This is a guest post from B.P and her personal experience and thoughts as she obtained food stamp assistance.

What can I say about food stamps? At 65 years old, no job, and a disabling physical condition, THANK GOD for my receiving food stamps.

But I do have to tell you that I was not feeling that way about getting food stamps early on, even with the conditions and situation I was in. As a matter of fact, friends and relatives kept telling me to apply for food stamps and other services, but I was stubborn and did not want to have to go to my county social services.

I was bound and determined to go it alone because I felt that food stamps and other services were degrading, humiliating, embarrassing, and shaming me because, I would have to admit that at 65 I needed help from the social services offered by the county.

I felt terrible that someone else would be giving me a food stamp card and in essence feeding me instead of me feeding myself. I guess you could call it ego, pride, I don’t know. I guess it was one of those things. I finally gave in and started the process, which I might add was not too bad of a one after all.

Anyway, through the coaxing and talking to me from a very close friend, I filled out an initial application for food stamps and OAP (Old Age Pension) on line, printed it out and took it into the Social Services office.

They looked it over, help me correct errors that I had made, made an appointment for me to see a Social Services Specialist the following week.

In the following week an appointment was made to see a Social Services Specialist and, I filled out more paperwork and answered questions about my “home” expenses and the like. She then stated that I actually could be out on the street given my present circumstance at the time, if it weren’t for the kindness of friends.

So, she authorized food stamps of $192 a month and which was a surprise to me, she also authorized OAP for me to receive to help out with the home bills to keep a roof over my head. I received the EBT Quest card the same day which was also a surprise to me, and it was activated within 7 days, which was unusual because it can take up to 30 days for the card to get activated. However I was expedited under the federal guidelines of “SNAP” due to my living situation.

I still felt a bit ashamed about all this, not being able to fend for myself quite anymore, and I still let her know about it. But she said to me to not feel humiliated because Social Services were just giving back some of my own money that I had earned over the 47 years that I had worked, and I had a right to it.

We talked a bit in length about me feeling down about receiving this kind of help, but she did start convincing me that was why these programs were in place and why someone at my age should have done it earlier. I guess she was right.

The first time I went to the supermarket with the EBT card, I was a little embarrassed about using it but the grocery checker was very nice and did not look down on me at all.

So now, I am starting to get over that shame, especially being told by the Social Services Specialist that it was in a way still after all, my money.

I will be using the EBT card for the second time come the first of the month. AND, even though to me, $192 seems like a lot of money for one or two mouths. Since I view having the food assistance as a gift, I am learning to be even more frugal than usual in my shopping.

Dawn's Note: I received a wonderful note from Katherine of the Relishing Life blog, that I wanted to pass along her experience with buying from Angel Food Ministries (in pictures). AFM also accepts SNAP (food stamps).

I had read a question a while ago that asked if anyone had tried many of the debt reduction services that are sold via radio, tv and online.

Over the years I find that most gurus end up advocating the following debt reduction steps:

1. Stop using credit cards
2. Write down your debt, what you owe and what you bring in

3. Live below your means

4. Sell stuff to make extra money and help pay down debt

5. Get a second job if you have run out of things to sell

6. Save money for emergencies

The thing about this debt reduction plan is that it is provided out there in the library (in the 332.0 section) or online for free. Not only that, to get out of debt and move into a wealthier life is mostly about common sense and turning what we already know into action.

One thing I don’t like about debt reduction seminars are that what they sell for 80-300 dollars can be learned for free over time; the same amount of time you would put into reading the programs you purchased. It isn’t about some quick-fix pill, but about your own drive to get debt paid off. Inspiration is out there if you are lacking, there are radio and tv shows by Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman and Clark Howard.

I ordered John Cummuta’s Transforming Debt into Wealth free promo that I heard on the radio and this is my personal experience.

First I was a bit disgusted that when I called to get the free promo I was grilled about how much debt I had, how soon I wanted to pay debt off and so on. All I wanted was the free promo. The reason they ask you questions is to get you to buy the system straight up because, as I learned later, the promo CD is simply a repeat of what is said in the advertising material that comes along with it and on the radio.

Again, you can save your money and borrow his books at the library in the personal finance section (332.xx). Even the items that I could buy through this promotion were available at the library for free when I looked it up. So save that money and apply it toward your debt.

One of the inserts gave teasers for items you will learn through his system and I have put my own 2¢ in and you can have this debt reduction information for free.

How to save thousands of dollars when you buy insurance - First, not everyone is going to save thousands, but it does add up. The main way to save money on your insurance is to call around or check online sites like You would want to do this every 6-12 months to make sure you are getting the best deal and sometimes, you can also mention that some other insurance company is offering a lower amount and find out if they will beat it - also find out if they bundle services to get discounts.

How to stop car dealers from picking your pocket - This is about picking out a car and getting as close to the book price as possible. The best way to stay out of debt is to buy a car after you have saved for it, one that is second-hand and preferably has one owner. I would also suggest that you get your loan approved first with a bank or credit union and then find the car. But there are many other support networks through Bankrate, American Consumer News, eHow and MSN Money.

How to calculate exactly when you will be completely out of debt - This is the art of a debt snowball, in which you take one debt and pay it off, then roll that payment into the next one. There is a handy Snowball calculator that allows you to figure this out. You can pay off either the smaller debt first or the the one with the highest interest.

Specific ways to cut daily shopping expenses without sacrificing - The many ways to cut back are out there and the information is free. Basically, plan ahead and don’t impulse buy. Reheat your left-overs. Cut down on the amount of food you eat and when possible, grow it yourself.

Why mortgage interest deductibles are the ‘tax shelter’ lie - This goes along the idea that if you owe anyone (bank included) then they own you. It is about whether the tax deduction for a house payment has a value that is better than holding onto the debt of the house. There are two different viewpoints on this: Free Money Matters vs. Becoming and Staying Debt Free

As you can see by just a few of the teasers above, there is a flood of information online (not counting the library) that is free and doesn’t require that you plunk down any money to learn all it takes is a desire and time to learn and understand. If you want more to read online, Mint has a great list of 30 free ebooks on personal finance.

I was reading over The Simple Dollar's post about 50 side businesses you can start on your own and it reminded me of one of the hobbies I had that I thought was going to be my ticket into wealth or at least comfortable living.

I was shortly out of high school and was making my own money but I didn't have an idea of what I wanted to do with all the money, plus I had recently taken an interest in some new independent comics books that had come out. This was all shortly before the death of Superman; but thanks to Superman's death I had decided go beyond being a reader but instead to become an investor in comic books because it was going to pay for college!

To this day I still love comics however I don’t buy them anymore. Back in the day I used to have old X-men, Captain America and Batman from the 60's. And though I loved to read comic books, to actually own them as an investment was a different mentality.

Reading involved only a moment of my time which brought enjoyment and escape for me and I would picture myself in amongst the characters, but owning comic books as an investment was a whole different story. You see, I expected all the comic books to go up in value and I didn’t have the patience to wait the 15-20 years necessary to make any money. I eventually sold them for a loss due to my impatience and stuck to the enjoyment of reading them from the library in graphic novel form.

For example, I once owned the first Captain America comic book. I bought it for about $40 dollars and sold it for about the same price a few years later. At the time it was valued around $100 for the condition it was in. Based on the prices now, it would fetch about $250, if I had the patience and kept it.

The desire to cart around comic books wherever I lived and keep them in a dry, cool location in Mylar baggies; well, it just sucked the fun out of collecting comic books - plus I was checking the price guides monthly and not seeing the prices go up fast enough for my taste - But it was all a learning experience.

Collecting comics did teach me a few things about getting involved in hobbies that cost money.
1. Am I involved in this hobby because of personal value or monetary value?
2. Am I willing to show this hobby or will I hide it in a box for 'safe keeping'?
3. Is my hobby too broad and expensive or can I narrow it down?
4. Am I paying too much for my hobby?

And then the process of selling my collection of comic has also taught me a few things. And you can relate this to anything you may collect - cigar boxes, elephants or Barbie dolls.

Organize your collection

Pull out the comics and look up the prices - a good one in my estimate is,, as they pull from sales on EBay and from an annual called Overstreet (which pulls from auctions online and Sotherby’s, etc). Of course, don't pay for these books if you don't have to, libraries usually have the most recent one to check out.

Don’t be upset - There will be some comics books that are worth less than the cover price on the book as they were over printed (like the death of superman) or people just aren't interested in them. Anyone want an Archie meets the Punisher?

Don’t get over excited - The prices listed are for the books that are in top condition (no creases on the spine, no writing on the book, no corners bent) So don’t expect that price for your book - go through the information on grading the item to determine the best value.

Organize them by series - Put all the Superman Adventures together and the Action Comics together as the two are not the same. If you have old comics, say Lassie, separate the ones published by Dell or Disney and don’t mix them up. People are picky.

Hits and Misses - If you picked up issues 122-133 and then didn’t get another one until 147, that’s ok as well. Grouping them together can still get you a decent price.

Key Comics - Even though you may have Showcase #1 (worth 8k) the greatest key comic is Showcase #4 (worth 20K), which has the introduction of Flash. Characters that were introduced may not have made a big splash initially, but then made it big in their own books, later making the ‘introduction’ of a character worth more. Hope that makes sense.

Sell key comics separately if the value is there, say around $20 on up. Otherwise sell them as a bulk set for that series. Remember that the more you put together, the less per comic dollar amount you will get. I know, I sold over 100 comics for about 230 dollars and the condition value was more like 700-800 dollars at the time if I had sold them in a wiser way.

Where to sell comics

Ebay - is good, but many people are looking for good deals or books in mint condition. So check prices on items that have completed that look about the quality of what you have. Fees are a biggie.

Craigslist - No fee to sell. Local only unless you state you will ship, make sure that you use Paypal or have them show in person with cash. People may want to buy and not show, so make a list of who has responded to your information.

Garage sale/yard sale - Remember that people come to these place looking for the lowest price possible, they may even barter with you and people will man-handle the comics, so if you are picky about condition, don’t sell at a yard sale.

Comic book stores - Right off the bat, whatever price you find in a price guide based on your condition means you are at most going to get at most 50% of that, if it is a highly sought after book. Otherwise consider 20-30% of value, good. They have to turn a profit, so they will consider what they can sell it for and buy it from you for much less than that.

Pawn shops are a bad place to sell unless you want some really quick money, comic book shops are better as they know the value.

Ultimately, what sells, depends on who is out there buying. If you have a comic book that is valued at 500 dollars and no one is interested it is worth ZERO. But if you have a series of 5 books that total $20 and it is highly sought after, you might get much more than the $20. So take your time and don’t be impatient like I was.

Over the last couple of days I have had to sort through my email folders to clean the out and found a few treasures that I wanted to post here for future reference and wanted to bring them to your attention if you aren't aware of them.

The flour idea I had heard about from a family member but forgot who and was glad to stumble across this idea again.

Keeping Your Cool During a Power Outage

Keep the doors closed- The fewer time the door is opened, the fewer chances the cool has to escape. Most refrigerators/freezers are well insulated. If you keep the door closed, a unit will hold the cold for a long time. A fully stocked freezer with the door closed should keep the food frozen for 2 days, if the freezer is only partially full, the food may keep for only 24 hours.

After two days- If the power outage has lasted 48 hours and there is no sign of power returning, check with the local provider of clear ice to see if they stock dry ice. 25lbs of dry ice will keep on average for 3 days for a 10cubic freezer

After the power return, evaluate – Check all foods once the unit is working again. Don’t re-freeze any frozen item that has completely defrosted, but you can cook and either refrigerate or freeze the cooked dish. Use your nose!

In the end- if you have a lot of spoiled, unusable food, check with your homeowner policy. You may be covered for the lost up to a certain limit… a couple hundred.

Check Oven Temperature without a Thermostat
Turn on your oven, set it to 350 F and let it warm up. Then put a tablespoon of flour on a baking sheet in the oven. After 5 minutes, the color of the flour will tell you the approximate temperature:

Tan = 250-325°

Golden = 325-400°

Dark Brown = 400-450°

Almost Black = 450-525°

7 Free Open Courses from Great Universities

MIT Courses: Receive MIT access without paying the MIT prices. Courses are in text, audio and video formats and translated into a number of different languages.

Open University (UK): I like the 16 hour course they offer on understanding diabetes. Wonderful access to both undergraduate and graduate-level course materials.

Carnegie Mellon Online: These courses are intended to provide an introduction to college courses to learn about a particular subject without formal instruction.

Stanford on iTunes: If you want to take your class with you on the go, these courses, lectures and interviews can be downloaded and played on iPods, PCs, and Macs and can also be burned to CDs

UC Berkeley Webcasts: Berkeley has been offering live and on-demand webcasts of certain courses since 2001; so they have a good archive of archived and current classes.

Utah State Online Courses: You can study everything from anthropology to physics and theater arts. They also have a comprehensive text-based courses can be downloaded as a zip file or viewed directly on the site.

UC Irvine OpenCourseWare: They are new to provide free courses so there are only a handful of options to choose from. Current courses cover topics like financial planning, human resources, capital markets and e-marketing.

My partner is allergic to spiders and spotting one by either of us, puts me on a mission to destroy, however as much as she is allergic to spiders she would rather I catch it and let is loose out in the yard.

You see, we don’t use spider pesticides to kill them. Since we use to have a dog and were told it wasn't good for them, we just figured if it was bad for them to be around it, it must be bad for humans to be around it as well. Instead, I have a few preventative tips to help us cut down on spiders that we do find crawling around.

1. Make sure your house is clean

a) Clean room’s corners
b) Clean window sills
c) Clean door sills
d) Vacuum where you found spiders
e) Put food in containers
f) Take the trash out regularly
g) Prune back bushes and branches from your home
h) Get rid of cardboard, as spiders like to munch on it

2. If you find a specific location where they seem to come in, close up the hole or notify the landlord to have that fixed.

3. An organic alternative: Osage Orange or Hedgeapple

In Iowa State University studies, they have not been proven to repel spiders or insects in houses or other buildings. However, they extracted several compounds from the osage orange that may have repellent properties. The benefit from osage orange may be better described as repellent to insects, thereby by not having any prey around (the insects), the spiders will leave or starve.

Current Studies are underway to confirm the repellent properties of compounds from the plants that may lead to the development of effective natural repellents. Hedge apples are very popular as a spider and insect repellent in the midwest, where they grow. So I would encourage giving hedge apples a try, they obviously work for some people. See:

Put one on waxed paper and put in a corner where you’ve seen spiders- generally two per room at most. Leave down for about 2 months and throw away.

4. Some other organic alternatives to spider pesticide:

Chestnuts around the exterior walls of every room you found spiders in
Spray tobacco juice and lemon dish soap around the outside base of your house
Dust window sills and doorways with Lemon scented pledge
Sprinkle lemon scented essential oil around to deter spiders (I'm noticing a trend)

What other ways have you repelled spiders?

updates via email: Kathleen suggests using "eucalyptus or white clover. I put white clover in my basement and eucalyptus in the window sills in fall so they don't come inside."

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Living below your means is about being aware of what you spend your money on as well as why you spend your money. You may constantly run to the fast food joint, and this adds up to 2-300 a month you spend on fast food. You want to cut back but you don’t know why you can’t. Consider some of the reasons below for you we spend money and see if you can find a way to plug the leak and save money.

I. Need Purchases. These are those things that are priorities, such as food, shelter, medical care, basic clothing and taxes necessary to sustain life. You can’t fight these, but you can find ways to keep the unnecessary costs down.

II. Investment Purchases. This is savings, checking accounts, stocks, bonds, 401(k), retirement accounts and ways you want to save money. You don’t want to cut back on this area if you can help it.

III. Pleasure Purchases. Purchases to bring pleasure, fun, excitement happiness and intellectual stimulation into your life. Yes, this could include the monthly stop off at the local “bookstore”.

IV. Convenience Purchases. Things you pick up to make life easier or to save you time and hassle like household appliances, dry cleaning services, cell phones, and computers.

V. Ego Purchases. This area is the evil twin of the Pleasure Purchase. These are those made solely for the sake of showing off or giving a status. Many times these purchases are bigger than we afford. Just like our eyes are bigger than our stomachs at times.

VI. Tradition Purchases. These purchases are what brings about the below category. These are items like gifts at work, holiday family gift giving to “prove” you are thinking of them and love them or even seasonal sports tickets when you really aren’t interested anymore.

VII. Guilt Purchases. These items are bought out of irrational fears of what others might think of you or that you don’t measure up in someone’s eyes.

As you go over your checkbook or credit card bills, think about the purchases you have made and why you bought the item. If you find you are doing a lot of ego or guilt purchases- learn from them and better yourself; your savings account will thank you

Not everyone buys new all the time, some buy used cars, get hand-me-downs, or recycle furniture from their parents. Garage sales are really not that different, you are just acquiring items in a new way and you would want to look at it as such. Unfortunately, people see themselves as exempt from going to garage sales and have used some of the following reasons to stay away.

1. Everything at a garage sale is used - Well, yeah. So has everything in your home, a hotel, at the gym and so on. Hardware items simply need to be washed well. Clothing can be cleaned by your own trusty washer and furniture can be steamed cleaned with a good steam vac and stain remover. You can find treasure underneath what others may consider trash.

2. Stuff is too dirty - If dirt freaks you out, bring rubber gloves, baby wipes or a wet cloth and towel. When you do buy it, wash it first before setting it anywhere. However, most sellers are kind enough to brush off the top layer of dust as they want to get rid of the item as quick as possible.

3. Why waste the gas when it can be bought online - True, you can save gas, but when you pay for shipping you are paying for someone else’s gas (usps, ups, fedex). Also, you don’t receive quite the joy after searching 12 yard sales and finally finding the perfect piece for under a $1. And don’t forget you can handle the item in person and don’t have to worry about breaking during the shipping process.

4. You can’t find anything at garage sales - Patience has a great redeemer. The best part is finding the item just when you least expected or were looking for something else. It’s like magic!

5. It’s too time consuming - Have you never set foot in a mall? I can waste hours in a mall and only go into 3 stores. Consider what I could see in that same amount of time out garage saling. You don’t have to go to yard sales every weekend, you don’t even have to go unless the mood strikes you. Going garage saling should be a joy and not a burden.

6. You have to haggle - One of the interesting things about living in the US is that haggling is not expected, but the exception. Most sellers mark a price on an item and expect to get it. The fun part is is that you don’t have to buy it, but can haggle for it. Most people don’t have an idea how to price their items, so offer 10-20% off the marked price. You can always put it down and walk away.

7. Garage sales are for poor people - This is one I heard recently at work from a guy in designer jeans and denim jacket. I can understand that if you are brought up around 2nd hand items and you want to break out of that, going to garage sales might have a certain aspect that isn't appealing.

However, if you are saving money at garage sales on furniture or housewares that gives you the extra money to spend on Sean John clothes or platinum jewelry if that is what you value most. Cut back on what you can so that you buy the more expensive items that mean more to you.

Ok readers, I know there are a few of you that have opinions on these or even heard your own excuses. Lets hear your thoughts.

It's getting to be that time of year in most of the county where ground thaws bring out the garage sale signs along side the dandelions that are popping up.

I love seeing yard sale and garage sale sign because they make me excited about going on a brief treasure hunt. Unlike going to a storage unit auction where you don't have much of an idea what you are buying, a garage sale allows you to look over the item well enough to get a good idea of it's worth.

There are two kinds of garage sales
The ones where people want to make as much money as possible and the ones where people want to just get rid of their stuff. The object is to find the ones where people want to get rid of stuff. Sometimes you will know buy the way items are priced other times and other times it will be a matter of bartering to find out.

A map, newspaper and organization
Pulling maps from an old phone book also works great. If you’re a beginner you might hit neighborhoods you are familiar with first. When you get to know an area better, you can just write the locations on a list from the farthest to the nearest to your home or vice versa.

Have kids help you out
Give kids a dollar or two to buy a few good deals for themselves or pick out gifts for upcoming birthdays or special events. Always bring food in a cooler to ease the fatigue.

Wear comfortable clothes
Always check the weather before you leave, wear comfortable walking shoes as many time you will find another unadvertised sale down the street. Also wear clothes you are comfortable getting dusty, greasy and wrinkled in.

When in doubt, carry it about
If you are unsure if you want to buy something, carrying it around with you as you look around. Setting it down may cost you is you want it later and if you decide not to get it, no harm done.

Barter, politely
Ask if they will come down on the price, most of the time they will, when asking for a lower price start at 1/3-1/2 off the price depending on what you are comfortable with. However, if I find a name brand sweater in perfect shape for a dollar, I don’t ask for less.

If the seller won't come down in price and it is higher than you can pay, leave your name and number and ask them to give you a call if it doesn't sell.

Pick up once, look over twice
Along the lines of carrying an item around with you, make certain you look it over very good. Check seems, zippers, buttons, latches, switches and even ask to plug it in. Bring home a broken item and you might as well toss the money you paid for it in the garbage.

Good deals early and late
Everyone know why it is fun to be the first at a sale but sometimes you get the best buys towards the end of the sale when sellers are tired and don’t want to have to drag everything back into the house.

Fish in a variety of areas
If you don’t have success in one part of town, try somewhere else the next time. Sometimes the best garage sale neighborhoods are the ones you don’t expect. If you tire of garage sales, set a day aside to go to a couple estate sales, these are handy for buying in bulk for books, silverware, clothes and more.

Now I'm excited about stopping at some garage sales and since I work weekends, I have the joy of going when other may not, during the week - weekday garage sales do exist, they are few and far between but it works for me.

I was curious to see what was behind the door at a storage unit auction and curious about the prices that the storage units were bid up to. I also found out I'm not the only one who has experienced the 'thrill' of an auction.

I was determined to find one nearby so I didn't waste gas if it was a bomb. I found a couple near my zip code when I went to the Auction Zip Locator; they have auctions for real estate, businesses, homes and storage units.

So what is a storage auction exactly?
"It's a Treasure Hunt!! Self-store facilities are all over the country. People store their possessions when they're moving or when they simply need more space. Businesses use self-store facilities as an alternative to renting warehouse space. Despite management's efforts to collect rent, some folks simply don't pay their bill and management must sell the contents of the unit to the highest bidder."

On this day I got to see 3 of the large storage units put up for sale. The ad said it started at 11am and I got there about 10 minutes early, already about 25 people were there waiting - Families, friends and single men and women - a nice variety of young and old. Once the auction was to start, we had a good 3 dozen people ready to take a peek at what was left behind in the storage units.

While waiting I noticed a few tools of the trade:
1. Wear old clothes - If you win, you will be taking home dusty, greasy and sticky items.
2. Carry a big light - The lights most people had were handheld spotlights to see into the back of the units
3. Have a truck - Most who were bidding drove up with their trucks or had pull behind flatbeds to take the stuff home immediately

While waiting I wandered around and eaves dropped on the stories and tips being told by the experienced buyers.

One young lady in a baseball cap told a friend of hers about buying a unit for $500 that had a bunch of boxes in it and very large, filled black trash bags what she found was kind of interesting and I will come back to that later.

An older gentleman told a couple new to the storage auction experience, a few tips- the smaller units usually go for a couple hundred and the larger ones can go into the thousands. He also said that you can tell a possible good find based on the type of boxes used (thick, sturdy ones) and the way things are stacked in the unit if they person has valuable items.

Dax, the auctioneer, walked us to the first storage unit and laid down the ground rules:
1. Must pay Cash after the auction (plus tax)
2. Must clean out the unit in 24 hours
3. Can not go into the unit, only look in and can't touch anything

After the rules were given out, they unlocked the unit and tossed open the door. Spotlights were clicked on and weaving and bobbing began as everyone peered into the unit to see as much as they could.

After a couple of minutes, auctioneer Dax, opened up the bidding at a low, but reasonable price.

Storage unit 1
This unit had a bed, box spring and mattress, a poker table, heavy plastic table and chairs and a washer and dryer in the back. The bidding started at $100 and we were off. Occasionally Dax had to stop and let people know they didn't want to bid against themselves or help need to explain where in price the bidding was, but it all went smoothly. The unit sold for $325.

Storage unit 2
When the door flew open on this unit, people oohed and ahhed, a couple guys walked away bummed telling their friends, "This is out of my price range." The unit had a 5 foot tall tool box, tools for woodworking, a gun safe was in the back, a couple of rifle cases sat beside it and stacked to the ceiling were boxes and boxes of thick, sturdy liquor boxes all neatly organized. This unit started off at $500 but jumped quickly to a couple thousand before the final two bidders fought over it, the storage unit was sold for $3600.

Storage unit 3
After the previous unit, people were excited to see the potential of the this unit. It wasn't as spectacular, but was probably about average. This unit had a lot of furniture, large pieces and small, mostly wood. A few lamps scattered here and there and a very dusty mountain bike at the entrance. The bidding again started at $100 and ended in the 300 range.

The half hour went quickly and the experience was an enjoyable one , Dax Gillium of the ShurSuccess Auction Services had a congenial style that put us all at ease, both newbies and experienced bidders. It was a free and fun way to pass the time that I wouldn't mind doing again.

I certainly don't have a few thousand lying around to buy up self storage units as either a hobby or a resell business, but it was neat to see what was behind the doors. Which brings me back to the young lady in the baseball cap and what her $500 bought her.

After she bought the unit full of boxes and garbage bags, she and a friend looked through the boxes and found they all contained Avon supplies, Avon collectibles and samples. And what was in the garbage bags? Trash, every garbage bag had crumpled up newspapers, peanuts and Styrofoam. From what I overheard, it sounded like a bust as she recouped only a couple hundred on what she bought the storage unit for. Sometimes you come out a winner with something good and sometimes you lose.

I can remember growing up and opening up cupboards to a wonderful display of color, as long as it was black and white only (there was the occasional blue or green as I recall also, but mostly black).

There would be the occasion issue come up where quality was lacking, so she would just move up to the next lowest cost brand for that item, say French-style green beans.

When my partner and I started grocery shopping together it was power struggle of epic proportions at times at I was used to generic and store brand and she was very brand loyal. When you have a budget to keep for groceries, buying brand name isn’t all that important anymore as long as the quality is still there. Over time, I have changed her mind, either that or just worn her down with my constant comment, “But it’s cheaper and if it tastes bad we will buy what you want.”

Here are some things I have learned from buying generic/store brands:
Pantry staples- Single-ingredient items such as flour, salt and sugar are held to government regulations for production, packaging and storage. In other words, sugar is sugar, regardless of its label. Cheaper is better in this case.

Canned fruits and vegetables - Open up a can of Del Monte sweet corn and a similar can of the store brand, and you’re not likely to notice much difference. One disadvantage: When it comes to mixes, the name brand may have a slightly higher count of prized ingredients, say, cherries in fruit cocktail.

Over-the-counter medications- Don’t dismiss the store brand over-the-counter medications. According to rules set by the Food and Drug Administration, any products with the same active ingredient must meet efficacy standards. In laymen's terms that means your drug-store aspirin must be just as effective as its brand-name counterpart, Bayer. The price difference can be as much as 50%.

Coupon-scarce goods
- A good coupon, especially one that’s doubled by the supermarket, can make a brand-name product the better deal. But some branded items rarely, if ever, get discounted. This includes butter, dry beans, spices and seasonings. So you might as well go generic and consistently save.

I never really understand how an extra $5 a month on a credit card would do much damage the huge balance until I came across this debt investment calculator.

By entering my principle balance owed, annual interest rate, amount I pay currently per month and the extra amount I want to pay on the bill; I will then get the amount of interest I saved and the length of time.

As an example I put in an 800 bill that had a 15% interest, paying 30 min. a month and then added an extra $5 a month - this was the result

"If you add $5 to your monthly payment, you will pay off this debt in 28 payments instead of 33, and you will save $31 in interest charges. This savings translates into a guaranteed, tax-free, average annual return of 9%. And that's not even considering the emotional returns you'll get when you pay off this debt 5-months (0 years, 5 months) ahead of schedule!"

It is wonderful to see that a simple $5 extra a month on a bill, instead of eating out at McDonald's, does impact that bill by shaving off 5 months of time plus saving a bit more on interest.

I like this calculator because it is simple but there are other debt reduction calculators that are out there - just google them

I look at these economic times and I get frustrated, frustrated that I didn't do enough in the good times to prepare for these days, frustrated that my creativity is limited or so it seems at times. But then those feelings do fade as the days pass by and sometimes, they fade with a song

Recently I was listening to the words of the song "Book of Days" by Enya. The song was used for the movie "Far and Away" which is about two Irish immigrants who come to America pretty much only with hope and dreams to carry them across the ocean.

As I recalled the movie and thought about the lyrics, I always enjoyed looking back on the past and was amazed at what they went through and still am; their toughness, their spirit, and their hope for the future.

"One day, one night, one moment
My dreams could be tomorrow
One step, one fall, one falter
East or West,
Over earth or by ocean
One way to be my journey
This way could be my
Book of Days

No day, no night, no moment
Can hold me back from trying
One flag, one fall, one falter
I'll find my day maybe
Far and Away"

Just like my ancestors, through thick and thin, they had hope for their future making a book of their days. I also am writing each day a page in my book of days. How will the people of the future look back on the people of their history? Will they see someone who had seen that nothing could "hold me back from trying", someone who kept going despite "one step, one fall, one falter" to "find my day, maybe".

The same frustration that I have on occasion is the same frustration that many had before me. It is one thing that ties us together. And I hope to be as strong through my life as they were through theirs.

So now you may be asking, what does this have to do with being frugal? Where success is usually told to be found in 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, I believe that frugality is instead found in 10% perspiration and 90% inspiration.

So much of the journey of frugal living, at least at the beginning, is about the mental attitude that you can figure out a way to do something no matter the frustrations in your life, and you can make frugality also the "one way to be my journey" in your Book of Days.

I'm finding that twitter is good place to store my random thoughts for the month, then at the end of the month I can go back and look over what ran through my head or things I have done and possibly learned.

» When I see a NYT top 10 non-fiction that is a frugal living book, then I will know it has gone mainstream, until then I hope

» Want to listen to people talking about being frugal? Jenn and Lynnae filled that void with Frugal Coast2Coast on Monday nights. If you miss an episode you can still get it on demand for free.

» I use coupons but for so little since I use store brands, it seems I mostly by cereal, yogurt and protein bars. How about you?

» Walked to the bookmobile to pick up my book holds, saved a drive to the library and trying to find parking. Along the way I found 25¢ and got myself some wonderful things.

» Well, work gave me a 23¢ raise... I was expecting nothing but to keep my job so I will consider this a WIN!

» Tried out Amazon's (beta launch) game trade-in, and it rocks - sent off two games and got my amazon bucks in about 10 days.

» Did a simple test run with ammonia instead of bleach (we ran out) as alternative.. worked well. Hope it will be a habit, but the psychology of using bleach all the time is hard to get out of.

» Filed my tax returns, thanks to MrsMicah, I found some extra items to deduct but not enough to bring down what I owe to the fed.

» You know you are using the cloth grocery bags often enough when you have to mend a seam

» I recently switched over to Verizon wireless and found this info of use for opting out of personal info sharing.

» To get mentally prepared for dropping tv service, we checked out the library for tv show series and documentaries.

» "If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant, if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome" -Anne Brandstreet

» OMG, why can't I have a time machine? I could love Superman more than Batman if I knew this kind of future awaited.

» Signed up for an REI membership back in the day and got a check recently from them, have no idea what to use it on, once the snow melts I will probably figure it out.

» Sent out a rebate for money back on a protein bar, sent everything with the WHOLE wrapper, got a letter back that there was no UPC. What the...?! I didn't fight it cause I didn't photocopy it. Lesson learned.

» Came across this great comment, "In 40 years, when I'm a grumpy old man, my excuse for frugality will be 'I was a Recession kid.'"

» I'm noticing more people at work eating bread and crackers to fill up instead of vending machine food. Quite the dichotomy, people eating out every day and others who only eat crackers/bread and water - Have you noticed this at your job?

» Learned from Walgreens - They are dumping the rebate and going to a loyalty program. The rebate will stop at the end of April - for info from them to follow.

» I will be participating in financial literacy month for April - how about you?

» I got my class action suit money from the Airborne pills - a whole $6.99. Unexpected money is wonderful.

» We've finally cut the cable to locals only , kept internet and removed landline in place of cell phones. I can't believe we were scared to do this; we are saving electricity without the landline phone plugged in and we are watching some shows we never used to on PBS.

» Now here is an idea for the indoor line drying people. A stool/dryer from 1930. I love this vintage advertising.

» Good post from @LinearChaos about Grocery Auctions - never been to one, but might be interesting.

» A blizzard in Denver metro made for a very long 20 hour day working both jobs - this is me with 6 hours left.
» Free pizza day today at work, very nice of supervisor to crack open the wallet and feed us a bit. Then the next day I was short on pasta and had home-made spaghetti sauce over Ramen noodles.

» More evidence of the funny stuff you read on twitter: "Saw an old bloke in town today who was wearing socks as gloves. This means he's either incredibly frugal or a murderer."

» Another great post from the Thrifty Chicks - Keep & Sweep - what to look for at the thrift store.

» I need to get fingerless gloves to wear around the house when the heat is off so my fingers don't get stiff when I type on the computer... brrrr!

» I chuckled when I saw the Pillsbury commercial talk about the breakdown of biscuits were ONLY 25¢ each in a roll. What do you frugalistas think of the new tv advertising that talk about how much money you are saving or about reducing cost.- like it, hate it, don't care?

If you don't want to wait for the month end review, you can follow me on twitter throughout the month