flickr/cc - elisfanclub
The most common resolution for the new year relates to body image. Either people want to exercise more, eat healthier or reduce weight (which is a mix of the two). Another top ten is to reduce debt or save money. Did you know you can put these two resolutions together?

There is a way to both reduce debt/save money while also changing your body and here are my suggestions on just how to do that with links to previous posts I have written on them.

Remove soda pop from your diet - Not only can you lose at-least 15 pounds over the course of a year, but you can save money on dental bills as well as the money that originally went towards buying soda. Some ways to reduce your intake:
1. Gradually drop in amount, cutting in half what you drink each 2-3 weeks.
2. Replace with carbonated water, tea or coffee
3. Drink a cup of water before you open a bottle of soda. You may not want it then.
4. Each time you want a bottle of soda, remind yourself of the negatives (money, health)

Reduce your portion sizes - This is one I am working on still. It is amazing how full you can get on 1/2 cup of ice cream if you eat it slow, knowing that the amount in front of you is all you get. The financial advantage to reduced portion sizes is that now that 2 pounds of Pot Roast can last you longer than 2 days and you don't feel you need to buy them as often, thus saving money on groceries.

Eating at home - Speaking of portion sizes, the plates of food given at most restaurants is amazingly large; we've all "rolled out" of our seats after eating too much. Staying home allows you to keep tabs on the amount of food you eat while saving money per plate. There are quite a few sites online where you can make the food at home that are offered in restaurants at a fraction of the cost. By googling {restaurant recipes} for a list of sites with copycat recipes, you can make your favorite dishes or breakfast platters.

Find free exercise options - From running stairs on your lunch break to parking the farthest at the grocery store to using the library or the internet for exercise ideas. Bodyweight exercises are considered one of the hot trends for this year and the awesome part of that means you don't needs any equipment except your body and what is already around your house!

If you enjoy the idea of getting out of the house there are some cheaper exercise options and then there is also the decision about whether gym membership is worth the cost. After going the free way and the cheaper way, I have found that paying money for a membership gets my fat ass to working out more often than going the cheap or free route, since I have nothing to lose. But to each their own.

Get sleep to save money - It helps you fight sickness, it keeps you less stressed, it reduces health-care costs and when you sleep you aren't eating and thus, you lose weight. Win, Win and Win! Best way to make yourself go to bed earlier - get a routine for yourself and set an alarm so you don't forget. If going to bed after the news is best for you, find a news program that is on an hour earlier so you can head to bed earlier. 

Just remember that resolutions are a new start and will take time to kick in. Don't look at it as a restriction or diet but as a new lifestyle for yourself. In 10 years your future self can look back on today and be thankful that you are healthier and saved money in the process.

What ways can you think of to both reduce weight while saving money?

added infographic update: Want to save money?  Start by losing weight!

For the holidays I received some new eau de toilette and realized that the ones sitting on my dresser had been there for over 3 years and I hadn't worn them in awhile. They smelled pretty good still and they still had over 25% of it left over (all the more reason to buy half an ounce at a time).
And by the way, it is suggested that you keep your eau de toilettes out of the bathroom and put it someplace that keeps at room temperature.

Flickr/CC - morenoandres
A new perfume/cologne, but how to use the old one?
❈ Use as a room deodorizer (bathroom, bedroom, automobile)
❈ Spray into a new vacuum bag or emptied container
Ward off animals around your garden - Spray strips of material and hang around garden
❈ Hold onto them for a selling at a yard sale (keep them out of the sun though)
Spray onto your light bulbs - instead of paying $10 a piece, also spray when they are turned off.
❈ Spritz into the TP roll when changing - save $$ on scented rolls from Charmin
❈ Use in the drawer, closet or gym bag - spray a cotton ball and put a couple in the corners
❈ Take it to work and keep handy against those lunch smells

Homemade/Local Made
Let me start off by stating that store bought items are wonderful and I love to receive them. Now I will also say there is a special place in my heart for those items that have had extra sweat poured into them. (Not counting all the cool items handed down through the family)
I still have the king sized peach colored quilt my grandmother stitched for me in 1992. She was unsure how I would use it, and gave me a way to hang it up with a rod as well as sewing information about  the quilt, such as when it was made, by whom and who designed the patterns for it (my great grandmother and great, great grandmother).
Other items around the house that hold a special place in my heart:
✿ A melted bottle spoon holder
✿ Bottles of spices made from herb garden
✿ Many ceramic dishes and housewares made by a family member
✿ Jars of jelly, cookies and homemade breads
✿ Locally made organic Zkano socks (won a pair- no rule against being free)
✿ 8mm home movies put onto a dvd
✿ Homemade soaps that smell yummy

Organizing the Re-Gifts
This year I only re-gifted one item that I had been holding onto for a few months, it is my goal to re-gift at least one item a year and maybe more; but it isn't something I have control over.

There are just some gifts that don't work with our personality or interests. It is at those times you smile big (include the crinkle at your eyes for a genuine smile) and say "thank you very much!" Then you set the item aside and when you are alone, put a post-it note on the item with the name of the person who gave it to you so you don't accidentally give it back.

Keep a box or an easily accessible corner in the closet to put it away for that upcoming birthday or holiday where you can pull it out and wrap it for another person who will appreciate it more, thus saving yourself money and not wasting the money of the giver.
Flickr/cc - tornatore
6 Words of Wisdom on Re-gifting:
It's a Secret - Don't let the giver or the receiver know, unless you are certain they are ok with the idea of re-gifting.
Clean and Update it - Make sure the dust is cleaned off and any old wrapping is removed. Clean the past off and give it a new future.
Stay Away from Hand-me-downs - If I've seen you wear it around and I said I liked it, I really don't want it as a gift. Re-gifts should look like new. There are the occasional special situations, such as the family heirloom. But the bamboo cutting board should look new, not like you used it for last night's stir fry.
Keep Track - Like I said above, find a way to keep track of who the giver was, so that you don't give it back to them or their circle of friends and they recognize it again.
Sell it off - When you have no idea who to re-gift the item to, then sell it off to someone new and use the money towards your gift buying. Or even better, give it away to a charity and get a tax write-off receipt for it.
Re-gifting White Elephants - These are the same items you give back and forth to the same people over and over again. This is something that is mutually agreed upon. This would be a used book, or a bad brick of bread and so on.

What are some items you would NEVER re-gift?

At my part-time job I run coins through a sorter in the store's accounting office and this allows me the chance to purchase at face value silver coins and money from the 19th century. I consider this a quite benefit at my job since we rarely get any kind of incentive.

In my time working there I have found a penny worth $100, made quite a few rolls of silver dimes, nickels and quarters and found a few out of country coins, even a 1938 penny from Germany. These coins have provided a nice side hobby that allows me to make a little money on the ones I want to put up for sale and I learn a bit of history in the research.

Recently though I came across a part of the coin world I wasn't aware of - the scammers, or in this case, a "magician's coin". This one was a vintage one that had a mercury dime on one side and welded or glued to the other side was a wheat penny. No hollow middle, and it rings like a regular coin when dropped. 

However, the question came up in the accounting office, is it worth a dime, a penny or nothing? Answer, we treat it like any bus token we get, it's worth nothing but play money. However, I had an interesting bit of research to do about defacing coins, fraud and the little world of novelty coins. And it is not illegal to make them, but it IS illegal to use them as money after they have been altered. And the coin value is 1.75 after bidding.


Drinking Glasses from Cans - If you live in a state that doesn't have bottle/can deposits and you don't have enough aluminum to take to the recycle center, you could make a "poor man's" drinking glass or a pen holder or whatever else you might need.
On the topic of recycling there are quite a few sites that you can use to recycle items and keep them out of the trash, especially if you pay per weight.
1.  Freecycle and the ReuseIt Network are two email community based sites to give away or pick up FREE items

2.  Ecycler - Sign-up to give away your recyclable items or to go pick up someone elses on the way to the recycle center. A 33 gal. bag of 200 aluminum cans is $2.15, so it may not be worth it for someone to make the trip for one, but worth recycling them if someone picks up yours and gives you the cash.

3.  The Recycle Bank occasionally gives away free points. But you can earn them by recycling, reducing or reusing items through sites like eBay, Nature Made vitamins and sending in your recyclables. The points are then used towards gift cards and stuff you need to purchase. Currently, over 125,000 households in the U.S are signed up.

If you are uncertain about the power of recycling, check out the video on the Story of Stuff and also know that you can find other recycle centers to turn your stuff into at Earth 911

Finally, I thought Donna wrote a great article on the Practice of Stealthy Acts of Kindness. I've got a few ideas of my own that I want to try for 2011 and look forward to helping out more in stealthy ways.

These ideas are for what remains of this year and to put down on your to do list for next year to make your holiday a greener and more frugal holiday. On December 26th you will have the opportunity to get items at a clearance, here are a few things to pick up for next year.

☃ Recyclable Wrapping
- The paper gets ripped off the present 10x faster than it took for you to get it taped up. Next time look for and wrap with

  • holiday dishcloths or other fabric 
  • maps(found in old National Geographic magazines)
  • saved aluminum foil
  • comics section of the paper 
  • pages from a magazine 
  • sheet music
  • brown sack wrapped with twine and decorated with your imagination.
Flickr/CC - JaseMan
☃ Used but not Abused 
- There is re-gifting that can be done for next year, just put a post-it note on the item so you know who you got if from. But you can also make some wonderful, like new, purchases from antique stores and 2nd hand stores - Clean them well. Items to look for are napkin holders, handkerchiefs, canvas shopping bags, vintage containers and housewares.

Also scour Craigslist and Freecycle throughout the year for items that they may want. Craigslist allows you to follow alerts for items you are searching for. Look for the RSS at the bottom right for ways to track.

☃ Christmas Cards
- Clearance is a great way to stock up, but not only on the cards but you can use the ones you received or the left-overs from this year as gift tags, cut up in 2x3" rectangles and you are ready for next year.

Also send used  cards of all occasion to St. Jude's Ranch and they currently have an increased need for both Birthday and Thank You card submissions

☃ Consumable Gifts 
- Cut down on the cost of shipping or gas and pickup the ingredients while shopping for consumable gifts like jar cookies or a food gift basket.

☃ Give to the Heart
- Find out what memberships they may like or charitable causes they are interested in and give a gift in their name. With some charities you will get notification to give them, sometimes a small gift such as a bookmark or t-shirt and with programs like you get the money back to re-gift again or bank it after the lendee pays it back. A bonus: You get a tax write-off.

I see a lot of great advice for those who own or even rent a home, things I have kept in the back of my mind for when I go single residence. But until them, I am @ home in my mile high apartment and I still want to save money.

I've already discussed how phantom power sucks up your money and that keeping your clothes dryer clean saves as well (if you are lucky enough to have one in your home). But there are still a few items that can save you money in your apartment.

1. Borrow  or Rent it - Room is very limited in most apartments and storage at a premium for items that may be used 2-3 times a year. Renting from the local hardware store may be more worthwhile or check out Borrowtools or Neighborgoods. Of course you want to consider the cost of renting versus buying the item over the long term. And keep your eye out for tools you may need at garage sales (always ask to plug it in).

2. Keep Closets Closed - Having closet doors closed allows you to heat or cool a smaller area and also keeping closet doors closed that have an exterior wall, keep the home insulated. A bonus is that guests won't see your clutter. If you don't have doors this is a great time to get some nice fabric or heavy single size flat sheet to act as your door.

3. Peak and Non-Peak Use - If the utility bill goes directly to you and not split with others then try getting on the utility companies peak/non-peak plan for reduced rates. Some companies have lower rates if you use washer/dryer and dishwasher later in the evening or early morning.

4. DIY Cleaning Supplies - In small areas with few windows, using non-toxic cleaners may be best for you physically and you can save upwards of $50 a year by making your own. And speaking of odor removal ideas, don't forget DIY for stinking feet/shoes and  the smelly bathroom.

5. Fan Yourself - If you have the authorization, install a ceiling fan, even if you have to leave it behind, it can be your best friend in the summer and the winter. If not, fans throughout the house are handy in the summer to keep costs down. And in the winter, open up your window shades to let the heat warm up your room.

6. Changing to CFL - Since the incandescent light bulb is being phased out in 2012 and no longer produced by 2014, it should be easier to get the CFL bulbs for cheaper prices. Just be careful of CFLs that easily burn out. And if you are worried about contamination, then you will be glad to know that LED lights are slowing making it into the stores and they last even longer.

7. Replace AC filters - If you have central air, like myself. There will be a location to change out the filter and hopefully your complex office does it for you. If not, make sure you do it once a year to keep the AC cost down when using it, though some suggest replacing them every month in the summer if it is on everyday.

8. Replacing Grills - If you can hold off until fall or winter for better sales on the BBQ grills, that can save you quite a bit of money. Just replaced our little propane grill in 10 years and saved 31% with free shipping.

9. Heated Water - If you get your bill for heated water, then you should have the ability to lower the water heater temperature. This can save you about $30 a year and reduce any scalding issues. In my case, the water
heater doesn't have temperature settings, but does have A, B, C and Very Hot, so I set mine at A, but this picture shows someone turned it up. (oops) 
For your info:
▴ (triangle up) = 120〫
A = 130〫
B = 140〫
C = 150〫
Very Hot = 160〫
Did you know that dropping the water temperature setting by ten degrees typically saves about 4% on the cost to heat water each year.

10. Insurance for Accidents - I know that you would never set your home on fire, but you can't always trust that your neighbor won't accidentally do that. Renter's insurance is something that costs pennies to add with your car insurance premiums and is a nice bit of piece of mind if the unthinkable should happen.

11. Shower Timer - Handy for the person, like myself, who soaks for an hour in a SHOWER. You can buy ones that turn your water off or do like I do and just get an annoying sounding timer for when you shower.

12. Programmable Thermometer - Check with your leasing office to see if you can replace the old thermometer with a programmable one to save money on AC/Heat instead of flipping the switch at whim. In my complex, I can buy one and they will install it, but I have to take it with me when I move.

13. Wrap in Plastic - Especially for north facing windows that get hit with the wind, put up plastic on the windows to keep in the warm and the cold out. This stuff can be put up in about 30 minutes or less. Well worth the expense for the plastic.

14. Bricked Tank - I see suggestions to put a brick in your toilet tank. This is handy if your toilet is not one of the efficient models (mine says 1.3gpf) . If it is an old type, a brick can be wonderful but possibly crack your tank if it is really old. An alternative is to fill up a 20oz plastic bottle and drop it in - just as effective and not as dangerous.

What ways have you saved money in apartment living?

I love free items but I'm not a fan of having a drawer full of one dollar sample products. Instead I look for free items I can use over and over again or that have a higher retail value. I make certain to check for any hidden fees before using though.

1. Birthday Food - I sign up at different eating establishments that I would normally go to, that offer free items or meals for my birthday. If I'm already going out to eat that day, then why not get part of the meal free.

2. Phone Apps - My phone is expensive enough and I have yet to purchase an app since there are quite a few free ones out there. I have the garage sale rover (free version), I use a calorie counter app to input my food and exercise without wasting paper. And I have the kindle on my phone for reading as well.

3. Free Books, Movies and Music - Besides the free items that can be gotten from the local library or downloaded e-book or music online. I have to say watching tv shows and movies online has been a great way to save time (and money for a second cable box) while I do other things online.

4. Free Diamond Cleaning - Although this isn't something I do more than a couple times a year, I do like to take my ring in for a free cleaning and they also check it out for any loose diamonds. True I could clean my ring with any number or free items around the house, but this is a better cleaning in my opinion and those are fine for a quick clean in between.

5. Free Computer Protection - I haven't bought any anti-virus and mal-ware software for years. I use free items that are available and well recommended by CNET.

6. Free Workouts - This can tie back in to the possible free trial traps, but many gyms and fitness areas have free workout times, know 24 hr fitness has a 7 day pass and Core Power Yoga has a free week as well. Of course there are also the workout videos from the library and the many options available through cable On Demand.

7. Free Phone Service - When I'm at my computer I use Google Voice to call friends and family through the speaker/mic of my computer and I also use Google Voice on my Droid instead of my minutes as a way to save minutes if I'm near the end of the month. The downside is that google voice through droid uses a random area code and phone number. It is now free to everyone and you don't need an invite.

8. Free Wi-Fi - Besides my library, I have found that book stores, many eating establishments (Village inn and McDonalds) and even some malls allow you access. The site Wififreespot has a few of the locations by state. Although beware of some free public wi-fi

9. Free E-books - I don't like buying books and I don't like buying the "cheaper" e-books either. On my phone Kindle I have a few classics like, Brave New World and The Count of Monte Cristo, but also I have Trent's book that was free a while ago, Simple Dollar: How one man wiped out is debts... I'm always on the look out for interesting free books from my library or offered from amazon. You can also download e-books and audio books from Project Gutenberg for free

10. Free Days for Sights and Sounds - Fee-free days at the national parks and free days at museums and zoos are wonderful. I absolutely believe that paying entrance to these is the best way to support and keep them around, but when they have free days it's a little piece of heaven, especially at the Denver art museum. Also check out FactoryToursUSA for free tours that might be in your area and many times they give away free stuff - Such as Coors giving away 3 free beers, but some don't, Denver Mint does not give out free money!

11. Free Bill Paying - Most banks offer this free and if not, I have also used to keep them all in one place or go to the billers website to pay. I now buy stamps for sending out holiday cards.

12. Free Credit Report and Score - The is the only place to get a free report for my state without strings attached. And now I also use to get a credit score from experian. It isn't the FICO score, but it gives a good estimate and I can check it out every 180 days (6 months). Another free site is for a free score and report.

What do you use free that is an advantage for you?

This is a guest article from my sister, Karen and lessons learned from her first 4 months raising her first child.

Having a child is a blessed occasion and something that some people take for granted. Some people struggle to achieve this greatness. Once you see the two lines (or positive sign) on the pregnancy test the costs just start rolling in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to talk you out of having children, and theoretically it’s not like a new car, or that dream home, you can’t really “Save up” for a baby. It’s always good to have a nest egg, money set aside for expenses that you’re not anticipating, plus to help cover expenses for labor and delivery.

In 2010 it was calculated that to raise a child for 18 years, that is anticipating that they move out upon High School graduation, and not including the thousands of dollars that go into college. It costs roughly (give or take) $11,000 to raise one child!  And of course the more you have, the more this will increase each time, plus extra cost (bigger homes, bigger cars, more groceries, etc.).

When I found out I was pregnant with my first (and only…so far) child. I instantly became a bargain shopper. I by no means claim to be frugal, although I wish I could be more so, and have definitely improved and am constantly working on that. I did more coupon clipping (still working on actually remembering to take them and use them too!), looking for sales, and shopping on Craigslist or our local Free website, (Through yahoo groups). Not to mention the numerous people that offer to loan you, or give you their used clothes, furniture, baby gadgets.

My biggest quote when I was pregnant and shopping for myself (maternity clothes) or for my son was “I don’t see why I’d pay full price when he’s just going to grow out of it anyway, or only use it for a short amount of time”. Why pay $300+ for a brand new crib and $40 for a mattress when I got mine for $75 together (not recalled either!). His Infant Carrier and Base for the car was $15, and although these are the only baby items that actually have an expiration date, it was in great shape and not expired yet!

Infant car seats, in fact all car seats expire after 6 years of the manufacture date. These dates (both manufacture and expiration date) are usually printed on the box or on the seat itself. The only thing that will void a car seat completely is if it’s been in ANY type of accident. Because it can compromise the safety of the seat without any visible changes to the seat. If there was one thing I’d highly suggest buying at full price, a good car seat would be it…..however, if it’s within the expiration date, go for the bargain!

Other ways to cut costs would be to use cloth diapers, and cloth wipes….this is a HUGE, constant cost that will be needed. While the initial cost for cloth diapers is a larger one, it’ll save in the long run by not having to buy diapers constantly once you build up your supply of all the sizes needed, and they can be used for future children also. A lot of moms will buy or make cloth wipes as well. I personally use disposable diapers, but look for the cheapest/best ones. I’ve personally grown to enjoy The Walgreens Brand of diapers, they have good absorbency and we don’t have many “blow outs”….maybe I should be thanking my son for that. I do have some cloth diapers and want to use them, but my husband isn’t too sure yet. I do, however make my own wipes. Not cloth ones, but using household items. The recipe was given to me by a friend of mine who got it from her hospitals Labor and Delivery Nurses, so it’s got the Medical OKAY!
Another recent discovery that I’ve come across is This is amazing! You get free 2 day shipping on almost everything (I haven’t come across anything that I’d use that doesn’t qualify for it), plus the prices are cheaper when you sign up for Amazon Mom. Also, if you use disposable diapers, or regular wipes, you can sign up to be a part of their Subscribe and Save program. Which is where you sign up to purchase an item ever 1, 2, 3 or 6 months and it’s mailed to your house, and you’re automatically charged. You get an even LARGER discount, and if you use one of the coupons that are always found in parenting, or baby magazines (They’re neon green, can’t miss them), you get an even larger savings! I recently signed up for Amazon Mom, and the Subscribe and Save program, I also had one of the coupons, I mentioned above and I was able to purchase a pack of 100ct Huggies Diapers for $9.57 that will be charged to me every 2 months when I have the diapers shipped to me. For you people that are big on the per item cost, that’s less than $0.10 per diaper!!! I was so elated with this find and purchase!

There’s also generic formula and TONS of coupons, samples that can be obtained from websites. I’ve gotten a lot of formula off craigslist, which has been high quality for half the price as well.

Having children should be fun, exciting and although it may not feel like it some (ok all) of the time, it's a blessing.  Whether they're biological, adopted, foster, step-children or just the neighbor kids that you like to spoil, they're expensive but they don't have to break the bank.

I was in a Wal-mart about a year ago, before dawn, to pick up some groceries and walked past the bakery. I stopped and back tracked to watch what was happening.

An employee was looking at different packaged bread then tossing a few here and there into a cart. The cart was pretty well full already and didn't have much room left. Once she packed that cart, she grabbed another one and started filling it with pies, cakes, cookies, etc.

I walked up to her and asked if those items were expired, and she responded that they were. I asked what the store does with them. She replied that they package them all up and toss them in the trash compactor. "Really?" I replied unbelievably. "Yes, she said,  'it sickens me to think how much this store wastes, we don't even give it to a shelter, not even this time of the year."

flickr/cc - Tomi Tapio
It made me wonder that if this was one store, on one night that tossed out 1 1/2 carts full of bakery items. Imagine what all these stores put together throw away in a year! And they go into a trash compactor, so you can't even dumpster dive for the food.

I asked one final question, "If I wanted to buy those, would I get a reduction of price due to the expiration?" She didn't think so, it would have to be run by the management, but seemed unlikely since many others have asked and nothing has been done.

However, since this conversation, it appears Walmart does have a small area in the freezer section where they mark down a few bakery items that are close to expiration (1-2 days away) and they also have some organic bins outside in the back of the store. These bins are supposed to be locked but not all bins have the locks.

Recently I was able to take a look into one of these bins and found them to be as expected, produce items that were in bad shape, but not all of them.  The pineapples looked like they had seen better days, the melons looked ok but I was only interested in the green pepper and the apples.

I grabbed my canvas bag out of my car and tossed in a few Braeburn apples and the green pepper and speed walked to my car so I didn't get into trouble. I was on their property even though they had tossed the food out. This trash bin was full and about a 55 gallon size.

I wanted to call up some Freegans to swoop over and take what they took so the food wouldn't go to waste. And I did try. I looked through for freegans and tried emailing a lady on the site but got no response. Unfortunately, there isn't a regional or city contact for freegans to get the word out on food that is tossed out unless you know someone directly from already being part of the group.

With what I grabbed out of the trash, the 8 apples I picked up would have run about $4 if I bought them in the store and the green pepper ($1) was going to be used on a sandwich for that day. However, after cutting into the pepper, the smell that emanated from the blackened seeds crushed that idea quickly as I'm not as adventurous yet. But the apples have tasted delicious after cutting out the few bad areas! And yes, I rinse the apples thoroughly.

Here is my question to you:
If you didn't know these came from the trash and you pulled them out of the crisper looking like this (pock marks on the apples and bruising on the top of the green pepper as well). Would you have continued to cook and eat them?

“Time is free, but it's priceless.
You can't own it, but you can use it.
You can't keep it, but you can spend it.
Once you've lost it you can never get it back.”
~ Harvey MacKay
When we look back on our years, we don't count the money we spent and determine if it was a good or bad purchases, we think about the time we spent, both the good times and the wasted times.

Since time is a currency like money, though abstractly, then how we would spend it? At birth if we were given a watch that had the hours left of our life, what would we buy with our time? Many in the simplicity movement and in well regarded book, Your Money or Your Life, take a look at the impact our time has on the things we buy. Is buying the $1000 TV worth the 50 hours at work to pay it off or is the $500 TV a better investment of our time?
flickr/cc - sirspacepilot
This idea of buying and selling time is being made into a Sci-Fi movie to be released in Fall 2011. In the movie, the not-too-distant future "everybody has a clock on their left wrist. It doesn't start counting until you reach maturity, and then you start out with a year. The clock counts down how many years, days, hours and seconds you have to live, and as long as you keep adding time to it, you can live forever. Most people in this world only have a day to live at any given time, and have to keep scrambling to add more time to their wrists before it runs out."

In the movie, the time you have left buys you the basic needs in life like food, shelter, and transportation. And just like money, your time/life can be stolen by someone getting the "upper hand" on you. They do this buy putting their watch over the top of yours and sucking time from you into their life.

It is a interesting interpretation that I look forward to viewing next year because in my own life I consider these concepts on occasion. Is the money, and time at work, worth the extra cost a longer time in the hot shower for me? And since finding that table by the dumpster, it will save me from the overtime at work to pay for a new or used one.

In the movie, called Now, we see the affects that thieves, inflation and greed play on this currency of time/life, and this is where the value of time finally comes home. With our currency of money,when there is a bank error, we know the money is not ours and have no troubles about giving it back because we can still go on with our lives. But with the movie, this is the time left on your life that you are fighting for.

As I was reading through the spoilers for this movie, I considered different advantages to leading a life in the now or waiting and then flip on the scarcity switch as my time ticks to a close. What we have around us in possessions and memories, have they been worth giving up a precious life in order to get what we want?

Other movies with a similar plot:
✄ Logan's Run - In the year 2274, the world's urban centers have been abandoned due to ecological disaster, and the remaining population has forged a society in a domed city, where no one is allowed to live past age 30. Michael York stars as a population control agent who, nearing the age of 30, goes on the run to avoid certain death, and Richard Jordan plays his ex-partner determined to hunt him down.

✄ The Island - Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson as members of a strictly regulated indoor futuristic colony who hope to win the lottery, a contest in which the grand prize is a trip to a Utopian island. It's reportedly the last uncontaminated place on Earth. But a startling discovery about the true nature of "the Island" -- and their very existence -- leads the two to stage a desperate escape to the outside world.

✄ Clockstoppers
✄ Click

Since being downsized by my fulltime job and relying on my part-time job, I have signed up for health insurance through my part-time job only to find out that dental is not included in medical insurance options. Since I don't want a year like I had in 2009 when I had to get 2 crowns, I have been keeping up with the brushing and flossing but have yet to get to a dentist in almost a year for a cleaning.

However, I am signed up for Groupon(aff.) and have found a few deals that have spoken to me, such as some museum tickets that were 56% off and the Denver Post subscription and then this  dental exam, x-ray, cleaning and teeth whitening kit for $29. I had to make the appointment for 3 weeks out, which really isn't that bad. I have yet to bite into the idea of picking up dental insurance and after this appointment I will be closer to deciding if I should get it or not.

Question 1: Any perspective from you all on the dental insurance?

After receiving a sample deodorant from Secret and using it once, the sample product fell apart with the top half breaking off from the bottom. Since the trial period wasn't what I hoped I decided to write to them and see if they would send another sample out to me. They responded with, "Thanks for contacting Secret, Dawn.
I'm sorry about your experience with our Secret Clinical Strength Sample. We'd love to make it up to you, and since you provided your name and postal address, I'm sending you something in the mail I hope you'll enjoy.  You should receive it within the next 2-3 weeks.
I hope you'll find it was worth the wait!

And after waiting a week, I received a regular size deodorant instead of the sample with a few coupons. Well worth the 2 minutes to email them.  I have yet to have a poor experience writing a company. It worked with the chocolate bars, the cracked slow cooker and others. I don't do it often, but I try to make the email as factual and helpful as possible while in the end giving my name and address, since I presume they will be so kind as to reward me for my unique and thoughtful insight. {wink}

Question 2: What are your experiences writing companies? Better results writing or calling them?

I've told you before how much I love my library, especially the now defunct bookmobile. My counties libraries, which there are 7 of them have some wonderful resources, 3 of the libraries are within a 15 minute drive to me.  Next Saturday they having free admission to hear a harpist and flutist play and they have a free class on Biz Start-Up Basics offered by the local chamber for two hours.

They also have teamed up with Freegal and offer 3 free music downloads a week to add to my work out and bedtime music list. I realize that not all libraries do the same things, some less and other more. But I am very thankful for the little things that they offer to make my life a bit more pleasant.

Question 3: What about your library are you appreciative of?

A friend wanted to give me a gift of money, she wanted to make sure it was ok if she just gave me the money instead of a gift, then I could get what I wanted. I accepted the offer and said that it would be put to good use. (She hadn't actually handed me the money yet)

I then followed up with, "I have a bill I could put it towards, so that would be nice to pay off." This didn't sit well with her and she immediately said she wasn't going to give me any money if it was just going to go for bills. "I want you to get something for yourself. Forget about bills for a moment."

flickr/cc - oskay

I was a little upset that she had changed the 'rule' on the 'gift' and now it came with a condition. She might as well just keep the money and use it on herself. Well, that wasn't a good response and things escalated into a war of words- Me accusing her of being materialistic and having a spend, spend mentality; and she accusing me of being tight fisted and not having any fun.

Eventually the fire subsided and we talked about it as civilized people. I explained that it gives me pleasure to pay a bill and know that it isn't haunting me, that I'm not a slave to the bill. And she told me that seeing me buy something I have always wanted made her happy, that she could do something I would put as a low priority.

Eventually, she came around and said that I could do with the money as I pleased, since I was clearly happy about paying off the bill. I was glad to see her come around, not that it was about getting me the money, but that she understood happiness doesn't come through added 'things' to my home and the reason some things are a low priority is because I have higher priorities (like bills) that take precedence over other things.

All in all a lesson learned about someone else, you just never know how they view money.

A couple of questions for you:
Have you given money gifts with strings attached? Why?
Would you have used the money for bills or a something on your low priority list?

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