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 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. - 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.