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 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
Status update

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 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.