One of the best investments anyone can make for using their AC less and cool the house down is an Indoor/Outdoor thermometer. Our goal this year is to see how long we can go in the Colorado heat without using our air conditioner. The worst days are during July and August, but my hope is that we can make it through the entire summer without flipping the switch.

I check everyday for:

  • How to bundle up when taking my dog for a walk
  • Seeing if the heat in the house is my imagination or not
  • Rooms that might be hotter than they should be
A wireless version, indoor/outdoor thermometer has save a bundle. In the picture; the bottom temp is the outdoor temp  and the top one is the indoor temp. When it is cooler outside than inside, the windows go up and I let the air inside. But when the outside temperature rises above my inside temperature then I close up and shutter the blinds to keep it cool in the house.

For me, comfortable is around 72 degrees during the day, but at night I prefer it cooler, so with the wireless version I make sure the bedroom is always cooler than the rest of the house. I keep shades pulled (even if the window is cracked) and I keep the door closed to keep the cool air in.

Already this spring, I hear others’ AC running strong, I am happy in the knowledge that I am getting “free AC” and a natural fan blowing through my windows, while breaking no sweat at all.

Happy Summer to you all!

You can fix your own credit without paying someone else to do it for you. All it takes is patience, tenacity and loads of paperwork, this will take you do a better credit score and the best do-it-yourself feeling around.

Credit repair isn't difficult, however, let me first start off with a few items that can make your situation more difficult.

1 » Failing to dispute issues with Credit Bureaus - Writing letters to dispute with the three credit bureaus is the best way to knock off up to 20% of the items you are disputing. If the credit bureau can't verify the claims, they have to remove them.

2 » Failing to document your work - You should be keeping notes on everything, who you sent a letter to and when, who called you and when. You want to send all communication certified mail to register when they received the letter as this is the countdown for the 30 day dispute time-frame when you are writing to the credit bureaus. If you don't hear from them in the 30 day window, then they MUST remove the item per the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

3 »  Failing to dispute via snail mail (letters) - NEVER dispute online, you do not get any record of the dispute for when they received it (certified mail you do). You will not be able to dispute specific items within the line, such as a wrong high balance, wrong date account was opened, etc. You will not be able to send documentation to back up your disputes either.

4 » Don't be unrealistic and Don't give up - There is no quick fix to cleaning up a credit report and bringing a credit score up. It can easily take 6 -12 months to see progress being made. Along with that it can seem almost impossible to remove items such as bankruptcies,  tax liens, and judgments.
Even though it may seem overwhelming at first, take it one step at a time. Set aside a day or two a week to get your disputes written and then once they are sent off, it will only take about an hour after that.

The strategy to cleaning up your credit report is pretty basic:

1• Get and Review your credit reports - is the ONLY one you can get for free on a yearly basis as required by the federal government. The only other way to get your reports for free any other time during the year is if you have been declined for credit or received a negative report to your credit report.

2• Analyze your report - Most reports have your information listed in a way that separates your good information from your damaging information. But what you are looking for are inaccuracies such as late payments that you know you paid on time for, a much higher high balance than you have spent on a card or collection accounts that don't say paid when you have already worked with the company.

3• List of negatives by importance - These are the items that are most damaging with the top being the worst and the bottom being items you will work on last. Also if you find negatives on your report that you haven't been notified about those companies are in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. You can use this to pressure the original creditor to remove the listing by reminding them they are in violation of the FCRA by not notifying you.

  • Bankruptcy
  • Foreclosure
  • Repossession
  • Loan Default
  • Court Judgments
  • Collections
  • Past due payments
  • Late Payments
  • Credit Rejections
  • Credit Inquiries

4• Write your dispute letters to the credit reporting agencies (CRA) - The easiest way to dispute on the first round is to say the item is "not mine" before going around a second time and disputing specifics in the negative. The second round you can try the following: I didn't pay late that month, Wrong amount, account number, original creditor, Charge-off Date,  Date of Last Activity, Balance, Credit limit, Status (there are about 20), and Wrong High Credit (the highest amount you used)

5• Send the letters - After you write the letters, copy them or save a copy on your computer and mail them off certified or registered mail so that you are notified when they have received the letter. Some people send them off and require the receiver also sign for the letter. This is much more expensive but you now have notice for your records of who signed for it as well as when they received it.

6•  Keep records organized - You want to document when you sent the letters, your copies and any responses that you received from the CRA. This documentation is helpful, if in the future, you need to take them to court because the companies violated FCRA.

7• Wait Patiently - Each dispute to a CRA has 30 days to respond to the reason you gave them. They also have to provide proof of the item you have disputed, such as high balance or that the negative is yours. If they do not provide proof in the 30 days, they have to remove the negative from your report.

8• Analyze the result - Since you have saved your original credit report that  you ordered and disputed from, get another one and compare the two to make sure the CRA has followed through on removing the negative or correcting the error.

9• If it hasn't been changed, REPEAT with round two 

10• Other unique item disputes - Collections can be disputed a few different ways to get them off your report and help your credit score:

  • Pay for delete - debts under $500 can be paid off in return for the entire listing being removed from the report.

  • Settling the debt - debts over $750 can be negotiated down to a manageable lump sum amount to pay and agree to have them remove the item from the report.

  • Debt Validation - involves using the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in your favor by requiring the collection agency to prove the debt is yours. It involves letter writing to the collection agency, but if the collection agency is non responsive, it requires the threat or filing of a lawsuit.

    Some sample letters I have used are the following: Initial CRA dispute letter / Followup CRA letter / Cease and Desist Letter to Collection agencies / Collections Debt Validation / Letter to Remove Inquiries

    If a negative comes back onto your report and they haven't notified you ahead of time they have violated the FCRA and you can sue them for $1000 and win. But it isn't uncommon for a CRA to remove the item until the items has been verified and then once verified they put it back on, this is fine as long as they notify you in writing before hand.

    Sometimes, it will just take the mandated 3-10 years, depending on your state, for the negative to fall off the credit report, but you can also dispute the item if it hasn't been removed in an appropriate time.

    pic courtesy of TrinityCreditServices
  • Holiday planning in April? It seems like we just got our tax refunds back to pay off the credit cards from Christmas. But if you think about it, having a 7 month head start isn't a bad planning idea.
    This article is a guest post by reader David Brown.

    Financial chaos always accompanies the holidays. It’s time for fabulous parties, endless gifts and traveling. Are you sure that you have got enough bucks to spend a small fortune? If not then holidays can be a menace rather than fun. However, you cannot say no to such occasions. It will certainly make you feel even meaner. So what on earth is the solution? Well, lean times demand prudent ways to celebrate. So it’s time for frugal holidays. Read the following tips to enjoy your holidays in a wise manner:
    ·       Be organized. Take a look at your monetary situation and set a budget. Some experts recommend spending no more than 1%-2% of your annual income on the holidays. However, there are no rigid rules. So set a budget that suits you and make sure that you stick to it.

    ·       Prepare a list of things you plan to spend money on. Calculate the total expenses. Is it significantly more than what you plan to spend? If yes then it’s time make your list shorter. Start cutting items, people and plans out until you strike a balance between fun and finance. If you decide to throw parties then keep them simple and narrow down the guest list.

    ·       Do you think that the most expensive gift is the best one? Think again. Talk to your loved ones and try to understand what they love. Spend accordingly. In the process you will learn two very important things: Cheaper things are sometimes more appealing than you imagined and you have saved some hard earned money by buying them instead of costly gifts.

    ·       Don’t rush to the shops at the very last minute. You may end up buying any expensive item that comes your way. So start shopping early, visit multiple stores and get yourself the best deal.

    ·       Always look for discounts while shopping. For instance try buying gifts during sales or visit shops after major holidays to get off-season discounts. Internet is also a great place to find discount offers.

    ·       You can save a quite a bit of money by giving homemade gifts like cakes, cookies etc. Apart from saving you some money such gifts have a nice personal touch which makes them special.

    ·       Avoid using credit cards or at least use them occasionally. Unwise use of credit cards can lead to debts and worse things like debt consolidation and debt settlement. You certainly don’t want to negotiate debt with your creditor right after the holidays.

    ·       Don’t spend much on decorations. Remember that the decors will be there for a few days only. Try to make homemade decors and if possible reuse them next year.

    ·       If you are planning for a trip then start looking for bargains. Internet can help you in tracking great deals. During the trip avoid being extravagant. For example you don’t need a fancy dinner. Look for a nice place to get together instead.

    It’s tempting to succumb to the expensive pleasures that the holidays offer to us. But it can be a leak that can sink your ship. So enjoy your holidays but in a sensible manner. Remember that in tough times frugal is not cheap, it is wise.

    David Brown is a content writer with Oak view law group. He writes on finance related topics.

    *photo via cc courtesy of aresauburn™

    With the warming days coming to most of the States, now is the time to start that habit to better health with cheap and cost-effective ways that help you lose the weight without losing money from your wallet in the process. I've already written about free exercise or gym membership dues and I get more satisfaction from not having to lay out any money by finding cheap resources for exercising, right under my nose.

    If setting aside time is hard to do with exercising you would be surprised at what you can do to keep yourself in tip top shape with very little effort.

    1) Walk. Walking is hugely underrated, yet its something almost everybody can do. The average person walks less than 6,000 steps per day. Aim for 10,000 steps. Make sure to walk briskly to raise your heart rate for maximum benefit. But even a stroll through a shopping mall is better than sitting on the couch.

    2) Buy a pedometer to help keep track of your steps. You can get one for about 10 bucks, although they come free from some companies.

    3) Take the stairs every chance you get, even if it's only one flight.

    4) Park farther away from work or from the front door of the shopping mall or grocery store.

    5) Jog or run.

    6) Don't use your children as an excuse not to exercise. Take them along for a walk or run in a stroller, wagon, or on a bike.

    7) Buy a dog from the SPCA or borrow the neighbor's mutt. People who walk with dogs walk longer and more often than those who don't.

    8) Turn on your radio, CD player or MP3 and dance up a storm for 20 to 30 minutes in the privacy of your own home. Jog on the spot, bop around, throw in some karate/kung fu type kicks and just have fun, even if you are cleaning the house.

    9) Use that library card and borrowing privileges for all sorts of exercise videos.

    10) Use the lowest stair or stairs in your home or outside and create your own step workout. Three steps can give you a good workout for the upper and lower body.

    11) Turn your canned goods into weights. A five-pound bag of sugar weighs as much as a five-pound weight. For a more challenging strength workout pour sand or water into empty milk or bleach bottles. Gradually increase the sand or water over time to keep your muscles growing stronger.
    12) Grab a chair or the kitchen counter and do some push-ups and leg lifts.

    13) Pair a favourite TV show with some sit-ups. Just hook your toes under the sofa and go out it, most commercials run 2 minutes long between the tv programs.

    14) Take the treadmill/rowing machine/exercise bike hidden away in the basement or under a pile of laundry and move it into a prominent place like the TV room.

    15) Thinking of buying a piece of equipment to workout on at home? Check out the classifieds, Craigslist and eBay, locally, for a good deal. Someone's "clothes hanger" could be your ticket to fitness.

    16) Pick up a ball or play tag with your kids. Activity is good for the whole family.

    17) Pass on hired help and do your own housecleaning and yardwork. Done vigorously and continuously, housework burns 346 calories; yardwork, 250 to 400 calories. Washing the car uses up 245 calories; washing the dishes; 122 calories.

    18) Call up some friends for a game of shinny street hockey or pickup b-ball at a neighbourhood playground.

    19) Pick up cheap, used sports equipment at second hand sport stores and discount department stores.

    20) Check with your community league or local rec centre for any exercise classes or team sports you can join for a pretty affordable price.

    21) Got rope? Jump it for a total body workout.

    22) Exercise with a friend. It will increase the chance of you sticking with your new activity.

    23) Dust off the bicycle you forgot about in the garage or pick one up cheap at a garage sale.

    24) Swim.

    25) Laugh. Great big belly laughs. Every day. It's good for the soul as well as your abs.

    26) Carry around a computer bag or backpack weighted with five or 10 pounds of stuff for exercises like one-armed rows or squats you can do throughout the day.

    27) Buy a stability ball. They can be picked up for $10 -20 and used as an office chair. Balancing on a ball works your core muscles.
    28) At work, stand up and go for a walk or just stand by your desk and stretch for five to 10 minutes every hour. Sitting hour after hour is the major reason most people have back pain. Hourly activity breaks at work make for a more fit, healthy, engaged employee and help to add up to the 60 minutes of daily activity.

    29) Check out the company gym if you have one. Studies show only 20 to 40 per cent of employees take advantage of company-sponsored gym. There's a treadmill just waiting for you.

    30) Ask your employer for some free space, send out an e-mail to see if others are interested, and bring in someone to teach a yoga or Pilates class on site once or twice a week and split the cost.

    31) Organize a hockey, basketball or baseball game with the people you work with. Challenge other departments or other companies, says reader Jon Fraser.

    32) Check with your boss or human resources department to see if there's a program that will help pay for all or part of a gym membership.

    33) Find out if your local gym offers discounts based on age, company or college attended.

    34) Sign up for a gym during trial periods, many offer a 5 - 14 day free trial.

    35) Paying $40 or $50 for a monthly gym membership may seem like a lot, but if you thrive in such a high energy setting and if you are a weekend warrior only, even then, that works out to $4-6 a visit per month.

    36) Check if your health insurance company offers lower premiums to people who workout regularly or have a club membership.

    37) Call up a trainer, tell him or her you're on a budget and see what they can provide you for $50 or whatever you have to spend. Many provide a free consultation to discuss your goals. And one workout session can provide you with a program and tips on technique you can then do on your own. Arrange a session every one to two months to upgrade your routine so your fitness level keeps improving.

    One thing I have learned that proves itself over and over to me is that one's physical health has a parallel existence to being fiscally healthy.

    Pictured in order, via creative commons: Pierre LaScott, ~ggvic~, rich115

    My part-time job is working in the cash office of a large retail store that deals with coupons everyday. And once in awhile I see a few counterfeit coupons that get by our cashiers. But most of the time they are able to spot them. Unfortunately, this causes embarrassment for the customer who either was fully aware of their coupon being fake or was unaware. Either way, it is an awkward situation for both customer and cashier.

    Some things to keep in mind when you are searching online for printable coupons to take with you to the store.

    1. All coupons have company information
    They usually have information for the store on where to send the coupon and that the coupon will be reimbursed for the face value plus .08 cents for handling. They aren't shy about putting the company name on it, for instance I have a Wheatables coupon that has the Keebler name on it.

    2. All coupons have bar codes. 
    There is the bar code for the cashier to scan and many times a bar code to track what site the coupon came from such as smartsource or redplum. And they can have a 3rd tracking code on the coupon to register if the coupon has been photocopied.

    3. Missing expiration dates or Over-extended expiration dates
    A coupon that has no expiration date or an expiration date that goes into the next year should give a red flag, unless it came direct from the manufacturer. This doesn't include coupons that say, "no expiration date"-You can still find some of those in old good housekeeping magazines and the like.

    4. Coupons on PDF
    This will pop up occasionally, like the DQ Blizzard special on a BOGO for 25¢, this week only. But they usually are for very short periods or are related to rebates, something you fill out. These coupons are usually found on the company websites. The above DQ pdf is hosted on their site (information about dairy queen). Otherwise, stay away from pdf coupons that don't come from the manufacturer.

    5. When in doubt, email or call
    If you are unsure about the legitimacy of a coupon take a few minutes to go to the manufacturer's website and find their "contact us" area to call or email them. Most will get back with you via email in two days or less, enough time to still get use the coupon if it is legit. If it appears to good to be true, listen to your gut and check it out.

    6. Consider printing coupons in color
    I have read through enough forums to see that some customers have trouble with coupons in black and white. Sometimes the best way to get past the cashier having doubts of the coupon is to print it in color and spend the extra ink to save yourself time at the register.

    7. Free Item coupons
    Coupons that are for an item free are most likely not real, especially if they came as a pdf or through the email, like the Doritos coupon above. I have viewed the company website and they say, "At this time, we have also been alerted to a fraudulent $5 coupon offer for Doritos chips that is circulating on the internet.  This $5 coupon offer is not authorized by Frito-Lay. The invalid $5 coupon may not be accepted at retail outlets.  We regret any inconvenience.  We're working to find ways to prevent these types of counterfeit offers from misleading our consumers."

    8. Check out Snopes
    I am an avid fan of snopes getting the goods on fake coupons. A few months ago we got tons of coupons for free cheese and reynolds wrap and only snopes had the info on them being counterfeit. They also had the 411 on the fake blockbuster coupon from a few years ago

    9. If you know about coupon fraud contact:
    The Coupon Information Corporation
    115 South St. Asaph Street, Suite D
    Alexandria, Virginia 22314
    (703) 684-5307

    More than 300 individuals and organizations have been successfully prosecuted for coupon fraud in actions in which the CIC has provided supporting information. These individuals were responsible for more than $250 million in fraudulent coupon submissions.  
    Per the CIC: Penalties for those convicted of coupon fraud related crimes vary by each case and the number of laws violated.
    Longest prison sentence: 17 years
    Highest financial penalty: $5 million

    Prison sentences of three to five years are not uncommon. Financial penalties generally vary, but have often been in excess of $200,000.

    10. Remember in the end
    When anyone uses a fraudulent coupon we all lose out. The store loses the cash back from the manufacturer plus they lose the product walking out the store. The customer loses out because the cost of items go up with "stolen" merchandise. So please take care to notice the coupons that you use.

    I have been a regular reader of the @debtdiva via twitter and have enjoyed her articles as well. Recently I was sent a great reminder of ways to keep our wallets clean from future debt.

    Americans are plunging deeper into debt each day. Take a look into your wallet. What’s inside can either help or hinder your journey towards debt free living. If your goal is to pay down your debt and live within your means it’s time to examine your wallet and give it a quick and easy spring “cleaning” with these tips from The Debt Diva.

    • Keep your credit in check! Remove your credit cards from your wallet and keep them at home in a safe place. Having easy access to credit can be too tempting for those who tend to make unplanned purchases.
    • Use Powerful Plastic. You don’t want to overdraw your account and pay hefty bank fees. If that’s a problem for you, consider getting a prepaid card. What’s different about a prepaid card is that it’s tied to a savings account (typically an online account) rather than a checking account. You can only spend the money available in your account. If you go over your balance, your charge will be denied and you won’t incur any fees.
    • $20 Life Saver. Keep a $20 bill in your wallet at all times. You never know when you will need to hit a pharmacy or convenience store for a small purchase just to make it through the day.
    • Pocket those receipts. Save the receipts from all purchases to track your spending and see where your money is going. This will help you keep your budget in check and make strategic purchasing decisions.
    • Keep the change. You can build a healthy savings account from the spare change left in your purse at the end of the day. Starting small is the way to large gains, and it will get you in the habit of saving! Always keep the change from any purchase, and put it straight into your piggy bank when you return home.
    • Rewards cards. No wallet is complete without rewards membership cards from vendors you frequent – particularly your grocery store. You should always keep those on hand for unexpected trips to pick up milk or eggs on the way home.
    Still feeling overwhelmed and stressed? Check out The Debt Diva’s Great Money Makeover Contest for your chance to win a personalized debt relief plan from the Debt Diva!

    Clarky Davis, The Debt Diva is a debt management expert with more than 10 years of personal and professional experience. As The Debt Diva she offers financial fitness education and “real world” money saving tips to help consumers trim their spending in just about every area of their lives. As The Debt Diva for CareOne Credit Counseling, Davis shares her savvy debt management tools with consumers and provides free downloadable guides at

    photo via consumerist

    I love watching Dr. Oz and his ideas on living a healthier life through the foods we eat and how we should take better care of ourselves. I've taken some of his ideas to heart and others have reinforced what I have read multiple times before. This has helped me with my lifestyle change as I lose weight.

    In this process of losing weight I have found out some things about myself that also seem to run parallel to losing debt as well. The best way show you how this works is to go through Dr. Oz's 12 best diet tips and show you how I have made those work for me in relation to my debt and living frugally.

    1.   Clear out the pantry and fridge. 
    The best way to avoid temptation is to get it as far away from you as possible. My greatest temptation are chips in the cupboard. The same goes for carrying cash around, If I have the cash, I WILL spend it and most likely it will be sucked up by a vending machine.

    If I don't have the temptation to toss a dollar or two away on an impulse buy then it isn't even a consideration. I am making it easier on myself. I don't have to choose, I made the choice early on that I wouldn't buy anything.

    2. Make simple substitutions.
    The idea that living frugally has to be an all or nothing decision is baloney. When I make small changes and investments in my spending and saving habits I know that they will stick better because I feel I have more control and I feel I have more fun with this.

    Obviously I haven't switched fully to making my own cleaners, detergents and the like, and though it will be a slow transition, it will be easier to stick to it as I make those small changes.

    3. Make sure you're getting enough sleep.
    One thing that took me by surprise was that when I was stressed, I didn't make the best money decisions. When I am tired I am more likely to spend money on eating out or giving in to my wants as opposed to ignoring them for the greater good.

    4. Don't starve yourself.
    This goes along with making simple changes. If you say that you will never, ever waste money again on entertainment you can make yourself a cranky, bitter individual. What will happen is that the craving for entertainment will eventually drive you nuts and you overindulge and feel guilty. A balance has to be struck.

    Instead, some ways to set up a balance are to set aside time for that entertainment, maybe at a cheaper price. This way you don't feel like a mouse who never comes out of the house to enjoy the luxury of cheese.

    5. Don't beat yourself up if you "cheat."
    If temptation does take a hold, and you give in and overindulge, don't beat yourself up about it. Everyone has a bad day here and there, all that is needed is to look at that situation and figure out what led up to it. Were we being to extreme before we ended up binge-ing? Were we hanging around people who weren't supportive of our goals? Were we stressed and tired of fighting so we just gave in? Only you will know the answer to that.

    6. Eat hot peppers for breakfast.
    Frankly, if you can find a personal finance idea behind that one, I will send you a book from my library.

    7. Eat the same lunch every day. 
    We are animals who mostly like a routine, but that isn't a requirement to living a frugal life. Moments are the pearl in our oyster of life. We can still experience the world and people around us without having to spend a lot, or even a little, money. I think more of us remember the times with our family and friends more than we remember the times with our cars, gadgets and homes.

    8. When you're hungry, drink some water. 
    When the urge to spend or overindulge consumes sometimes we can curb that hunger by simple diversions or even talking ourselves out of it. Heck, we think up excuses everyday not to exercise, we can think of excuses not to buy something. Sometimes a little talking to yourself is all you need to get through until you get to your goal. If the talking doesn't work, give yourself the night to sleep on it and if you still MUST have it, go and get it. Save the receipt and you will still have time to change your mind and return it.  Water may be "tricking" yourself into not eating but it works just like making yourself wait 24 hours.

    9. Snack before meals.
    This goes back to #4 and giving yourself small luxuries so you don't overindulge.

    10. Use smaller plates.
    One thing that I have seen is that when I lived in a small 450 sq. ft apartment, I kept only the necessary items but when I moved into an 800 sq ft apartment I easily grew into it. No matter the size, I always filled it up. By keeping my living space small I help myself out because I would have no place to put it. For instance, my closet is only so big and I have a rule that only 10 baseball caps can go in there, if I buy a new one, I have to have in mind the one I will have to toss out for the new one to take it's place or I don't get it.

    11. Eat with the TV off. 
    I don't know how many times I have heard people tell me that when they cut out the tv from their life they were able to also cut back on the temptation to buy while at the grocery store. Whether we realize it or not, our sub-conscience does register those commercials and keeps them filed away because of the way they made us feel when we saw the product. When we are in the store, we see the item and those feelings flood back to us while we decide what brand we are going to buy. The further we can stay away from advertising the better it will be for our savings account.

    12. Look for ways to include exercise in your everyday activities.
    Cutting back isn't the only way to save. Making more will also help with trimming down the waistline of those debts. We can eat less, we can spend less. But when we exercise more, put some work into bringing more to the table then we are able to see the results faster and feel excited about the hard work we have put into this lifestyle change.

    I last wrote about the upcoming layoff about 6 weeks ago and I had hope that things would look up. My office was having a career building company called Right Management come in and help us with resume building and tweaking our interview style. Then there was the unemployment office that would be in for the two hour meeting on how to fill out the forms online and what steps we needs to take. It was seeing the ship sinking and knowing there was no way that it was going to right itself.

    Until last week.

    We had heard rumors but they were all over the place and most thought is was just wishful thinking that took on a life of it's own. But then the HR department walked around to people's desks and dropped envelopes down that read CONFIDENTIAL stamped on it. For those who got an envelope, we were given the opportunity to stick around on the "sinking ship" for another 5 months, instead of a layoff date of 4/30, it was now pushed back to 9/30 and the severance had tripled in size.

    A huge sigh of relief swept through the office that day with those of us who weren't already planning to jump ship and go with another company. We had paper work to sign to agree to the terms and we would be set for the next 22 weeks more. A definite plus for those of us who still had surgeries and doctor appointments that weren't going to get done before April 30th.

    It was at that time I realized that I had a few more months to get organized, pay off a few more bills, and extra time to build up an even better savings. It also came at a better time as my lease would be coming due and we could take the necessary time to look for a cheaper apartment.

    Today I go to work, as I do every day, knowing that the inevitable is still on the horizon, but stress of a job change has lessoned a bit. I can gather myself together a bit better, and be even more prepared before I have to get into that lifeboat.

    While at the thrift store picking out some "new to me" jeans, I remembered that the bath mat towels were getting frayed around the edges and I wanted to pick up a few more. I found three new looking white ones for 99¢ each and grabbed them up. When I got home I took out the old bath mat towels and had to decide what to do with the frayed ones.

    Of course the first idea was using them as rags, but I had quite a few of those and decided it I had to do something different with them. With a little bit of research here are my choices:

    • Old towels are good for insulation around hot pots for the potluck
    • Cut off the fraying of threadbare areas and make smaller hand towels or washcloths
    • Cut them up into a manageable size and use in the diaper bag for messes
    • Make a kid’s washcloth mitt by drawing around their hand, cutting out and sewing up
    • Use old towels to line a pet bed or to dry your pet
    • Toss in the car for cleanup or to hang on the window to block the sun coming in
    • Give them away to the humane society
    • Donate them to a women’s shelter
    • Keep them in the garage for checking oil, drying the car, etc
    • Roll it up, rubber-band it and through in front of a leaky door or window sill
    • Rip it up (or not) and use as stuffing for a pillow
    • Cut them into strips and braid a towel rug
    • Hang them in front of a window to provide shade
    • Make your own terry cloth can cozy to keep your soda/beer/water cool
    • Use them to mop the floor, cut into strips or not
    • Cut them to size and use as a baby bib or adult bib
    • Wrap around the head of a broom and clean the cobwebs out of the ceiling corners
    • Layer a couple of them, tape or sew them and use for muddy shoes/boots
    • Use them as shelf and drawer liners. This also cuts down on the noise from banging around cups and plates as well
    • Cut them into strips and tie up your hair
    • Place under plants when you don’t have a bottom to the pot
    • Cut them up into hand size pieces and use to wrap around and clean your glasses
    • Stuff them into boxes as packaging material
    • A smaller drop cloth for painting/staining
    • Make a bag with a couple old towels
    • Smaller sizes can be used as handkerchiefs, panty liners, diaper liners
    • Use it to patch up something else that is tearing
    • Tack onto recliners in areas that are going threadbare- foot rest, head rest
    • Make a child’s apron
    • Tie up plants and trees
    • Wrap around your neck and tuck into your shirt to keep warm in the winter
    • Smaller sizes can be placed in a first aid kit
    • Sew together for curtains in the kitchen/bathroom
    • Emergency toilet paper
    • A child’s cape or a fort flag
    Essentially, only your creativity stops you.

    Any other suggestions I may have missed.... I'm open to more ideas

    I love used jeans, I can't imagine buying new jeans anymore, it just seems wrong to me anymore.

    I like to walk into a thrift store and search for the perfect pair of pre-worn jeans, no matter if they are men's or women's sizes. I like the hunt in finding a well made or a formerly high priced pair of jeans that are still in good shape and fit me like a glove. I get a slight high when I walk out of the thrift store knowing that I paid less than $10 for a pair of jeans that probably cost someone else $30- $100. You can almost hear me squeal with delight!

    The idea of buying someone else's high priced cast-offs for ⅓ the price or better is a wonderful feeling.

    But that is not all, I also love the idea that these jeans have already been preshrunk and all the stiffness has been worn out of them. What you try on in the store is what you are going to get after you take them out of the dryer and put them on at home. No worries.

    And I also love that when I walk into a thrift store I am keeping a pair of jeans out of the landfill and my money is going to helping those in need for some of these stores (Goodwill, ARC).

    Jeans are my number one purchase at thrift stores but I think the minute you walk into a thrift store, or visit a yard sale, you are saying to yourself and to those around you that you still value the old, forgotten, ugly or cast-off item from someone else. You see value left in that item and it is worth a longer life with you.

    To me, finding value in the thrift item says frugal living to the outside world more than anything else because you can talk to people about the $4 dress you bought or the $20 suit that makes you look sharp.

    Recently at work, the guys were discussing the best places to buy a cheap, well made tie for some upcoming interviews and I was hearing everything from Dillards to Ross to Burlington Coat factory tossed out as good places to go. Then John, who dresses pretty snazzy when he wants to, piped up saying, "Thrift stores, dude, they are the best. You get some top notch ties for $5!" And after that everyone shut up, because they had to agree. You DO get some top-notch stuff for only a few dollars.

    What items will you ONLY buy from a 2nd hand store?

    Mark Twain's given name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens and considered a great American author. Twain was a very witty fellow, his wit and satire earned him the respect of his friends as well as his enemies. There are a few things we can still learn from this author.

    1. Plain question and plain answer make the shortest road out of most perplexities.
    - Life on the Mississippi 

    So many times I have come upon situations where I complicate it and instead should take the situation at face value and find the answer simply. Children seem to find the simplest questions and answers to so many things that we, adults, so easily forget.

    2. Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear--not absence of fear.
    - Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

    Simply considering DIY projects to save money drags behind it a fear that freezes me up from moving beyond my own comfort level. But with this quote, each time I have fear I must face it, master it and overcome it - not try to get rid of it.

    3. Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered--either by themselves or by others.
    - Autobiography of Mark Twain

    We each have the capacity to take our creativity out to the open. Our capacity to take our creativity out to play has no limits, our genius is there for us to find and use with no limits to what genius we have before us. Each one of us has genius in us that makes us unique among others around us.

    4. Some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship power, some worship God, and over these ideals they dispute & cannot unite--but they all worship money.
    - Mark Twain's Notebook

    The saying, "Money makes the world go around" is an understatement. Money is needed for food, shelter, clothing and entertainment. But throughout history, we have tried to break free from under the thumb of money even for a moment by bartering, scavenging and finding the free in our freedom.

     5. ...being rich ain't what it's cracked up to be. It's just worry and worry, and sweat and sweat, and a-wishing you was dead all the time.
    -The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

    Money doesn't buy happiness and doesn't create a utopia that we may hope for. We have to enjoy what we have at that moment no matter how rich we are because money has no emotional fulfillment in it.

    6. When a distressed nation appeals for this or that or the other grace or help, she hears an answering voice of sympathy from this or that or the other creed or group or faction, scattered here and there and yonder in the spaces of the earth: it is only when she asks for bread, that creed and party are forgotten & the whole world rises to respond.
    - letter dated March 14, 1880

    When it comes to materialism, nothing make me feel better, longer than when I have a chance to give it away to someone in need. The feeling just isn't there in the acquiring or the having, but in the giving. And when we see the charity at work around us, it makes us feel better and want to join in.

    7. If it had not been for him, with his incendiary "Early to bed and early to rise," and all that sort of foolishness, I wouldn't have been so harried and worried and raked out of bed at such unseemly hours when I was young. The late Franklin was well enough in his way; but it would have looked more dignified in him to have gone on making candles and letting other people get up when they wanted to.
    - Letter from Mark Twain, San Francisco Alta California, July 25, 1869

    I have nothing else to say here, I kinda agree on this quote.

    Having white walls or blank walls may keep your home simple and if that is the direction you want to go than more power to you. However, decorating your home can be a creative decision you can make once and leave alone or continually change as the mood inspires you.

    Many people would like to put some art on their walls. There are multiple ways to go about this. The most important idea to keep in mind, is to hang what you love.

    Spend little to none:

    * Frame your own or your children’s artwork and hang
    * Rent art-work – The library in my hometown, there's an option to check out art pieces for a few weeks.
    * Don’t forget the trash – One person’s tired picture is a ‘new’ one for you
    * Search your closets or your parent’s basement for those old ‘masterpieces’ created in school
    * Old calendars can be a great resource for single framed or collage art to hang

    Spend a little more:

    * Check online at eBay, Craigslist, or Etsy for some original art from an unknown artist – prices vary
    * Pick up cheap pieces at yard sales and thrift stores
    * Check with schools or colleges art departments to see if students are selling their work
    * Find photos on photobucket to buy and frame for your home – example
    * Enlarge existing photos and frame them

    Spend a lot more:

    * Check out local, neighborhood art galleries – not the high end ones and go with a budget in mind
    * Take a day to visit an art festival – have some ideas in mind of what you are looking for as well

    If artwork isn’t for you - alternatives:

    * Hang a quilt or blanket that you like the design on
    * Gather your stuffed animals, action figures or dolls and make multiple shelves for them to sit on against one wall or two
    * If you have a collection of hats, clocks, sports items or toys - bring them out of hiding and enjoy them.
    * Paste together a collage that inspires you: quotes, story rejection letters, pictures from magazines and so on.
    * More of a handy person? Make a shadow box and place your keepsakes in them.

    I buy cleaning supplies about every 3 months or more and have decided that this next trip to the store is going to be stocking up on items to make my own cleaning supplies for use in the kitchen and bathroom. I like knowing the ingredients are simple and easy to understand and that I had a hand in making the cleaning solution work for me.

    Because I am not fully certain that all cleaning solutions will work, my back up plan is to buy some 7th generation products, with their coupons, if something fails to work - But I hope all goes well.

    Grocery List
    I need spray bottles for liquid solutions I make as I don't have any leftover bottles around the house I feel comfortable using and I need a container for shaking out the powder solution made as well.

    Before I figure out how many containers to buy, I need to figure out what ingredients are used that I may need to buy:
    Baking soda - deodorizes, scours surfaces, and is a natural cleaning agent
    Vinegar - kills most mold, bacteria, and germs
    Salt - scours, cleans, and deodorizes 
    Borax/Washing soda - water softener and sanitizer and makes an excellent freshener when added to laundry and an all-around deodorizer (use gloves)
    Hydrogen Peroxide - kills bacteria and mold
    Ammonia - general purpose cleaner for many surfaces (never use in combination w/bleach) 
    Lemon juice - has antibacterial and antiseptic qualities, is a natural bleach, and it controls odors 


    Toilet - Vinegar straight or used in combo with baking soda or borax.  Alternatives: couple of denture cleaning tablets, coca-cola or a pumice stone for stains

    Bathtub - A powder mix of baking soda w/ salt or bar soap, add a little vinegar after for tougher stains. A liquid cleaning mix of lemon juice and vinegar. Also pour warm vinegar in a sandwich bag and rubber-band to shower-head for an hour to clean. Alternatives: left over shampoo

    Sink/Counter - A mix of baking soda w/ salt or bar soap or 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar, and 3 to 4 cups hot water in a spray bottle.


    Counter-tops - All purpose spray: Equal parts vinegar and water with a few drops of lemon juice.

    Oven - A pan of ammonia left in the oven for a few hours if no one else is in the house and it is well ventilated. Otherwise a paste of three parts baking soda, one part salt, and one part water spread all over the inside of the oven and let sit overnight. Alternatives: Lay down aluminum foil on the bottom to cut down on cleanup, use cookie sheets under dishes in the oven

    Microwave oven - Heat up a bowl of vinegar in the microwave to steaming and wipe off with warm rag.

    Refrigerator/Freezer - For manual defrost freezers and refrigerators the use of hot water with a cup of vinegar helps clean it out quickly.

    Cutting boards - Clean with vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, but not together, one after the other in any order.

    Over-all Cleaning:

    Dusting - Mix olive oil and vinegar in a one-to-one ratio and polish with a soft cloth.

    Drains - Pour Baking soda and vinegar down the drain and let bubble and sit. Then follow with Hot water.

    Moldy Grout - Mix a half a cup of hydrogen peroxide with one cup of water. Spray on and let sit for an hour. For colored grout, mix a paste of baking soda and water. Lemon Juice can be tried as well, testing a small area.

    Carpet Deodorizing - Sprinkle corn starch or baking soda on carpet and vacuum up to freshen carpet. For stains, mix equal parts borax or baking soda, salt, and white vinegar. Apply the paste to the stain and let dry, then vacuum.

    Carpet Steam Cleaning - Double check your manual, but most will accept 4-6 ounces of vinegar with the hot water in place of the steam cleaning products

    Overall it appears that Vinegar, Baking soda, Hydrogen Peroxide and Lemon Juice are the top used items. Salt, Borax and Ammonia seem to be the runner's up.

    What things have you found that help with the above cleaning items?

    I love summer and I am beginning to love the idea of traveling more by car as sometimes the slower route is more relaxing than the wait in an airport and sitting in cramped seats that seem to cost more than they are worth.

    This summer I will be doing some traveling and I anticipate the only worry that I have while traveling is that the car doesn't break down on me. This is my checklist for when I travel the fast freeways and empty county roads.

    ✔  Tune-up: A month or so before I am to leave on a long trip I get the battery check out, oil changed, tires rotated, belts checked and fluids topped off. Fluid leaks are at the top of my list to watch for- Black drips are oil; green, orange, or yellow are coolant; and brown or reddish oily drips can be transmission or brake fluid.

    ✔  Tire Back-up: I make sure to have the back up tire in working condition should the tire blow, making sure to have all necessary tools that are accessible and not hidden under luggage in the trunk.

    ✔  Wipers: Two years ago when we were traveling across country, we found that the car couldn't go above 55-60 without the wipers lifting off of the windshield. That was fixed by getting proper wipers next time around. I also run sandpaper along the wiper blade to cut out the streaks and help them last longer.

    ✔  Fuses: A box of fuses were bought and changed out about two years ago for the last trip. Haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary for lights or sounds that makes me believe they need to be changed anytime soon. But those fuse kits aren't very expensive.

    ✔ Extra Keys: I haven't gotten locked out of the car yet, but traveling with a second key on long trips has been very helpful. I know I almost locked my keys in the car on one trip because I ran out of the car so fast to get to the bathroom and almost forgot to grab the keys as I closed the door. Those things do happen.

    ✔  Food/Drink: I don't have children but I found that having the gallon cooler of water with us and some light food (crackers, apples) was the cheapest way to travel. Gas stations were for bathroom breaks and gas only and made the trip move quicker since we weren't deciding what junk food we wanted to buy.

    ✔ Entertainment: Last time I brought a laptop to play movies on but that wasn't very useful for us as the sun made it hard to see the movie and the road noise was too loud for the laptop speakers. This time it will be books, music, sleeping and talking.

    ✔ Maps: Last time the road atlas worked just fine. It doesn't tell you about upcoming road construction like a GPS but that may be something to consider for the future.

    ✔  Sleeping: Getting an idea of how long to travel each day and what towns will have places to sleep is an excellent preparation that can otherwise suck money out of your pocket. Last time we just relied on the road signs and road map telling us. This time I will have phone numbers of motels/hotels and coupons to use, plus any discounts.

    ✔  Misc: First Aid Items, Napkins, Trash receptacle, Doggy bags when traveling with dog, Cell phone and numbers for emergency assistance, pillows and blankets.

    What items were handy for you while traveling by car for vacations?

    This past month, over the weekend, I have been writing to 2 companies whose products I use on a semi-regular or regular basis. It isn't hard to get ideas of who to write to, I simply open up cupboard doors and look in.

    I go online to each companies website and find their 'contact us' link - many of them are at the bottom of their websites. I take about 5 minutes out of my day to write a note to them that, in return, gets me some coupons I know I will use.

    My standard writing technique is to first write about what I like about their product or why I buy their product over another brand. The second part of the email is giving them at least one idea for an improvement or a marketing idea.

    For instance, I wrote to Haagen-Dazs a few weeks back and thought they should come out with some ice cream for dogs, since I don't like to give my dog all the weird ingredients in human vanilla ice cream. They informed they they already had it and sent me some extra coupons to try it out, along with their Haagan-Daz ice cream coupons.

    And then I finish up with a request for coupons if they have any or a link that will take me to some place that gives more coupons for their products - because, we all know we COULD go for store brand instead and they have been increasing in sales! ☺

    So far I have gotten coupons from each company I have written to: Del Monte, Haagen-Daz, TollHouse, Cottonelle, Cheerios and Cream of Wheat. I have more to go and won't be running out anytime soon - obviously, if I found the store brand cheaper than some of these name brands w/coupon I will buy them instead - but at-least I didn't waste a stamp.

    I also noted that Quilted Northern has a Money Back Guarantee on their site for one of their types of toilet paper if you are interested.


    Who uses coupons most and least, and why - The key finding? Well-to-do white shoppers are confident enough in their affluence that they are not threatened by the attitude of clerks. Those who struggle to keep their financial footing, on the other hand, are very sensitive to the criticism they often receive at the checkout counter, and therefore unwilling to use the coupons they see as symbols of their financial plight. This is an interesting read.


    As you can tell I don't write about some things that are very handy with living frugally and investing is one of them. My weaknesses are others strengths and dividend reinvesting over at Bargaineering and Frugal Dad is one of those weakness for me - I really like the idea of getting a 'two for one' with stocks - having them go up and getting dividends to reinvest as well.

    Dividend Champions- What makes the Dividend Champions list so valuable is in the wealth of information the list provides. Not only does it include almost everything you could possible want to know about the Champions and their payouts, but it includes soon-to-be champions/aristocrats (20-24 year streaks) and the extent to which a company is a champion.

    How to Buy a Single Share of Stock Certificate- The process for buying a certificate isn’t difficult, it just takes a bit of time, and there are a few options out there.

    Reinvest Dividends for Greater Long-Term Growth- In ten years ATT could go from paying his Netflix membership to making his car payments, in thirty years ATT could pay his mortgage.

    Dividend Investing Supplements Passive Income- Slow and steadily, we will be building a portfolio of dividend stocks with the potential for lifestyle-sustaining income for the years ahead.


    Reclusive Russian math genius rejects $1M prize for solving century-old puzzle- This Professor solves this ridiculously old math problem, that no one else could do, and then rejects the reward. I love what he says in reference to why he rejected the money.
    Dr. Grigory Perelman, 44, who lives as a recluse in a bare apartment in St. Petersburg, said through his closed door: "I have all I want."


    Living On Less: One Woman's Life-Altering Decision

    Micah White’s Thought Bubble - In the 14th century, pollution had an exclusively spiritual and immaterial meaning. Back then, to pollute meant to desecrate or contaminate what is sacred, such as one’s soul or moral sensibility. Not until the late 19th century did pollution take on the scientific and materialist connotation it has today.

    Tragically, with the changing meaning of ‘pollution,’ we’ve become increasingly concerned about contamination of our external, natural environment, while ignoring the desecration of our internal, mental environment.