Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying.."I will try again tomorrow."
~Mary Anne Radmacher

I’ve been looking forward to this day and dreading this day.

I look forward to today because I realize that I have finally feel that I know how to ride my figurative bike without training wheels. When I first started Frugal for Life, back in 2004, there were only a handful of frugal living sites and about the same amount of personal finance sites. There wasn’t much online in layperson information for someone wanting to live on less and make the most of their dollar - I made a site that I wanted to read to fill the void I couldn’t find.

Putting together the site was a learning experience from learning HTML coding and how to make some money from advertising to learning about what frugal living means to me and what I find of value through that process.

Over the last 6 plus years I have learned quite a lot from the other personal finance and frugal living sites that have sprouted up along the internet highway. I have been challenged by readers to question what I find of value, ethical dilemmas and been wonderfully supported along this frugal journey. It’s the readers I am most grateful for really, your opinion counted and I read each comment!

The reason I have dreaded this day is because I’m not the type of person to give long goodbyes. I usually just keep it short and figure I will see you around again later.

However, it is my time to say move on to other concerns. You might say I have a short attention span or that frugal living will never not be a concern for me; and you would be correct. Like I said above, I’ve come to a place where I no longer need the training wheels of the site to assist me on my journey and now it is time to move on down the road and venture into other areas of my life that need more attention.

There are five ideas that I will always keep in the back of my mind that I feel are at the heart of frugal living.

  1. Buy Quality - Get the most for your dollar and the most out of your dollar. Make it last and use it multiple ways.
  2. Do Research - Read labels, test results, consumer opinion and when I can, keep it simple.
  3. Time = Money - What amount of time at work am I putting in to buy or keep this item. Is the money saved worth the time invested.
  4. Defer Gratification - Use the 24 hour decision window, pop open my creative eye for alternatives to purchases
  5. Live Less - Live under my salary, not at my salary.
Now I know what to do in most situations, it has become second nature, I am living the life that I write about and it isn’t anything much to write home about. At the very least nothing that 6 people aren’t already writing about in their own unique ways.

Speaking of what other people write, I’ll still pop up every now and again in the comments to speak my mind on something. So we will probably see each other around the personal finance and frugal blogosphere. I even gave one final interview over at creditcardassist.com in their Best of the Best Blogger series.

Goodbye and see ya around!
flickr/cc- Klearchos Kapoutsis 

Goodbyes are not forever.
Goodbyes are not the end.
They simply mean I'll miss you
Until we meet again!
~Author Unknown

What are your habits?

Do you eat from the vending machine each day, go to the same place for lunch with your co-workers, and fall into bed at the same time each night?

Maybe you've made a habit out of spending on impulse, avoiding a budget, and staying up as late as possible.

Someone famously said:

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
And Aristotle noticed that, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit."

It's pretty clear that the habits you adopt will shape who you are.

When it comes to your finances, the two habits that define your financial health are your income/savings and spending habits. In fact, everyone that you know who is in great financial shape has dialed in these two important habits.

If you aren't happy with your finances, then simply adjust your income/savings and spending habits habits. Here's how to adopt a habit:

Making a habit

Use these seven steps to create a life-improving habit.
1) Decide on the ONE financial habit that you would like to develop. It's tempting to pick up 3 or 4 habits, but choosing just one new habit is realistic and doable.
Here are some healthy habit ideas:

Set aside $5- $25 into savings.
Bring your lunch to work instead of eating out. 

Leave your money at home when shopping and give yourself 24 hours to think about it. 

Bring a list for shopping and put back anything not on your list.
Set up a retirement fund/401k. 

Work with a budget for 30 days.


2) Write your new habit down on paper. Also include your 3 main motivators for developing this new habit, the obstacles you'll face, and your strategies for overcoming these obstacles.

Here's an example:
My new habit is to work with a budget, tweaking it each Saturday night. 

My 3 main motivators are:
* To feel confident about where my money is going
* To have more money at the end of the week
* To set money aside for my vacation 

The obstacles I will face are:
* Getting distracted by tv at Saturday night
* Finding other items I want to buy, not in my budget
* Not having my spouse's support.

I will overcome these obstacles by:
* Setting an alarm for 6pm saturday night as a reminder to shut off the tv
* Giving myself 24-48 hours to decide if I really need the impulse buy
* Asking my spouse to join me so we can get in financial shape together. 

3) Commit fully to your new habit, in a public way. This could mean posting it on Facebook, setting up an online journal or simply announcing it at the dinner table. Put yourself in a position where you'll be embarrassed to give up on your new habit.

4) Keep track of your progress. You could keep a detailed journal or simply make a check mark on each calendar day that you successfully completed your new habit.

5) Keep yourself publicly accountable. This means either status updates on facebook or verbal status updates at the dinner table. Your friends and family are able to offer you support, so don't shy away from those close to you.
6) When you fail, figure out what went wrong so that you can work it into your plan in the future.

7) Reward yourself for your success.

Once your new habit becomes second nature, feel free to add a second habit by going through the same 7 steps.

Habit forming depends on the person, for some it kicks in quickly after 3-4 weeks and for others it takes a few times of falling down and getting back up to realize how much we want it.

 If you are setting aside 2% of your salary for retirement, then the habit to live on less may take less time than the habit to make your lunch at night for work the next day. It will depend.



Flickr pics/CC
Money-5
Status update
Fail

Nothing freaks me out more than seeing meat or poultry thawing on the counter. I'm always asking how long an item has been out and no matter the answer, I usually end up tossing it in the fridge to keep the bacteria at bay.
The USDA states:

Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter, or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.
Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be in the "Danger Zone," between 40 and 140 °F — temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.
When thawing frozen food, it's best to plan ahead and thaw in the refrigerator where it will remain at a safe, constant temperature — at 40 °F or below.
I am a bit squeamish around food that doesn't look or feel right, but I also don't like to needlessly toss food away when it looks good. I have even pulled food out of the trash to eat, though I did end up tossing a few back after I got them home and cut up. At times I feel like I am on a foodie teeter-totter, with one end about tossing it all and the other to keep it all. teeter-totters are hard to balance.

Because of this balancing act I have sought out information online and found how long to keep some basic staples and more.
Milk - The smell usually tells most that it's time to toss it. Some dietitians and university extension offices suggest you shouldn't even leave milk out for more than 2 hours, don't pour milk you've drunk back into the container, don't keep your milk in the door where the temperature can fluctuate and freezing milk destabilizes the milk. I believe I have done all of these things at some point in my life and here I am. I have even smelled milk going bad - tossed in a bit of salt in the cup, stirred it and drank it up without consequence.

Eggs - When you look at the sell by date, add 3-5 weeks to that and you have a pretty close estimate for the eggs. If you take eggs out of the carton, it is advised to not put them in the door as the temperature changes for those items in the door. If you hardboil your eggs to take to work, only do enough for a week at a time and if you keep them unshelled, leave them in cold water for 2-3 days.

Pizza - This is a staple in my house - so go with it. Frozen pizzas keep in the cold for 3-4 days. However a home-made or delivered pizza should be kept in an airtight container or covering and would have to be smelled and eyeballed. Look for mold or sliminess with the toppings.

Apples - These keep nicely in the refrigerator up to a month and on the counter they need to be eaten in about 10 days. If you slice your apples up and don't eat them within a couple of hours, put them back in the frig.

Bananas - If you eat bananas slow, put them in the frig and they will ripen slower, though they may have brown specs on the outside, they are still good. And if you want to speed up the ripening, put them in a sealed brown bag to reduce their access to oxygen.
flickr/cc - kevindooley
Leafy Greens- Spinach, lettuce, cabbage and the like last about a week when bought fresh and should not be washed until they are used. Keeping them in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in plastic with holes is good. Some swear by wrapping a thin layer of paper towel around the vegetable as well. When they go bad, cut off the part and eat the rest unless you don't like the smell of it.

After learning what I could on all the types of foods I eat and how long they can keep, I narrowed down on the information to the following rules:
Rule 1: When in doubt toss it
Rule 2: Cut out the bad and eat the good
Rule 3: Smell it, look at it and decide
Rule 4: Nothing teaches you better than getting sick, play it safe.

If none of the above rules answer my question on whether to keep or eat a food, I look it up online at ShelfLifeAdvice.com or call the local university extension offices.

Now that I'm an aunt for the first time, children's clothes, activities and behaviors now catch my attention as I try to understand the mystery of growing up from the outside now. I'm regularly asking my sister what activities my 7mos. old nephew is doing. It is too early to figure out his interests yet, but it is fun to wonder if he will be a DIY builder, a weird scientist concoction mixer or if he will run around the block like a wild-child.

One thing that I have found for the today are free activities for kids to preoccupy them during the summer months. I realize summer is 3 months away, but why not have a few items scheduled ahead of time.

flickr/cc - rockonmu
Kids Bowl Free - The dates, times and age minimum varies by state. Also take a look at each locations rules about shoe rental and number of children per group. I have to say this was an easy way to work on my eye/hand coordination, have fun and learn to take turns, as I grew up. Who knows, maybe it will light a flame and your kid will want to be the next pro bowler!
Free Park Access - National parks have free days April 16-24 and June 21st. April may be a great time to pull out the bicycle, tune it up and gets the kinks worked out at the park so the kids are ready for the summer. This list of national parks by state will help you plan and stay close to home.

Free Museum Days - If you do a Google search for "free museum days 2011" + (major city/state), then you should find the available museums, zoos, performing arts and history centers that are open for free admission. My personal favorite is the Denver art museum.

Target Stores Arts Events - You may not be aware. but Target sponsors free or reduced-price admission to arts and cultural events nationwide.
flickr/cc - Jinx!
Big Box Build-It Classes - Lowe's and Home Depot offer classes and children activities for free with pre-registration. Lowe's Build and Grow classes are on Saturdays and Home Depot has a few workshops throughout the year. I used to work for a couple hardware stores and kids were always happy to hold in their hands something they had made with a parent. And if your local hardware store doesn't have classes, taking a walk through the store and letting them touch and look at items, play with doorbells and figure out how to screw in a nut and bolt can be fun for them as well.

Library Reading Program - Nothing says free like a trip to the library and if they see you are interested in reading to them or doing an adult reading program with them, they will take more interest in it. Not only to libraries have different gifts but keep an eye out for banks and shops that offer gifts of food and money as reading incentive.

And while you are at the library check out what other classes or events they may offer for kids and the family.
flickr/cc - hoyasmeg
Other Free Activities - Check with local movie theaters for free showings, auctions can also be of interest to kids who like to collect "trashy-treasures" and making a game out of how much an item might go for keeps them interested. Musically inclined children might interested in practice sessions at local orchestras or free music in the park. And finally, sometimes keeping your eye on the local paper or googling "free events" for your town/city can pull up a few items to do for the summer.

Since starting the new job I've been trying to find out every little way I can save money by using discounts through the company I work with. I usually work within the telecommunication industry and with that I receive whatever item they sell for free or at a greatly reduced price. Additionally,  they have connections with other companies that provide discounts for computers, car rentals, hotels and other telecommunications.

One item I found was free cellphone service, I had to pay for the smart-phone I wanted but after crunching the numbers, including cost of the phone and cost of the termination fee with the other company, as long as I worked at my current job for 4 months I would be ahead financially. Then every month following it would be a savings of $70 from my budget.

After speaking with some other employees I found out that Costco had a deal going with the gym I go to. Currently I pay $30 a month, but with a membership at Costco, I could pay $300 up front for a two year membership to the gym. I don't have a membership to Costco yet, so that initial investment would be $350, still a savings of $370 over the course of 2 years. That works out to 14.58 a month instead of the $30 (no contract) I pay now.

And while looking to see if my company has any deals with Costco I found the following: Buy an initial membership and receive free - Rotisserie chicken, 2-lb bag of coffee, 35/16.9oz of Costco brand water.  The coffee and chicken sound good  and since I hope to purchase a bike and ride to work to save even more money, the water bottles would be handy as I ride.
The initial investment in the bike will be hard to handover but I have to remember that after crunching numbers, it will pay off after 6 months based solely on gas prices at 3.20 a gallon and minor upkeep on the car(s).  And who knows how much more I may bike ride for errands and general exercise. But I'm still going to hang onto my gym, I've found I like to workout around people to keep me motivated.

Can redemptions: Here in Colorado we don't have can redemptions like in Iowa, where I grew up and you got back 5¢ for each can, after paying for the deposit on the front end. Surprisingly, I see that the cans here in Colorado have the redemption labeling on them, which is a necessity to get your money back in Iowa. Now this is what I'm thinking and I want your help in determining if I'm being unethical.
I was going to save up all the cans I come across and then bring them home to Iowa  and get the 5¢ a can for them since I was already in Iowa, even though I didn't pay the deposit upfront. I would easily get more money from the cans than if I took them to a recycler locally (which is 45 min away)  It probably won't be more than a few dollars, but the amount shouldn't matter in the course of the discussion.
Do you think this is a good or bad idea and why?

Monday I put together a very basic understanding of bonds and what I had learned from them. While I was reading I found that there was so much more that I didn't understand and could have added to my learning.

Having written about frugal living for the past 6 years, I have found that the personal finance side of frugality is the part that is harder to learn. To me, it is easier to find ways to reduce; reduce spending and reduce wastefulness. But the finance side that allows me to keep and increase my money it a bit harder to understand. I figure that I'm not unique in that area and found a few online classes to put bookmark for further learning.

Personal Finance Classes:
Alison - Financial literacy course, a series of seven dynamic modules covering everything from how to set up your first bank account to planning for your retirement.

American Financial Solutions - The site consists of 8 courses, and appear to be usable if you need classes to claim bankruptcy.
# Setting Your Financial Goals/Making a Budget
# Introduction to Investing
# Your Banking Relationship
# Identity Theft/Predatory Lending
# Understanding Credit/Credit Reports
# Children/Money Tips for Parents/Teachers
# Introduction to Borrowing
# Your Financial Life – For Young Adults

CNN Money 101 - Staying unofficial, but still learning with 23 lessons that include home and life insurance as well as the usual ones. Quite a diverse bunch with lessons running 5-6 online pages long.

Money Management International - Do enough reading online? You click and go to videos, infographics, calculators and articles that specifically answer what you are looking for. Just need to sign in with a name, email and zipcode

MIT OpenCourseware - If you are looking for a more advanced dealing with finance, investments and economics, this is a good start with a syllabus, exams and videos

The Tax College - Enrollment needed to secure access to free courses that are throughout the year. Our online income tax course is the only income tax course available that is fully integrated with a professional tax software program and you do not need to purchase any of their software to participate.

University of California-Irvine - Their free class is on Fundamentals of Personal Finance. The course was created to help those who cannot afford extensive planning assistance better understand how to define and reach their financial goals. It provides basic understanding so informed decisions can be made.

Besides learning from magazines (money) and online sites (motley fool), the above options are available free for a more focused learning on personal finance and beyond; then when you receive notice about participating in your employee stock purchase plan, you know how to participate.

Additional Resource: Internet U - Learn New Job Skills Free - "From peer-to-peer instruction to commercial "webinars" to free university courses, there's something for just about every job description". Donna also provides some wonderful examples as to how these courses have helped others.
 $ Virtual University - Started in 1995, Courses do cost a small fee and have scheduled start dates.
OpenCourseWare - A worldwide community of hundreds of universities and associated organizations committed to advancing OpenCourseWare

Previously I've daydreamed about winning the lottery. But recently a British survey (pdf) gathered people's opinion on what they would do for a million pounds (~$1.6 mill. USD). The options were not typical.

  • Be Photographed naked for a national newspaper (31%)
  • Have no human contact for a year (18%)
  • Have sex with someone you find physically "repulsive"(17%)
  • Give up a kidney (15%)
  • Not see sunlight for a year (9%)
  • Be water-boarded (8%)
  • Tattoo an advertising slogan on your forehead (2%)
  • Play Russian roulette (2%)
  • Cutting off an arm (1%) or a leg (0%)
  • None of these (42%)
Now if I couldn't opt out of any of the options, then the kidney one would be fine with me and the sunlight even would work, depending on what I could use to make up for the light of the sun. But I would have to have human contact and I don't want to have any tattoo on my forehead - like the above sad man who did it for 6 figures.

Some other interesting factors in the survey
  • Social grade doesn’t seem that important. 44% of those in higher social grades and 40% in the lower ones said they’d do none of the options for £1m.
  • 56% of women and 27% of men said that they wouldn’t agree to any of the above. 
  • Youth is a strong predictor of likelihood of doing these things for a million pounds. Which shows how much we value life as we get older - 18-24 year olds are much more likely to agree to Russian roulette than those who have already lived for over 60 years.
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Some grocery stores have coupons that print out when you check out, these check-out coupons are called Catalinas and I recently read all I needed to know to use them (@DenverBargains). I learned: Even though the coupons may be for a specific store, sometimes you can still use them at other stores if it is a national brand. And I learned that there is a real contact number and email if an expected Catalina coupon didn't print out. I don't use them often, but good contact info to have. Plus you can "roll" the Catalina coupons for more savings.

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With budget cuts going on across the country in different states, one of the items being looked at for cuts are public libraries. I love my public library and the mobile library (now defunct) that came to my neighborhood to save me gas money. In the UK, they protested these shutdowns on February 5th by having massive book check-outs and "read-ins".  I think it is wonderful that people across the ocean took the libraries to hold claim to them and let others remember that we are all "Children of the Library"- a great song by PD Cawley

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Some other links I wanted to pass your way:
  • I have "Frugal Fatigue" fatigue (@Surviving and Thriving)- I love Donna's perspective on this matter and appreciate the commentors.
  • How to get a great hotel rate (@CR Money) - I have a high school reunion coming up this year and I think I will try to take some of these ideas into consideration.
  • Playspent a "game" offered by the Urban Ministries of Durham (via Consumerist) that is a dose of reality when it comes to living a low income life.
    When I played it, I didn't go to a funeral, my gas got shut off, I got a speeding ticket but able to talk the cost down from 250 to 50 dollars and though my kid got to go to a birthday party with a gift, they were made fun of for the "free lunch" program they were in and stopped eating. I may have made it to the end of the month with money, but I have a new month to get through.

SchoolhouseRock - Tyrannosaurus Debt
TOUR GUIDE: And this is the U.S. Treasury. It sells Treasury Bonds, bills, and notes, and savings bonds to finance the debt. The U.S. government promises to pay the owner interest plus the value of each bond at a future date.
Up to a few days ago, if you asked me what a bond was, I would tell you it was a way to make some interest on your money through the federal government and you can either buy bonds at face value or at half face value. That about sums up my knowledge.

Being a bit of a self-taught person I decided to learn more about bonds than what I understood for the last 30 years. And here is a basic understanding of that research (very basic).

What: Essentially, bonds are a way of taking loan out from a citizen bank with interest for the life of the bond. We citizens, are the banks investing in our governments; city, state, corporate and federal government. We can buy short term bonds or long term bonds and when the bond matures they will pay the face value plus interest accrued.

Who: Bonds are held not just by the federal government but also by municipalities (state, cities and local governments), corporations and mortgages. They are rated from AAA, AA and A down to B and lower by companies such as Moody's, Standard and Poors, Fitch, and Weiss Reports who look at the credit worthiness of the governments and corporations putting out their hand for a loan.
Why: Buying bonds, specifically those such as the EE, I or bond fund are the easiest way to put your money away for a stable investment over the long term (greater than 10 years). If purchasing bonds individually, remember, the letter grade above is constantly changing, is one of the primary determinants of value. Should a formerly rock-solid bond received a lowered rating, its value will slide accordingly since bonds trade on the open market just as stocks do. A bond that pays significantly more interest than a similar bond maturing at about the same time is riskier.
Downside: Some corporate bonds have an option to call in their bonds early. So if you paid for a 10 year bond and were expecting a certain level of investment when it matures but the corporation calls in the the bond early at year 5, you can lose some of that much needed interest that you were counting on  down the road.

How: Sometimes buying bonds is best left to the professionals by way of the bond fund option via IRA, 401k, 403b investments where you can pick up bonds that are bought for mortgages, corporations and governments (local and worldwide). If you go that route than professionals will monitor credit worthiness, bonds that have been called and interest rate trends.

Another way and a more common form is to pick up EE and I savings bonds offered through the federal government.  EE bonds have a fixed rate of interest (feb. 2011 - .60%) and I bonds have a fluctuating interest rate based on inflation (feb. 2011 - .74%). With interest rates varying over the years, you could have bonds with interest rates anywhere from .60% to 6%.

If you don't want to lose some of your interest earned through bond funds you can purchase the bonds individually, through a brokerage house like E-trade. You will have to stay on top of the calls on bonds and you may have some losses if you sell at the wrong time. The advantage is that you know what you own and have more control with lower average fees.

Where: To learn more about the intricacies of bond buying; I suggest the following -
Investopedia: Bond Basics
Motley Fool: Buying Bonds
Kiplinger: Understanding Bonds

Also, Mint.com has a wonderful InfoGraphic - What is a Bond - if pictures, multiple colors and arrows help you understand (like myself).

You want to be financially fit. You know all about buying generic and what needs to be done to start a budget. You know what is involved in starting your retirement fund and how much to sock away. You can even picture a future with fewer stresses and possibly an early retirement.

So why aren't you on the road to that frugal success you read about?
Simply put, there are life issues that block that path to financial fitness and I want to spotlight 5 of them below.

1. It's A Bother
It's a pain in the arse having to keep tabs on everything you buy. Not only that, it may very well be in our DNA to try to take the easiest route possible and tracking spending doesn't seem very easy. In your mind you think that it is a waste of time with no immediate results, if any and your eyes rolling is the physical manifestation of that thought.
flickr/cc - Brian Forbes
The solution: Think about something in your current financial state that makes your life difficult. Are you staying awake at night because of bills? Is the thought of taking a sick day off from work causing you pain in your neck and shoulders? Focus on the negative situation you are in now and convince and inspire yourself to change, to make your life better by any means necessary.

2. It Takes To Long
Just like wanting to make life less painful, we also want to make life a pleasure, with immediate gratification the easiest way to get that result. This may have served you well while you had the money to toss at every whim but lately things responsibility and bills have laid claim to every penny you own and even those you will earn in the future.

The solution: Extra spending on impulse items or grabbing the credit card to feel better is not the answer. There are other ways to stimulate your self-gratification center of the brain. Find an activity in your area that is free or minimal in price and partake in them regularly.

Recently I was watching at the local park as guys were flying model planes around and got into a conversation with a man who knew quite a lot about each model plane that went up. I asked if he had one of his own. His answer was that he didn't have the money for these planes but he participated in the local club as a volunteer and that allowed him to be around them and help them oil or fix up planes on occasion and that was satisfactory for him.

You can retrain your brain to see the free events around you and crave those pleasures while keeping your money safe.

3. Way To Busy
Let's face it, it isn't uncommon these days to talk with neighbors and co-workers and find out they have a 2nd or 3rd job on top of raising a kid or two. We are so busy that when doctors suggest we get 7-8 hours of sleep to keep us healthy, we laugh out loud. This fast-paced, constantly going schedule certainly is a good enough reason to not worry about being financially fit. Besides, when things slow down, then we can take a look at the retirement plan.
flickr/cc -andryone
The solution: Prioritize what is really important in life. If you are a perfectionist, it's time to let go of that standard and remove a few commitments from your schedule so that you are able to continue on a healthy financial path and won't be running this fast-paced life for the next 20 years or more. Remind yourself that taking care of your financial health is a way to take care of your physical health as well.

4. I Don't Deserve It
As odd as the idea may sound, sometimes we get it in our head that the personality we have is one of "work till you die" and if anything good happens to you, it must be a mistake. Think about times that you may have self-sabotaged your goal to get rid of debt or get started on the 401k plan. If you don't believe deep down that you deserve a life free of debt, a future where you have a savings, then you will never give yourself a chance to attain that goal.

The solution: First off, I believe that each one of us deserve a life without debt, no matter. I urge you to dig deep down and uncover those reasons why you don't think you do. This may be a "come to Jesus" or a "come to Jillian" moment. Once you conquer your feelings of unworthiness, getting a budget and a savings plan will become a much easier goal.

5. It's Really Scary
Failure is a real problem, it happens and it happens often. You be afraid to start for fear of failure but also afraid to start for fear of success. Even being successful at reaching a goal can freak you out because it means change, it means a new way of life - even if it is a change in the right direction.
flickr/cc - hozinja
The solution: As Zig Zigler has said, "Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street." When you decide to get financially fit you will go through many changes a new way of spending, a new way of saving, a new way of looking at each dollar, a new way of shopping and a new self-image. Focus on the positive effects this new financially fit life will bring to you. Envision a better life everyday so that it goes from being a new and scary idea to a familiar and comfortable one.

A 2007 survey of low- and middle-income consumers with credit card debt found the following: Nearly one-third (29 percent) reported that medical expenses contributed to their current level of credit card debt.

I would think that with the economy in the dumps since then, that percentage hasn't gone down very much. As a matter of fact, in a 2008 study: More than one-half (52%)of indebted low- and middle-income households cited medical expenses as contributing to their credit card debt. And that percentage seemed to stay the same as we moved into 2009.

I don't like starting out an article with boring stats, but these numbers had me shaking my head and realizing that debt isn't always caused by impulse buying or lack of a budget. At times life will push us into a corner and demand from us what we least want to give. Handing over a credit card to get a medical bill paid.

However, armed with knowledge and foresight, we may be able to limit the use of those credit cards as ways to pay medical bills.

Flickr/cc - joanna8555
 ➜ Check for Errors. Know Your Insurance. Recently a bill was received stating that I owed $349 for a nutritionist that was a referral from the doctor. Because of my insurance, I don't pay for referrals or a minimum $40 is paid. After the initial shock and anger, a call to the insurance company got things straightened out. Also, before going in for surgery, find out what is covered. As weird as it may seem, some things used in a surgical room may not be covered by insurance unless you get pre-approval.

➜ Call and Negotiate, Don't Hide. A few years back when I had no insurance and a trip to the emergency room was a necessity. A bill came in the mail for a few thousand, which I knew couldn't be paid all at once as much as I would like to. But after a few transfers to the correct billing department, a deal was struck for a lower amount and payment plan was set up that was much more manageable. Had I waited, that bill could have been sold off to a collection agency and the price would have gone higher, plus a ding on the credit report.

➜ Medical Financial Assistance. It hasn't been very difficult to arrange a payment plan when speaking to the billing department. However, they occasionally have minimums for payment plans. Sometimes hospitals will have you fill out forms to participate in a "charity" grant that pays part of the bill off. Keep in mind that you may need to ask for these types of grants or programs for the uninsured. Also check with your state or county resources for assistance as well.

➜ Workman's Compensation. You shouldn't be paying for, it may slow to a crawl when it comes to getting help and surgery. But the one thing I have found that is most necessary in these cases is to speak up loud and clear if you are not able to return to work. If you do return before you are healed, then any additional medical bills may be your responsibility because the previous claim had already been closed.

➜ Crime and Accidents. If you are a victim of crime and were injured, there are programs to assist you in paying medical bills. But, you have to file the claim correctly and within a certain time. Ask the police or the hospital for help with contacting the VoC. If you have medical bills in collections now, you may still be able to get retro-active assistance.
As for accidents, make certain the hospital or collection agency has all of the information they need to resolve the problem. Be open and honest on the police reports and with all the insurance companies involved.

➜ Denying Service. This is less likely to happen if you have kept in contact with the doctor's office and worked out even a small payment on the previous bill before making a new appointment. By Law: If you have a medical emergency, a hospital must treat you regardless of your ability to pay.
Section 1867 of the Social Security Act imposes specific obligations on Medicare-participating hospitals that offer emergency services to provide a medical screening examination (MSE) when a request is made for examination or treatment for an emergency medical condition (EMC), including active labor, regardless of an individual's ability to pay. Hospitals are then required to provide stabilizing treatment for patients with EMCs. If a hospital is unable to stabilize a patient within its capability, or if the patient requests, an appropriate transfer should be implemented.

All I want to do here is make sure you are armed with information should you get a bill that is beyond your financial ability and as an alternative to using credit cards to pay.

Other Charitable Groups for medical assistance:
* The Access Project - Free assistance in negotiating medical bills.
The CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation - A not-for-profit organization established in 2007 to address the needs of individuals who cannot afford their insurance co-payments to cover the cost of medications for treating cancer.
Free Medical Clinics -  Find Free information about Free Medical Clinics and Free Dental Clinics. 

Just an FYI out there for those who may not know that, even though your credit score can be in the high “700s” and/or even in the low “800s”, it often times does not help you in acquiring a credit card, loan, or anything else you may wish to get on credit if you have very limited credit. My friend, unfortunately, found out that the hard way. DO NOT CLOSE DOWN your credit card accounts even if you paid them off and are not using them. KEEP THEM OPEN! Even try to spend $5 a month on them once a month to keep your history current and good.

She had several credit cards and a couple of large loans over the years, and had been a member of a Credit Union for many years. She was even diligent on never being late on payments, made larger payments than the minimum, and did everything the right way to pay off her credit cards and loans over those years, even paying them off early.
BUT, this is what she did not know until recently, in the last year or two when the economy and the banks started going quickly downhill; when the economy, jobs, and banks started ‘going to pot’, she did what a lot of other people that may have done under panic, instead of just holding on to her credit cards after paying them off, she instead chose to close the accounts down, since she felt that her bank debit card and checking account was all she would need to reopen or apply again to receive credit cards or a loan, thinking that her excellent credit score would take care of the issue of worrying about getting credit. Wrong!!

She recently applied again for her credit union’s Visa card after closing it down over 18 months ago. Even with the credit union’s knowledge of her great credit scores and payment histories on all three credit bureaus they could not give her a Visa card due to the simple fact that she no longer showed a credit history of payments in the last eighteen to twenty-four months.

She asked them if they saw her past credit history and they said yes, acknowledging that it was great BUT the accounts were closed and they could only use the current opened accounts, which those payment histories were great, but did not have enough of current credit to qualify for a Visa card of $1000.00, or even $500. The only thing they could do for her to start building up her credit history up again was their own line of credit for $500 to start. To say the least, she was stunned! She never dreamed or even thought that because she closed her accounts down, she would not receive credit from her own credit union or other companies, for that matter.

Before all this economy, jobs, and banks started going down the tubes, so to speak, she spoke about how she was able to close accounts down and then simply reopen them with the good standing credit histories, even if they were closed for a time. Now they just use your credit history from current opened accounts to qualify you for a credit card or loan.

Well, she learned a big lesson on how the credit industry had changed recently.
She is getting credit again, but slowly and limited. She was able to get a Discover Card at a surprising excellent rate and a high limit. She inquired why Discover accepted her when other didn’t, and they said they also took her past credit history along with her current high FICO scores into consideration and they felt that she was a very good risk.

Please remember; again if you pay off those credit cards, consider that you do NOT want to close them all. Even if you do not use them. Your credit rating will look good, you’ll keep all your history current, and you will not be as I was, having headaches starting over.

Just because I like to think and live frugally, doesn't mean I don't like to dream a little.

Every once and a while when I stumble across the amount of the lottery in my state, my mind drifts off to planning how I would spend the money if I got won it.  Given I would have to be a VERY lucky person as I don't buy lottery tickets. I've always said to people that if I'm lucky enough to win the lottery, then I will be lucky enough to find the ticket on the ground! Right?

Flickr/CC - Lisa Brewster
Daydreaming about the lottery doesn't hurt anyone, although in my weird brain I used to think that it would bring me bad luck.
I can give multiple examples, here's one: I was planning on ways to spend a lottery on the way home from picking up the milk from the store and when I got home and opened the mail I had an unexpected medical bill for a few hundred dollars that was due since the insurance company didn't pick it up. Or how about the time my partner and I were out exploring the back roads of Colorado and daydreaming about the lottery, then the next day we found out the car was leaking because a rock busted a hole in the radiator. I rest my case!

Eventually the weird bad luck has disappeared and I still dream of a lottery win. What would I do with 190 million dollars? I can't even wrap my brain around that much money. Sometimes I would say, I would settle for 1.9 million. HA! Settle.

The first thing that I would do with that money is to pay off any outstanding debts, and since I don't have a house or car payments - those would be small. But now that I think of the cars, I have two, and they are getting on in years, 11 and 15 years, it may be time to update to a new car. Of course I would pay in cash and make sure I researched for the good ones out there.

I'm not really found of owning a home in one place, but I would love to travel the US and the world. A nice class C RV to cruise the continental 48 and still be comfortable traveling miles and miles. Small enough to make stops at the grocery store and park outside relatives homes while we visit.

The best part of the RV, it's heaven to the minimalist in me. Donate all the furniture and stuff we have now and take off - towing the new "used" vehicle behind us. Then we could use the money to collect experiences and photos instead of things that take up space.

After site-seeing the US, then store the RV and go off on a worldwide site-seeing tour for a year from Russia to Asia to Europe, through Africa and South America and finally top it off over in Canada, then back home.

And if I still had some money left in my pocket I would put a down payment on a house in a state that had appealed to me from my earlier trip. Sound good to you?

Of course I could just keep 10% of the winnings and donate the other 90%. That option is on the table as well.

Now all I need to do is found a winning lottery ticket lying on the ground and I'll be the luckiest woman around with one of the biggest decisions of my life! ☺

Have you daydreamed about winning the lottery?
Would you do anything different with 1 million, 10 million or 100 million?

I recently saw a UPI article about Lead Found in Some Reusable Bags that were offered from grocery and retail stores.

"The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) released new lab results showing that a number of major retailers’ reusable shopping bags contained excessive levels of lead. Of the 44 organizations whose bags were tested, 16 are selling or distributing reusable bags containing lead in amounts greater than 100 ppm (parts per million), which is where many states set the limit for heavy metals in packaging."
Why the worry?

Because longterm interaction with large quantities of lead cause problems. In children it can bring about learning disabilities, decreased growth, hyperactivity, impaired hearing, and even brain damage. And adults can be affected as well by symptoms ranging from weakness to fatigue and paralysis, gastrointestinal diseases, high blood pressure, and a host of nervous system ailments.

Since the limit is 100 ppm, what bags where the bad ones? First, the test was on only, polypropylene (non woven) bags made in China. I refer to them as "the stiff bags" when I see them. But many times they are cheaper to pick up a handful of them than 1 or two canvas bags, that I prefer.

Here are the top 10 bags with the highest lead count:
1. CVS (green bag) that has recently been recalled - 697 ppm
2. Safeway/ Organics - 672 ppm
3./5. University of Oregon (picture of football field, green and brown) - 554 ppm / 353 ppm
4. Giant Eagle (brown bag with red reduce, recycle, reuse) - 523 ppm
6. Bloom (black and purple bag) 349 ppm
7. Stater Bros.  - 309 ppm
8. Walgreens - 298 ppm
9. KTA Super Stores - 285 ppm
10. Staples (eco-easy) - 277 ppm

Other retailers testing positive for excessive levels of lead included Staples, Giant Eagle, Piggly Wiggly, Giant, Gerbes, KTA Superstore, Brookshire Brothers, Stater Bros., and, ironically, the District of Columbia Department of Environment.
The reason I liked canvas reusable bags was that I could wash them for longer and sew them up if they started to fall apart. That way my investment of 3 -7 dollars per bag was had more value than a 99 cent, "stiff bag".

With the law of banning plastic bags popping up in cities here and there, now if definitely a good time to get into the habit of bringing AND using the bags at the store.

Despite the led, there are good ones out there and other positives ways to using reusable bags still.
**Save Money - Some stores offer 5-15 cents off per bag brought in, even if you don't use them all.
**Easier on the Hands - The handles on many reusable bags are wider than plastic bags, softer and more durable for carrying long distances.
** Customize Them - Don't get yours mixed up with someone else's and make your own T-shirt reusable bags. (youtube video)
** Double Duty -Not just used for grocery shopping, handy for carrying library books, Halloween candy, swimming gear, a catch all in the car, and a lunch sack.

Of course this will cut down on the bags you use for your trashcans around the house or putting newspapers in for the recycling, but what did we use before plastic bags? But if you are like me, I occasionally forget the reusable bags in the car and have to bring home a few plastic ones still.

What are your thoughts on reusable bags?

After getting laid off from my previous job I initially thought I would remove the money from my 401k to cover any expenses that would come. But then I reminded myself that I'm not going to do this anymore unless it's an emergency.

Considering that the last few years of filling out tax returns has resulted in me paying out instead of getting a refund, I figured that would constitute an emergency and was prepared to get the money out of my 401k for that reason and that reason alone. However, a new day brings new situations.

Last week I was hired onto a job only because someone else declined the position, thus freeing up a space for me in the training class. Thank you anonymous person! Now I am able to keep the money for retirement and move it over to the new 401k at my current job.

But in the process of trying to figure out the steps in moving the money,  I had two choices given to me. 1) I move the money to the new 401k or 2) I move the money to an IRA. Not knowing which is better for my situation I did some research and came to a conclusion. (h/t to Gen X finance for help)

Flickr/CC - MJTR (´・ω・)
Non-Matched Money But More Variety - That was repeated over and over. IRA isn't matched money but it is a bigger variety of funds to choose from. However, if I move the money over to the new 401k, that isn't matched either, only the new money I put in is. And as for variety, giving me 29 varieties of ketchup isn't worth more to me than 6 as I know what I like and it's very simple. The same goes for fund variety, I look at the basics, fees, etc and go with what is available. The nice part of the new company 401k, they do have a better variety than the old company.

Lower Fees in an IRA - When I invest in my own 401k I look for the lowest fees as my top 3 things to do. In most all cases I don't have any trouble finding fees that are around .55% or lower. To me that savings of .55% (at most) with the little bit of money I have now doesn't seem impressive enough to me to deal with two retirement accounts. Plus there isn't a fee to rollover from one 401k to another.

This is the first time I have rolled over money from one account to another and that alone makes me happy. Before I have been too short-sighted to see beyond the immediate gratification that cash provides, but with experience comes some learning.

--------------------------
Since this post was short, I thought I would point you to a few articles I have saved.

** This is a pdf document that gives 10 steps to haggling. It is from a UK site, but isn't the idea of haggling universal anyway? My favorite one I need to remember is #2 It isn't about price: don’t look purely at the financial saving – instead think added value

** Did you watch that show on TLC called "Extreme Couponing" in between the shows about people eating laundry soap and hoarding? I'm glad I saw it after I read Denver Bargain's write-up on it, Extreme Couponing Meets Extreme Production in Reality TV, otherwise, I would have been talking to my tv set.

** If you are in need of a few new books to put on hold at the library, you will want to check out  38 personal finance bloggers favorite books that Planting Dollars gathered. It even has a little graph to boot. My response was the book, Living More with Less (not the cookbook) because it helps me appreciate the luxuries that I have and that there is so much more I can do without if I truly need or want to. We are a very blessed country and having a comparison to other countries certainly brings that out.

** One final link of self promotion - Sam McManis from The Sacramento Bee interviewed me about my thoughts on frugal and cheap. Spelled my name wrong, oh well, article is interesting about the new California Governor taking away state workers cell phones.

When I was growing up, my frugal-to-the-core mother was the master of “re-using.”  Now, first, I must say that I love my mother more than anyone on earth and my respect for her knows no bounds.  However, as a child, this whole concept of “Don’t throw that away!  You can RE-use it!” was first annoying and then just “not cool.”  Ironically, now a few years out of college and attempting to make ends meet, that concept has suddenly become “genius!”  If you’re in the mindset of save, save, save and you’ve got the whole recycled thing under your belt, fantastic!  But, I’d venture to say that even better than recycling sometimes, is simply re-using.  And, yes though it may have seemed annoying and uncool to my child-like/teen mind, this really isn’t nearly as terrifying as you may think.  It’s actually incredibly easy, and in some cases, fun!  So here goes, from my mom and from my own endeavors, is a Top 10 List of some easy things to re-use that you may have not considered before.

Flickr/CC - moonlightbulb

  • Teabags – one of my mom’s favorites.  She easily gets three cups from one tea bag.  Not going to drink that many cups in one day?  She puts hers in a glass dish and places in the fridge till the next time she wants a cup.




  • Tinfoil – another mom idea.  For used tinfoil that doesn’t come in contact with food, she simply refolds into a square when done and stores it until the next time she needs it.  She can make a roll of tinfoil last forever, people!




  • Coffee grounds – you can stop throwing them away!  And, no, I’m not going to tell you to make another pot of coffee, I’m too much of a caffeine addict for that.  However!  They do make an excellent addition to your compost bin for fertilizer.




  • Plastic bags – you can easily re-use all types of plastic bags: bread bags, sandwich bags, produce bags, etc.  If they’re clean, all the better, just fold up and store away, and if not, just wash in soapy water, rinse out and let dry.




  • Glass jars – these make great storage containers for leftovers!  If they’re airtight, you can even store dry goods like sugar, pasta, and flour in them.  I also use the “pretty” ones around the house for fun ways to hold pens and pencils and even toothbrushes!




  • Brown paper bags – hello wrapping paper!  Brown paper with a little red ribbon looks fantastically classy.




  • Egg cartons – ideal for starting seedlings if you’re a gardener.  Just cut off the lid, fill the cups with your favorite potting soil and go to it!  The best part?  Once your seedlings are ready, you can cut each cup out and plant the whole thing; the carton will disintegrate.




  • Food containers – think butter dishes and cool whip containers.  Wash out and use for storage (no more buying plastic Tupperware).  My mom always used hers for dishes for feeding pets outside.




  • Glass soda bottles – okay, disclaimer: I’m not promoting drinking soda!  BUT, if you’ve got some around, these make really fun flower vases.  You can also fill them with scented bath oils and salts and decorate with just a simple bow.  Great gift idea!




  • Greeting cards – save your Christmas cards this year (or any fun cards for that matter!), cut out the picture, (fancy scissors will make this even more unique) and place on matching cardstock.  Stamp or print out your saying of choice inside.  Now that beats $3.25 for a generic card doesn’t it?



  • Have some fun, pick the ones that work best for you, and see just what you can re-use that you might not have considered before.  Do you have some ideas I’m missing?  Please share, I’d love to hear them!



    Author Tara Alley is a freelance writer from Montana who is very passionate about healthy cooking living a more eco-friendly lifestyle.  When not in the kitchen or working on her own writing, you can find her promoting green coffee for Coffee Home Direct.

    Being laid off has it's advantages like more time with family, crossing off items on the to do list, no longer putting off that exercising because you are too tired. But one definite disadvantage to being laid off is that depression lurks around the corner to sneak up on you if you are diligent to keep watch.

    I was doing really well keeping myself positive, working out and keeping myself busy with things to do, but my mind decided to dwell on the negative, nothing being accomplished part of it all. The first week of January, after the holidays had all wound down and I was done preparing, I got socked with some deep, don't-wanna-get-out-of-bed depression.

    The house was starting to look pretty bad and when it starts to effect other people around me, I knew I had to try to snap myself out of it.  I wasn't in the mood to tromp over to the gym to get my adrenal gland going. Instead I decided to clean the house.

    A recent study by Colorado University found: While controlling for age, race/ethnicity, and education level, Colorado adults who reported no leisure time physical activity were more than twice as likely to have been classified as having serious psychological distress compared to those who reported leisure time physical activity.
    How does this relate to frugal living? Simple. It's not uncommon to find yourself in a personal finance depression where you don't see that things are changing. Sometimes taking a clean sweep of your finances can get you through the valley and moving back up the hill again.
    Flickr/CC - Melissa Ann Barrett
    • Break It Up - When I started cleaning the house again, I broke it down into sections instead of taking it all in, that was too overwhelming. Financially when you look at the bigger picture it can be too much, break it down, look at what you are doing really well and take a moment to pat yourself on the back. Look at the areas that need improvements and take them on in small chunks.
    • Clean As You Go - Washing the dishes right away after dinner is better than letting them build up for a two hour deep clean later on. Apply that same idea, if you see you are making a mistake and spending money on frivolous items, take the temptation away, leave the cash or debit card at home. Keep the mistakes small and adjust as quick as you can.
    • Don't Procrastinate - It's easy to put off balancing the check book or updating the budget. But like putting off cleaning the bathroom, over time it will start to look very ugly. Try to remind yourself what the consequences will be if you delay the inevitable.
    • Keep Cleaning Supplies Handy - If you know where to find all solutions to your dirt and grime, it will make it easier to grab them and clean up. Likewise, keeping your budget, money and other resources in a central location will cut down on time and being easily distracted when you shouldn't be.
    • Grab Help - It's not hard to yell at other family members to help clean things up and make the cleaning go faster. The same goes with finance, grab help from the family and friends. Nothing is so sacred to not ask for help or resources when you feel yourself sinking.
    If you have tried all that, remember, it may not be all that bad and most people improve within a few weeks, with and without outside help. You don’t have to resign yourself to a messy house while you deal with depression — by getting your home and your financial house in order, you will also rid yourself of a source of stress.

    "My ribs hurt!" "I feel better sleeping on the couch or recliner." "I hate getting into that bed." "I never get a decent sleep, I think the bed needs to be replaced." These are all comments that have been mentioned in my home, more and more often, and I think it's almost time to get a new mattress.

    The foam mattress in question is going on it's 6th year and has acquired hills and valleys. A standard mattress should be good for up to 8 years and a premium mattress can be in good shape up to ten years or more. Just like finding a place to live is all about location, location, location. Finding a good mattress is all about comfort, comfort comfort.

    Flickr/CC - Krystn Palmer Photography
    Now that I have mentally agreed that the bed must be replaced, it is time to research mattresses to get the best quality for my money. There are so many choices; do you go air, foam or spring mattress? And if you do a foam mattress, how thick? How many coils per square foot? Or maybe I should only look at water beds?

    Surprising how such a perceived small investment can become confusing. But considering we spend at least 6 - 8 hours of our day in one and need it to make us feel better for the remaining 2/3 of the day, it is a decision we don't want to think cheaply about.

    Before I even start laying down on beds for 15 minutes at a time in my favorite sleeping position, I need to determine what mattress is best for my favorite sleeping position.
    According to ConsumerReports: "A study published in 2003 in the British medical journal Lancet suggested that people who suffer from lower back pain would benefit from a medium-firm mattress. That made sense to several experts we interviewed. If a mattress is too firm, it won't support the body evenly and may cause discomfort at the heaviest points (hips and shoulders). If it's too soft, a sleeper could sink into the surface and have a hard time moving, which could cause tingling, numbness, or aches."
    I sleep on my side and occasionally my stomach and back, so the cushioning of my side of the bed would vary and my partner sleeps in a fetal position or on her side (thanks to 7 back surgeries) and if the bed is too soft she really does have a hard time moving and aches in the morning.

    One idea I am looking into is a sleep number bed to adjust it as needed. The downside is that you can't flip the bed around to make it last longer and you start with a higher price mark right away. I just have to remember that a $3000 bed over the course of 8 years is a dollar a night and even less if I bought a foam or inner spring mattress in the $1000 range.
    According to consumer reports: "Seventy-eight percent of those who spent more than $4,000 said they were highly satisfied with their purchase. But 66 percent of those who spent less than $1,000 were also highly satisfied."
     Some rules to go by when shopping for a bed are based on experience and the consumer "bible", Consumer Reports.

    1. Try it out in the store: Before I bought my current bed, I slept on it in the store for about 10 minutes. As weird as it felt sleeping in front of people, it is very well worth the time.
    "Seventy-two percent of those who invested at least 10 minutes (for instance, lying down on each side, back, and stomach) were highly satisfied with their mattress purchase compared with 62 percent who didn't."
    2. Guarantees, Trials and Fees: Find out what the return policy is, can you return the mattress after a 28 day trial or is it only a 10 day try out? What is the restocking fee or pickup fee if you do return it? One suggestion if you do send it back is to take a picture of it when they pick it up, that way you have proof it is in good condition as they are carting it out if the company gives you flack.


    3. Keep up on Sales and Haggle: There are always sales on mattresses and besides comparing prices between stores, also compare prices to their own online site. Sometimes you can use the online price to barter with if it is lower than the store price.
    Again consumer reports states: "The suggested retail price of a mattress is pure fiction. Discounts of 50 percent or more are common. In our survey, only 36 percent of respondents tried haggling. Among those who tried, 72 percent got a lower price."
    4. Rip the Tag, Rip the Warranty: If you have trial period on a bed and you don't like it after 26 nights, but you have ripped off the tag, the bed is yours to keep. One way to get around the warranty issue below is to use a bed cover for the trial period to keep stains away from the mattress if you should need to return it.
    "Some warranties don't cover full replacement value; instead an annual usage charge is deducted from the current retail price.
    When you make a claim, the store or manufacturer sends an inspector to your house. You'll need to show a receipt. If you say the mattress has sagged, the inspector checks whether the dip is below the allowable limit, 1 1/2 inches. A company will void a warranty if you remove the "do not remove" tag, if the mattress is soiled, or if it has uneven support from a box spring or frame--a common reason for sagging, says Stan Steinreich, a Simmons spokesman."
    5. Read Reviews: Once I have things narrowed down to one or two types of beds I like to read the reviews of them. People are always more willing to give up information on how bad things are, so I try to take in the complaints in the light that some things may be more personalized. But an overall continuous complain on structure would draw me in.

    Overall, I think I have what I need and it is just a matter of going out in person to test them out. I'll put on some comfy clothes and slip-on shoes to make it a nice experience as I figure out what is comfortable.


    h/t to the consumer "bible" on mattresses (some paid areas)

    Anytime frugality is brought up in a conversation, eventually the talk turns to those who are extreme in their frugality. I know that there are some things that I do that are too extreme for my co-workers and some things they do that are beyond the pale for me.

    But frugality isn't about shocking your friends and family. Frugality isn't an extreme sport where there are winners and losers. It is a way to get from point A to point B, financially and as long as you are not hurting yourself or others in being frugal, have fun!

    I thought I would list a few things I have learned from living frugally over the years:

    1. Quality matters as much or more than price in most situations
    2. Patience does pay off, and it can only be self-taught
    3. Friends and family matter more than where you gather or what you eat
    4. It truly is the giver and not the gift that makes the longer lasting impression
    5. Cutting down on eating meat stretches my dollar very quickly
    6. Water is the greatest benefit to body and wallet
    7. When you start small, DIY projects aren't so scary
    8. Laughing, exercise and talking are doubly beneficial; both free and healthy
    9. Time is equal to or greater than money in most situations
    10. Having another support you on your frugal journey is like being wrapped in a warm blanket
    11. The library is the greatest resource, next to paved roads and emergency responders, for which I am happy to pay taxes for
    12. Going for a drive to nowhere with a friend to talk and daydream is priceless
    13. Warehouse clubs are both a godsend and an evil temptation
    14. Nothing beats a beautiful day walking your dog barefoot in the grass (as you watch where you step)
    15. Handing coupons over to a friend who appreciates them makes me feel good
    16. Actions do speak louder than words, eventually people will pick up what you are talking about
    17. Haggling isn't so bad once you get started
    18. Vinegar and baking soda are invaluable products
    19. Staycations can be quite fun for all involved
    20. A hobby doesn't have to be expensive
    21. Sometimes all you need for a bad day is a smile from a baby to forget
    22. It is a great feeling to have more control over finances when you know what is coming in and going out
    23. Picking through trash to find a gem is a great high
    24. And decluttering could become just as addictive
    25. Being proud of my frugality and speaking out about it has taught me that others can learn from me and I from them
    26. You get along better with your partner when your debt isn't piled up and stressing you both out
    27. There are more free activities in my city than I have time to do and that is very cool
    28. Life is less stressful when you aren't worried about what others think because you have a goal and a plan
    29. With a little time to be creative I can find ways around buying new
    30. New doesn't always mean better. Old, antique, worn and used are good words as well
    31. Being frugal can seem scary, but with little steps it is amazing what you can achieve
    32. I really don’t need half the stuff that I think I want
    33. Sitting out in the warm sun is the best vacation, whether the fish are biting or not
    34. It's amazing what "sleeping on it" can do for a buying decision
    35. Food portion control can save money and health
    36. Eating healthy doesn't have to be expensive
    37. Homemade cafe mocha beats out all fancy coffees anyday
    38. If you have the space, a stocked freezer or pantry is a thrilling sight to see
    39. The value of asking myself "Do I need this?" is priceless for saving money
    40. Being frugal has allowed me to help others more through financial means

    Can you help me with the 41th one?
    What are some things you have learned living frugally?