good condition but for little money? How can you be frugal with your money? By being frugal you can get more with less. While there are other places, the following five are the most frequently used. With a little time to search, you can find tons of great products, for little or no money. 1. Online Auctions: There are literally thousands of web sites that offer auction type bidding for products. The only problem with Ebay is that the shipping costs can be high if the item is heavy. 2. Estate Auctions: The other type of auction that you can use is an actual auction -- mostly estate sales. You can obtain items at a very reasonable price often far less than the market value. You can find treasures, items that you can no longer buy in a store at these auctions. Check your local newspaper as auctions are usually advertised in the classified ads. 3. Second Hand Stores: Second hand store merchandise sometimes is junk, there are other times where you can find some great bargains. The secret with second hand stores is that you have to check back on a regular basis. They have new merchandise often coming in daily, or weekly. Sometimes you go and there is nothing, and other times you find lots of items. Look in the yellow pages of your phone book for a listing of "Second Hand" stores in your area. 4. Yard Sales/Flea Markets: Of course, local yard sales and flea markets offer great bargains! You may have to look around to find what you want, but most times it is worth the time to do so! 5. Freecycle Freecycle: has spread to many cities. Here, people list things they no longer need in hopes that someone else can use them. You can find everything from free furniture to free computers. Free and Frugal Stuff on the Web At the time the Internet first began all was free. In fact, that was the fundamental philosophy of the Internet: the formation of a worldwide group of people that would share liberally all sorts of facts, figures, programs, help, advice, and everything in between. Once big business hit the Internet, however, things have changed. Nowadays, it is hard to find anything for free. But don't despair. There are websites devoted to the philosophy of frugal living. These sites can direct you to hundreds and thousands of free or discounted things on the Internet. It's so easy. You can find all sorts of free and discounted stuff or coupons that will secure great savings. Here is a selection of some of the best sites for frugal and free stuff. For more, simply run a simple search for frugal and free stuff on your favorite Internet browser. Coolsavings.com is a great site and can link you to grocery coupons, pet coupons, free samples, diet offers, travel coupons, and more. Thefrugalshopper.com lists hundreds of freebies, hundreds of free eBooks, and coupons. It also tells you which online stores offer free shipping; a great way to save money on your purchases. If you sign up with Eversave.com you'll be able to get free coupons, samples, and exclusive offers from top name American brands. Peerflix.com gets you connected with movie lovers where you can swap and share DVD movies. Frugalsimplicity.com boasts that it is "your guide to living better, on less". And it's true! You can download free software for yourself and your kids. Stock your computer with software to help your kids at school and to help you create a more professional business image. Pick up free tips on gardening and home schooling, and even advice on how to set up a business from home. And if you are working from home, improve your professional image and order a set of free business cards from Vistaprint.com. Being Frugal Begins with Attitude When it comes to saving money it doesn't have to be all work. It can also be a little fun. I know that living frugally brings to mind all sorts of unpleasant things to many people. But those that live frugally often have a zealous approach to frugal ideas. They are actually excited by the idea of saving a little money. And it doesn't matter how little it really is. Frugal living becomes a game you play against yourself. You are looking for ways to save. I started out simply looking to see if I could really lower our electric bill. And I did with very little effort. Then I looked to our heating costs. Hey, I did it again. Then I looked to our driving expenses. Frugal living isn't something that is painless on a family when you take the attitude that you must do it. It is like cleaning house. It is something that has to be done. You can either make it a good experience or a bad one. With the wrong attitude you will probably fail. Consider frugal living as a challenge. And the best thing is that you are improving more than just your financial situation. Many financial counselors and advisors say that when people gain control of their money, they gain control of their lives. That is because self-control bleeds over into other things. You simply begin to look at things differently. Whether you are looking to a frugal life out of need or out of a shrewd money management plan, begin by simply tackling one area of your expenses. Then move on to another. Over time, you will find that your attitude changes and you look at things differently. And you start seeing that you can save money (to spend on things that really matter) without much exertion at all. And that's the best thing about the frugal challenge -- you save money. Home Decorating the Frugal Way: To improve your home decor, you do not have to spend a lot of time or money. From a simple paint job to adding candles, you can create a warm and inviting atmosphere in which to live. The following are some fast and frugal ways to redecorate your home. Painting -- One of the main ways people tend to redecorate their homes is by painting. This is an inexpensive method to creating a whole new look. If painting your room is not something you want to do, consider adding a wall boarder or choosing a wallpaper to brighten up your room. These are all inexpensive ways you can change the decor of your home. New Curtains -- Another fast and frugal way to redecorate any room is with new curtains. Whether you are aiming for the sleek look or the country look, you'll find a variety of styles and colors to choose from. Cafe curtains are a great way to let some light into your kitchen and for a new look in your living room, try something bright and cheerful. If you have the skills to sew, try new looks for the cost of fabric. If you're crafty, you can even try your hand at a new cover for your sofa to match your curtains. For those that do not have sewing skills, you'll be able to find one-size-fits-all sofa covers in almost any department or home decorating store. Candles -- One of the most enjoyable ways for you to change or add to your decor is with the use of candles. Candles can be purchased in a variety of scents and colors that will add to the aroma, as well as the style of your home. Place them on tables and windowsills, as well as on the mantel and hearth. Is Being Frugal Worth It? Frugality is simply the practice of looking for the less expensive alternatives. Frugality doesn't have to mean being a scrooge or living without comfort. Is it really worth the time and effort you put into things like homemade cleaners and clipping coupons? Search the Sunday paper for coupons and clip them out. Make a list of things on sale that you can stock up on in order to get your average cost down. Plan and run a route of four stores in order to get everything where it is the cheapest. Total extra time spent: three hours. Now, save sixty dollars. This translates into twenty dollars an hour-a pretty good deal, don't you think? Sometimes the small stuff is the big stuff, especially when it is repeated over and over. This is why it makes sense to save money on groceries. They are something you buy every week. Saving sixty dollars every week or two adds up over time. How you do it makes a difference though. For example, suppose you don't want to clip coupons or spend time looking at sales flyers. Why not invest just an hour or two to figure out which store is cheapest for the things you buy? Then shop only there, and buy more of the things you use and like when they are on sale. You might still save $20 per week, with no additional investment of time. That's a $1,000 per year! You need to sit down and decide how much time you have to spend on your efforts. If you do this and then figure out what your yearly savings can be, you will have a much clearer idea of how you want to proceed. It will also give you encouragement on those days when it feels you are missing out on something. Bathroom Decorating on a Budget: Just because there aren't thousands of dollars available for decorating doesn't mean that a bath can't be unique, dramatic and thoroughly satisfying. Here are a half dozen frugal ways to spice up any bathroom. 1. Collections of inexpensive mirrors add both light and space to any bathroom. They reflect colors, faces and other decorations and add character and interest. Mirrors are much more effective when grouped together rather than being a scattered mass simply hanging on a wall. 2. Pictures or prints can be massed on a wall. For maximum impact hang them closely together rather than separated. Pictures can be striking if they have a 'theme', such as: The frames or photos have a uniqueness in common -- oval shapes, women only, pets This decorating tactic works best in a powder room, rather than a full bathroom, because of the high moisture. 3. Needlework makes a striking wall accent. For instance, sampler patterns from Colonial America are easily available and a few samplers grouped on a wall create a totally unique bathroom. 4. For color and charm, throw a rug on the floor. In a dull or drab bathroom, a rag rug or oriental carpet will add charm and beauty. Just be certain to use a non-skid pad underneath, especially if anyone will be stepping out of a tub or shower. 5. Collections can spark interest and admiration. Pottery is an unusual accent piece for any bathroom. Or you might consider old bottles, perfume atomizers, shaving mugs or other flea market collectibles. 6. Color is the quickest, cheapest and easiest ways to change any bathroom. Unusual colors on a bathroom wall, like melon, chocolate brown or peach, will add drama. Accents like brightly colored towels in a monochromatic bathroom will provide an outstanding accent. Add living color with plants or freshly cut flowers. Looking Like a Million on a Budget: Dressing well does not have to cost a fortune. If you take a little time to plan your needs and treat your wardrobe like the investment that it is, you can make a little go a long way. You can also look like you spend a lot of money on your clothes when all you are really doing is combining a few well-chosen, high-quality pieces. Below are several ways you can be frugal and still look like a million bucks: * Take an inventory of your closet and make a list of things you need. Buying from a list will keep you focused and curb impulse buying. * Buy the best quality of clothes that you can afford. They'll last longer, wear better, and ultimately, save you more money than buying inferior-quality pieces. * Buy classic styles. These will stand the test of time and not date you as easily as buying into trends. * Opt for mix-and-match separates. If you buy carefully, a little will go a long way. Five well-chosen shirts combined with two pairs of pants will give you ten combinations, for example. Two head-to-toe ensembles that don't go with anything else will only give you two combinations. * Try for a primary color scheme. Build your wardrobe around three to five colors that look good on you. Not only will this allow you more mix-and-match opportunities, it will reduce the number of accessories that you need. * Opt for solids over patterns. Solids mix and match more easily and are less easily remembered than prints...which will make you look like you have a lot more clothes than you really do. * Buy on sale whenever possible. Join your favorite store's mailing list to take advantage of "insider" sales notifications. With a little bit of persistence, you can find quality pieces at affordable prices. Frugal Indoor Kid's Activities: Keep your kids busy indoors on cold or rainy days with the following inexpensive activities: * Mister Grass Head: Materials Needed: nylon knee stocking, Grass Seeds, Potting Soil, Baby Food Jar, Wiggle Eyes or glass paint/markers Using hosiery, place some grass seeds in the toe. The hosiery is the head and the excess will be placed in the baby food jar to soak up water. The toe of the hose is the head and the grass will look like hair as it grows. The baby food jar is the body. Add some potting soil in the end of the hosiery on top of the seeds. Make sure the hosiery of seeds and soil is bigger than the opening of the baby food jar. Tie a knot in the hosiery to keep the seeds and soil in. Completely soak the soil/seed ball. Place the hosiery in a baby food jar filled with water making sure the head is above the mouth of the jar. Decorate the jar to look like Mister Grass Head's clothes and add a face onto the head. * Shadow Drawing: Take brown grocery bags and tape together until you have enough paper to be the same size as your child. Have your child lie down on the paper bags and trace your child's outline. Your child can then color her "shadow" drawing to look anyway she wants. * Homemade Toys: Decorate a paper towel tube. Paper punch a hole about an inch from the end. Now tie a mason jar ring to a piece of string about one foot long. Attach and tie the loose end of the string through the hole in the cardboard tube. Hold the tube and flip the ring up and try to catch it onto the tube. * Indoor Snowball Fight: Wad up newspaper balls and have a snowball war inside. Frugal Gifts for the Housekeeper A frugal gift is measured first by it's usefulness. With that in mind, the frugal mind that is, the gift actually serves two practical purposes; it is useful and saves money. Most frugal women will Below I will explore a couple of ideas for thoughtful, practical-and yes, frugal-gifts. Fill a sturdy laundry basket with one or two boxes each: Arm and Hammer Washing Soda, 20 Mule Team Borax and a few bars of Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soap. Mix up one batch of the following recipe and put in a tightly sealed container. You can make a decorative container yourself from a quart mason jar and some decorative fabric banded over the top or any kind of sealed glass container. Tie with pretty ribbon. And include the following recipe. Place with the laundry detergent ingredients. Powdered Laundry Detergent Mix Together: 1 Cup Grated Fels Naptha Soap 1/2 Cup Washing Soda 1/2 Cup Borax Use one Tablespoon per load, or for heavily soiled clothes, use 2 tablespoons. The frugal person most likely makes her own cleaning solutions and is always looking for cleaning and organizing tips. For a cleaning basket that will be truly appreciated, include a couple of spray bottles, steel wool, a pumice stone, cream of tartar, vinegar, baking soda, gloves, scrub brushes, utility towels or cleaning rags, dusters, cloth diapers (make great cleaning rags), household cleaning and organizing tips book or recycling tips. You might compile a book of homemade cleaning recipes to get her going. An added gift might be a "coupon" booklet offering your services for childcare, pet-sitting, or other amenities so the receiver can get away for a bit and enjoy some relaxation. Gift baskets are only limited by your imagination. Look around at the things you use most often, thing about your recipient's lifestyle and take it from there. Six Traits of the Frugal Shopper A frugal shopper has skills that help him or her gain benefit of the money-saving opportunities in life. Below I have listed several traits found in frugal shoppers. By incorporating these into your life, you too can become a frugal shopper. 1. A frugal shopper studies other people. There are probably people near you living a good life on half of what you make. Learn how others do things, so you'll know your options. 2. Frugality requires knowledge of values. It's hard to get a huge deal on a car if you don't recognize what a big deal is. Start enlightening yourself on prices, especially before you're ready to buy anything that costs a lot. 3. Frugal shoppers pay cash. Things are cheaper when paid for in cash instead of credit. Want that new patio set? The cost divided by the number of weeks you can wait to get it equals how much you need to set aside each week. You'll not only save on interest when you pay cash, but you'll often get a better price. 4. A frugal shopper looks for alternatives. Maybe you'd have just as much fun taking that discounted trip to the Bahamas as you would going to Jamaica. If you happen to enjoy pizza just as much -- or more, skip the expensive restaurant and call Dominoes. 5. Frugal shoppers tell people what they need. Just mention it in conversation. Do you know how many people get free or cheap things, just because they talk? 6. Do the math. You didn't really save $400 on that car if it costs you $500 more in gas each year. Also, be aware that some stores are cashing in on shopper's assumptions that larger is cheaper. Yes, the gallon of pickles might actually cost more than four quart jars. Be ready to do the math if you want to be a frugal shopper. Frugal Clothing and Transportation Hints Clothing * For kids, don't go over the top with the brand names, especially since the kids will grow out of them quickly. * For adults and older teens, don't buy really trendy clothes that will only last one season. Buy classical fashionable clothing that will last, and get trendy with accessories. * Buy shirts and ties or blouses and just one suit -- accessorizing is cheaper. * Buy a few pieces of quality clothing as opposed to lots of cheap clothing. They will last a lot longer. * This goes without saying, but buy clothing in the off-season and on sale. You will save a tone of money. Transportation * A gas saving tip I just learned: put your car in cruise control whenever you can. It has cut my gas bill in HALF. * If you live in a metropolitan area, try walking around the city as opposed to taking a bus or a train. In New York, you can even get there faster sometimes! * Maintain your car -- tire pressure, oil changes, everything. Preventative maintenance is way cheaper than repairs. * Never use cheap gas -- use quality gas and the correct octane for your car. It may seem more expensive, but it's cheaper in car repairs in the long run. * Don't be afraid to walk, even in the winter. It's great exercise and it saves a ton of money. The Change Jar I have a change jar. Every time I pay for something, I always use bills and get the change. I put the change in the jar. You wouldn't believe how much money you can save! This money could be entertainment money, allowance for the kids, put it in a savings account or saved for emergencies. This change jar has saved my butt many times over the years, and is a great way to have "found" money at the end of the month. Frugal Cleaning Products One of the best places to save money is on cleaning products. Here are a few recipes that are extremely economical, yet work fantastically! Note: Make sure to label all your homemade cleaning products, and keep them away from pets and children. WINDOW CLEANER: 1/4 -- 1/2 teaspoon liquid detergent 3 tablespoons vinegar 2 cups water spray bottle Put all the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake it up a bit, and use as you would a commercial brand. The soap in this recipe is important. It cuts the wax residue from the commercial brands you might have used in the past. OVEN CLEANER: 1 cup or more baking soda water a squirt or two of liquid detergent Sprinkle water generously over the bottom of the oven, then cover the grime with enough baking soda that the surface it totally white. Sprinkle some more water over the top. Let the mixture set overnight. You can easily wipe up the grease the next morning because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge, and wash the remaining residue from the oven. If this recipe doesn't work for you it is probably because you didn't use enough baking soda and/or water. ALL-PURPOSE SPRAY CLEANER: 1/2 tsp. washing soda a dab of liquid soap 2 cups hot tap water Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake until the washing soda has dissolved. Apply and wipe off with a sponge or rag. FURNITURE POLISH: 1/2 teaspoon oil, such as olive (or jojoba, a liquid wax) 1/4 cup vinegar or fresh lemon juice Mix the ingredients in a glass jar. Dab a soft rag into the solution and wipe onto wood surfaces. Cover the glass jar and store indefinitely. Supermarket Smarts We all have to eat, regardless of what the financial situation happens to be. When trying to reduce the amount of money you spend, you don't have to sacrifice a lot in order to save money. Below are a few ways you can save at the grocery: * Before you leave the house check your pantry and do a swift inventory so that you can see precisely what you need. Also, if you have some odd ingredient hanging out in the cupboard, you can purchase something to go with it while you are out. * Check weekly supermarket ads to see exactly what's on sale. Combine that information with what is already in your cupboard, and you should be able to come up with some recipes for the week that integrate both. * When you see something on sale that you often buy, buy it. When you buy things that you would buy anyway on sale, you're saving yourself plenty of cash in the future. * Do your best to avoid making small purchases at places such as convenience stores. These smaller stores usually charge more when it comes to their grocery goods. * When you make a grocery list, stick to it. Do your best to avoid impulse buys. * Red meat can be very pricey. If you're looking for ways to get your protein without spending a whole lot, your best bet is to go for poultry, tuna, peanut butter, and eggs as an alternative. * When buying poultry, go for the whole chicken instead of breast meat. They are a much cheaper way of getting chicken. * When you see something advertised as a sale, be sure that it is in fact a deal. Compare the product to comparable products in the area to decide whether or not you'll be saving money by buying the sale item. Being Paid to Shop: Always use items that are reusable rather than throw away. You'll find that doing these little things like using real cups and plates instead of paper or plastic throw away, and recycling containers for storage or even to use in craft projects, you can save a lot of money. Each by itself may seem minor, but when put together they can amount to tremendous savings over time. Don't buy it if you won't use it. Things like small kitchen appliances, repair tools, and gardening tools are good examples. We know they'd make our life easier if we just had the opportunity to use them. Simplify your life and narrow it down to a couple you just can't live without like a can opener and coffee maker. The above are examples of things you can do to save money on your quest to live to live the frugal lifestyle. I want to tell you about another frugal activity that can result in hundreds of dollars a year-rebates and coupons. I list both together, because using both, along with your weekly sales ad, is the best way. Gather all your coupons -- you have been clipping them, haven't you? -- now check your weekly sales ads and see what items are on sale that you have coupons for. This done, check and see if the store offers double coupons. These are the stores you want to check first. Now go online and put in a search for rebates plus your product. Many will be printable. This done, do your shopping and mail out your rebate forms, then sit back and relax. Oftentimes. You will find you actually come out ahead in this deal, as the rebate will be the price of the item before the use of the coupon. Now, that is the best example of frugal shopping I've found. Frugal Floor Cleaners You don't need fancy cleaners to keep your floor sparkling clean. Try a few of the ideas below and see how proud you can be of your floors. Vinegar. A few drops in the cleaning water will help remove grease. Dull, greasy film on no-wax linoleum can be washed away with 1/2 cup white vinegar mixed into 1/2 gallon water. For Wood Floors: Vegetable Oil and Vinegar. Mix a 1 to 1 ratio of oil and vinegar into a solution and apply a thin coat. Rub in well. For Painted Wooden Floors: Washing Soda. Mix 1 teaspoon washing soda into 1 gallon hot water and wash the floor with a mop, sponge, or soft bristled brush. This solution can also be used to remove mildew. For Brick and Stone Floors: Vinegar. Mix 1 cup white vinegar into 1 gallon water. Scrub the floor with a brush and the vinegar solution. Rinse with clean water. For Ceramic Tile: Vinegar. Mix 1/4 cup white vinegar (more if very dirty) into 1 gallon water. This solution removes most dirt without scrubbing and doesn't leave a film. Washing ceramic tiles with soap does not work very well in hard water areas as it leaves an insoluble film. Club Soda. Polishing your floor with Club Soda will make it sparkle. For Vinyl and Asbestos Tiles: Club Soda. Remove wax buildup by pouring a small amount of club soda on a section. Scrub this in well. Let it soak in a few minutes and wipe clean. For Linoleum Flooring: Isopropyl Alcohol. To remove old wax by mopping, mix a solution of 3 pans water to 1 pan rubbing alcohol. Scrub this in well and rinse thoroughly. To remove black heel marks: Baking Soda. Rub the heel mark with a paste of baking soda and water. Don't use too much water or the baking soda will lose its abrasive Frugal Gifts for the Cook: Everybody has to cook. Some love it and others just cook out of necessity. It is very likely someone on your gift list belongs to the first category. Below are two ideas for perfect gift baskets for the cooks on your list. Don't allow yourself to be limited by just these suggestions, use your creativity and throw in whatever seems suitable. Cook's Basket: Fill a large stock pot or basket with a variety of cooking utensils or supplies, special seasonings, cooking spices (Italian seasoning, cumin, onion powder, garlic, oregano, thyme, etc. Toss in a cookbook if your budget allows and/or toss in some homemade recipes for taco seasoning, chicken bake coating, stuffing, whatever you can find to replace higher priced store bought mixes. A good idea might be to actually make the mixes and give them already mixed in a tightly sealed container or jar along with the recipe. Baker's Basket: Fill a large mixing bowl or basket [she'll probably get more use out of the bowl ;-)] with baking tools and/or supplies as much as will suit your budget. i.e. -- Wire whisks of various sizes, wooden spoons, measuring spoons and cups, a sifter, cookie cutters, rubber spatulas, a bag of bulk yeast, can of baking powder, various spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, etc.), vanilla extract, or anything else you know your frugal cook will use or needs. Top both off with a personalized apron. Make or buy an apron and write the person's name or a personal message, poem, or saying on it, using a fabric paint pen or paints. Other contents might include a cookbook, some of your own favorite recipes printed neatly on a recipe card or made into a mini cookbook, a recipe file, cookbook stand, etc. Again, allow your imagination free reign and see what else you can add. Frugal Gift Baskets: Holidays and birthdays come around whether you are living a frugally or not. You don't have to break your budget in order to give a gift that will not only be loved by its recipient, but also used often. Gift boxes or baskets make wonderful, thoughtful gifts for everyone and are only limited by your imagination. Once you start making these up, you'll wonder why you didn't think of it sooner. They are fun to make and give, can be worked into nearly every budget and can be tailored for the pickiest on your list. Below are a few ideas to get you started. Frugal Food Basket: Mix up some master baking mix, pancake mix, cookie mix, or muffin mix. Pick and choose or give them all in tightly sealed containers or jars and attach recipes for using and the mix recipe. Specialty rice and rice mixes, bean mixes, bean and rice mixes, oatmeal, and couscous. All these can be put in mason jars and decorated appealing. Don't forget instructions on how to use the mixes. A pack of herb seeds or starter plants for indoor herb gardening. Treat Gift Basket: Now this one is great to give the frugal person food items that his or her budget, or frugal mind, just won't allow. Everyone has favorite gourmet items that they love but rarely treat themselves to. If you don't know exactly what the person likes most, it won't take much investigating to find out. Coffee or Tea Gift Basket: Pack this basket with several different brands of gourmet or specialty coffee or a lot of the one brand you know she loves. Include a permanent coffee filter to fit the brand of coffeemaker she uses to show you haven't forgotten her practical side! You can easily adapt the contents to fit the tea lover instead. Top it off with a nice coffee cup.
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