Save Money Surfing the Web

August 19, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal · Comments Off on Save Money Surfing the Web 

According to Nielsen-Online, nearly 156 million Americans are online every month, and while it may be costing you money to allow your family the privilege of surfing the Net, it could actually be saving you more money than you realize. If it isn’t, then you need to know how much you’re missing out on! Here are several ways you can be saving money online.

Shop online. We all know about eBay, Amazon and other online retailers that sell products at a fraction of the store price, but did you know that a lot of store’s sell their own products for less online than in their actual stores? This is especially true with store’s that sell electrical consumer goods such as computers, stereos, and the like.

Compare everything. For years we’ve been told to “shop around” before we buy anything, and while in the past this has meant trawling around the shopping mall for hours, in terms of the Internet, this couldn’t be easier. Many store Websites now offer comparisons of products on other Websites. You should be wary of bias, however. It would still be wise to check individual store Websites for yourself.

There are also many Websites dedicated to comparing products, but as with store Websites, be aware that some comparison Websites affiliate with company’s who offer them a commission for every customer that website brings to in. Make sure you always do your research.

Bank online. Sometimes it’s hard to remember exactly how much money you’ve spent, and it’s not always easy to get to an ATM. But these days, nearly every major bank offers the benefit of online banking, allowing you access to your finances 24/7. This guarantees you always know how much money you have and never overspend your bank balance, and allows you to keep an eye on all of the bills you pay.

Many banks also offer credit card deals and loans that are only available online and that are far better than what you can find locally.

Receive your bills online. With the encouragement to go green and save the planet, many companies actually prefer it if you only receive online bills from them, rather than paper copies–especially electric companies, telephone companies and other utility companies.

This is beneficial to you for more reasons than simply saving the environment though (and that’s a good reason!). Many companies have started charging customers who insist on receiving paper copies of their bills. And if you set up an automatic debit to pay your bill, many companies will reward you for that, too, with added discounts or other perks.

Freebies. When large companies, in particular, launch a new product, they like to give away free samples so people can try the product, love it and tell all their friends how brilliant that company is. While ten years ago these samples would be placed in the mailboxes of a privileged few–most of whom wouldn’t even use the product–in the Internet age, most free samples are offered online to the first 100 or so people who ask for them. This gives the companies more control over their disbursement and while you may not get every one, there are plenty of samples to be found. There are even Websites that specialize in doing the work for you and will find all of the free things they can so you don’t have to.

Travel. If you need to travel a long distance by air, bus or train, then you should definitely consider ordering tickets online. Look around and it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll find early-bird or last-minute fares at greatly reduced rates. And the same applies for hotel bookings and car rentals.

Moving. You can save 30 percent or more on the cost of renting a moving truck through Budget, Uhaul or Ryder when you order online. Be careful, though, if you book a truck and don’t pick it up as promised, or if you wait to long to cancel the rental, you could be charged a cancellation fee of up to $50.

Get Frugally Active

August 19, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal · Comments Off on Get Frugally Active 

You don’t need an excuse to be more active in your everyday life, but living frugally is a great one. Here are a few ways you can save money while getting yourself and your family more active.

Ditch the car. Only use the car when absolutely necessary. You might even consider getting rid of it completely if it’s feasible for your family. Think how much money you spend every year running a vehicle: taxes, insurance, gas, maintenance. It all adds up. Instead, consider taking the bus, riding a bike, or walking when you can.

Speaking of bikes… dust yours off and start pedaling. Rather than driving to work or school, hop on your bike. An hour of gentle cycling to and from work can burn between 300 and 600 calories.

Walk everywhere you can. Walking is the easiest way to get fit, you’ll burn at least 150 calories and you won’t have to spend a cent to do it.

Shop closer to home. If there’s a small grocery store near you, don’t drive to the grocery store unless you absolutely have to. Instead walk to the local one for smaller things. Even if things cost a little more than Wal-Mart, think about how much you’d be spending on gas if you drove further.

Get off the bus a stop earlier. Getting off the bus earlier not only means that you have to walk further, but it also means that you could potentially save some money, depending on how your local bus company charges fares.

Forget the fancy hotel. If you’re going on holiday, ditch the idea of staying in a posh, expensive hotel. Instead, take your family camping. Camping costs a small fraction of the cost of a hotel and the kids will love the adventure. If you camp out in the wilderness, there will be plenty of opportunity for activity, from walks and hikes to bike rides, maybe even fishing or canoeing.

Wash your car by hand. Rather than paying to have a machine wash your car, wash it yourself. Water and dish soap are cheap, and you can burn between 100 and 300 calories doing it.

Get rid of your gym membership. Gyms entice us in, and we make ourselves believe that paying a membership fee will be enough to encourage us to actually workout twice a week. But how many of us really get our money’s worth at the local gym? Few. Cancel your membership and get fit around the house instead. You can really burn some calories doing housework and caring for your family. For instance:

• Cleaning windows–180 calories an hour
• Vacuuming or mopping floors–200 calories an hour
• Scrubbing the floor strenuously on your knees–up to 500 calories an hour
• Gardening, including pruning, weeding and mowing the lawn–about 350 calories an hour
• Child care–about 500 calories an hour
• Cooking–about 350 calories an hour
• Pushing a stroller with a child in it–up to 1,200 calories an hour!

There are hundreds of ways to get fit and save money at the same time. Begin to notice them and take advantage of each one, and before you know it, you’ll not only be slimmer, you’ll be able to pay for a new outfit with the money you’ve saved!

Dressing up a Plain Hot Dog

August 13, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Frugal Meals · Comments Off on Dressing up a Plain Hot Dog 

While hot dogs may be an all-American meal, plain hot dogs can be… let’s say it… Boring. Frugal moms know how to turn boring into brilliant, though! Here are some ways to dress up that plain dog and make it not only edible, but delectable, for those who don’t want to seem unpatriotic, but who don’t care if they ever see a plain hot dog again!

• Top it off. Make slaw dogs by topping with some slightly sweet, creamy coleslaw, or add sauerkraut for a German flair. Go simple with mustard, ketchup and onions. Or add chili for a to make them more filling.

• Try something different. Add thin slices of hot dogs to pizza, nachos, or other foods. Experiment! You may be surprised what delicious oddities you discover. Here are some recipes to get you started.

Sweet & Sour Hot Dogs

1 pkg. hot dogs
2 T. margarine
1 c. brown sugar, packed
3 T. flour
2 t. dry mustard
1 c. pineapple juice, unsweetened
1 c. pineapple chunks
1/2 c. vinegar
2 t. soy sauce
2 c. cooked rice

Cut hot dogs into 1″ chunks. Brown slightly in butter. Combine brown sugar, flour, mustard, pineapple and juice, vinegar and soy sauce in small bowl. Add to hot dogs. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thickened, stirring often. Serve hot over rice.

Beans & Franks

1 pkg. hot dogs
2 cans pork & beans
water

Place hot dogs in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil until plump. Cut into 1″ chunks. Return to pan, add pork & beans. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes.

Biscuit Pups

1 can biscuit dough
3 hot dogs

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cut each hot dog in three equal pieces. Wrap one biscuit around each hot dog piece (will have one biscuit left over), sealing edges. Bake on ungreased cookie about 10 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.

Mac & Dogs

1 pkg. macaroni & cheese
1 pkg. hot dogs
water

Prepare macaroni & cheese according to package directions. Place hot dogs in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil until plump. Cut into 1″ chunks. Return to pan, add macaroni & cheese. Mix well.

Sauerdogs

1 can sauerkraut
1 pkg. hot dogs
water

Place hot dogs in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil until plump. Cut into 1″ chunks. Return to pan, add sauerkraut. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until sauerkraut is heated through.

Cheesy Hot Dog Casserole

8 oz. pkg. macaroni
12 oz. (3/4 of pkg.) Velveeta cheese, separated
1/4 c. milk
5 hot dogs, cut into 1″ chunks
1/2 c. tomato, chopped

Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare macaroni & cheese according to package directions and set aside. Cut 8 oz. of the Velveeta into cubes. Cut remainder into slices. Place Velveeta cubes in large saucepan. Add milk. Cook on low heat until cheese is melted, stirring constantly. Add macaroni, hot dogs and tomato to cheese sauce. Mix well. Pour into 13″ x 9″ pan. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Layer cheese slices on top. Bake 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted.

Heavenly Hot Dog Hash

6 hot dogs
2 T. vegetable oil
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, cut in thin strips
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/8 t. garlic powder

Boil potatoes until tender. Cut hot dogs into 1″ chunks. Heat vegetable oil in medium skillet. Add remaining ingredients. Cook until potatoes are golden brown.

Surviving Garden Overload

August 13, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Frugal Meals · Comments Off on Surviving Garden Overload 

There’s a recurring condition that happens every year around harvest time. It’s called garden overload. When you find yourself drowning in zucchini, overrun with tomatoes, and so tired of cucumbers you never want to see another one, you’re probably suffering from this common ailment. But don’t despair! You can find ways to use all that wonderful, fresh garden surplus that comes from growing your own garden each year.

• Share! Take a bag of extras to a shut-in, neighbor you don’t see often, a family member or church friend. Look for those who don’t have gardens of their own and they’ll be thrilled to receive your extras.

• Can it. Invest in a canner and some canning jars and start “putting up” food. You’ll have delicious produce all year long. If you can’t afford the canning supplies or equipment, check Freecycle. A friend got three large canners, a strainer and several boxes of jars from someone on her local Freecycle group.

• Freeze some. Freezing is another great way to preserve fruits and vegetables. Check the library for a good book on freezing, if you’ve never done it before. A word of caution, if your power goes out for an extended period of time, there is a chance you could lose all the food you freeze. It helps to have a small generator, or other backup plan if you decide to freeze very much.

• Start baking! Nothing can beat zucchini bread, pumpkin cake or blueberry muffins. Whip up some of your favorite recipes and freeze the results. Then when you have unexpected company or don’t feel like baking, grab one of your homemade goodies and toss it in the microwave.

• Cook up some goodies and preserve them. You can make soups, sauces, salsa, pickles and just about anything else your family eats in large batches and can them for later use. Follow proper canning guidelines for safety!

• Swap with other gardeners. If you know someone with an abundance of corn, trade some of your green beans for a few ears. You’ll both have greater variety and it will save you having to grow every potential vegetable your family would eat. There is actually a website called VeggieTrader that helps you set up local vegetable swaps. This may be an option if you can’t find someone you know to trade with.

• Sell some. Set up a roadside produce stand or take part in a local farmer’s market. All you need is a table, some plastic shopping bags (leftovers from Wal*Mart are great), and change. You’ll want to be sure you’re in the shade so you don’t get a sunburn, and you may want some small produce baskets to measure out your goods. But it’s a great way to make some extra cash, and have fun in the process!

• Donate it to someone in need. Perhaps you have a neighbor who is always struggling financially, or know of a local food pantry or shelter that could use the food. You’ll feel the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped someone else while solving a problem of your own (too much produce). What could be better than that?

• Dry ’em out. Dried tomatoes are just the thing for pizza and other dishes. And dried fruits such as blueberries make a wonderful snack. Look for recipes and instructions for drying foods and give it a try. This is an especially viable option if you go camping or hiking since dried foods are great to carry along in a backpack.

• Save a few for seeds. While you may think you never want to consider another garden, keep in mind that by next year’s harvest this abundance of food will have been eaten. If you think you might want to try again, then be sure to save some seeds from all your goodies so you can start all over in the spring.

Stretch Your Family Budget with Rice

August 12, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Frugal Meals · Comments Off on Stretch Your Family Budget with Rice 

To people in many parts of the world, rice is as much a daily staple as bread is to Americans. And it’s easy to see why. It’s inexpensive, easy to cook, tastes great, and can be used in a multitude of recipes. Rice easily picks up added seasonings to create a variety of flavors, and works well for breakfast, lunch, or dinner in side dishes, entrees or even desserts. Rice is truly one of the most versatile foods frugal moms will find. And it can be used for purposes other than food as well. Here are some ideas for using rice to in a variety of money-saving ways

• Use traditional rice rather than quick-cooking rice to save the most money.

• Keep quick-cooking rice on hand for emergencies. Rice makes a quick add-on to a meal that needs to be stretched to accommodate unexpected visitors, or for when your menu plan didn’t include a side dish.

• To make perfect rice, use a heavy pot so it doesn’t scorch the bottom, and a tight fitting lid. Rinse the rice before cooking. Drain thoroughly. Add 1 part rice to 1 1/2 parts water. Cook on low heat for 12-14 minutes. Let rice sit, covered for five minutes before serving.

• Saute rice in 1 T. vegetable oil before adding water to help grains remain separated after it’s cooked.

• Rice is great for handcrafted bean bag filling, but be careful using it around small children as it could cause a choking hazard.

• Rice is often used in beauty products, particularly by the Japanese. Make your own facial toner and scrub with the following recipes.

Rice Facial Toner
2 t. rice
1/2 T. thyme
1/2 c. water
3 T. lemon juice

In a small bowl, crush rice, Add thyme and stir with a fork. Bring water to a full boil in a small saucepan. Add rice mixture and lemon juice. Let cool completely. Strain and apply liquid to face with a cotton ball. Refrigerate leftover.

Rice Scrub
1 t. rice
10 strawberries, chopped
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. sea salt

Combine strawberries and olive oil with a fork until well blended. Add crushed rice and salt. Mix well. Massage onto face, feet, elbows, knees, etc. Let stand 2-3 minutes. Rinse thoroughly.

• There are hundreds or thousands of recipes available using rice for all kinds of dishes. The following will get you started experimenting.

Spanish Rice
2 c. cooked rice
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1 small can diced tomatoes
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 t. chili powder
1 t. cilantro (optional)

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Easy Rice Pudding
1/4 c. uncooked rice
4 c. milk
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 300° F. Combine all ingredients in a baking dish sprayed with cooking oil spray. Bake 3 1/2 hours, stirring three times during the first hour of baking to keep rice from settling.

Hawaiian Breakfast Rice
1 c. cooked rice, cooled
1/2 banana, sliced
1/4 c. coconut milk
2 T. coconut
2 T. pineapple
2 T. raisins
1 T. chopped almonds

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Rice Pilaf
2 T. butter
1/2 small onion, chopped fine
2 c. rice
3 stalks celery, chopped fine
1 large can chicken broth
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper

Melt butter in large skillet. Add onion and saute until tender. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer over low heat until rice is done, about 15 minutes.

Give Yourself a “New” Bathroom for Under $100

August 11, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Home Decorating · Comments Off on Give Yourself a “New” Bathroom for Under $100 

Giving your entire home a new look can run into some big bucks, but choosing one room at a time, especially a small room, is doable on most any budget. A good place to begin is with your bathroom, since 1) it’s typically the smallest room in the house, and 2) there are so many frugal options to choose from that you don’t have to spend much money at all to achieve a great new look! Here are some ways to quickly–and inexpensively–update your bathroom decor for under $100.

• Paint. You can find a gallon of paint on sale for $10 and update the entire look of your room in a few hours. Even if you don’t do anything else, you’ve got a bright “new” room with this change alone.

• A wallpaper border from the dollar store will transform your plain bathroom walls into a romantic hideaway, a jungle adventure, a deep sea odyssey, or a relaxing mountain lodge.

• Change the shower curtain to match your new paint and border. You can make your own from a flat sheet for less than the cost of a store-bought one and have fabric leftover for other projects.

• Buy new towels and use some of that leftover sheet to add a border around the bottom. Or crochet an edging in a coordinating color.

• Hang new towel rods and hooks, or paint the ones you have. They’ll show-off those newly decorated towels to their best advantage.

• Pick up a new toothbrush holder, soap dish and cup set at the dollar store. A solid color will work best since you’ll have it if you decide to change patterns later. And the full set can be found for $5 or less.

• Paint a shelf to complement your new paint then hang it about a foot from the ceiling on a wall in the bathroom. Fill it with guest towels, baskets, or other decorative items to match your new style.

• Set baskets around and fill them with the things you use every day such as lotions, make-up, colognes, hair care products, etc. Spray paint the baskets to match the decor, or leave them natural. They look nice either way.

• Frame some magazine prints that fit your new room. You can often pick up old magazines at yard sales for 10¢ each. Add a 25¢ frame and you’ve got new, “original” artwork for pennies.

• Reframe your vanity mirror. Some simple strips of wood can turn that old, dated mirror into something modern and uplifting.

• If your mirror frame is wood, paint it. You can add some decals or leave it plain. Or choose a patterned, self-adhesive paper that matches the room.

• Mobile homes often have flat mirrors that are simply glued to the wall. If that’s your case, it could create a major project to repair peeling mirror paint. Instead, look for decals that can be adhered directly over the worst spots. You may not cover every bad spot, but it will certainly make the mirror look better and the spots less noticeable.

• Add new carpet. Since many bathrooms are small, you may be able to carpet (or tile) the bathroom for just a few dollars and some labor. Give it a try. Carpet remnants come pretty cheap, and the whole room will feel more plush when you’re finished.

Frugal Three Course Company Menu

August 11, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Parties · Comments Off on Frugal Three Course Company Menu 

Frugal moms like to entertain occasionally, and enjoy the company of close friends, family and colleagues. But sometimes entertaining can be difficult and expensive, especially if you’re expected to provide a three-course meal. Here’s a simple three course menu of easy-to-make recipes that’s as nice on your pocketbook as it is good to eat.

First Course: Clear Tomato Soup

1 small onion, chopped fine
2 T. butter or margarine
2 c. tomato juice
1 bay leaf
1 t. cloves
dash of basil
1 t. parsley
2 t. sugar
1 T. lemon juice
4 T. fresh cream
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in butter in a saucepan for about 7 minutes on low heat so they don’t brown. Add tomato juice. Add cloves, basil, bay leaf, sugar and parsley. Bring to a boil and reduce to low heat. Cover and simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Strain. Return soup to pan, add lemon juice and more salt and pepper to taste. Let sit until ready to serve then reheat. Ladle into warm bowls. Add 1 tablespoon cream on top of each.

One of the best things about this soup is that it can be prepared well in advance of the meal then takes only a few minutes to reheat. This frees up your time to prepare the other dishes.

Main Course: Spaghetti Bolognese

1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 clove of garlic, chopped fine or 1/8 t. garlic powder
2 T. olive oil
2 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 can tomatoes or 4 fresh tomatoes, peeled
2 T. tomato paste
1 t. pepper
12 oz. spaghetti
1 T. butter or margarine
Parmesan cheese

Saute onion and garlic in oil. Add mushrooms, cook and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add ground beef. Stir and cook until blended and meat is well done. Chop tomatoes and add to meat, then add tomato paste and pepper. Mix well. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes.

While sauce is cooking, cook the spaghetti in boiling, salted water for 10-15 minutes or until done. When tender, drain spaghetti, return to pan, adding butter and sprinkling with a dash of pepper. Toss to mix and keep warm over low heat.

Place spaghetti on a large serving dish, top with meat sauce and cheese.

Dessert: Raspberry Coulis

1 pint raspberries
1/4 c. sugar (or Splenda)
Ice Cream

Strain raspberries to remove seeds. Add sugar or sweetener. Mix well. Serve over two scoops of ice cream.

Frugal Hair Care

August 10, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Beauty Tips · 1 Comment 

Frugal moms know there is nothing worse than a bad hair day. But finding the money to ensure everyone in the family has beautiful hair is challenging, to say the least. There are ways, though, to keep everyone well-trimmed and looking great without spending a fortune.

• Invest in an electric hair trimmer and learn to cut hair yourself, especially for the kids. You can easily find a book at the library on cutting hair that includes simple styles for you and your daughters. And if you have boys, simply shave their heads or use the trimmers on the lowest level.

• The flip side of that coin is to let your hair grow. This may not work as well for Dad or your sons, but letting your hair and your daughter’s hair grow long and straight requires the least amount of care and cutting.

• Ignore the directions on the shampoo bottle. If you wash your hair every day, or even every other day, there is rarely a need to lather it twice. That’s just a waste of shampoo when once will get your hair perfectly clean.

• Rinse your hair thoroughly. This one thing will do more to keep hair shining and help it stay clean longer than anything else you can do.

• Train the kids to use a dime size amount of shampoo and conditioner. Girls with long hair may need a little more, but kids are notorious for pouring out a “handful” of shampoo when they don’t need nearly that much to wash their hair.

• If you color your hair to cover the gray, do it at home rather than having it done at the salon. You can save a small fortune, and with a little practice will feel confident about the results.

• Rinsing your hair with a batch of strong tea will gradually erase gray hair. Just let the tea steep for 10-15 minutes then wet hair thoroughly and style as usual. It takes a few weeks to see a difference, but hair will eventually begin to turn a light natural brown.

• Thin shampoo with water to make it go twice as far. When you open a new bottle of shampoo, pour half into an empty recycled shampoo bottle and fill both of them with water. It is, of course, thinner but typically works just as well.

• Look for coupons on shampoo, conditioner and hair color. They’re easy to find and can make a huge difference in cost. Double store coupons by using them with manufacturer’s coupons and sale prices for the greatest savings. Or use CVS or Walgreens bonus points/bucks to get free products.

• Make your own detangler by combining one part conditioner to ten parts water in an empty spray bottle. Shake well and spray on wet hair to remove tangles at a fraction of the cost of similar commercial products.

• Let your stylist know up front that you can’t afford the expensive styling products the salons sell and that you prefer she not try to sell them to you. Often, your stylist will comply and will even recommend less expensive products that will do the same things as the high-priced items.

• Ask your stylist to recommend a long-lasting cut. She can help you find a cut that will let you go 8-10 weeks before needing a trim which will save you considerably.

• You can also ask your stylist to give you an easy maintenance cut, for yourself and the kids if you take them to a salon. Something that lets you shampoo and go rather than having to use a lot of styling products will save you money and time.

• While you may think a combination shampoo/conditioner saves money, it really doesn’t because it doesn’t do as good a job. Shampoo is, of course, designed to clean your hair, but adding conditioner before your hair is clean can make it oily. It’s better to use two separate products and only use the conditioner when you need it, rather than as a matter of course after you shampoo.

• Try washing your hair less frequently. Back in the 1940’s and ’50’s women washed their hair once a week. While that may not be enough, it’s unlikely–unless your hair is very oily–that you really need to wash your hair every day. Try every 2-3 days and see how it works. You can always go back to daily if you aren’t satisfied with the results.

• Donate a braid to Locks of Love once a year and get a free haircut. Ask your stylist for details. Many salons take part in the program.

• An easy way to trim bangs that look more natural than a straight-cut across the forehead, is to pull the bangs together in a small “ponytail” and snip the ends. The bangs feather better and look a little uneven which is how a stylist typically cuts them.

You can have beautiful hair without going broke. Just look for options to care for your hair and your children’s hair yourself and learn to use less, and less expensive, products. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to practice frugal hair care without looking like you need to see a stylist!

Frugal Budgeting for Frugal Living

August 5, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Budgeting · Comments Off on Frugal Budgeting for Frugal Living 

Budgeting is probably the most important part of living a frugal life. Yes, it’s boring, and yes, it does take up a fair amount of time. But, think of it this way, if you don’t write down a budget and stick to it, then how do you know that you’re not spending more than you’re earning–or at the least–more than you should?

To start creating a budget, you need to determine how much money you have coming into your household each month. It’s essential that you stick to figuring out your finances by the month. Remember to write down all of wages, and anything else that you earn or bring in such as child support or SSI.

Now, start thinking about the essentials you have to pay for every month. This includes electricity, water, telephone, cable, car essentials like gas and oil, etc. Don’t forget to include food, but try to be as strict with yourself as possible in this area. A great way to plan how much money you need each month for groceries is by creating a menu for every day of the month. Plan every meal and decide exactly what you need to buy. You should then be able to easily determine what you’ll need to budget for food for the month.

Include an allowance for paying off debt. If you owe money to several places such as bank credit cards, store credit cards, car loans, etc., also decide how you’ll repay them. There are two ways of looking at budgeting to pay off debts.

The first option is to pick the bill that will be quickest and easiest to pay off. Then, once you’ve chosen a bill, pay only the minimum amount necessary each month on the other bills and put as much money as you can manage into that chosen debt.

The second option is to target the debt that you are paying the most interest on. Once you wipe out the highest interest debt, you will have more money to pay off the rest because your largest “drain” will be gone.

Once you’ve worked out your regular expenses, subtract this amount from your earnings and divide the remaining amount among the non-essentials such as entertainment and clothing. It’s also important to plan for an emergency because you can never predict when something bad is going to happen: your car could break down, your son might rip his soccer uniform or the electric bill might be more than you expect. Planning for such emergencies prepares you to cope with the worst. Then, if anything is left over at the end of the month, treat the family to a nice meal or a day trip somewhere.

If you’re overall expenses add up to more than your income, you’ll obviously have to reevaluate the non-essential portion of your budget. It’s crucial that you’re honest with yourself about your spending habits. Without total self-disclosure you’ll never be able to set up a realistic budget.

It’s also crucial that you stick to your budget. This will get easier with time. But don’t feel like you have to stick to the same budget every month. Variety is the spice of life, so change the non-essentials you budget for and do things a little differently one month.

Budgeting is always stressful the first time or two you try it, especially when you have to drop some “luxuries” that you’ve become accustomed to. But you’ll quickly settle into a pattern and even learn to appreciate the simpler, cheaper things in your life. That’s when all your frugal living efforts will begin to pay off.

Small Frugal Changes for Your Home

August 5, 2009 · Filed Under Being Frugal, Cheap Home Decorating · Comments Off on Small Frugal Changes for Your Home 

Frugal moms often feel the need for change at times. Change is healthy, and it keeps our lives fresh and well-balanced. But when you aspire to live a frugal life, it’s easy to believe that it’s not possible to make changes, especially around the house, because change costs money. You could be mistaken…

While most of us think that to change anything, requires a big change, you can actually make small changes that have just as good an effect. In fact, it’s actually the smaller touches that make the biggest difference in our lives. Here are a few little things you can do that can make a really big difference.

Buy a few simple photo frames. You can pick them up from any number of places. Dollar stores are havens for such things and you know you’re going to get a great price. Instead of filling your frames with potentially expensive artwork, however, take a look at what you already have around the house. A family post card, a child’s artwork, even a CD cover. Practically anything flat that will fit into a frame is ideal. You might even get creative and design your own artwork. The guarantee with that is you know for sure no one else will ever have the same artwork you do!

Flowers add a lovely touch to any room, but finding nice vases can be expensive, especially when the ones you’ve had for over twenty years are starting to look a little musty and yellow. Glass drink bottles (if you can find them) make wonderful, unique vases that are cheap and come with a free drink, so who could argue with that? They also have a nice quirky, eclectic feel to them.

Consider letting the kids paint their own bedrooms to make it more their own. With proper supervision, and lots of drop cloths, they could do hand or finger painting, or even design and create their own mural. If you feel confident enough, you might even let them paint a mural in a more prominent room, like the living room. Or buy some stencils they could use to paint designs on the wall. Stencils are fairly cheap.

Bare walls can be incredibly dull, so try hanging something such a group of your favorite plates, or wallpaper leftovers–even if it’s just one or two lengths–to add a bit of color and variety to your rooms. Create a traditional arrangement, or something more original and creative, whatever works best for you. It doesn’t just have to be wallpaper, either. Use felt, suede, faux leather, or the fabric you made your last dress from.

Cover your old fading sofa and chairs with slipcover sheets. The great thing about using sheets is that they can be washed easily and you can change them whenever you feel the need to create or change the mood or ambience in a room. Just buy a large flat sheet to fit, drape it over the furniture and tuck it in around the cushion.

Want a fancy new calendar to hang on the wall? Don’t buy an over-priced printed one. Make your own instead! There are plenty of places online where you can buy a plain, basic calendar. Then just fill each page with family photos for a calendar like none other.

If you have a fancy for some new decor for the end tables or fireplace mantle, but can’t afford to spend much, head out into the wild blue yonder and see what nature has to offer. Stones make attractive paper weights or book ends. Feathers or pressed flowers are great glued to cardstock for bookmarks. Cover them in clear self-adhesive paper if you like. Pine cones look terrific spray painted, especially at Christmas. Pebbles scattered across a table add interest and texture, while shells can be stuck to the side of a mirror to make it that little bit more interesting.

Changing your decor a bit may not seem like much, but even these little changes can give your room a fresh feel and lift your spirits immensely. Give them a try!

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