Tag Archives: how to save money

Budgeting Tools That Actually Work

Getting the greatest return on your income and putting aside some money into your savings can seem a daunting task for some. But I have a secret for you: budgeting doesn’t have to be hard.

There are hundreds of budgeting programs available on the market today for every day use. These money-managing programs will provide you with the basic functions of entering your cash inflow and outflow, and categories of money-spending. Good programs will even present you with an analysis of your spending behaviors. Getting even more technological, some can track when your bills are due and if you’ve paid them and, if you really got a good program, offer you a tax draft that will ensure that you wont miss out on any dues or deductibles when it gets down to crunch time.

Computer software isn’t the only budgeting tools you can utilize, however. Coupons are an amazing money-saving tool that too many people overlook. Almost every store and magazine in the country have coupons available to you to earn you discounts on products that you were probably going to buy anyway. Generally, people don’t get too excited about saving $1, but look at it this way: the average American family of 4 spends roughly $600 a month on groceries. Assuming they go shopping once a week and use 2 $1-off coupons per trip, that’s a savings of over $100. It may not seem like much, but $100 can get you that haircut you’ve been putting off. Heck, you could even through in a few highlights!

Lists are another important budgeting tool. Whether you keep it on a piece of paper, your computer, or your PDA, lists will help you keep focused on what you set out to buy and keep you from drifting off to other unnecessary purchases. Prior to making your regular grocery trip, write down the weeks menu and figure out from there what groceries you need to make that happen. Next, add on various other household items that you need or will need before the week is through. Armed with these lists, you are now able to go to the grocery store to get exactly what you wanted, without getting distracted by all the fancy aisle displays.

A filing system is one of the best budgeting tools your home can have. With simple file folders, you can track your bills, receipts, bank documents, and whatever other financial documents you might need with barely a thought. By ordering these by type and date, it makes tax time that much easier.

The most effective budgeting tools are those that address your specific needs. Sometimes that means you shouldn’t settle for just one, and sometimes that means you should shop around. Don’t stop looking for the best budgeting tool until you find one that does exactly what you want it to do and more.

Are you ready to budget but having trouble getting everything in order? The 20-Minute Finance Fixer is a great way to get the ball rolling.

Do You Have These Frugal Living Habits?

Frugal living requires skills and ways of looking at things that help you take advantage of the money-saving opportunities in life. The truly frugal person makes these into habits. Six of these habits are outlined below. These are techniques that can be learned in a matter of a day or two, and made into new habits a few weeks. Then they will save money for you for the rest of your life.

1. Frugal living requires a knowledge of values. How can you get a great deal on a car if you don’t know what a great deal is. Get in the habit of educating yourself on prices, especially before you’re ready to buy anything that costs a lot. It takes a few hours of looking at listings for sale, for example, to know what homes are selling for in an area, but this is knowledge that can save you thousands.

2. Learn from other people. Most of us know someone who always gets the best deal on cars, boats, homes, or even groceries. Why not ask him or her how they do it! One person will tell you that the cheapest coffee in town is $3 per cup, while another will say 50 cents. Ask the latter about coffee shops. People near you are living a good life on half of what you make. Investigate that. See how others do things, and you’ll know your options.

3. Frugal living means always looking for alternatives. You might have just as much fun taking a discount trip to Mexico as you would going to Jamaica. Maybe you happen to enjoy pizza more than fine French dining. If so, why not skip the expensive restaurant and call Dominoes. This isn’t about sacrificing, but about getting even more of what you really enjoy by paying less for cheaper alternatives that work just as well.

4. Pay cash. What happens when everything you buy costs an additional 20% because of the interest you pay over the years? You can’t buy as much! Everything is cheaper when paid for in cash instead of credit. If you want that new patio set, divide the price by the number of weeks you can wait to get it. Set aside that much each week, and buy it for cash when you have the money. Not only do you save on interest, but you’ll often get a better price when you pay cash.

5. Learn to do the math. Did you really save $400 on that car if it costs you $500 more in gas each year? Did you know that some stores are cashing in on shopper’s assumptions that larger is cheaper? It’s true. That gallon of pickles might actually cost more than four quart jars. Make it a habit to do the math if you want to save money.

6. Tell people what you need. Mention it in conversations. Many people get free or cheap things, just because they talk. For example, a neighbor wanted to upgrade her living room debt, and was thrilled that I would take her three-month-old couch off her hands for $30. I sure am glad that I mentioned I was looking for one. You need to make this little trick a part of your frugal living habits.

About the Author – Steve Gillman has studied unusual ways to make money for thirty years. To learn more, visit his website, Unusual Ways To Make Money.

The Frugal environmentalist

There is a myth out there in the big bright world, that being an environmentalist is costly. It doesn’t need to be, actually I have found being more environmentally aware has actually saved me money! Making the “3 R’s and a P” work for you can help your budget and the environment too!
I was introduced to a “new to me” concept this past winter. The naturalist at our Nature Center called it “Pre- cycling”. (The “P” in the “3 R’s and a P”) Whereas recycling keeps items out of the waste stream by turning them into another usable item, PRE cycling is actively doing things to prevent trash from ever “being” produced.
Take for example all those boxes of rice with seasonings one tends to buy. How expensive is that? Lets add it up… each prepackaged meal adds tons of extra cardboard and plastics to our ever growing landfills. Many times, the portions are not large enough for all we are serving, so we use two or three. A serving of rice with seasonings from a box cost about 3 times as much than if you had measured out the ingredients yourself, and it adds all that extra packaging to the landfills. A terrific solution would be to learn how to create those mixes yourself. Buy rice and spices in bulk. A cup of rice, a sprinkling of spices and Viola! You have your own homemade version. It costs less, and it really takes no more time to prepare than if you had purchased the boxed kind.
Another way to be environmentally aware and frugal is to bring your own containers with you to bring home leftovers when you go out to eat. (Yes, even being frugal I still go out to eat.) When it comes time to reheat, just pop your container into the microwave reheat and serve! How much easier can it be? You save money because you now have another meal – or two- from leftovers. You save the environment because you have kept take out containers out of the “waste stream.” It is a win-win situation for all concerned!
Other examples include:
-Trade out paper towels for cloth ones.
– Use canvas bags instead of paper or plastic bags when you go shopping.
– Use rechargeable batteries instead of regular one time use ones.
-View items on your computer instead of purchasing books or printing the items. (This works well with recipes. You can always go back to the website if you need more information. Certainly with all the terrific recipe sites available now, you can have your pick of specialty, diet or ethnic related foods. The web holds a greater variety than anybody’s kitchen bookshelf could possibly hope to!)
Have you ever wondered what all those plastic bottles we recycle actually are turned into? Well, I am happy to say I have many objects that began life as a plastic bottle. One is a terrific “canvas” bag, another is a pair of shoelaces, and a third is a t-shirt. And, I can tell you that t-shirt wears like iron! It is just amazing what our recycling technology has brought forth.
As a child, I looked forward to recycling day at our house each month. We would load up our station wagon with all the pop bottles and aluminum cans we had collected and proceed off to the recycling plant. It was a huge scary place with big crushing machines, loud crunching noises, and frightening junkyard dogs guarding the back lots. But, still, I looked forward to it. I knew after all, I would be getting a cash reward at the end of the day. Money that I could spend on a special treat like bubblegum or yes, even more soda pop.  As an adult, the recycling centers are much nicer! There are many conveniently located throughout my city. Small, clean little sheds and not a junk yard dog to be found! Now, I have the option of collecting my funds or donating them to a local charity with the push of a button. I still look forward to recycling day, as do my children.
Reduce, that is one 3 R that many struggle with. But, fitting reducing into a frugalities life is easy. It just takes a bit of practice. Reduce- to use less.
– Turn down your thermostat during the winter. Save money and save our natural resources. Simple, fast, and really your house doesn’t need to be heated when no one is home.
– Reduce the amount of time you spend driving place to place. Plan out your day so multiple trips will not be necessary. Shop on one side of town one day, and get all your errands done at that time. Next trip you can hit the stores you need to visit on the other side of town. Avoid criss-crossing all over the city to get a good deal. Make plans, save gas and save time.
– Scale down those birthday party plans. Somewhere along the way, children have been conditioned that food comes with prizes, birthday parties come with goodie bags, and parents will spend a month’s salary celebrating a day their one year old will never remember. Save the expenditures until the child is old enough to remember the festivities. Many of my friends were shocked to hear we were hosting a special party for my daughters 6th birthday. We splurged and invited 5 of her friends to a Build a Bear workshop. Each child went home with a new plush animal and an outfit for it. Splurged, yes. But, it was also the first party we had ever held for her. We had celebrated the first five with family only. Forgoing the bounce house, puppet theatres, goodie bags and pony rides so many others in our neighborhood had been compelled to celebrate with. We splurged, but that is what being frugal is all about for my family. Having the means to splurge on occasion, and appreciating it all the more.
Reuse- that is the easy “R” for my family. Think trash to treasure and you have the meaning and purpose of “reuse.”
– We’ve been the recipient of many terrific wardrobes over the years. Even before my first daughter was born I had people giving me baby clothes. How much money is wasted on clothes that only fit a newborn for a month? I am happy to report that except for special occasion clothes, my children reused many outfits from friends and family members. And, we in turn passed them on as well.
-We’ve passed on loads of books we’ve outgrown; and, happily accepted terrific books as well. As a homeschooler, one of the most important things we have learned is that one size does not fit all when it comes to a curriculum. What one of my daughters found a terrific resource, the other can’t bear to use. I am lucky to belong to a wonderful group of people that trade resources freely. Everything from books, to posters, to compact discs have generously been given and received. Money rarely changes hands, as in our community we all believe that you reap what you sow. Generosity breeds generosity.
-We’ve remodeled our kitchen with seats that a local eatery had taken out and had been throwing away. Now, instead of a mix matched set of chairs and a wobbly table, we have a wonderful retro kitchen set! By reusing someone else’s trash, have found a treasure. And, it was free!
Saving money and saving our planets precious resources all go hand in hand. It is never too late to start saving the planet, and certainly never to late to start reducing your expenses. It just takes a bit of planning, a clear idea of how to do it, and taking the steps to set the plan in motion.

Dana Eppele is a homeschooling mom and member of the Frugal-Families team!  She and her family live in California.  Dana loves homeschooling, her family, living a “greener” lifestyle and being a member of the Frugal-Families forums.

7 Tips for Thrifty Living

It is no secret that life is more expensive today than when our parents were growing up. How can we offset soaring prices without sacrificing quality of life? Here are a few tips to help you save more:

1. It is no surprise that credit cards represent a trap for many people. Incentives such as “earning” frequent flyer miles or free internet access are only “free” if you can pay off the balance every month. Otherwise, you end up on the losing end of the stick, paying interest rates in the double digits. It makes more sense to save for that ticket to visit the Caribbean or your relatives than to rack up frequent flyer miles on a card you can never pay off. Tip: Only use credit cards if you know you can pay off the balance at the end of the month.

2. Electricity doesn’t come cheap. Heat-producing appliances such as dryers and refrigerators burn up enormous amounts of energy. Tip: Consider purchasing an energy saving appliance. Turn down the refrigerator in the cooler months. Hang your wash outside instead of using the dryer. It will save you money, and the clothes smell fresh!

3. It is tempting to spend a lot of money on the weekends “because you deserve it.” That may be true, but you may not be able to afford it, too. Tip: Instead of that expensive weekend at an amusement park or that ski trip that costs a bundle, take a bike ride with your kids or check out a new park to go sledding. You’ll get some exercise and needed fresh air while creating memories with the kids.

4. Children usually like to draw. If your little Picasso is eating up all of your expensive computer printer paper, think about this. Tip: Consider using paper bags or recycled office paper for some of their artwork. They work fine for collages, and they are free. An added plus? You’ll reduce that pile of bags in the pantry that keeps growing, and you’ll save several trees.

5. Spending time away from the kids is essential, but babysitters can be expensive. Tip: Consider swapping babysitting with a neighbor, at least some of the time. It will reduce the cost of going out with your partner, and you’ll benefit from a night on the town for less.

6. Good picture frames can be very pricey. Tip: Purchase one stable picture frame for the kids’ annual school photos. Keep the old photos behind the frame to compare prior years’ pictures. An added benefit? You have all of the school pictures in one place!

7. Entertainment need not be expensive. Tip: Rent a video instead of attending a movie in a theater. Invite your friends and have a potluck supper. Now you’ve multiplied the fun without the extra cost of parking, movie tickets, and refreshments!

Life can be beautiful. It doesn’t have to be expensive.

To learn other thrifty tips check out 12 Ways to Pay Less.

Christine Louise Hohlbaum, American author of Diary of a Mother: Parenting Stories and Other Stuff, http://www.diaryofamother.com is a freelance writer living near Munich, Germany with her husband and two kids. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from Smith College and an M.A. in International Relations, German and English Literature from the University of Constance, Germany. When she is not leading a toddler playgroup or writing, she likes to dance, sing with her kids, and generally frolic.

25 Easy Money-Saving Tips

1.  Cut out the soda and drink more water! You’d be surprised how much you will save.

2. Go over your grocery list. Try buying more off-brands. Most of the ones I’ve tried are just as good as their more expensive counterparts.

3. Buy clothes and shoes for you and the kids from the clearance racks. I have been buying my sons’ school clothes this way for years!

4. Get movies from the library instead of renting them.

5. Same with books, borrow instead of buy. We usually only read them once anyway

6. Go on a picnic instead of going to the restaurant. It is more fun and much cheaper!

7. Toss all your change in a “piggy bank” of some kind and let it accumulate for a few months or longer. You will think you struck it rich! (Not really, but it does add up)

8. If you have all the movie channels, cut them down a bit. Most of the movies rotate through them all anyway.

9. Do your laundry at night. The rates are cheaper.

10. Give your clothes an extra spin as it costs less to run a washer than the dryer.

11. Ask your credit card companies for a lower interest rate. Sometimes rather than lose a good customer, they will grant your wish!

12. Buy your holiday decorations AFTER the holiday. You can save up to 75% or more.

13. Turn down your heat a couple degrees more at night and throw on an extra blanket.

14. Clean behind your refrigerator at least once a year to get out all the dust and dirt that can cost you more money.

15. Save empty bread bags and grocery bags instead of buying box after box of storage bags.

16. Keep your car tune and your tires properly inflated to save money on gas.

17. Buy inexpensive fabric for cloth napkins, doilies, etc.

18. Be creative when it comes to decorating. Use sheets to make curtains. Use an old quilt as a cozy wall-hanging. Create an artful display with family photos.

19. Save the new, convenient plastic coffee cans with handles. Paint them, decorate them and use them for organizers for kids art supplies, your CDs, pens & pencils, food envelopes, recipes, craft supplies, etc.

20. Turn unused stuff into money. If you have a gift you haven’t used or that shirt you bought and never wore, take them back to the store. You might not get full price, but some is better than none.

21. Use petroleum jelly to remove make-up. It is much more economical then beauty products made for removing make-up.

22. Hydrogen peroxide can be used to kill germs in cuts and sores rather then expensive antibiotic medicines.

23. Make windowsill or container gardens and grow herbs and fresh vegetables.

24. Instead of a night on the town, send the kids to Grandma’s and have a romantic night at home.

25. Make and STICK TO a budget!

Terri Seymour and her husband Terry offer a no-cost, non-MLM home business opportunity. They strive to help you build a successful home business. Take advantage of the gifts, resources and more provided for your home and business at http://www.seymourproducts.com FREE ecourse at: business-building-ecourse@getresponse.com