Starting February 2011, 2nd hand knickers are banned from being sold.. in Ghana. And some people are not happy about it.

Cynthia, another market trader, defended the business.
"Second-hand underwear and other clothes we sell here at Kantamanto Market are better quality than new undies in the stores," she said.
She admitted that some of the imported underwear was stained but said customers rummage through the piles and inspect goods before buying.
"No matter how poor the person is, they will not chose stained ones and we throw them away," she said.
One trader insisted that all the goods she sold had been disinfected.
It appears they are doing this because "the Ghana Standards Board, used pants - and other second-hand goods like handkerchiefs and mattresses - are unhygienic and could pose a health hazard".
flickr/cc - xavi talleda
When bed bugs were making the news about the infestation in New York and they were spreading down the the east coast and moving westward, people were freaking out. Yet no one called for a ban on used mattresses. The reason we don't have a ban on second hand items here in the states is because of (1.) it's financial impact on the poor, (2.) as long as second hand items have value, they will continue to be sold and there is no specific way sanitize some items, like mattresses and finally, (3.) the money to regulate it would not be cost-effective.

I am not someone to buy a used mattress or underwear, but I can understand the financial impact to those who don't have the means to purchase new. And if we wash our clothes thoroughly with hot water and bleach (like we do with cloth diapers) then our undergarments should be clean enough for anyone to wear or are we doubting our cleaning supplies abilities?

Initially when I read this I thought a ban would be a good idea here in the states as well, but have come to the conclusion that personal decision making is the best way to go, if enough people don't want the 2nd hand item, it won't be available and the old saying is always true: Buyer Beware

Back to the Ghana ban on 2nd hand undergarments, "If the government really wants to meet the demands of poor people, it should offer support to micro-finance and small industries who are able to produce undergarments at subsidized rates," said Angela Wauye, a programme coordinator with ActionAid Kenya, who deals with trade issues.

But I liked the comment mentioned in a forum: I never wear used underwear until I sterilize it in a pit of fire first. The fire gets rid of any bed bugs or other insects that might be living in the underwear. Unfortunately, the skivvies seldom survive the fire, either.

What are your thoughts on buying 2nd hand undergarments?

A couple government resources for bed bugs:
2nd Hand Matresses:
Bedbug prevention and cleaning
resources from the CDC

I don't cook an awful lot and because of this, I buy the small sized items when it comes to ingredients needed when I cook. Even when I do buy small, I always seemed to have opened ingredients in the back of the cupboard, for who knows how long. Today my search is on for non-food uses for corn starch and baking powder.

From talking to the county extension office, an opened container of cornstarch, if sealed well and in a dry climate, can last indefinitely. However an opened container of baking powder in the same climate has a shelf life up to 18 months, but you can test it, "Regardless of the expiration date, the effectiveness can be tested by placing a teaspoon of the powder into a small container of water. If it fizzes energetically, it's still active and usable"

✜ Burn relief - If it is still around the house when summer rolls in. Mix cornstarch and water until a paste is made. Apply directly to sun burn and allow to dry, then remove with lukewarm water.
✜ Knot detangler - I've heard of baby powder being used and corn starch has a similar consistency. I tried it on my own necklace and it worked very well.
Carpet deodorizer - Sprinkle on carpet, wait 20-30 minutes and vacuum up. I tried this and then steam cleaned and was happy with the smell test result and the dark spots on the carpet cleared up better.
Perspiration Sponge - Pour into shoes or socks or dab some in those special places after your shower. A natural alternative to deodorants, mix 1 part baking soda with 6 parts cornstarch.
✜ Dry Shampoo - Sprinkle on pet or human hair and brush out. Not a fan of this idea, tried this in the past and just had a mess, but some people think it is worthwhile.
✜ Spray Starch - Handy in an emergency when ironing - using a mix of one tablespoon of corn starch and two cups of cold water in a spray bottle, mix well and mist onto shirt collars and pants.
There are other uses for face painting, cleaning silver and killing cockroaches that you can check out.

Baking Powder has baking SODA in it and they both are used for baking. You can substitute baking POWDER in place of baking SODA (you'll need more baking powder and it may affect the taste), but you can't use baking soda when a recipe calls for baking powder. You can find the chemical differences explained here.
Baking Powder: 
Detergent booster - Sprinkle some baking powder into the washing machine or dishwasher with the detergent to boost the cleaning power. And though I'm no Tool Time Tim, I like a little boost here and there.
Counter cleaner - Dust your counter-top with powder and wipe clean for a more natural cleaner in the kitchen.
Teeth Whitening - Small cup of powder and dip your brush in it, then brush for 1-2 minutes while it foams up. Rinse your mouth out well afterwards. (see Dental assistant video)
Grease Killer -  Sprinkle a little baking powder on the greasy spot, shake off extra powder and brush off the rest once the grease is soaked up by the powder. Wash as usual.

It was hard finding uses that specifically speak about baking POWDER, as many got it mixed up with baking SODA, the much cheaper and less acidic version that you usually see in the orange arm and hammer box.

Any additional non-food uses for baking powder or cornstarch that you have found useful?

All you did was sign up for the free trial and now, 32 days later you have a charge on your Visa card for 29.99 that you didn't want. If only you could turn back time like Marty Mcfly and do it all differently.

Free Trials are actually pretty cool ideas, I get a chance to try something out for a bit and if I don't like it, I don't pay for it... yet. Pre-planning is a prerequisite to free trials, without it you will pay the price (pun intended) unless you know how to get around the fees.

☉ Free Trial/ Costly Shipping:  Frankly I stay away from these as they aren't free when I have to pay to get it mailed out and usually at a cost that is 2-3 times the usual cost of the 1st class mail option they sent it to you. There is are a few items that are worth the shipping cost (see free sterling silver site), but I wouldn't personally think of it as free, I would think of them as costing 6.99, for shipping.

Clock is Ticking: The free trial doesn't start from the time you finally get around to downloading the software or watching the HBO channel, it starts the minute you click on the button to order or say, "Yes, I would like to try that for free."

Read the Tiny Print: The itsy, bitsy, teeny, tiny print will definitely tell all the conditions of the trial. Look for length of trial, cost after trial and anything you may be signed up for with a 3rd party (name/address selling) or if you have to send anything back at your own cost. Until you know the rules, don't jump into the pool.

☉ Befriend the Calendar: When you do find out the length of the trial, write it on a calendar or send yourself an email or set an alarm on your phone. I would also suggest that you make it a day or two ahead of the end of trial so that you can hit the snooze for another day if you absolutely have to.

☉ Know Canceling Techniques: Have yourself all ready with whom to call, where to write or what links to click to cancel. If one way doesn't work, you will have alternatives to try to cancel. Also another good reason to cancel ahead of time because sometimes they will take 24- 48hours to "complete the cancellation" and you don't want to be outside your trial period when that happens (not that it would be your fault, but err on the side of caution).

Big Brother Your Statement: On the day of the end of the trial to 30 days beyond, keep an eye on your card statement to make sure nothing was added "accidentally". Some people may have print outs of the page that showed the order and fine print for proof that the company didn't follow through on their word. But I haven't come across that yet, Simply keeping an eye on my statement details for a period of time is usually enough.

The most common trial options are:
 Health or Beauty aides - Shipping is usually required or return of the bottle at your cost may be necessary
Credit reports - typically require you to sign up for a 2-4 week trial of a report watch system. Your best place for these is, which is the official site with no strings attached.
Tea/Coffee - I have the Gevelia coffe maker ads on my site as I have used them without troubles and they do have a monthly club you participate in unless you cancel within the required time.
Computer or Computer Software - The computer offers usually require you to sign up and sometimes order other products or get others to sign up with you. I'm not a fan of those.
With free computer software, has quite a few free trials, but you want to check that you get the full software and not a chopped down version and how long the trial is of course.
Magazine subscriptions - I come across these often and usually they will stop after a certain time if you send the bill back with cancel. But if you have given your credit card to get the free issues, be diligent about checking the statement as I have seen charges show up months later.

Free trials can be very useful as long as you are proactive with regard to the fine print before you sign off on the trial.

In a previous post I wrote, "Simple living is reducing the clutter of life and space down to the essentials of what is important; allowing what remains to stand out and bring value." And from there I moved on to ways to simplify the physical life. But simplifying our lives starts in our mind, an idea that beyond the physical clutter is a life that is better. It is the answer to the question, "What is my life about?"

flickr/cc - Robert Scoble
The media attention goes to those who sell all possessions and live on 100 things or drop out from CEO life and donate time and money to a charity(not that there is anything wrong with those). For the average person, the steps to a simpler life are smaller and quite often starts with the realization that they don't want to spend all their waking hours working to acquire and pay off stuff.

For the essentials to standout we need to set up some rules:
1. Set limitations - We would like to think we don't like limitations. But it is those limitations that empower us the most. Children must get a lot of rest to grow and function properly, yet as we get older we think we limitations don't apply to us until a scientific study comes out that says we need to get more sleep, drink in moderation and get exercise to grow and function.

Now we need to apply these standards to ourselves. If writing a 140 character tweet to get my point across, than a 1400 word paper must be better. Not always. There is only so much we can convey to someone before it is redundant.

This limitation in word allows us to take that information and make it more powerful in a smaller package. I remember reading about political and religious prisoners who would try to get information out to family and friends in their letters, they would write their short letters with as much information as possible and try to convey a double meaning in what they said. A powerful punch within their confined limitations.

2. Maximize time and energy - Efficiency is the the word for this idea. However, we seem to try to do the opposite, how can I cram as much into my day to be most productive. But there is a bit of a bell curve. The more we put into our day the less they seem to pay off.

It is about a two item to do list, giving yourself the time and energy to properly put into something that will be more rewarding; instead of working on a page of to-do list items in the hopes that you just complete them, who cares how decent they turn out.

With these two rules in mind, we want to choose those things that gives us the best long term reward; the most impact.

How do we determine those things with the most impact and reward? Look at your to-do list and your goals and ask yourself:
  • Will buying this have an impact beyond a week, month or year? 
  • Can this decision bring a positive benefit to my future?
  • How will my actions on this further my goals?
We have many distractions in life so forcing ourselves to a limitation requires us to do things more thoroughly and efficiently. We have gotten out of habit and just moved along with the status quo that this type of change will take time. And each day will bring new teachable moments to ourselves. As Thomas Edison is quoted to have said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10000 ways that won't work."

The journey of frugality occasionally requires us to stock up to save money over the long term. Stocking up can be from small nails and screws to the food pantry and plastic containers for leftovers. Over time you want to make a limit for yourself on how much you will stock up on items, like cereal box liners. For some it is a number and others it is space.

The process of sorting can be overwhelming when you have reached your limit. Consider doing the sorting before you stock up on an item. I consider a few of these ideas before I fill out forms for free items. It cuts down what is coming into the house right off the bat.

1. Don't Keep Things You Don't Like 
--This may sound obvious, but it's amazing how many people have things in their homes that they're really not fond of. It could be a coat that you never wear because you don't like the style or how they fit, but you're keeping it because it was an expensive purchase. It may be an old, ugly piece of furniture catching dust in your basement that you're only keeping because it belonged to a loved one. The bottom line is, if you don't like it, it should not have a place in your home. Donate it or freecycle it to someone who will enjoy it.

2. If You're Keeping It for Someone Else 
--Remember, your home is not the town storage facility. If you're holding on to things for your daughter who is now married with kids, pass on those items to her so she can decide whether to keep or toss them. If you and your next door neighbor recently had a rummage sale together at your home, and your neighbor's goods that did not sell are still in your house, have her come pick them up or offer to have a charity pick them up if she no longer wants them. Give them a time-frame in which they need to pick it up or it goes elsewhere under your own discretion, send the information via email so you have a record of your communication since these types of situations can get tricky. Your storage should be reserved for you and the family members currently living in your home.
flickr/cc - janetmck

3. Aim to Reduce by a Definite Number
--When getting rid of clutter in a specific area, have a goal in mind. That is, a specific goal. Saying you want to get rid of some clutter is very vague. But saying you want to get rid of 20 items, only keeping 4 items or 50 percent of the clutter, is very specific. Focus on reaching your definite goals. And if you can't decide, bring in a trusted second opinion to look over the choices and provide an alternative viewpoint.

4. When You Buy Something New, Get Rid of Something Old
--If you just keeping adding possessions, without getting rid of anything, you home will soon be overflowing. The rule in this house when it comes to baseball caps is "one in, one out"; that means that the decision has to be made before the hat is brought home sometimes because they know they don't want to get rid of any of their hats.

5. Never Say Never
--If you constantly feel like you're drowning in clutter and you don't believe you'll ever be able to surface, the chances of you getting rid of your clutter are pretty slim. Never say you'll never get rid of the clutter. Always have a positive, can-do attitude and believe in yourself. Never allow your clutter to rule your life. You're in charge.
a. Do it in small chunks of space or items at a time
b. Set the timer for 15- 30 minutes and go at the clutter as quick as possible
c. Be callous in your decisions, unless it is important paperwork related to taxes, birth, death, marriage and insurance documents. You will know them when you see them. 
d. Congratulate yourself when you are done, whether large or small.

Other Sites to Help:
✭ - The FlyLady's Simple FLYing Lessons Will Show You How to Get Your Home and Your Life in Order
✭ - Articles, tips and free printables to help you clean house, cut clutter and organize life at home
✭ - Offers tools, ideas and articles. Features monthly checklists, a discussion forum, e-courses and a newsletter.
✭ - Recent blog posts on Ultra-small living in downtown Tokyo and the uncluttering process is that silver wrapping paper

The news has had quite a few updates on the fast food industry lately - debating whether toys should be removed until the kid's meals get healthier to kids seeing more fast food ads to Wendy's "healthifying" their fries with skins and sea salt.

But you don't have to go to a fast food drive-thru to pick from a dollar menu, there is one available at the grocery store and with a bit of planning you can save money and eat healthy food as you run out the door.

flickr/cc - TheGiantVermin
~ Breakfast ~
Eggs - You can buy a dozen for around a dollar and get plenty of protein for a very cheap price per egg. Hard boil a few at night, right HB on them and place them back in the refrigerator for eating when in a hurry with your home-made coffee.

Oats - Buy one container of regular oats or quick oats and you have cereal for a week that will provide fiber, complex carbohydrates and may even lower cholesterol.

Fruit - Like eggs, a bunch of bananas give you more than a handful for around a dollar and have enough for the work week. Plus they are high in potassium and fiber for a great start to the day. Apple, grapefruit, oranges and grapefruit are also the better alternative now that sugar in fruit drinks might give you gout.

Milk - Though a gallon with run you a few dollars, on a per serving cost basis, you are less than a dollar and you get a lot for the money with protein, vitamins A and D, potassium, and calcium

flickr/cc - #Justin
~ Lunch ~
Bread - You need bread for a peanut butter/banana sandwich or an egg salad and at a dollar or two, you can have enough for the week and a good healthy lunch that will beat any fast food dollar menu.

Yogurt - Whether you go with Greek yogurt or store brand, you can pick up a container or two for a dollar or less. I'll take a 100 calorie, high protein yogurt over a soda any day.

Meats - On the day of a holiday or the day after, pick up turkey, ham and chicken at a good price to cook up and slice for sandwiches and soups.

Greens - Lettuce is the base for a salad and spinach leaves are usually under a dollar and they last for a few days worth of meals. Toss on some home-made croutons, carrots and sprinkle with olive oil and you have a good source of fiber, iron and vitamins. Other greens are kale, collard greens and broccoli to name a few more.

flickr/cc - Materials Aart
~ Dinner/Supper ~
Vegetables - Not everyone likes all the vegetables, but most people like a few of them. Such as beans, carrots, peas, tomatoes, sprouts and squash or yams. All of these are available for under a dollar or around a dollar a pound. Grab some corn on the cob, cook, strip and freeze when they go on sale during the summer.

Legumes - One of the cheapest staples you can buy, next to pasta and rice. Buying them canned or dry you can make them last in soups, stew, chili and salads. Add lentils to that list and you have a low calories and fat, high in fiber, protein and iron - for cheap.

Pasta - Another staple that can be picked up for $1 a pound or a little more for whole wheat. Boil up a serving of pasta and you have a great complex carb loaded with fiber and low in fat. I bet you can't say that about the spicy chicken sandwich you bought for a dollar at the fast food joint.

Rice - White or brown, just eat! Have it as a side dish with fruit mixed in or as a main dish with chicken and you have a jack of all trades type of food for under a dollar a serving.

flickr/cc - woodleywonderworks
~ Snacks ~
Nuts - They rule the roost for something quick to eat and packed with the good fats, protein and Vitamin E and you can make them last when you only need to eat a handful at a time. By now your pumpkin outside your door is toast, but for next year, toast up some pumpkin seeds for a snacking alternative.

Tuna - Though not for everyone or every workplace, I used to eat tuna out of the can as a snack in the afternoon, mix in some relish and you have a tuna biting back at you.

Celery and Peanut butter - With celery having few calories, peanut butter gives the crunch a bit of taste. Both of these items are on the dollar menu and a good source of protein and vitamins that are filling.

There are a multitude of other specific items from popcorn to dried peas to cherry tomatoes that can be bought for a dollar or under a dollar a serving. But this is a good start.  
What foods do you eat that are healthy and cheap?

A while back I was trying to sell a desk that wouldn't fit in a new place I was moving, This desk was heavy and about 5ft long with a 'topper' that was screwed into the desk back. The topper was heavy as well. I had a few people who stopped by to see it, but no one bought it. Finally a guy bought it but didn't want the top part.

I didn't really care, I just wanted to get rid of it and have it used by someone else. However I was stuck with the top part and didn't know what do to with it... I eventually did find something useful for it.

It is my catch all for when I walk through the door, kind of an entry way do-hicky-thingamajig(official name), that I pile books on, kick my shoes off under and in the upper right side, is a kleenex box full of doggy bags to use as I take the dog out for a walk

In another way I was able to scavenge a couple items from the trash to fix a mistake I made. We had bought a tall table with bar height chairs and after having the table for a few months, came to the conclusion that we didn't care much for it, but it was beyond the time-frame to replace it. We knew we would have to live with it and cutting down the legs of the table and the chairs was out of the question.

A couple days ago someone tossed out the exact same table that we had, but the shorter version! We grabbed the legs, used our own table top and used the chairs they had tossed out. We left our long legs and chairs with the other table top. It is beautiful and we like sitting at it again. Plus, we didn't have to pay a dime to fix our mistake.
We noticed the other table was gone by morning, which means what one couple gave up to the trash, made two homes happy!

Update: Reader Jeremy sent the following pictures and had this to say, "My wife and I bought this sidetable/hutch thing at the Salvation Army for $50 for both.
I took off the sliding glass from the top piece, painted it white and made into a bookcase.
For the bottom half, took off the legs to get it lower to be used as a TV stand. And then sanded and stained it.
$50 plus about $40 in supplies and we have 2 pieces of furniture."
Well done! Glad to share it with the readers!

Have you ever reused something in a different way than it's original intention? 
How about finding items that "fixed" a mistake?
Leave your comments or email me your story and picture and I'll put it up

Lately, I have been hearing that based on the commodity futures, prices on items will be going up on some of the staples that we buy at the grocery store. I've always been intrigued by this market and decided to look into these more as a way to save money.

There are 7 sections of the futures market: Currencies, Energies, Financials, Metals, Grains, Meats and Softs - I'm going to look at the Softs area as a way to save money while shopping. I figure that even knowing a month in advance that prices are going to start to climb, then I want to pick up the good deals now instead of waiting.

Taking a snapshot of this Softs list we have: Cotton, Orange Juice, Coffee, Sugar, Cocoa and Lumber

Cotton has a price that is going up for December and I'm thinking that anything made with cotton is going to be going up in price for the new year. That would include clothes, bath towels, some tennis shoes, bedding, cotton swabs/balls, furniture and rugs.

For those bigger purchases that are put off in the hopes that prices might go down, with cotton prices contracted to go up, buying sooner than later may help in the decision making. January is already considered a good time to buy furniture, carpet and bedding with the white sales and new styles coming in for the new year. You would be able to pick up good deals on clothes at the thrift stores, as always.

Orange Juice or rather orange growing season appears to peak in the winter months. Normally when produce is in season the prices go down, but perhaps there is a mini orange juice bubble on the horizon and people are putting money into the industry which is making it go up higher than it has in the last 2 years. So if you see a good price on oranges and orange juice concentrate, grab it and stock up.

Coffee looks like it has a nice jump  with a 13-year high and Starbucks and McDonalds have already announced their plans to pass the coffee increases to customers. And based on a few items I have read, the prices don't appear to be stabilizing anytime soon. So if you have wanted to wean yourself off of high priced coffee and learn to make it at home, now is a good time.

Sugar has two sections, they are sugar #11 and sugar #16. Sugar #11 is the raw sugar, before processing and before what we buy in the store. And sugar #16 are the prices given to processors, consumers and merchants.

flickr/cc - norwichnuts
Right now sugar #11 prices or the raw sugar is skyrocketing in price around the world but doesn't seem to be passed on as much as it could be to consumers, yet. But the buffer would appear to be disappearing for the the next year and picking up sales on sugar during the holidays would be a good move for the coming year. Just keep it in a sealed container and not exposed to moisture, sugar can keep indefinitely this way.

Cocoa has had a huge jump, but is still lower than a year ago. With the prices at their lower end right now, I'm stocking up on dark chocolate powder and making my own mocha coffee at home.

Lumber is the last Softs futures commodity on the list and they appear to be remaining high and stabilized. Obviously not much building is done in the winter and the price isn't as high as it has been in Feb - April of 2010, but again a good way to help make decisions on whether to build the deck to the house now or later.

With many of these price increases impacting the staples in our daily life, not mentioning the grains futures, you may want to begin cutting costs, if you aren't already. And for the eating-out-at-lunch crew, restaurants and fast food chains will be passing on the increases to consumers as well.
* Switch to Generic brands
* Clip coupons to items you already buy
* Consider warehouse membership or splitting one with a friend/family
* Freeze your bulk purchases 
* Pack your own lunch
* Brew your own coffee
* Set aside money to stock up on staples (grains, coffee, orange juice, sugar, milk)

Every now and then I like to see what people are looking for that brings them to this site. I hope to bring a solution to the problems if the searchers should look again. In the meantime, enjoy!

Q1 Creative things to do with dust bunnies? – I haven’t found anything pertaining to dust bunnies in particular, but I did find some nice tips on what do with lint.

Make artwork from the lint -Mix 1/2 cup of flour with 1 cup of Sta-Flo liquid starch, then add to dryer lint as needed to form shapes on a piece of plywood. Continue adding various shapes and colors, mixing with the Sta-Flo recipe as needed for the right texture. Allow to dry thoroughly, spray with sealer
Fire kindling in the winter or save a bag full to use outside to get the grill going
* Homemade lint paper and clay - (planetpals)
* Draft reduction – cram the lint in holes by your windows and doors
* Use as filler for pillows, blankets, etc

Q2 Can you give me hair tips how my hair can be as long as the Spanish? - This is a good question. I assume that long, strong hair is essential to many, no matter what country they come from. Unless you are already follicularly challenged, here are some starters to getting long hair.

* Patience - hair grows at 1.25 centimeters or 0.5 inches per month
* Keep your hair trimmed- broken ends will leave your hair weak
* Get circulation to your head by massaging it regularly
* Eat right – Food rich with vitamin A (dairy products, fish, spinach, apricots), vitamin B (meat, fish, bananas, leafy green veggies), vitamin C (citrus, melon, tomatoes and potatoes) and vitamin E (nuts, broccoli, whole grains)
* Relax- stress causes a loss of hair beyond the usual amount you drop in a day.

Q3 I’m burned out on frugal living, what can I do? - Don’t I know how you feel. Sometimes it just stinks having to see advertising for things that you want and can’t get. Impatience doesn’t get you very far, unless you are in a hurry to get to bankruptcy court.
Frugal living is a lifelong journey and that means we all have good days and bad, but we keep in mind why we do it - for a certain end goal that is unique and inspiring to each of us.

So this is how I do it, when I get burned out on this frugal thing, I take a week off and try not to be hard on myself. But, I also tell myself come the next week I’m back on the bandwagon and I’m going to go at it with all I can. Over time it will become second nature and you won’t feel as burned out because it will be a part of who you are.

Q4 What herbs will rid you of debt? - I know people go to herbs for a lot of different things health wise, but this one stumped me. After some searching I found a few ways you could attack this.

* Small oranges or kumquats hung around your home, threaded with cloves is “a way to draw money to yourself, fast.” (note: Please don’t sue me if this doesn’t happen, as I have no oranges hanging that would give me any money to pay you.)

* If you just need a specific amount of money for one venture or debt, write the figure in the wax of a green candle with a quartz crystal. Anoint the candle with vegetable or cinnamon oil and roll it in basil. Light the candle, meditate on the need, and let it burn out completely, putting it in a safe place (like a bathtub) if it will be left unattended.

* Create a money tree. Hang pieces of paper naming your current bills (food, rent, entertainment, insurance, whatever) on the different branches,and anoint each branch with ginger.

It actually sounds like you may just need a moment to de-stress - so here are a few herbs that would help with that:
Chamomile or Peppermint
For tight shoulders, use Valerian, which will also help with occasional insomnia.
Feverfew and Willow bark will help with tension headaches and stress-related migraines

Once the stress is gone it is time to take a look at why you have debt and figure out how you can stop creating more and get rid of what you have. In that case you may want to start with these 5 motivations for debt reduction or read these articles on debt.

When the money gets tight and I'm trying to plug the leaks in my budget to save money where I can. This means memberships and subscriptions are the first to determine if they should stay or go.

I have had a club membership to one of the warehouse stores for the last 4 years. Every year it comes up for renewal, I decide if it is worth having for another year. Obviously that answer has been yes the last 3 years. But for some people, the extra money for a membership isn't worth it.

Warehouse Stores
Going into large box stores gives me a headache and tires my feet out at the thought. But I still go because I can buy paper products and frozen food, then not have to worry about buying them again for 6-12 months. To me, this savings is worth the membership and the savings in time. 

Consumer Report used mystery shoppers on warehouse club savings and found that they shaved 25-55% off the cost of the items. The only area they didn't save was on drinks. This is one way to save money if coupons are not used.

Gym Memberships
In my area, a membership to a 24 hour fitness center is cheaper by 15-20 dollars than the Y, and it's closer. But that may vary by regions. If working out in a pool or in a class is more supportive for staying healthy, I can see how buying a gym membership is better than any of 37 frugal approaches to fitness. I also want to make sure I get my shower done at the gym for the water and heat savings.

Pandora Music
This is one membership I don't think twice about renewing. For $3 a month I get tons of music that I LOVE, without commercials. I realize there are other free alternatives, but they come with commercials, kick off frequently and are not as mobile. I use the Pandora App as well. Overall, this keeps me sane while at work and helps me focus when home - all worth the price for me.

I would say that I listen to Pandora about 30 hours a week and I have multiple stations setup depending on my mood. This much listening puts me way over the 40hr/mo. limit for the free option. They also have cool kid's stations as well - not that I will have need for this.
flickr/cc - Aiko, Thomas & Juliette

Credit Unions
I paid $25 once to become a member of my local credit union. It has been well worth the money. When I bought a car and had it financed through the dealership, I later refinanced through the credit union and saved a few thousand dollars off the life of the loan and lowered my monthly payments so I could pay it off earlier.

I also have saved money with a credit union by not paying big bank fees on minimums and I know they are looking out to save me money and not make a huge profit for board members and shareholders.

What memberships do you subscribe to that are worthwhile? 
What is the cost?
What is the savings you receive?

I watched the movie Seven again that starred Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, this story was about a serial killer who kills based on the 7 deadly sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. And while watching it I was thinking that greed always reminded me of money, but the more I thought about it, each one of these sins could easily relate to money and many are inter-connected.

Lust: A Lack of Self Control
Lust is defined more as an excessive amount of sexual thoughts, but at it's core is the lack of self control, an obsessive desire that overtakes.

When I think of a lack of self control, it is about overspending when shopping. With a worse case scenario of people who shop and hoard or people who are driven to bankruptcy in trying to please their friends and family and even wasting enormous amounts of money on pornography that could be used in a better way. Their lust causes a desire that stops them from using moderation or even common sense.

Envy: The Power of Resentment
Envy is more of a generalized version of greed. It is more about the negative thoughts associated with not having. The fact that someone wearing a designer brand must be better than myself.

The power of resentment hold us back; we see the Them vs. Us and spend so much energy fighting against this unknown "better" Them, that we have no time to improve ourselves. In relation to personal finance, we may carry around a chip on our shoulder that we will never "be rich" and it weighs us down so that we can't see all the riches that already lay at our feet.

Greed: Personal Gain by Possessions
This is the most obvious of the sins. A need to acquire possessions or status via any means necessary.

The two biggest visual images that come to mind are hoarding and stories in the business section about men (and women) who have obtained great wealth by deceit and criminal activity. But it can also be as simple as buying a much to large house or car because we feel we have something to gain by it that purchasing a more modest home or car wouldn't provide to us.

Gluttony: Excessive Waste
Most often it is viewed simply as overeating. But gluttony or waste could also be -
* Spending without planning
* Buy expensively when funds aren't available
* Overspending and the item goes to waste - Dusty exercise equipment?

With that in mind, gluttony could be having a home full of items but no money just as easily as stocking up on pantry items that eventually go to waste because because too much was bought.
flickr/cc - Pleasant Crow
Pride: Self Before Help
Pride is looked upon as the worst of the sins. If we only think of ourselves and our needs before others begs the question, "When are our needs finally met so we can then turn to help others?" With many people the need to set aside a certain amount or percentage of their income to help others is very important in their life so they don't think as highly of themselves, kind of a built in humility switch.

But pride can also cause us to think too optimistically. In so much, that we don't prepare for emergencies and set aside the money to cover the rainy days; or we take risks financially that are not well researched.

Wrath: Self-fulfilling Self-destruction
Anger, vengeance, impatience and violence lead inevitably to our own downfall. We buy an item at the store and regret purchasing it when we get home and get angry and blame the salesperson for talking us into it.

Wrath works itself out in ways that interconnect with envy, we get impatient, lose self control and react in a way that doesn't use the common sense we would normally use. The power of "No" said to ourselves is easier to follow through on when we have a goal in mind to keep us on track.

Sloth: Absence of Caring
Apathy can be brought on by depression, but is usually an action to not want to understand the situation. An easy example is not reading through and understanding a contract on a car, but just signing it anyway and presuming everything with the car payment will be fine.

To neglect our finances, whether it be not balancing the checkbook or spending without forethought, is a dangerous action. The action of sloth isn't about sitting on the couch all day, but about how our lack of action is truly an pro-active force that can have adverse effects on our personal finance.

The trick or treaters may be gone and the decorations may be looking a little weepy, but there is still a vampire stalking you at your house. All the items you have plugged in, whether they are power on or not, are sucking money out of your pocket. Standby power, vampire draw or phantom load are all names for the same process, energy being plucked from your home without you seeing it.

Standby energy accounts for almost 10% of our electrical cost. That means that if your electrical bill is $1800 a year, than up to $180 a year of that is vampire draw that could be controlled by simply unplugging the item.

How do you know what draws power?
Any product with an external power supply, remote control, continuous display (such as an LED), or battery charger will draw power continuously. Sometimes though, you will need a meter to test out the item to see if the item in draining energy.

How much energy do my products take?
The average game console - $23 a year
Computers in sleep mode - $16 - $21 a year
Coffee maker - $2 a year
Cable box - $38 a year
VCR/DVD player left on, not playing - $8 - $15 a year

How are Watts/ kWH figured out?
Let's take for instance you have a clock radio that runs on 2 watts
2 watts x 24 hours = 48 watts x 30.44 days = 1461 watts a month
1461 watt hours = 1.46 kWH
1.46kWH x .125 cents a kWH (my cost) = 18 cents a month to run
Will 18 cents put you in the poor house? No, probably not. However, it is the cumulative total of the items you have plugged in. And some items use more power. Such as a CRT computer monitor that is always on, uses 12 watts of power in sleep mode and that is $1.08 a month.

How do you reduce standby power?
* If the item isn't used daily, unplug it.
* Use a switchable power strip for cluster of electronics - There are some powerstrips that will turn the item off for you after a period of inactivity as well.
* Look for low watt items. Checking the energy star guide helps as well.
* Buy a low-cost watt meter to measure the items you already have, check them when in standby and when on and running. The ones you want to check first are - game consoles, tv sets in rooms other than the main room, portable fans and heaters, some dryers, window air conditioners.
* Keep cell phone chargers out of the wall when you're not charging the phone. Those black power bricks often draw a little current-even when your phone's not connected.
* Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). A 13-watt CLF is just as bright as a 30-watt incandescent light. That alone is a 17 watt difference for lights that are used often.

Some other items and wattage on standby
Cellphone chargers - .5 -1.5 watts
Routers - 6 -10 watts
Internet modem - 5 - 8 watts
Printers - 8 - 14 watts
LCD monitor - 1- 2 watts
Security systems - 2 - 4 watts

Unfortunately, as we buy more electronic items our consumption of electricity goes up and not always down as one would presume with energy star ratings and even knowing about vampire drains. Being diligent now will get us in a better habit for the future world of electronic "necessities".