I forgot to put my ice scraper in the car on the first frosty night and it wasn't a thin ice I could just blast off with the defrost on high. Since no one else was in the parking lot I pulled out my grocery shopping card and started scraping away, it took a little longer than normal but it worked well. However, I had to get a new card the next time I was at the grocery store.

Not everyone can park their car in a warm garage, so scraping the window is the job in the morning before work.
However there are alternatives to window scraping:
☼ Putting cardboard on the windshield and held it down with the wipers and side doors
☼ Placed thick plastic over the window - An old shower curtain would do the trick as well and you can slam it in the door on a windy night
Poured warm water over the window – not suggested as a regular idea as any cracks can make your windshield a spider web of catastrophe.
Sprayed vinegar on the window – this seemed to cut down on the fog, but ice still built up

Other things to try:
Carpet remnants - I found that the rug side up is best as you will have a slightly furry window with it rug side down
Rubbing alcohol sprayed on windows has been suggested
Car mats laid on the window - I haven't tried this but with "spikes" on the bottom of some I would think flipping these over would work best
Newspapers - newspaper have been used for insulation in walls and covering up in the rain. Just make sure you have some weather proof tape to hold them together.

And then while you wait for the windows to defog, have a rag or chalkboard eraser in the car to wipe so you can see. And use a vinegar solution or old shaving cream to keep the window fogging down to a minimum.

I'm outta here to go clean and defog my car windows.

In this economy, and any other for that matter, people are looking for ways to make a few extra dollars. I have highlighted a few ways to make money with paid online surveys, comic books and some other unusual ways to make money. But nothing beats making money and helping out someone in the process.

Reader Mike Kowieski is a 26-year-old living in Chicago who is the guest writer today on how tutoring has helped him.

These days, it seems like everyone is looking for a way to supplement their primary income.  In college and continuing on into the so-called "real world", myself and a number of my friends have earned extra money by working as a tutor.

I first started tutoring in college simply because I needed the money. One of my majors was journalism, and I've always enjoyed reading and writing, so my career center was able to put me in touch with a local junior high school that was looking for English tutoring help. I ended up working with a 7th-grader who needed a lot of help in reading and writing. The extra income was great, but there was much more I got out of tutoring than just a check.

Tutoring can also be a very rewarding experience, more so than any other part-time job I've ever worked. I felt just as much a sense of accomplishment as he did when he got an assignment back with "Great Job!" written across the top from the teacher. You have a strong sense of giving back to the community, no matter how small your contribution may be, and you really feel a sense of pride in that. Their successes become your successes. There are few better feelings I have experienced in my life than helping someone else reach a goal that first seemed out of reach.

Another benefit to being a tutor is the ability to set your own hours. Only want to work 5 hours a week? You can do that. Don't want to work on weeknights? You can arrange to meet your pupil only on the weekends. I can't think of another part-time job that allows for this level of flexibility. You are also free to set your own rates - and with typical hourly rates falling between $30 to $60, you can make a good amount of money each week.

In order to tutor, you need to have a strong working knowledge in a subject area. But if you don't have a PhD in mathematics, don't worry: there are many elementary and middle school students out there who need tutoring at a level that won't require you to dig through your old textbooks from college. I have two friends, both a few years out of college, who live in Chicago and use tutoring as a way to supplement their primary income from their regular job. They both agree that you don't need a lot of in-depth knowledge, especially if you'll be helping out a student who is not at an advanced level in your subject area.

If you are interested in becoming a tutor, I encourage you to do so.  For those still in college, its easy to find opportunities - reach out to your jobs center or the department staff of the subject you're interesting in teaching. More recently, I have found new tutoring opportunities through WyzAnt Tutoring, an online service that connects students with local tutors. You can also work with local libraries and community centers to find tutoring opportunities in your area.  Once you have a few satisfied students, I think you'll find tutoring to be an enriching experience, both for your wallet and your sense of well-being.

I got a lot of thoughts run around in my head this week and my inbox is filling up and needs to be cleaned. Today you are the recipient of my random thoughts and my inbox purging. Enjoy!

I am a huge Consumerist fan, I do occasionally get tired of the "I got shafted" posts and would like to see more "over and above" posts about companies, but recently I read a post that I disagreed with greatly. The post Buy A New Printer When You Run Out Of Ink was a bad idea and I think the comments are in agreement that this is a stupid idea.

Their theory is thus: "If you're sick of the high cost of toner, and don't want to deal with messy refill kits or off-brand versions, here's a great way to save cash and help struggling manufacturers at the same time: Just buy a new printer every time you run low on ink. Sure, you'll have a house full of printers in no time, but you can always donate those to Goodwill, or to the local landfill."

Environmentally unsound: A horrible idea as it adds unnecessarily to the landfills of America or like one commenter said, "I suppose, then, that we ship our old printers to Nigeria or China to let the children there burn them to sort out what tiny bits of metal may be in there for the recyclers?"

Financially unsound: Though you may save on ink by getting a new printer each time and even get a donation tax credit for donating the printer, a financially sound idea is to keep what you have and make it work for as cheap as possible. Besides that just walking around in a couple retail stores I found only one printer that was near $40, all the rest were more and my ink cartridges are $20 each, not a good value at all.

A Declutterers nightmare: Someone who has a hard time getting rid of stuff or procrastinates taking their donations in is going to have a mess on their hands. I buy about 12 cartridges a year, can you imagine 12 printers a year stacked up in your home?

I liked the Tips for Your Financial Future that CIC has put together. Some good advice that needs to be remembered - "Ignore the naysayers. Many will question your methods and ask why. The bottom line is that it really doesn't matter what others think or say. It's your underlying values and reasons for the goal that make the difference."

Frugal Village recently posted some responses to random questions - I enjoyed her response to, "What types of meals would you make if you were low on cash?"
I would have to include tuna and macaroni in that list, I used to eat a lot of that.

NYC is running an Anti-Soda drinking spot to get people to realize just what they are tossing down their throats - besides the chemicals (You have been warned it is very gross)

I really enjoyed Trent's post that Most of Us Have Never Experienced a True Economic Meltdown - Which I agree with and had written about that through thick and thin we will survive this recession to write our own book of experiences 

My goal is to do twice as much charity work next year as I did this year and when i came across Mint's post on Charity, I was happy to see that we Americans do quite a bit but that doesn't seem to be the whole picture.

And in honor of the holiday season and preparing for the gift or two that you may be regifting, The Daily Green offers advice on How to regift (and get away with it)

I haven't done a product review and thought I would try something a little different as Black and Decker contacted me to try out their new product. For full disclosure I was given the product for free, it retails for around 45.00 though you might be able to pick up a cheaper one on eBay or Amazon.com

First off the product received sat on my book shelf for about 2 weeks as it needed a 9v battery and I didn't have any laying around the house and was just too lazy to go out and buy one before my next shopping trip. I was bummed that a simple battery wasn't included in the product, so for me that was a negative mark right off the bat.

After hooking it all and reading through the instructions I started pointing it at windows, doors and outlets like the picture showed. It does show the red and blue colors like the picture shows which was cool. I can set the temperature varience to 1,5,10 degree difference - however it depends on what time of day I measure and if sun is hitting a window or wind is blowing I have noticed. Because of this I checked the doors and windows multiple times and days to get a better reading.

To me it was handy little product to have to see where leaks causing the house to be colder or hotter than necessary. However, I am limited in my apartment as to what I can do to fix these - plastic over windows and sliding doors and putting some draft blockers up for hinged doors, but I can't fix cold walls on my own without hanging blankets on the walls. I could see how this would be handy for those who want to check their own home insulation in the attic and walls and can take steps to fix it better.

So here is my review in summary:
+Easy to use
+Handy for checking temperature differences
+/- Price isn't bad - Though you might want to get a sale/pre-owned one

- No Battery came with it
- Have to use multiple times of day to get a good medium detection
- Really a one time use item, once you fix trouble spots

Overall, it does what it says and it does it well. It would be handy for libraries to loan out as it really is more of a one time use item and it is more useful for a home-owner than an apartment dweller. I do think I will hold onto it for a while since I am an apartment dweller and can use it at the next apartment I live in.

Every has their own experience with clutter and deciding how best to go through it, this guest post is reader Holly's experience with de-cluttering.

I grew up with Depression-era parents. While my friends had garbage cans that were overflowing, we had jars/boxes that were neatly stacked with wires, lids, screws, nails, etc. Nothing was too small (or too large) to be saved, so long as mom or dad knew what it was to be used for in the future.

After I grew up and moved out, I carried on the tradition of saving…only I did so to an extreme. I had stacks and stacks of JUNK. What I saved was not useful, unless someone needed supplies to start a fire. My turning point with saving “junk” came when I made a series of moves: I moved from my home state to a different state, then another, and finally landed in the town where I currently live. There was a large (and heavy) box that I had moved with me each time; in fact it had been with me since I lived in my first apartment. After moving it repeatedly for approximately 9 years, I opened the box. It contained garbage. No, not the stinky, yucky kind of garbage; this was paper…old mail, newspapers, flyers, etc. I had moved a box of garbage with me for 9 years.

See, I had good intentions: “Waste not, want not.” Somehow I had missed the key part of that…saving something for a specific future use. When I told my dad about the box of garbage that had traveled the country with me, he had a good belly laugh about it.

“Waste not, want not” is only pertinent if it’s something you want to begin with. If it’s not something you want, and you can’t immediately place it in the hands of someone who does want it, it is called garbage and we need not fill our lives with it.

I’m not talking about recycling, or saving the scrap wood for a Boy Scout drive, or anything like that. Saving something for a specific person (or group) to pick up on a specific date is exactly what we should be doing. Saving things for “someday” when I “might need this” is exactly what we should not be doing. In looking through all the “treasures” I had saved (read: in sifting through years of garbage), I realized that yesterday’s garbage was preventing me from fully enjoying today’s blessings.

Since that day, I have tried to pare down what I save to only the things that I know I will make use of or need. Everything else is donated, sold, recycled or thrown away. I haven’t perfected it yet…I still have some boxes in my basement full of “keepsake” stuff; things that belonged to my parents (who are now deceased) that I just can’t bear to part with, but things that don’t really fit into my life right now. I know I should get rid of most of it, but I just can’t force myself to do that yet. Once a year I go through all those boxes and always get rid of at least a few things. My motto is “Progress not perfection.” (That’s not something I made up, I heard it somewhere but can’t remember the source.)

Every day I clean a cupboard or a closet, purging it of things that we no longer need, organizing the things that have earned a spot in our life. Some days I might spend hours on it, others might only take me a few minutes.

I have discovered a new nemesis in this process: the junk drawer in the kitchen. We have one drawer where things go to hide. It started out holding a pen, pliers, small hammer, 2 screwdrivers and a small container of screws/nails. It now contains everything that has ever been lost…that sock that went missing from your laundry last week? It’s probably in my kitchen drawer. No matter how often I clean out the drawer, it’s always a mess. If any of you have any secrets to share about keeping the drawer clean, I would love to hear them.

 I am starting a new life long goal of living on less food and more exercise. Of course in order to keep with my other goal to live on less money I have needed to find ways to get that exercise without spending money if I can. The first thing I did was to look around for ways to exercise that are close to me.

Working out near work and home 

EMPLOYER FITNESS: I spend 45 hours a week at work and I've always felt my 1 hour lunch was way to long, even when I tried to eat slowly I still had 40 minutes left and I didn't want to go back to my desk. Instead I now grab my gym bag and head down to the little workout room downstairs and plow through a 30 min elliptical workout and 10 minutes of nonstop weightlifting.

Not all employers I've been with have this option, one company had a wonderful deal with the nearby fitness center that was 25-50% off a month. But I have found that if I workout in the company fitness room, I am rarely joined by others, so it is a nice get away from the stress of work.

HOME FITNESS: A nice benefit to many of the apartment buildings I have lived in have been the fitness rooms that they offered. Most all have a treadmill and bike and some circuit weights, all worthwhile items to get me in shape. However, even when I didn't have access to fitness rooms or gyms there are many ways to do exercises at home for free just using our own body weight. Some of the hardest, yet simplest exercises are sit-ups, push-ups and squats that work the entire body.

TV FITNESS: I already pay for a cable box that automatically comes with a channel FitTV, however I don't like the commercials but I do have Video on Demand and I can do a fitness routine without commercials when I want to. I did a yoga core 20 min exercise that looked like a good starter episode (20min) and I was huffing and puffing by the end, but I was determined to keep up.

There are other ways I stayed in shape that have helped save me money and they rarely fail to produce the results I need.

Finding Other Resources
BOOKS and VIDEOS: I walk into the library and one thing I have found that never gets touched are the workout videos. They have stacks and stacks of them. It is very rare to be on a list for a fitness video unless it is the latest craze (currently Biggest Loser videos). And I have found the books are handy when I'm tired of doing the same bodyweight exercises and need a few new ideas. Yard sales are also handy place for picking up an exercise video or book.

EQUIPMENT: Finding equipment for cheap can be done, but it takes time and may need some tinkering but you can find some occasionally on Craigslist and eBay or Freecycle. For people on Craigslist you could always contact them and offer them a much smaller amount or to take it off their hands if they don't have any takers for the price they are asking. Sometimes you can find pre-owned equipment at places like Play It Again Sports.

If you do decide to buy new there are some small pieces of equipment that are versatile and don't cost a whole lot: Exercise ball (I like the 55cm size for my height), Dumbbells, Jump Rope and Resistance bands all take very little room and a small budget.

HOME-MADE EQUIPMENT: If you refuse to buy any equipment you can make your own weights and exercise equipment using a weight scale for measuring the exact weight you are lifting for milk jugsbasketball medicine balls, chin bar and more. Don't forget steps around your house and making your own jump rope are good ways to add aerobic exercise, besides walking and running.

ELEMENTARY MY DEAR: Kids have the basics down in elementary school as to how to stay fit. They run, walk and jump around on furniture with no equipment necessary. They are the original Parkour kids (vid) before it became cool. If finding time is hard and you still want to exercise there are ways to build it into your everyday life.

Parking further away makes you walk more and if you are late to work, you can always run in and still be exercising. If you have to have that downtime in front of the tv before you go to bed then do some stretching while you watch tv and a few sit-ups and press-ups during commercials. Body-weight exercises can do wonders for getting the heart going and exercising our muscles- recently I saw a workout video with "Dirty jobs" host Mike Rowe with a way he stays fit while on the road, it was simple and a full body workout.

Sure you can pay for the membership dues at a gym and have want of nothing when it comes to fitness workouts or you can get creative, save money and see the reward in your wallet and not just in the mirror.

I written on how generic shopping can save grocery costs and it would seem that popular opinion is seeing the benefit of generic/private label groceries over the name brand options. And in one court case they ruled again on the side of a private label company.

Recently in Brandweek.com a private label company took to court a brand name company  "claiming that Mead Johnson had engaged in false and misleading campaigns against its store brand products, which are sold at Walmart, Target and Krogers, among others."

Basically they stated that the generic brand of baby  was inferior and had "inferior ingredients that could result in poor eye and brain development for babies".

However, the private label company said, "We have the same exact source of the lipids, with the same exact levels from the same exact supplier,” said Joe Shields, director of public relations for PBM Products. “Really, what it means is that store brand formulas are nutritionally equivalent to national brand formulas like Enfamil.”

It is unfortunate that generic/private label company don't always disclose that their food comes from the same plant as Coca-Cola or Lays as I think that would work in their favor. But perhaps it wouldn't be needed as brand name companies are seeing their revenue shrink a bit as people are seeing the value at the checkout and that there is little to no difference in taste when buying the store brand.

This generic food is not your mother's black and white cans with block letters - These generic brands are a force to be reckoned with as people see that they don't have to pay the extra $1 for frozen peas because the store's private label tastes just as good and they don't need a coupon either.

Recently Brandweek.com reported that sales for the "unbranded" groceries have increased in sales by as much as 22% for Baby food and 15% for canned seafood. On a side note since canned tuna is downsizing it cans for the same price, why not go store brand anyway.

Certainly taste will play a factor in deciding but just as some people prefer Pepsi over Coke, Store brand items will always have a good foot in the door of every home as people toss out their loyalty to a brand in order to save money and find that they don't have to sacrifice their taste buds in doing so.

Thanks for being a part of this week's charity posts. The holidays are certainly a busy time and it can be hard to find time to volunteer for a group, so here and now make a promise to yourself that your New Year's Resolution will be to contact a charity in 2010 and set time aside for helping out in person, myself included.

As of today there are 3 weeks left until gift giving and you want to finish this year out on a good hand full of donations and would love to give a donation as a gift to someone. There are a few ways to do that.

Give a Charity Gift Card - Both GlobalGiving and Charity Navigator have ways you can give a gift of money but still help out a charity.
To quote Charity Navigator, "You Choose the Amount ... They Choose the Cause"
To quote GlobalGiving, "The recipient gets to choose how the donation is allocated, and then see how their money has been put to work."

Shopping for a Good Cause - If gift cards aren't personal enough for you, you can buy at many charity organizations and the money helps to support the cause.
St. Jude Children's Hospital Store - The ads have been on tv lately and still are, and you don't have to donate money but can shop at their store to get something more personal
UNICEF shop - Purchases at this store benefit children around the world
Philosophy.com - Purchase skin care, fragrance, bath& body and makeup and still help charities.

Fuzzy-Good Holiday Cards - If you are all done for gift shopping and just need to sent holiday cards that are for a good cause you can try Treegreetings. They plant a tree in the USA or Central America and the recipient receives your e-card and a tree planting certificate. If you prefer animals to trees then you can go to Reproduct.net and "The card is sent to the recipient in a two-way envelope (think “Netflix”). Once the recipient is done with the card, they simply place it in the postage paid return portion of the envelope and it is sent to Shaw Industries where 100% of the card is re-used in the manufacturing of new carpet tiles." Here is a demo

One thing to keep in mind no matter how or where you donate to make sure you aren't being scammed and you can also check out the charity with the following sites. You may want to check a couple to get a more rounded idea of them. Plus you may find other charities that you weren't aware of.
Charity Navigator - love the comments section
US BBB for charities
Charity Watch
Just Give

Charity giving that involves money and stuff is the most common it would seem. However, giving of time can be one of the most confidence boosting ways to know that what is being given is put to good use.

I previously talked about giving of time that involved mouse clicks. Now lets look over some ways we can give of time that would get us up from the chair and out into the public.

Religious Charity - These seem to be the easiest ones to participate in if one already belongs to a religious organization. Some groups will have food shelters or soup kitchens and others will package care bags for the military, AIDS victims and poor families. Some religious groups don't require that you be a member of their organization to participate but call ahead if you have a church in the area that you want to work with.

Public Charity - These are groups that you can give of time depending on your interest. There are groups for Human Rights and Civil Liberties, Animal Rights, Land Conservation and the Environment, Emergency Relief, Refugees, Medical Aid, Fighting Poverty, Education Support, Fighting Hunger, Children, Women & Senior Citizens, Promoting Self Sufficiency, Supporting Military and Veterans and Watchdog Groups. I found a great list of charities with website links over at lovetoknow.com

Once I have found that area of interest that tugs at my heart I need to call them up, see what they need for volunteers and when. Then I just commit to them by coming in and helping or going for orientation and signing up for a regular schedule to work with them. As with any payable job, I need to treat the charity group the same by calling ahead if I am unable to fulfill my volunteer position since they are counting on me to be there.

Volunteering doesn't have to be a regular monthly or weekly event, there are ways to give if time is not flexible for volunteering. And some ways to donate your time once may be to offer something of your talent to bake, speak a foreign language, sew, interpret as a signer for the deaf or to give of yourself by running or providing your blood or your hair.

For donating blood - contact GiveLife to find the nearest blood drive and set up an appointment
For donating hair - contact locks of love to read through their criteria for donating hair

Recently I signed up for and got myself a bone marrow kit to get myself tested and find out if I am a match to anyone out there. Some people are notified right away and others aren't notified for years, if ever. There is more you can do to donate, one way is to to specify on your driver's license that you want to be an organ donor - you would designate this when you get your license or renew it. You can also download a donor card and keep it with you in your wallet if you aren't renewing anytime soon. My maternal Grandfather donated his body to science and I have to say it was one of the things I am proud of him for doing.

If you want to be a living organ donor you can donate a kidney, part of a liver or lung or how about part of pancreas, an egg donation or sperm donation. Did you know that over 10 people die each day waiting for a kidney? Wow!

Overall it appears from birth to death we will always have ways to give of ourselves and our time that will greatly impact those who receive.

This week I thought I would write about ways we can give that aren't the usual cash donations or closet cleaning donation sites. Toward the end of the year I start to gather together all the receipts that show my donation of money and stuff to different charity sites so I am prepared for the upcoming tax season. However, there is one way to donate that I don't do enough of.

The one item that is never taxed but gives immediately, is to give of my time - for some schedules will allow and for others they do not allow. I fall into the latter category but I know that I can make time available on the weekends and my plan for next year is to find two different places to give of my time, whether it is handing out food or swinging a paintbrush hammer.

Because of this, I need to start searching for ways to do that. Of course the easiest way is to just point my index finger and click on those sites that offer to donate money thanks to my time and computer mouse. Why not start there for some easy ways to give of time.

The Breast Cancer site - Click on the "click here to give - it's free" once a day, every day. Each click sends funds to the National Breat Cancer Foundation to pay for free mammograms for those who can't afford it. In Denver it helped over 300 women get mammograms.

The same site, CharityUSA also has other one click giving sites:
The Hunger site - They work with Mercy Corps, Feeding America and Millennium Promise to provide food and food programs for people around America and the world. Each click is equal to 1.1 cups of food to the hungry.
The Animal Rescue site - They partner with The Fund for Animals, the North Shore Animal League and the Petfinder.com Foundation. Each click is equal to .6 bowls of food to rescued animals.
The Rainforest site -  They partner with Rainforest2Reef (formerly Friends of Calakmul),Rainforest Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy and World Land Trust-US
The Child Health site - Partnering with the following sites - Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Helen Keller International, Mercy Corps and Prosthetics Outreach Foundation
The Literacy site - They partner with Room to Read and First Book to provide books and teaching materials.

Other sites that use one click ideas are Goodsearch, which you put in the charity you want funds to go to, then search as you would a normal search engine (yahoo, google) and your money (1¢) goes to that charity for each search. Also Care2 click to donate has a one click once a day format that donates to everything from baby seals, oceans and monkeys to children, pets and domestic violence.

If you think your index finger and brain can work together for more than one click you can try these sites to test your educational skills.
FreePoverty - Provides free and clean drinking water through your knowledge of world geographic locations. Currently they do not have a donation partnership. "Due to some unforeseen issues with the organization we previously donated our revenues to, so they could donate water on our behalf (read about it here), we are now looking for a decent non-profit organization to collaborate with FreePoverty and its users."
FreeRice - I love this site and have the banner to it on my site, but it tests your knowledge of English Vocabulary, Foreign Language, Math, Famous Paintings, Geography and Chemical Symbols. For each correct answer a donation of 10 grains of rice is donated by United Nations' World Food Program.
Charitii.com - Tests you on English Vocabulary as well, however you can choose what you want to donate to - grains of wheat to Care,  Water to Charity: water, Square inches of rainforest to The Nature Conservatory, Minutes of education to Oaktree Foundation, and points to Philippine Aid Society.
FreeKibble  and FreeKibbleKat - These are nice donation sites of 10 pieces of food for pets if you prefer to donate clicks to the four-legged variety. They use the General trivia format to rack up the kibble kernels. Since May 14,2008 to November 18, 2009, freekibble and freekibblekat, have raised over 258,000 lbs. (129 tons!!!) of kibble.

The quote that "cash is king" or the that different studies over the years have come to the conclusion that we spend less when we use cash. Certainly we do have limitation when we use cash, we can't write an I.O.U to the cashier that says the next time we are in the store we will pay the remaining 5.61 on our grocery bill. But that doesn't mean I don't still waste money.

Cash is dangerous for me to carry around, the temptation to buy stuff that I don't need is very great. When I jingle the change in my pocket, it is a siren call to the vending machines at work and they call out to my weakest desires.

I generally keep cash in my wallet in case I forget to pack a lunch, but recently that money went to a soda pop, donation for a women's shelter (also to wear jeans to work for the week) and to pay more than my share of the pizza for the team. You see, if I didn't have cash on me I would drink less soda pop, order less pizza and be stingier with my money for donations.

There are people that go and get cash for their paychecks and make the wad of money last for rent, food and still are able to save. But if I did that, I would be broke a week before I got paid again. Someone asks me for a dollar, I give it. Someone asks for a donation, I give it. I have a craving for a spicy chicken sandwich from the fast food joint, I get it.

The idea of an envelope system to break up the money never worked for me, I would "loan" money to other envelopes without consequence and not always pay it back. And writing down everything I spent the cash on had no consequences. It was similar to a "see food diet", I see food I eat it.  I see stuff to buy, I pay cash and get it. No worries.

Instead, I have learned to carry around my debit card because it is more of a hassle to swipe the card and save the receipt for when I get home to write it in the checkbook as to whet I have spent. It would seem that in my mind there is less accountability for cash than there is with a debit card or check. Cash doesn't require books to be balanced every time something is purchased. Instead the habit of using a card and writing it down is more ingrained in me than the use of cash and writing it down.

What have you found when you use cash as opposed to a debit card or checkbook?

Saving money can be hard when there is so much stuff that needs to be taken care of, the pipe under the sink is dripping into a bucket or their is an oil stain on the ground under the car. It seems being an adult just makes me want to look around and sigh a lot.

I know that many of these procrastination ideas have gone through my own head, here is how I counter them.

1. I don't have time to save, and it's cousin, it takes too long:
Since it depends on the price tag of the item saved for it can take weeks, days or months. But how many times have I bought little frivolous items, maybe even put them on a credit card that I pay minimum on and end up paying double for it in the end?

If I start putting aside $10 a paycheck I can have enough in 3 months to cover most of the cost of a decent pair of much needed new sneakers. I can set up an extra savings account with my bank in less than 10 minutes and have them take the money out automatically and write it down as a bill.
Recently I set up a SmartyPig savings account to get started on next holidays gifts and a summer vacation. The reason I don't do it with my bank is that the interest is better and if I don't see the money every time I log into the bank, it isn't a temptation.

2. What's the point of savings if I don't have a goal.
If a certain item isn't appealing, then go with a certain amount within 6 months and see if the challenge can be met. Of course let's say a co-worker has tickets to the local NFL game they are willing to part with at half price, that is a spur of the moment decision that savings goals can't predict. So forget the goal of attaining a certain amount or item, just tell yourself you won't stop putting $25 into savings for 4 months, no breaks, no distractions and see if the challenge can be met.

3. Saving money is impossible when I'm the only one in the family doing it.
Wait a second, so popping $1.25 into the vending machine can be done without the family but putting $5 a week into a savings can't be done without the family on board? That doesn't make sense. Money tears a whole in my pocket, literally. I play with it so much and put holes in my pocket that I need to spend it so I don't jingle it constantly. Now I don't keep cash on me, except a dollar at most, no change. If I carry anything more than that it goes into savings or it will be spent.

4. Saving money means I will never have anything good
Unlike food where you can eat all the bland rice and beans you want and none of the fun Twinkies, saving money isn't like that. Most people's spending goes towards basics like food, rent, and transportation, but that's an average, not a rule. If you want to rent a cheap room in a run-down neighborhood so you can afford designer clothing, go for it. Saving money means honoring your own priorities.

5. I have to set up a dreaded budget to save money
Actually, that isn't necessary at all, since savings could technically be considered a bill. This saving of $5 a week or $50 a paycheck will now be part of the ongoing bills like rent, gas and food. See how simple and much fun that is, plus no budget necessary!

6. I don't want to live in a dump to take vacations
Then if lowering the standard that you live on isn't appealing now is the time to get creative and figure out ways to save money on the things being bought today or just making money on the stuff hidden away in the storage room. Heck, this coming tax season, take the refund to the bank, put the raise you get into the bank and live on what you made last year. If the raise is only 20¢ an hour for 80 hours of work, then there is $16 a paycheck to be put away for savings and the standard of living hasn't changed.

I was reading Katie's post about Pay or Play? and thought I would give my own 2¢ on this as I have gone through this myself.

The heart of the post is about Katie coming into some extra money that she wasn't expecting and she couldn't decide whether to put it towards debt or use it for entertainment. I can understand the desire to get debt paid off as early as possible and not having that stress hanging over my head. When I was younger and on my own I would get extra money from rebates I forgot about or bonuses from work I would put them in one of two places - less than 20.00 went to Play and anything over that went to bills.

I still try to do that but now that I share expenses and income with another, there does seem to be other pressing 'needs' that take the place of the play option. I still try to move any money over 50.00 to bills and under that to play but many times I have found that my play goes towards fixing something or picking up something from the store that is needed. However, I haven't given up hope that every time I get extra money I will stick with my old idea that less than 20.00 goes to Play and anything over that to bills.


I was reading over at the Yahoo! Green - Everything you know about going green is wrong - about an EPA report that basically says, "The stuff we buy and the packaging that comes with the stuff we buy represents our biggest contribution to global warming -- far more so than the amount of electricity our stuff uses or the amount of fuel our stuff burns on the highway." And this does make sense, there is limit to what we can do to minimize and still be safe. We can lower the utilities so much before the pipes freeze or we eventually come to live off-grid, but there will always be people that need these conveniences due to weather and health.

However the one item we can reduce is the amount of stuff we buy. The idea to repurpose what we use, to take others cast-offs and repair what we can until it can't be repaired and just use it as parts. In the article, the writer refers to an EPA worker who wrote the study, the worker states,  "In the process of the report I became convinced that recycling is much more important than I thought it really was."

Along with that article I was also reading a USA Today opinion piece - Grandma's greener than you -that talks about how our depression era relatives were in effect greener than us because they did without, they repurposed item and kept waste to an extreme minimum in some cases. The writer made a good comment, "This idea of wasting nothing is tough for modern Americans to get our heads around. Raised in a consumer economy in which every problem requires a product, we tend to think "going green" means buying something."  But I like to think that we can do better than we are doing now, myself being primary in making these changes.

Obviously our buying and saving will ebb and flow but reduction in what we consume is certainly a good prescription for our spirit.

I was surfing around over at yahoo answers and there was a question posed that asked why become a millionaire when you are old. They wondered what the use would be to have millions stashed away when you are old and something the kids will fight over when you are dead, why not just live a good life since we only live once, what's the point?

When I read that I could understand the frustration with people saying "you need to save 2 million for retirement" or some similar comment. A friend of mine has talked occasionally about arriving to school in limousine or getting most anything she asked for when it came to gifts, yet she wistfully recalls the times her father wasn't home and was working constantly, she has talked about wishing she could have had more special moments with her father instead of him working so much. But then on the other hand, she is glad that her father had all that money or he wouldn't have had the money to pay the hospital bills when her mother got sick and she wonders if her father spent oodles of money to keep her mother healthy, would she had died sooner. Because of that she doesn't hate the money that was part of her family.

Then I read about stories of people who have made their first million when they were 25,35 or even 15 and that money allows them a little more freedom in the future that they might not have had otherwise.

After reading the question "What is the point of being a millionaire?" I see that the author of the question saw money more as a problem all it's own than a solution to some problems. Certainly the pursuit of money can be the cause of familial troubles but the money itself doesn't cause the problem, it is inanimate. We either control money or we don't. Having millions when you die doesn't mean you saved too much and having debt when you die doesn't mean you saved too little.

What matters is how that money plays a part in life, yours and those around you, and your attitude towards it. True, having money saved will help towards less stress with bills but it won't bring happiness. The point of being a millionaire really depends on the millionaire, the reasons are as diverse as the the people but most people are just looking to be secure for today and prepared for tomorrow. Some may feel perfectly content with 5 million while other prefer to have 5,000 for the future. To each their own.


On a slightly different route to saving money I found the following links below of interest and use for myself in my goal to saving money.

◘ I've been enjoying Five cent Nickel's posts on savings bonds and am learning a few new things and gathering some plans for the future.

◘ Consumerist recently posted information on other reports we should be checking besides our three credit reports.

◘ Yahoo! Green gave some good advice on 7 things we should repair instead of replacing. I'm always for finding ways to hold onto my stuff and make it last so I don't have to go shopping.

And along those same lines I enjoy reading Lifehacker's Tips Box ideas:
Ideas on stripped screw holes, wet cellphones and constantly loose glasses to reusing disposable items as packing material

In other areas that indirectly relate to saving money I found:
The Secrets of Telemarketing from Wisebread
7 Healthy Foods that will fill me up from Dumb Little Man - And don't we all just want to be full and eat less anyway? {smile}
19 Ways to Maximize the efficiency of the oven over at Smartspending

Last year I forgot to sign up for the flexible spending option at my work and it was sorely missed. But this year I made sure I didn't forget to sign up, in fact I checked twice before the open enrollment was closed to make sure that they had my selections right as I was nervous I would forget to check something off.

I occasionally try to pass on to my co-workers the beauty of flexible spending accounts and I have found they either get it or they don't want to. Some think it is only if they have dependents and others don't think they will need that money set aside for them.

Personally, I never saw the need for flexible spending accounts until it was explained to me over the course of a few years. Then it sunk in and I wished I had been doing this long ago. The reason I participate in FSA is two-fold:
1. It lowers my tax bracket - Money comes out of my check every two weeks before taxes are taken out. This makes the government think that I am making less and drops me to a lower tax bracket. In fact I used a little calculator that figured this money taken out will save me $113.00 in taxes for the year. Not a lot but I'm sure we all could think of a way to spend $113.00 easy.

2. Unseen medical savings account - I know for a fact that if I have a dollar in my pocket I will have that dollar spent within 24 hours, that is why I don't carry money around with me. However, if I have set up an account that pulls money out of my check and saves it for me for a specific reason I won't spend it because I don't "see" it.

Now I can add a third reason to participate in FSA, and what got me looking into this was all this political health care talk up in D.C. which got me curious what exactly my health-plan (UHC) covered with FSA.

○ I can buy over-the-counter (OTC) drugs like allergy medicines, antacids, cold and flu meds, stop smoking meds, appendage braces and band-aids.
○ I can pay for my dentist appointments. This cost me over $500 last year when I didn't have my FSA set up - so it came out of my pocket, after taxes.
○ I will also have money to pay for another eye appointment and glasses.
○ It was also interesting to read what other areas I could use it for, such as substance abuse treatment, gender reassignment, pregnancy termination and guide dogs, handy for some, just not me.

One thing that worried me when I originally stated up with a flexible spending account was that I wouldn't use  up the money. I have no worries about that any longer as it seems that I put off going to the doctor quite often and if I get to the end of the year with money left to use I will start making appointments for myself to make sure I am healthy.

A last benefit of my FSA is that the end of the year for me is not December 31st, but instead March 15th. This is handy if I have a surgery planned for the February I can use up the previous year's money and use the money from the current year to cover expenses.

Now that you have heard about me, tell me about you:
Do you participate in FSA?
Do you use up all the money?
How much do you figure you save? (a calculator is here)

From the Hartford, CT newspaper, Courant and Mr. HandyPerson (no longer archived) comes this bit of advice on giving your clothes pins a long and happy, wooden life - I thought this was an excellent addition as I've wondered this myself. It's not useful for everyone, but if you've also wondered, now you know.


Q. Against the advice of my know-it-all relatives (who insisted, "Don't bother him with stupid questions" and "Just buy new ones"), here goes: How do I put back together separated wooden clothespins, the kind with a small spring in the middle?

I break my nails, my fingers get red and sore, and I still have not found an easy or fast way to do this. I bought new ones - plastic. But I am frugal, and I'd like to put all my old ones back together again.
A. Mr. HP guesses your advice-volunteering relatives are decent, upright people, but he's surprised they've forgotten the old saw, "There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers."

You might mention it to them sometime because it's an important concept.

Now about those clothespins. Mr. HP will tell you how to fix them but, he's a little curious why yours seem to be falling apart with regularity. Are they sometimes left out in the elements between wash days?

This is not a good idea because the unfinished wood can warp, shrink, crack and easily fall out of the spring mechanism (which doesn't rust when wet, staying the same size even if the wood shrinks). Weathered wood is the most frequent cause of breakage and falling apart.

Regardless, let's get your old clothespins up and running again.

A useful tool would be some needle-nose pliers. Hold the little spring firmly, with one of the "needles" of the pliers going through the spring.

Hold the pliers and spring flat on a firm surface with one hand. Then use the other hand to grasp and hold the two wood parts together at their thinnest ends (smoother sides out, bumpy sides facing together).

Insert the thin ends of the wood parts through the squared-off ends of the spring. Push them in to where they stop against the spring.

Then squeeze the other ends together and push them farther past the spring until they pop back into the right position around the spring.

It may take you a couple of tries before this goes as smoothly and easily as it does for Mr. HP, who has been doing it for years freehand - without the needle-nose pliers - because his hands are probably considerably less delicate than yours.

While experimenting with the needle-nose pliers on your behalf, though, he realized that as his fingers become more arthritic, from years of being worked hard, he'll probably use the pliers himself from now on.

Might as well give our trusty fingers a break, don't you think?

Like you, Mr. HandyPerson is frugal, too. His own know-it-all relatives and friends probably say "cheap" behind his back.

But he has this idea that something's off-key if he has to replace household tools, utensils and other things - designed to potentially last a lifetime - more than once in his life.

As Mr. HP understands the language, being frugal is still a virtue and being thought of as frugal is still a compliment.

About 40 years ago, Mr. HP bought his own set of a dozen wood clothespins. Since then, he has salvaged a few dozen more, usually found popped apart in the trash or on the ground near others' clotheslines. He's quite sure he still has his original dozen, although he has not gone so far as to identify and name them individually. But they do feel like helpful, familiar little friends when he uses them.

Considering that there are probably a good many people out there who have no idea anymore what a wood clothespin is or does, these little guys may be a collector's item one day. Hang on to yours!

A friend of mine is over $30 thousand in debt and we are working together (actually she is doing the hard part) on getting things paid off so she doesn’t have to go through what I went through with collectors calling and a bankruptcy.

Every couple of months we sit down and go over what she has paid and how much she has left to pay. Basically, she's just keeping track of where she stands so it doesn’t become to overwhelming for her.

With her approval I will share a few simple things we are doing that is helping her out mentally and bringing a smile to her face.

One hot day in August after we were discussing bills for the umpteenth time, we scheduled a get together to go over what bills/debts she had. She brought over her bills and I broke out the milk and Oreo cookies and went at it. We wrote down on a simple piece of paper who her creditors were, how much she had left to pay, what the minimum payment was and what the APR was for the bill. Then we plugged it all in a spreadsheet on her laptop. What information we couldn’t find, we are able to look up online at the company website by signing up or by calling the customer service number on the bill.

Each website is now bookmarked in a folder on her browser so she can keep up with checking them for due dates, late fees, transactions and to make sure payments have posted.

With all the information on the spread sheet, she set about writing out her bills and we jotted it down on the spreadsheet for that month. The minimum payments will go down as she pays on them, so that is the discrepancy on the total paid. Trying to get her to pay the same amount each month, even if they want less so that she can get it paid off sooner.

Once a month, after making her payments, she would total up what she paid for the month and also total up what she had left to pay. This allows her to see the debt go down and how much money is going to debts – It is both exciting and frustrating.

She found that getting all her bills automated was the best way to make sure she paid at-least the minimum on them. And any extra money she receives from bonuses at work or items she sells goes to the debt with the highest interest. Frankly, I don’t care how she pays it, as long as she has one bill as her target and works feverishly on getting it paid off.

Obviously her plan isn’t anything spectacular, but it allows her to see it broken down in a simple way. It also helps that she can see her card balances as they go up and down each month depending on what she buys or doesn't buy and, that she also is able to see her student loan and car loan payments are going down each month.

I wanted to lend a hand to help her out so that she won't feel like she is alone in this. There just isn’t anything like receiving positive feedback from people who care. Ask any of the bloggers that have posted their debts online for all to see, I think they will agree.

I really believe that we have it in ourselves to strike the match and cause the spark that will make the change from overspending, debt ridden finances to underspending, saving generating finances. As I said we can be the spark, but it is hard to be the flame and fan it to keep it going. We do need help from outside ourselves, whether it is a higher power or earthly support to keep going.

I don't always have people around me to help me stick to a goal and I need to find ways to keep myself on track. I certainly don't see myself as a finished product when it comes to frugality, but I thought I would take a break and talk about another road I am also pursuing. Many people, myself included had found that diet/exercise have many similar aspects as reducing debt/saving money.

1. Have a goal and a reason: 5 weeks ago I started a new goal to drop 60lbs but the goal wasn't that finite; I had a reason for the goal. I was seeing  my health deteriorate due to my weight, from heavy breathing as I walked up a flight of stairs to not fitting into clothes that even were too large at an earlier time.  And, when I took a look in the mirror, I just made myself sick. I not only had to have a goal but a reason for the goal - a reason that will keep me on track when the chocolate donut is looking at me in the breakroom.

2. Discomfort is the name: This new lifestyle is one that means I will be out of my comfort zone until I am used to it. Being uncomfortable is painful to me but I have to get it into my head that it will be that way until I can build up a tolerance to it and feel comfortable again. This means I will sweat, my muscles will ache, I will be tired but eventually I know I will be ok and this will be nothing.

3. The fight is with yourself: In the end there is no one else who is responsible for getting over the obstacles but me. It is my responsibility to get my butt out of bed and go to work and it is my responsibility to get to the gym and work out harder than last time and to eat better than last week. My fight is not with others but with myself; to be better than I was last week. True, I won't always meet expectations but my partner keeps reminding me that If I don't at least try to do better I will have already failed. And I don't like that F word.

4. One more: I have already perfected the art of procrastination or patience when it comes to not buying something, I can wait for weeks or months to save money. Now I need to use that practice with my eating and exercise. One more minute on the elliptical, one more rep or wait one more hour and see if I really need that donut. Or better yet, wait forever for that donut, and substitute it with a healthy fruit or veggie, or even a nice cold glass of water to appease that hunger.

5. Let go of the past: A friend of mine always used to say, "when I had money..." and it used to drive me insane because he was holding himself back by living back then and not for today. Yet I am the same way, I catch myself longing for the days when I would eat and not gain a pound. But I have to let go of the past; this is a new day. I am not that person any longer in many ways and I need to make my diet and exercise work for the me of today.

This is a guest post from Mr Credit Card. He recently interviewed me about my past experience with bankruptcy and payday loans


While many folks save money with coupons, especially in their grocery shopping, today, I'm going to show some novel ways to saving money with credit cards. But first, let's get this out of the way. Many folks have got into debt with credit cards and regard them with a degree of suspicion. If carrying a credit card causes you to overspend, then please do not carry one. But if you can manage credit cards, here is a list of ways to save money with them. These are techniques I use myself.

Saving Money on Groceries - For most folks, store coupons and manufacturers are the staples to saving huge amounts on grocery shopping in the supermarket. Stacking the coupons together will save you even more money. Using them at the right time saves even more. You can also obviously join discount warehouses like Costco or BJs. Utilizing all of these methods allow you to save money year after year on your food supplies. But there is another thing you could do, and that is do use cash back credit cards when you pay your grocery bills to earn rebates and hence lower your cost even more. Most cash rebate credit cards pay you 1% rebates for every dollar that you spend on the card. But the better ones pay more than 1% on grocery and supermarket shopping and you can take advantage of it.

Saving on gasoline - Busy moms are always driving their kids to school, camps, games and play dates. With the price of gasoline going up again, finding ways to save on gas will help in the long run. One of the things that many people are not aware of is that many of us are probably using a higher grade of gasoline at the pump that we probably need. At the pump, you will notice that there is regular gasoline (87 octane), premium (89) and super premium (92). In the old days, premium gasoline helped prevent "knocking" which is the term for a mini-explosion in the engine when it was not supposed to do that. But many modern engines are made to run just fine on regular gasoline. Yet I see many folks using "premium" gasoline because they think it is good for the engine. Most of the time, that is not true. The best way to find out is to simply check the owners handbook. Use the correct grade of gasoline will save you lots of money in the long run.

Another way to save money is obviously to use a gas credit card that pays you more than 1% cash rebates for every dollar that you spend on the pump. Doing this also saves you money in the long run.

Annual Vacation Savings - I have always found that I tend to go over my budget for my family vacations because so many unexpected events crop up. Over the years, I have experimented with various ways to save money on my vacations and here are some tips I've picked up.

Plan way ahead - You could be lucky to get last minute deals. But chances are that the last minute deals are not the ones you want. The hotel is really cheap is not exactly at the place you want to stay. The cheap flights may have too many stopovers. Plan as long as a year ahead.

Use reward points or frequent flier points - Using frequent flier points or reward points is one of the surest ways to save money on your vacation. There is some legwork that you have to do to make use of it properly. You have to calculate how many points you need for either an airline ticket or hotel stays and plan in advance to accumulate those points.

Research Airline Alliances to get the most bang for the buck in your air miles - Most airlines are part of an alliance which would allow you to use their points on a partners airlines. Some airlines will require points for certain flights. You should definitely do the research and make the best use of your frequent flier miles if you have one.

Sign up for frequent guest program and take advantage of deals - Here is how this works. Let's say you decide to book a hotel stay at the Hyatt. You should immediately join their frequent guest program. The reason is that frequent guest programs have perks like giving you a $100 food and beverage voucher for your hotel stay. During my last hotel stay, I got a $150 F&B voucher.

Consider attending a time-share presentation for a low hotel rate - Many hotels are also in the time share business. Once in a while, hotels offer great rates for stays in exchange that you attend a time share presentation. During the two or three hour presentation, they will try to sell you a timeshare. But you can politely decline and enjoy your stay at dirt cheap rates. You are weak minded and easily influenced by sales pitches, then this is not for you. For if you are sure you will not fall for it, it is a great way to save money on your vacation.

Give air miles to your spouse - Many frequent flier program have programs where you get bonus miles for simply giving your miles away. Hence, one way to earn extra miles is to actually give them to your spouse or partner and get bonus miles.

Credit Card churning - Another way to save money is to get bonus miles by applying for new airline miles credit cards since they tend to give generous bonus (up to 30,000 miles) for new applicants. In fact, if your spouse or partner also apply for one each, then you can effectively get 2 free tickets simply from bonus miles. Your credit score might dip a bit, but if you are not in the market for a loan or mortgage in the next couple of years, then this is a great way to get miles and save money.

There are lots of other ways to save money with credit cards but I'll stop here. Hopefully, you can implement some of these strategies together with you other money saving techniques and get more bang for the buck.

This guest article was written by Mr Credit Card and says, "If you are looking for a credit card, you should consider checking his list of best credit card offers and deals."

I love picking up some second hand clothes, furniture and kitchen utensils. There is just nothing better than going home knowing you paid pennies on the dollar for an item or that someone's mistake is your gain.

Anyway, there are a few things I have learned from thrift / second hand shopping. Of course if you have anything to add, let us know in the comments below.

Be Aware – Know store policy for returns (if there are any), sales and what tag colors may mean. At a local Goodwill store – red tags mean the item came from Target. Bring as little as you can and keep it safe; don’t leave your stuff unattended. The government has put together a checklist for Thrift Store Safety, and don’t forget all the toy recalls as well.

Be Comfy – If you can wear shorts and a t-shirt, do it. This will allow you to try on clothes if there are no dressing rooms or it is full. Also, wear shoes that are easy to slip off and on – so combat boots would not fit that in my opinion.

Be Checking – Test EVERYTHING that you can while shopping; this includes yards sales as well. Inspect the clothes, every seam, button, zipper, snap and buckle. Look for brand name items that have a history of quality.

Be Prepared – This means you go shopping with a list of what sizes you (family) wear and bring along a measuring tape so that you can see if the waist/leg/arm is the right size as some clothes get their tags ripped off. This also includes bringing a stain remover of some sort to check if marks will come off clothes before you bring it home. Bring along batteries as well for testing electronics and toys.

Be Thinking – If furniture is on your list, know how you are going to get it home, and make sure you have the dimensions down on your list since you probably will not get a refund. Consider what kind of budget you will be spending for clothes/furniture/hardware and stick to it.

Be A Good Shopper – Find out when items are placed on the floor. Go to the stores in other towns/counties/neighborhoods for a better selection or price. It is ok to walk out of a store without something in your hand. It is also normal to go to 2-3 stores before you find what you need on your list. Don’t forget that gifts can be bought at second hand places as many of them get ‘new’ items with original stickers still on them. Be kind and courteous at all times, which includes putting away your stuff, employees/volunteers will like you better, especially if you are a regular.

After the Trip – Remember to wash or dry clean it all, even if it LOOKS ok to you, you just never know. If you are the sewing type, make a list of what needs to be altered and how.

Have you seen those vacuum sealers? They aren’t cheap enough for me. The prices range from $45- $400 depending on the model and how many extras you would like. I just can’t bring myself to drop that much money and break away from my low-tech version that works just fine for keeping freezer burn away.

The good part of my low-tech vacuum sealer is that only need three things:
A good, un-cracked straw
Saran wrap
Freezer bags

The only bad part about my low-tech vacuum sealer:
It doesn’t always ‘taste’ good

I will elaborate on these for you. My low-tech version is where I wrap the food item in saran wrap (tape closed if necessary) and then place the wrapped food in the freezer bag (so I can re-use later). Once the food is in the bag I push as much air out as possible and seal up the bag to the straw. The last step is to suck the air out until the bag forms tightly around the food item. This may mean sucking it out a couple of times, so I would need to squeeze the straw closed while I grabbed some air for myself.

Once the bag is tight around the food, I yank the straw out quickly and seal up the last bit of the bag. The downside is that occasionally I get to suck out the air from the meat which makes me gag a tad, but doesn't happen often; the whole process takes about 2 minutes and doesn’t use electricity or the need to find extra storage space for the contraption and I need to buy any special bags.

This process is used for all items bought in bulk that are divided into serving sizes - meat, chicken and hamburgers. It is not used if freezing soup in a bag, but could be if you use two bags and need to get air out of the outer bag.

Last Sunday I went grocery shopping, one of the best tips I got from my mother was to take a calculator with me. There are two reasons, one, to keep myself on budget and two, for figuring out cost per… whatever. As I walk around the store and pick up items I enter them into my calculator and round up to the nearest dollar when I do (I’d rather be over than under).

Secret #2 is to make sure that I jot down on a piece a paper (back of a junk mail envelope) a list of food that I need to buy. I also include junk food as well and exactly what I am going to buy so that I don't get carried away. Did you know that shopping without a list can cost you up to 40% more with the impulse buys that are picked up?

Secret #3 is cutting back on red meat will also save me money at the check out. I have increased my chicken intake to save money and with thanksgiving around the corner, there will be good turkey sales coming up after the holiday that can be frozen for the year.

Secret #4 that has been around for a long time is to cook from scratch. When you buy prepared items, you are not only paying for the ingredients but also for the time they took to prepare it. So make it yourself, start with small, easy recipes to build up your confidence and work it into your schedule.

Secret #5 involves freezing the extra, especially on a good bulk deal. Separate your food into easy to thaw serving sizes, this stops you from having to re-freeze anything or the need to use it all before it spoils. Freezing the extra is also commonly used for making vegetable stew. After a dinner, dump all your extra vegetables into a container in the freezer and you have a homemade vegetable stew ready for later without much hassle.

Secret #6 is becoming more common, buying generic is one of the simple ways to save money. Many times the store brand is made by the name brand companies and in some cases the store brand has a better quality than the name brand. Personally, I like the store brand tissues to blow my nose because they are softer and thicker.

Secret #7 is about eating less to save money on food. It is interesting to watch myself stretch the food when the cupboards are getting bare, but eat like a hog when they are full. Because of this, I need to retrain my brain to make the food last as long as possible so I am more consistent.

And by eating less, I am not only able to maintain a better weight, but also able to stretch the amount of time I go in between shopping trips - from 6 weeks to 8-9 weeks.

Secret #8 is about snacking and fillers, like fruits, vegetables and soups. These are cheaper to eat for meals and and in between meals, plus they're better for your health. This year we have frozen home-made soup put away for the winter - beef stew and chicken noodle

Secret #9 is to grow a garden and save yourself the cost of buying it, more often than not you will have enough food for your family and extra to give (or sell) to others.

And don't forget, Secret  #10, that there are alternative locations to buy food that may be cheaper like farmer's markets or ethnic grocery stores.

It's wild to think that 80 years ago today the stock market tanked and overall value dropped over 23% in two days. These days it isn't easy to find people who remember that day well, most remember the ripple effect, the years that followed that we now mark as the Great Depression.

I think most of us today are similar in thought when it comes to our own financial struggles, there are a rare few that can remember vividly what set the tone, but many people can be found who have stories of their own ripple effects and their struggle and continued struggle to make ends meet.

It seems, from what I have read, that those who have lived through the Great Depression have one of two attitudes today about what they experienced. They have either continued to live frugally based on the things they learned as a child and young adult or they want to put those years behind them and live well because today is nothing like yesterday. But both groups seem to agree that they don't want to live through those times again.

And today I believe those same attitudes are growing. There are those who have learned to be frugal to get through these lean time and will carry those experiences through the rest of their life and those who are eagerly waiting for life to get back to "normal" so they can put their hardship behind them. Call it frugal fatigue or short attention span, but I think that even though people what to move beyond this required frugality I don't believe that they will so easily forget the ways that they tightened their belt and how it helped them get through.

It seems that time helps us remember when history passes on by us and our memories or those who carry those memories are no longer around to remind us. It is in this "Great" Recession that we will gather together the things we have learned so those who come after will not forget.

Obviously the day to day can be very boring yet it is punctuated by creative ideas to get through to the next pay day and topped off with personal enlightenment that all may be quickly forgotten as it become another act in our day to day living. However, I wanted to bring your attention to some books and blogs that I read that inspire me, jumped start my creativity and let me know I am not alone.

The books that I keep on my shelf for personal reference:
The Tightwad Gazette - The book that took frugality to a mainstream idea. Many were already doing it but now the ideas were gathered together so that they could share with one another what worked and what didn't.
Living More with Less - Understanding that here in America even in our worse condition, we do have some advantages still. It is about appreciating what we have.
The Ultimate Cheapskate's Roadmap to True Riches - A new book that uses one man's personal, lifelong mission to be as cheap as possible and finding value and wealth in what is truly important.
Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things - If you want to re-use something but not sure how, this book will have at least a half dozen ideas for you.

When I initially started blogging in late 2004, I was the only frugal blog that was out there (the old blog is not archived, sorry) but in the last 5 years the number of frugal bloggers has exponentially grown that I am amazed and inspired myself. Below are only a few of the many blogs I keep up with who share their own day to day stories.

Blogging Away Debt
Out of Debt Again
Under $1000 Per Month
Wise Bread
Pat Veretto's Frugal Living Blog
Frugal Babe
The Simple Dollar
My Frugal Life by Thriftyfun
Frugality in the Making
Frugal Dad

I enjoy reading David's Do One Thing series as I find it useful for not only the recycling, waste reduction but also the recycling, money reduction aspect that many ideas have.

Below are the ideas and how effective I have been in doing them. This series has been ongoing for him since 2008. There are quite a few ideas and I thought I would go through 20 at a time. The first set of 20 are here if you missed it.

1.Buy Checks Made From Recycled Paper and Printed With Soy-Based Ink -
I so rarely write checks that it is taking forever to get through the 150 that I bought two years ago. However, I have Check Gallery bookmarked and will be buying recycled paper checks next time around.

2.Avoid The Antibacterial Soaps (link)
I don't seek out these soaps, I just grab what is on sale usually, though lately I am looking at buying local homemade soaps and they aren't anti-bacterial.

3.Clean Out The Lint Filter
Gosh, this should be standard practice but it seems that if you live in a complex with a shared washer/dryer unit everyone assumes that the other person will take care of it. And cleaning out the air vent is a good idea as well.

4.Install A Motion Detector
Minimal lighting, use only what you need. I recall that as a kid my parents used outlet timers for lights when they were away, and that could be setup as well as a cheaper alternative.

5.Avoid Using The Toilet As A Trash Can
No more cleaning out the hair brush and dropping it into the toilet then flushing 1.8 gallons of water. Though I do toss lighted matches into the toilet but I don't flush until the toilet is used again.

6.Reuse Reply Envelopes In Unsolicited Mail
My mom is GREAT at this, myself, not so much. I just forget to hold onto them. But they do make great shredded paper and I've heard of some people sending their junk mail back

7.Buy It In Glass Instead
I am actually working on this because I am just tired of drinking my water out of plastic and it not tasting as good as when I drink it out of a glass container. And I haven't broken a container yet... except in the freezer.

8.Bring Your Own Utensils To Work
I bring my lunch to work so I should be more disciplined to include utensils as well. I really only bring them when I have to have a steak knife, otherwise I just use the plastic ones at work.

9.Forgo The Produce Bags
When I am buying a small amount of items, running in and out, I don't grab them but when I need 5 apple and 2 pears I need a bag. It is handy and habit to tear off a bag nearby. It's the same kind of memory trouble I have when I forget the canvas bags in the car.

10.Get Yourself A Broom (link)
In this case David is talking about sweeping the concrete instead of using water to clean it off. I have a broom and I use it well.

11.Borrow Before You Buy
Truly I only remember having to borrow a carpet cleaner, I did eventually buy one but I don't recall the need to borrow anything. Oh wait, we have a sander that is gathering dust and taking up space, probably should have borrowed that.

12.Take Off Your Shoes
I could do better, but then that is one reason we got a carpet cleaner - winter is just sadistic towards carpeting.

13.Stop Washing Your Clothes
I haven't sold my washer, but the clothes are washed less frequently and instead I let the clothes air out so that I can wear them again later. I don't think I'm alone in that I wear my clothes, especially jeans, longer than a couple of days.

14.Use A Lid!
Warm up water faster, boil the egg faster, fry ham quicker and eat sooner. Oh, and it saves on electricity as well.

15.Leave No Trace
This is more of a green idea that when you are outdoors you leave the place the way you found it. I guess it could be attributed to dumpster diving as well, leave the dumpster cleaner than what you found it to be.

16.Hand Wash Plastic Cups (link)
I don't do this, maybe because it isn't promoted as a big deal. I rarely wash anything by hand really as I waste a lot of water doing so.

17.Give Up The Dryer Sheets
I haven't used dryer sheets at all in Colorado, my unprofessional opinion is that the low humidity may be a reason. I don't miss the dryer sheet smell, instead the clothes and towels just smell like washed clothes and towels and not violets, which is fine by me.

18.Shred Paper For Packing Material
Done! I have trash-bags full of the stuff. I should give the extra away on freecycle or something. The shredded paper goes into plastic bags so that they don't make a mess for the receiver.

19.Print Seventh Generation Coupons
Coupons are frugal and 7th Generation is a green/eco company that sells their products on most all grocery shelves. I have bought a couple of items, they are more expensive so you are buying first for the earth and second for the wallet.

20.Forego The Receipt
Most all places give a receipt automatically, and frankly I would like to have one in case I need to return and item. However David mentions that at the pump you can choose not to have the receipt print. However, I never have my checkbook handy to write the amount down, so I would have to write it on my hand so I can remember until I get home.