While I have been learning about ways to lose weight and eat healthier I really came to understand how one’s physical health has a parallel existence to being fiscally healthy.

-The Parallel Bars of Fiscal Training-

Lose the Excess Weight
Just like excess weight puts an added burden on my joints and heart, so too does the excess stuff in the house; to keep it up in usable condition, to find a place to store it and to dust it. Eventually that adds a burden to my budget and to my psyche. Declutter and get some money in the process.

Gain Muscle 
Through the process of gaining muscle I'm losing weight and firming up my existing muscles that will help me later in life to overcome obstacles. The same is true in the financial gym, when I gain a savings or pay off a credit car I also realize that getting rid of my debt will help you save even more. This savings bulk up will also help later in life or through an emergency.

Develop Your Core
It is hard to do basic things around the house when my body’s core is weak. If I have that balance under control, then I will be able to handle the money I am putting away and increase or decrease it with a plan. This means that I need to know what is coming in and where it is going.

Go for the Gold
When I start to see that physique in the mirror that I have been dreaming about, I start to build confidence that moves me to loftier goals; and with finances I will also find this to be true. I have found a way to train that will shape me into the image I long to see (with little tweaks here and there, no one is perfect!) and as my financial life grows, so will my ideas for retiring early, cutting back to one job, buying a half ton of gold or saving 3 million dollars for retirement.
-Putting Power Into the Plan-

Lose the Excess Weight
Stop overspending - Cut up the cards. if you maxed them out, you can’t use them anyway.
Spend within your means - Moderation is key. Don’t let your eyes grab a hold of what your wallet can’t handle
Pay off debt - Put in a little extra. If it is rounding up your minimum from $37 to $40 a month or paying min on all cards except one.

Build some muscle
Improve your credit score - Since this is a new year, it is a good time to get your free reports at Annualcreditreport.com and take a look what needs to be fixed.
Improve your emergency fund - If you have nothing, get it to $100, $1,000 or save 3 months expenses worth
Start a 401K/IRA - Hide today’s money away for yourself in the future.

Develop Your Core
Differentiate Needs/Wants - Obviously you can’t have it all now, or you can, but there is a great debt to pay for it. This is where procrastinating is a good thing- when you spend money.
Understand Income/Outgoing - Sit down and work out a balance sheet, set up a budget, find ways to cut back so you can increase it in other, better areas.
Balance Value – Cheap isn’t always equal to value. Sometimes you have to delay in order to get a good value.

Go for the Gold
Save even more - If you have a robust 401k/IRA and savings, start expanding
Keep yourself Informed - Make sure you are keeping yourself informed, it is your money and under your control
Avoid scams – Don’t fall for get rich quick scams, keep your finances safe and secure

Spring is around the corner which inevitably leads to spring and summer weddings. Guest Writer Lina Zussino presents her personal experience saving money in three areas of the wedding process.


Creating a budget for wedding takes planning and knowing your priorities.

Being recently married (July 2009) I have had the opportunity to perfect the budget for wedding favours three (3) times. I am Portuguese and my husband is Italian. Both our families live in two different parts of Canada and we live in Victoria, BC. We chose to have the wedding in Victoria where we fell in love. We had a wedding reception in Thunder Bay, Ontario where my husband is from. We also had a wedding shower in Cambridge, Ontario where my family is from. Each celebration had approximately 70 guests.

Wedding favours were important to us. Our wedding theme was simple at a winery so the favours needed to reflect that. We wanted them to be memorable and classic. My husband and I both love chocolate and wanted to include chocolate in the favour.


We purchased 70 boxes from a local chocolatier, Rogers Chocolates, that were beautiful and cost approx. $4.00 / box and it contained 2 types of wrapped chocolates. They were attractive and the chocolates were delicious. There was not much stress involved other then the pickup for our order. The flowergirls ate all their chocolates before the dinner was served!

Approx cost: over $300 with all the taxes.

Wedding Shower and Wedding Reception

After receiving the feedback from guests on how lovely the packages were and based on how much we paid per wedding favour we decided to see if we could make similar packages on our own.
It was a great DIY project for my husband and I. There were several steps involved:
  1. First, we needed to find nice chocolate that would fit perfectly in the small favour boxes. On a trip to San Francisco after our wedding, we found a great deal at the Ghiradelli chocolate factory in San Francisco. The chocolates were individually wrapped and had assorted flavours. We purchased over 150 chocolates at a price of almost $40 Canadian.
  2. The next important step were the boxes. We purchased these at the Michaels arts and crafts store. Using a printable coupon for Michaels found on our website, www.groceryalerts.ca, we saved 40% off the regular price for their small favour boxes. This cost approx. $15 dollars.
  3. We used the professional Avery labels in our laser printer to rival the purchased boxes. We were pleased on how professional they looked. Below is a closeup of the type of boxes we used.

Approx cost: $55 and approx 3 hours assembling the boxes.

Final thoughts:

Prioritize what is more important in your wedding. My husband and I would rather spend money on the food and venue versus spending it on items like chair covers or fancy limousines.
We were glad we went down the do-it-yourself route when it came to the reception and shower for the wedding favours. We would recommend to anyone getting married to consider making their own wedding favours.

What is the most interesting wedding favour you have received at a wedding?

  The author is Lina Zussino, Co-founder of Grocery Alerts Canada, home of grocery deals and money saving coupons. She enjoys teaching group fitness and saving money in beautiful Victoria, BC with her husband Steven.

Have I told about the project I am so proud of, yet it was so simple? I have a secret stash of silver coins and found gold rings hidden away in a hollow book that I made. I'm not crafty but I had always wanted one so I sat down and made one, one bright afternoon.

I bet you can't even tell which book it is on the shelf that holds my found gold rings and silver coins. But I keep the book on the shelf with the others and I love taking it down and adding more items to it, putting it back in with the other books and being so proud of myself. I think I could make 10 more of these.... hey, maybe I will make them as Christmas gifts!

I pulled out the box cutters, glue and a thick book that wasn't of interest to anyone and started cutting a square center out of the pages. If I ever do this again I will make sure I don't glue the pages together as that beautiful square starts looking pretty cruddy along the inside edges and not much like a square any longer. But lesson learned and we move on.

I also learned quickly that putting glue on the inside of the pages was good so that coins didn't slip in-between the pages and get lost. I just used Elmer's glue on the inside pages and on the outside pages and cut right from the first page down. Though if the book was even thicker, I could see starting about 10-15 pages down so you have a cover over the storage and not just the outer shell of the book.  Maybe even add Velcro to the outer book cover to keep it closed if it falls over... but then maybe that would make it stand out with that extra Velcro material.

I always liked those spy-like hideaways and this is something that allows me to re-use a book as storage and fulfills a second roll of a 'safe' for valuables. I like a 2 for 1 deal just as much as the next guy. It will also make a great gift idea because large books are cheap and the time it takes is just a few hours of work, so easy in fact it could be done with kids... who are safe with box cutters. 


Again I wanted to bring your attention to the wonderfully creative, frugal and finance related ideas over at the Festival of Frugality 218 - If you are looking for more to read and get ideas, this is a great place to start.

If you like more personal experiences, Katy asks her readers, "what are you doing to live cheaply?" and gets quite a few responses that are from the common to the unusual.

As I prepare for the coming lay-off at the end of April, I have moments of pure relaxation and and say things like, "Things will work out for the best." or "I'm not too worried now, I'm just glad I still have this job for a few months longer." And I have moments of true stress that makes me say, "This is not going to end well, I can see it now." Overall, a nice bipolar swing that moves along day in and day out.

Ultimately the unknown both freaks me out, because it is the unknown and puts me at ease because I can scream in agony if I don't know how bad the pain will be. But pulling together options does allow me a buffer. Sometimes I just see myself as a small child standing at the long end of a bowling alley with pins so very far away and a too heavy ball that I have to roll down the alley and hope it knocks over a pin. To describe to you the picture in my mind; my job options are my gutter bumpers, my ball is my resume and experience and the pins are my future career. And away we go!

Recently CouponSherpa posted ideas on getting quick cash - 24 ways to make some extra money - and I thought I would save some of the ideas for the future. They say that 2 out of 3 billionaires were made by starting from scratch. Who knows, even Col. Sanders started his franchised business late in life and it wasn't technically a new idea.

A few ideas caught the interest of my eye - I won't go through all of them

2. Clean Houses - I worked for a couple of guys who were in college, I was their first employee (they were so proud) and we cleaned empty houses, complex building and office buildings. They only had the basics with a vacuum, lots of rags and cleaner and elbow grease. Though these days I would want to be bonded and licensed to keep up with competition.

3. Donating Plasma - I have never done this, but I have watched it being done. I will definitely need a book and some iron pills for this. However, the nearest Plasma Center is a good 30 minute drive so the $35 I get may go for gas there and back... maybe on second thought.

4. Walking Dogs - I have a dog of my own, I know what it takes to walk dogs and since I live in an apartment complex, I know that those dogs probably get cooped up while their owner is away at work.

10, 18, 11. Delivering Phone books, Newspapers and Being a Census Worker - I have delivered phone books and newspapers before, so I know the work involved and wear and tear on a vehicle. The phone books are already done for the year. But they are still hiring for Census Workers, I would need to be available in the evening and weekends when people are home.

15. Monetize Your Web Site or Blog - I currently do this on this site and I appreciate you all clicking on the links and checking things out... 30¢ a click or a link ad on the site does add up

16. Human Billboard - I see those people on the corner flipping the real estate signs around and dancing to their iPods to get our attention as I drive by. I could do that, sure not as good as this guy (vid), but I could do that.

20, 21, 23. Sell Your Stuff, Refundable Glass and Scrap Metal - Back in Iowa they have refundable bottles but they don't do that here in Colorado (all states should require this in my opinion). However, I could still pick up the cans and store them in a garbage container and get the cash for the aluminum on a per pound basis. And I've been selling my stuff for a long time, so that isn't hard just post it to craigslist or ebay.

A couple items I didn't see that are ideas:
Pooper Scooper - Cleaning up the dog mess that people are too lazy to bend down and pick up themselves while walking their dog. My main concern would be a face mask and someplace to dump it legally.
Dumpster Diving/Reselling - After finding the dresser and fixing it up, a table and chairs set and the nice blanket chest I could see making a decent amount of money from finds here at the complex at the beginning and end of the months and sometimes all it needs is a little re-drilling, glue and sanding.
Process Server - Someone mentioned this to me while eating lunch, it is an idea that might work. I have to check my state for what kind of licensing, if any, would be needed.
Market Research - I did this once, for 2 hours of my time, I gave my opinion on what the new Spiderman movie should be about I was paid $75 (two years ago) and I'm still on their list and get contacted by email, I just never have the evenings available to come in now... but I may in the future.

I'm sure there are more ideas out there. I'm not very crafty but I have heard of people buying last years large calendars and putting them in picture frames or doing some cool sewing with the pictures of old t-shirts.

What ideas have you tried for side jobs or extra money during the 'dry season'?

I wrote about the surprise experience that I had with a CrockPot pot that had a hairline crack in it that worsened after one use. After emailing the company on 2/13 I called them on 2/18 and spoke with a pleasant agent named Amber who informed me that Crockpot has a 1 year warranty on most of their products and since I was under that warranty they would be sending out a brand new pot at no charge! And I thought I was going to have to fight them about it; I had pictures on the ready and everything.

Stoneware $15.00 1 $0.00
Subtotal = $0.00
S & H = $0.00
Estimated Tax = $0.00
Order Total = $0.00

And finally, on 2/13 I also emailed the Science Diet dog food company about two things: 1. I have an 8yr dog that has no teeth and has to eat wet dog food all the time, but the company never has coupons for wet food, always dry dog food. 2. Why do they only have two flavors for senior wet food?
There response was made that following Monday:
"As a consumer products company, we are always pleased to know what consumers have to say about our products, and we thank you for your communication. In fact, other consumers who have contacted us have mentioned the same or similar idea in the past. At this time, we are unable to discuss future product or marketing plans. Nevertheless, we are always happy to hear from consumers who take this kind of interest in our products.

We also have available for mature adult dogs Hill's® Science Diet® Mature Adult Active Longevity™ Gourmet Turkey EntrĂ©e Dog Food Canned.

Your loyalty means a lot to us. A Hill's® Science Diet® Welcome Package, including a $3.50 off coupon, will be mailed to you.

We appreciate that you took the time to contact us. If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to call our Consumer Affairs Department toll free at 1-800-445-5777 or visit our website at HillsPet.com

Throughout it all, it has been a pleasant experience in dealing with companies today and I spent no money on stamps and only a few minutes in correspondence. There are a couple other companies I have been meaning to giving my opinion to and maybe get some more coupons in return.

Have you had good or bad experiences with certain companies in responding?


Did you know that the Festival of Frugality is still going on strong into it's 4th year? I wanted to let you know that they still have some wonderful link to creative frugality, even into it's 217th edition over at SimplyForties. Check it out!

 ¢¢ ¢¢ ¢¢

Also I wanted to pull out a couple tips I found from LifeHacker's Tip Box:
HouseWarming Gifts - "If you're searching for the perfect housewarming gift, don't overlook the usefulness of an emergency kit specific to the region where you live. A couple of years ago my boyfriend moved down here to Florida from Colorado. As a housewarming present, I made him a hurricane kit with..."
Special Orders at a Restaurant to Save Money - "When customizing at restaurants, specify "Only " instead of what you don't want. Sometimes, it skips extra charges and usually ensures your order is just like you want it. At McDonald's, I order burgers with "Only mayo and onions". If I tell them to "Add mayo", I'll be charged $0.25 for it."

 ¢¢ ¢¢ ¢¢

I love history and I found this article from Modern Mechanix of interest as someone who likes to collect old money.
Making Your Money Last Longer (Jan, 1929) 

"The advent and popularization of the automobile, strange to say, increased the wear and tear to which dollar bills were exposed so that their life was shortened one-half. The remarkable prosperity of these United States has also increased the ordinary use of paper currency. Before the automobile, our one dollar greenbacks and silver currency were serviceable for 12 months’ use. The full moon of the motor age cut this life cycle in half."

In anticipation of the coming unemployment in my future, my partner has gone Crockpot crazy. Two crockpots going and a large pot sitting on the stove has transformed the kitchen into a tv show of sorts with one woman cutting, stirring, browning and spicing with expertise. I wait on the outside of the kitchen and wait to be called for the taste tests and to eat the left over carrots and celery.

What was being prepared was freezer full of chicken/vegetable soup, beef/cabbage soup and spaghetti sauce with chicken. In the past during some of the former lean days, shortly after my bankruptcy and living in a 400 square ft studio, we ate a lot of soup and bread along with pasta to get through. And just like it is always good to have an emergency fund of money, it is good to have an emergency stash of food to rely on when variety is a luxury.

Over the course of most of the afternoon and into the early evening the cooking produced 11 jars of spaghetti sauce, 7 jars of chicken/vegetable soup and 5 bags of beef/cabbage soup

The next involved me in the process as it was found that the brand new Crockpot we bought had a fracture that went from the pot lip down the inside and down the outside to the almost the bottom. It was determined that the pot may not have held up well with the heat and had an existing issue that wasn't noticed when it came out of the box last Christmas. (no receipt/box to return to store)

It was my duty to take down the model # info, date made (numbers on the prongs of the plugin) and take a few pictures for evidence. The first thing I will try is the most convenient, their customer service number and the online 'contact us' form, I wrote out the facts of the issue and what I wanted them to do for my satisfaction, no drama. Of which I took screen shots of the contact form for my own records and since it is the weekend, I won't worry until Tuesday for a response. If no response comes next week, I will start locating Crockpots twitter account, facebook page or executive escalations to take my grievance to.

Update: I heard back from Crockpot with positive results and I learned something new.

Overall, it was a tasty day for one of us and a productive day for the other. Preparing ahead with any emergency stash is a great way to cut down on the stress of the unknown that the future may hold. And if things look up... all the better!

I was thinking back to when I first started using coupons and how that has changed over the years as I have figured out what works and doesn't for me.

Clipping Every Coupon
I have to say I would spend a lot of time clipping every single coupon that was in the Sunday paper and my coupon folder would be so full it would take longer than cutting them to find the coupon I needed when in the store. I finally figured out that just because there is a coupon for 50¢ off air fresheners and I never buy them, why cut them out?

Using High Value Coupons
Those $5 off coupons are cool to see, but many times those coupons are for items that are more expensive than I would spend without a coupon. Eventually as appealing as the coupons were, I most always found a cheaper deal on another brand. Occasionally if I wait it out the higher value coupon will be useful, but I don't worry if I never use them.

Missing Deadlines
I'm not a huge rebate user, but I have learned that if I am going to enter into these rebates I am going to read the tiny print thoroughly and make sure I have completed all the rules, I have lost enough money over the years that the extra work is worth it. I photocopy EVERYTHING, make sure I have the contact info in case I don't get my rebate in 8 weeks and I write it down on the calendar so I am reminded when I should be receiving the money back.

Missing the Expiration Date
When I first started using coupon this was a common problem and to fix that I go through my coupons every Sunday and check the expiration date, moving those that have only a couple weeks left toward the front so I use them first when out shopping. I have seen some people use a highlighter on expiration date so that it stands out to them when they search through them.

Forgetting the Coupons
One the major reasons my coupons expire is that I forget to take them with me. I now organize my coupons on Sunday and make sure that coupon folder is in the car by Monday morning and keep it in there until next Sunday. When I get out of the car at the store, I grab it even though I may just be buying milk because impulse buying does exist and I want to make sure I have the coupon just in case.

A Coupon is Not An Excuse
I would buy stuff that I though I might use and then it would go bad or just sit and get dusty. I have seen people get free glucose monitors in the multiples and unless they are donating them, I don't understand why - the fact it is free isn't enough of a reason for me. I have to use the items now that I bring home or it is just clutter and clutter annoys me.

One last thing I have learned to do with the extra coupons is to give them away so that others can find them use from them. Over the years, through trial and error, I have learned how best to use coupons and I will always be tweaking my use for each new situation that may come up. My main concern right now is the best savings I can get while rounding out the pantry and limiting the processed foods coming in.

Obviously from the title you may get a clue that I'm going to talk about feminine hygiene and I realize not everyone wants to hear about that, if you don't you are more than welcome to click back to google.com and search for something else.

For those sticking around you will be privy to more personal info, a review on the pads and have a chance to win a sample pack ($88 value).


Gladrags contacted me because they had read my interest in saving on household expenses and that I wanted to give them a try but I hadn't yet crossed that bridge. My main concern was that my heavy flow would be too much for the material and produce an embarrassing situation.

Gladrags sent three different sizes for me to try out, they sent one each of the pantyliner, day pads and night pad. Each one came in cellulose, a plant-based compostable material, inside a box.

My first 2 1/2 days are very heavy flow days, usually I wear an overnight pad through the course of these days to make sure there are no leaks. I do not wear tampons and they are very uncomfortable to me, but overnights work fine for these first couple of days. Since I had one night pad from them I knew it wouldn't last too long and did have my back up pads for changing during this experiment.

The overnight pad worked very well and I felt covered and leak proof. However, when I needed to change the pad out, I was glad I was home and not at work, so that I could clean it and toss it into the washer as I would have needed to grab one of the sacks in the stall to take it home with me.
I'm sure that may not be all that bad of an idea for those that have children in cloth diapers, but it is a mental challenge I will have to get used to with these pads.

The other two sizes worked perfect for the remaining part of the flow as it is pretty much light to non-existent the final 2 days and I could wear it the entire day without worry. The day pad was a pocket style that you put a liner in and the pantyline was simply, a liner - They were all cotton flannel material, though they do have some organic, undyed material as well.

Overall here are my thoughts on the trial period, both pro and con and even some of the con will just take some getting used to or figuring out ways to handle it.

Ultra comfortable - I didn't feel like I was wearing a diaper or that the pad was rubbing, like many of the commercial pads to. Sometimes I even forgot I was wearing it.

Absorption - They really do hold a lot more than I thought, especially the day pad and pantyliner.

Personalizing - My pads came in different colors and that was nice in comparison to boring white ones, plus the coloring disguised some of the blood, so it wasn't such a contrast.

Snaps- All the pads came with metal snaps to hold them in place and I didn't feel the snaps at all.

Durable - After washing them I was curious how well the seems would stay and the material hold up, no problems ....and no stains

Changing them - I have to still get used to the idea that I need to carry a plastic bag (I didn't have their waterproof bag) with me if I am out when I change them, so I can bring them home to soak.

Soaking - I didn't have any bucket prepared to soak them in, so soap and cold water was used on them right away before washing them

Limited inserts - With the night pads I wish I could have added two inserts and spread them out a bit more to spread out the thickness instead of just the center of the pad where the 'holder' was.

Pricing - This can be a shocker at first, but when you buy a larger quantity the price per pad does goes down and if you figure out the math in what you are buying for commercial pads it should work out as a savings over the long term.

I would give the product a B+ overall and some of that is slightly biased from my own "ewww" factor in getting used to them. But comfort, absorption, durability and them staying in place, a solid A+.
They have a handy 'frequently asked questions' area if you have questions I may not have answered - Gladrags FAQ

So how do you get your own to try out? Gladrags is offering a sample kit to one random person who comments below with your favorite product of theirs.

1. Go to Gladrags.com and look over the products (they have more than pads)
2. Come back here to comment with one product you would like to try
3. Please make sure you have an email in your blogger id or you link your name to an email address or I won't be able to contact you if you are anonymous and I won't be able to contact you.
4. I will draw a random number based from the number of comments and contact that person
5. The contest ends and comments close February 18th 10pm EST/8pm MST time

Best of luck!

For more Gladrags info - they have:
Twitter feed
Facebook page

By now wee have all heard of "frugal fatigue" or if you haven't, listen to any news story as it relates to shopping. Actually frugal fatigue doesn't have to mean that you are tired of saving money and are going to spend the day impulse buying your way through the Mall of America. It can also be that you are simply tired of washing out sandwich bags and sick of following family around to turn off the lights behind them.

Fatigue isn't a bad thing, actually it just means you are exhausted by the whole experience and if you were exhausted after a long day, you sit back and relax - the same goes for frugal fatigue, try to relax for a spell and see if the energy doesn't creep back in later.

Living frugally is not any different than if you were changing your dietary habits, occasionally you fall, but you get back up and get on track. Don't beat yourself up because you slipped and bought a $200 pair of jeans; enjoy the jeans, make them last and get back into the thrift stores again to get yourself back on track. Habits are made by slipping up but getting ourselves straightened back up and on our way.

Have you noticed how when you are having fun time slips by so much faster than when you dread it? The same idea can be used to fight off frugal fatigue; make a game of it. One of the ways I started to help myself save money was to round up everything I purchased to the next dollar and then move that "extra" money to savings at the end of the month. It was a mystery, a game to see how much I would come out with at the end of the month. Or there is the challenge to see how short of time I can take a shower, I've gotten it down to just over 5 minutes.

When the inevitable fatigue does slide in, having something on the ready to pamper yourself and allow yourself a luxury.  You could toss your change into a "mad jar" and then you will have some money on the ready when you need it to buy a small expensive box of chocolate, a discount movie ticket or a much desired item from the store.

Since the occasional time does come up where you say, "I want it all, I want it now"; you can plan for it by figuring it into a budget. Make it a bill that you set aside a few dollars so that you have a certain amount of money to go crazy with if the left over change from the day isn't satisfactory.

Now the one thing that always seems to bring me back on track is to remember why I'm being frugal, for myself it is to pay down debts and the thought of working fewer hours. For another it could be so that your child can go to a certain school or to get through college with as few debts as possible. And if it helps, find pictures that will inspire you on that journey.
Remember, it is a journey and detours do exist and we learn from our successes and our failures to make the next day better than the previous.

With people stuck indoors on the weekend and the spending for Superbowl Sunday done with, now is a good to surf the web and see what other people's ideas are about frugal living.

First, time to get the bad new out of the way, 9 food label lies. I read through this and found it both enlightening and a little bit depressing. All the more reason to read the ingredient labels thoroughly. Also, serving sizes today aren't what they used to be (though that may change) - have you measured out what a cup of cold cereal is and compared it to what is usually poured into a cereal bowl? There's usually a big difference.

Two things jumped out to me while I was reading through SmartSpending's Learn how to decode coupons - That expiration dates are ending sooner than they used to and that the prevalence of counterfeit coupons that are out there.

We don't think anything about popping in a dollar into the vending machine or into a money changer - but back in 1929 a money changing machine invention was a big deal and made the pages of Modern Mechanics


The best way for me to learn is to do it as I learn it, the second best way to learn for me are really BIG charts with pictures and lines and all kinds of fun.
Recently Mint.com blog, Lifehacker and Billshrink had some really cool BIG charts that are actually kinda handy.

Lifehacker has their Best Time to Buy Anything chart and corresponding detailed post on buying times all year around.
BillShrink has a chart on the best Cell Phone Plans. Of course this is probably the first one to expire of all the charts, but handy still.
✜ Mint.com Blogs with many charts and this one in particular caught my attention, How Some Companies Prey on Poor People and the chart covers payday loans, credit cards and rent-to-own places.

Speaking of credit and buying stuff - I noticed that Credit Info Center has pulled together the facts on what makes up our FICO scores

I finally got my final W-2 form in the mail on February 5th and I was worried because it is rare that they reach me after January 31st.  However, on Walletpop came to my rescue in case I didn't haven't all my W-2 forms with help on getting all the tax documents  - most important piece of advice, "The IRS instructions specifically request that you wait until Feb. 15 before calling about a missing form"

This is a guest post from reader T.J
TJ Campie is a 23 year old recent college grad who's desire for low cost shaving turned him to the art of wetshaving

When I suggested there be a blog post on wetshaving, I had no idea it’d actually be me writing it. Of course, I had to accept the offer, because if I don’t do it, who will? I became interested in wetshaving last year while trying to figure out how to get a good shave with no irritation, a problem that had plagued me for some time and made shaving a real chore. I ran across some videos on YouTube by Mantic59. His videos on traditional wetshaving spawned an interest in me right away. Whether it was the brush and soap or the single blade razors, I do not know but something about the routine seemed to just make sense. His videos promised a closer, more comfortable shave, even while avoiding the horrendous markup on new razor cartridges, making the switch not only physically more enjoyable but easier on my wallet too!

At the time, I was in college so I didn’t have much time or money to put into the wetshaving practice at the time so I went out and got a new Fusion and some “goo” in a can and did that for a while. I had forgotten about wetshaving until I started my new job in a new town and had some time to stop by an antique store. This is where I found my first safety razor: a 1965 Gillette Super Speed. I later found that the Super Speed was one of the “standards” of wetshavers everywhere and a good starting place. The razor cost me all of $12! So far so good. I needed some blades though, and you may be surprised to know that double edged razor blades can still be found relatively easily in most groceries or drug stores. So I stopped by my local grocer and picked up a pack of blades for a whopping $2. These blades would last me 30 shaves, or about a month, much longer than any cartridge set would and only 1/10th of the price! (You know, they up charge cartridge refills up to 4,000% of the actual cost of manufacture!)

The next important part of wetshaving is the “wet” part. Canned shaving cream is full of non-natural things and contains propellants and things that will surely dry your face out, something that is very counter productive to shaving. Luckily Wal-Mart sells a nice wetshaving set that includes shave soap and a brush for about $8 so I was ready to begin my wetshaving experience with only $22 invested. Not bad when you consider I would be able to shave for a couple months only having to buy a $2 pack of blades once a month.

The whole technique of shaving is very different than with cartridges so there’s some learning curve, but once you master the nuances, you’ll be getting closer, more comfortable shaves, at a cost way below that of cartridges.

I would be remiss if I did not warn you though, once you get into wet shaving, it becomes very easy to go crazy and acquire one of the dreaded Acquisition Diseases! The problem of wanting more razors/soaps/creams/brushes can quickly outweigh the cost savings benefits of wet-shaving! For many wet-shavers, it becomes more of a hobby than a task; collecting razors, brushes, trying new blades or soaps, aftershaves and the list goes on. As long as you can control these urges and remember why you started wet-shaving in the first place, you’ll be on your way to saving hundreds every year, and enjoying your daily shave more than ever.

Before you get started, make sure you check out the Mantic59 videos on YouTube and visit the forums at BadgerAndBlade.com, the online safe haven for wetshavers worldwide.

Good Luck and prepare to enjoy your shave!

Coupon Sherpa recently ran a list of 23 ways restaurants cut back on expenses and after reading through some of them I found that it is pretty easy to make these same cutbacks in our kitchens. I haven't grabbed all twenty-three, but they are all interesting to read.

1. Reduced Portions - Smaller plates and smaller baskets of bread.
Kitchen changes - Reduce portion sizes by using salad plates as the main dinner plate; who doesn't like to go back for seconds! Try filling up beforehand with bread or soup before the main meal as well.

2. Meat Substitutes - "What you think is Veal Parmesan may actually be "Pork Parmesan. The look-alike meat is an easy cost-cutting substitution for diners who rarely taste veal."
Kitchen changes - Substituting turkey and chicken in dishes calling for meat is easy and cheaper. Instead of Pork bacon, try turkey bacon for a $1-2 less. Also use chicken in the place of ground beef for spaghetti sauce, it is delicious!

3. Weaker Drinks- Drinks with seltzer water, using smaller glasses and adding more ice are all ways to make a drink last longer.
Kitchen changes - Using more ice and smaller drinking glasses will allow the drink to stretch further. If you've made home-made soup, add in more water for the broth to fill up on.

4. Recycling Buffets - "Rather than toss uneaten food from yesterday's or last week's buffet, more restaurants are freezing everything for future use."
Kitchen changes - Don't forget to tightly wrap up the dinner meal left overs for a lunch on Monday or freeze it for a quick "frozen dinner" on the next weekend.

5. Cheaper Ingredients - "...the seaweed is really cabbage and instant potatoes have stretched the mashed potatoes."
Kitchen changes - all kinds of food substitutes exist if you to stretch a meal or don't want to run out to the store for that one item

6. Is it Fresh? - Restaurants aren't always getting fresh food every day, now they may get a larger order of food every few days to cut down on the cost of deliver.
Kitchen changes - Buying in bulk the items that are used often like cereal, bread or TP. Also look at replacing fresh produce with frozen foods for a better savings when foods aren't in season.

7. Recycling Food - "What happens to all those extras on a slow night? They end up in the buffet, reworked into meatloaf or worked into bread pudding."
Kitchen changes - Save leftover vegetables in a pot in the freezer for a weekend pot of vegetable soup. With fruits going bad, cut off the bad parts and make a fruity smoothie.

8. Cheaper Paper Goods - Restaurants are cutting back on napkins, if you want more you have to ask for them, they aren't sitting on the table any longer.
Kitchen changes - Use cloth napkins at the dinner table and toss in the wash at the end of the week. Same goes for the BBQ out back, no more paper plates when you can use regular plates and toss them in the washing machine

9. Begging for Sympathy - "More restaurants are posting signs asking us to appreciate they've had to make cutbacks and raise prices due to higher commodity and fuel prices"
Kitchen changes - Sometimes truthfulness is the best way to handle a party gathering, let them know about your creativity and you may be surprised at how relieved people are when they have to host next.

The hardest work in the world is being out of work.
~Whitney Young, Jr.

Earlier this week, the business that I work for was notified in a big floorwide meeting that both us and another building were being shut down and our customers were going to go to other regions. They gave us a 90 days warning and everyone from VP to customer service rep. was going to bee gone.

I have been through a lay off of this magnitude before and it pretty much went this exact way. The responses however were more severe as the people I work with are older and more established with families than the previous lay off. It broke my heart knowing that the guy in the bathroom who was throwing up had just bought a house a few months ago or a that the woman who sat next to me still had one more back surgery to go through. We all quietly moved around the office in our own world's trying to make sense of the news and yet do our work like nothing had changed.

My way to digest the information was to think of ways to cut back on expenses and figure out what I am holding onto that aren't needs. My partners way to work through it was to immediately get online and get a list of job available, find out places to transfer to within the company.

We talked about it nonstop on what to reduce, what jobs to look for, where to live for a good 3 days and then it hit me and I just couldn't talk about it any longer. The time was going to go quickly and I know that I need to get organized, update my resume, get contact information and be prepared for both getting a new job or riding out the search.

The actions that we took went to cutting back first, a tangible action that helped us mentally see that we could save money and still hold on to our needs and a few of our wants. Whether it be utilities or conveniences we have gone through this before and cutting back on some things is more about tweaking a little here and there since some it won't save any large amount a month or year.

After listing our cutbacks and acting on a few of those, the next step was to get together with the company provided career counselors so that I can brush up on interview skills, resumes and so on. I want to go in to whatever interview as fully capable as I can.

Finally, as the day draws closer to the lay off date and if I haven't received a job offer yet I will want to get organized again for the unemployed future by filing my unemployment notices extending COBRA and so on.

Over these next few months I will take you along on the journey with me, making decisions or even helping me make decisions. I appreciate your thoughts, ideas and criticisms as I move along this new road laid out in front of me.

Actions Taken in 1st week of lay off notice:

* Drop cell phone bill to emergency plan (saved 20-25$ month)
* Called Cable - Removed some channels, better prices on others (savings $55 month)
* Contacted career center for appointments
* Gathered a list of places that are currently hiring or will be hiring in the next 3 months, including transfer options
* I ate a big bag of M&M's and chocolate cake... I feel better now and will be back in the gym on Monday!