Saturday, March 8, 2008

How I Started a Grocery "Price Book"

One of the methods that's often touted as being very frugal is to keep a price notebook with you at all times. This way you can always be sure that you are getting a good deal on foods and not, say, paying $5 for bread if you can get it down the street for $2.

I used to be really bad about my grocery shopping. I wasn't frugal at all. I would buy both breakfast and lunch on work days. I'd stop by the convenience store on my way home from work. And so on. I didn't really have a car (at least one that was legal), so it was hard to get to a grocery store. I never did price comparisons.

Well, when I went to Japan it was a different story. Grocery stores in Japan are a bit smaller than the ones in America and there's not as much selection. There especially wasn't a good selection of American foods. I'd find myself going into any new grocery store I found to see if they had any of my favorite foods available.

As I did this, I began to notice how different some of the prices could be. Obviously, you'd expect a high-end grocery store to be expensive (In Japan, they have grocery stores in the basement of most department stores). But often you'd find that little things link milk, bread, pasta, even fresh fruits and vegetables were drastically different prices at different stores.

So I started keeping track of where things were cheaper. Now, I'm not anal enough to keep a price book. One of my talents happens to be remembering numbers. So I keep everything in my head.

But that's how I started to keep track of prices. Once my husband and I decided to Save to Quit, I made even more of an effort to get things from the cheapest grocery store. Now, I tend to be a little anal about it. haha.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Make Choice, Make Destiny

Life is all about the choices we make. I often think about what type of person I might have become had I made a different choice. What if I had gone to a different college, or not gone to college at all? What if I had never lived abroad? What if I said no when Katsufumi said that he wanted to live in America?

These choices that I made have greatly affect the person that I am right now. Fortunately, I kinda like that person.

But the difficult thing is not knowing what life's going to be like when we make those choices. I could have hated living in Japan. I could have ended up with a career that I didn't like.

Nobody knows for sure what's going to happen when they make a choice. If we did, life wouldn't be any fun. But the important thing is that you do need to make decisions.

If the outcome is good, then great! You've done well.

If the outcome is bad, bummer. Make an adjustment and try again.

When you are the person making the choices in your life, then you are truly in control and you are more likely to get the things that you want out of life. Just keep trying and making different choices.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Ridding Yourself of the Procrastination Bug

I'm a big time procrastinator. Always have been. Being smart kind of made that a little bit worse even. I could easily get away with doing my homework in the class before it was do. I could write a ten-page term paper the night before I had to hand it in.

Worse than that, I'd even procrastinate even when I was already cutting it close. There were many times in college when I didn't start that term paper until 3am! I remember my second year of college, in December, I looked at all the work that had built up during the semester and concluded that the only way I could possibly get everything done was if I didn't sleep until the winter break started (roughly two and a half weeks later). :-)

Even today I struggle. I've mentioned this before, so you may remember me saying it. There's always a lot of things that I'd rather be doing than the thing that I'm supposed to be doing...

Anyway, I do try to work on it. And here are some times that can help you rid yourself of the procrastination bug:

1. Always set goals, schedules, and deadlines. Make your to-do lists. It seems anal, but to-do lists are absolutely necessary if you want to succeed. They help you to remember all of the things that you are supposed to do. I know that if I don't write things down, I have a tendency to forget. More important is to set deadlines for when things should be done by. In some cases, it's OK if you don't get them done on time, but a deadline helps you to put pressure on yourself. I've used a Franklin Covey planner for years.

2. Give yourself rewards...later. So many people think "Oh. I'll get down to work...after I watch this one TV show/call my friend/check my email." The problem is that after never comes. There's always something else that you can do it after. So what I do is I reward myself after I complete the task. I'll say that I have to write two articles and then I can watch a TV show. Or whatever. And actually, it does feel better when it's a real reward coming after I've completed a certain task.

3. Never think things are "too easy". When you minimize the amount of effort a task is going to require, it's a lot easier to put it off. I know that I often have five or more "easy" tasks on my list that get put off for days, because I trick myself into believing that they're very easy. If it's so easy, why not get it done and over with.

4. Know what to tackle first. How to prioritize your tasks is a discussion better left for another time ( I procrastinating?), but the truth is that you need to know how to do it. Some times, the big hard thing needs to be done first. Other times, the ten stupid little things should be done first. You need to decide this for yourself, based on your own deadlines and priorities.

When you are conscious of these things, hopefully you'll begin to procrastinate less. Unfortunately, it does require diligent work to keep up. I find that I often go through phases where I'm super-productive, and phases when I'm lazy girl.

What are your anti-procrastination techniques?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Learn to Set Goals

Do you have a goal that you're working towards? One of the most important aspects of successfully saving to quit is having a concrete goal that you are working towards. That involves learning to set goals.

What? Do you really need to learn to set goals? Isn't a goal just a dream that you have for the future?

Well, yes and no. You may dream of winning the lottery, but that's not a very realistic goal. Quitting your job to work on your own business, however, can be realistic.

Successful and unsuccessful people are largely separated by the ability to set goals and follow through to see them accomplished. It's actually that simple.

Learning to set goals is not really's sticking to them and acting on them that usually falls by the wayside.

But here's what you should do:

  1. Write down your goal and make it specific. Include an end date. For example, you might want to say "In one years time, I will have an article published in a magazine."
  2. Break your goal down into smaller steps. In the above example, some of the smaller steps might be brainstorming ideas, querying the magazines, and actually writing the article. Make sure that you are also very specific in the steps you are writing too. You may want to say something like "I will send three query letters every week."
  3. Schedule time to work on these smaller steps. I know that it's sometimes difficult to make that time, especially when you're working a 9-5 job, but it's probably the most important thing. Without taking action, your dreams will just sit there. If you spend just a little bit of time working on them, however, you'll get closer and closer to actually accomplishing them.
  4. Enlist help. You may need some help in achieving your goals. Don't be afraid to ask for it. Ask some friends to look over your query letters. Network with people who can help you out.
  5. Revise as necessary. You may find that things come up and you may have to push your date back. Maybe you don't yet have all the skills needed to achieve your goal. Maybe you find that another goal is starting to take priority. This is all OK.

When you learn to set goals, you are setting yourself up for success. Setting goals (and following through on them) is sure to help you achieve your dreams.

If you want to learn more about how my husband and I achieved our dream of saving enough money to quit our jobs and start a business, check out Save to Quit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Is Saving Boring?

With my recent "Should I spend the money on a new computer?" stress, I've been thinking a lot more about saving money vs. spending money on things that you want/need.

When we were saving to quit our jobs, it was very easy to save money. We had a big goal that we were working towards and the end was in site.

But now that that goal has been completed, and we're pretty much doing what we want to be doing, I'm finding that it's a lot harder to save.

Our next savings goal is for a house (or possibly a new car if our current one dies). But of course, it takes a lot more money to save up for a house than it does to save up a year's salary. At least, when you're looking at real estate in Hawaii and assuming that you want to pick the house that you'll live in for your whole life.

It's like suddenly, $30 here and there doesn't seem like that much money. I mean, it's just a drop in the bucket.

Of course I believe it's important to save, but where do you draw the line between the good feeling of building your savings and the bad feeling that comes with completely going without.

There are always little things that you may want to buy. When you are being extremely frugal, building your savings towards a goal, you start to forgo those little things. But sometimes you just really want it.

Frankly, sometimes saving IS boring.

Now, I'm not talking about going shopping for Chanel or Louis Vuitton...things that I feel are completely unnecessary. But things like a new dress to wear to my husbands annual work retreat (for me not him). Or a gym membership.

My family frequently gives money for birthday or Christmas gifts. That money has often just gone "into our savings", which in a sense feels like it's going towards paying the bills. Which kind of sucks because I know that when people are giving me money, they're giving it so that I can "get something nice for [myself]." My mom expressed a lot of frustration over this when I was talking to her about the computer.

It's good to save your money, especially when you're working on a goal. But sometimes I just want to spend.

How do you deal with this?

Friday, February 8, 2008

New Computer, New Me

I'm going to get a bit personal here, so if you don't like that, then just go ahead and move on.

A few days ago my computer broke. I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but my computer was a Mac Ibook...G3. I bought it used several years ago. It was slow and dying anyway, but just one day the screen wouldn't work anymore. I tried following tech notes to fix it, to no avail.

Well, that put me in a bit of a sticky situation. I pretty much need a computer. All of the work that I do is online. Yes, my husband has a computer that I could technically use...but have you ever tried to use someone else's computer? First, I hate the physical positioning of his computer. I have a really hard time typing on it. Second, his operating system is in Japanese, which is OK in most instances...but he's got all these security alerts set up that I can't read in Japanese so I end up clicking on things and screwing up the computer for him.

Comp USA is closing, so they had macs on sale 10% off. I really really wanted one...but I was having a hard time getting it.

This is probably going to sound silly to you, because hey...I needed a computer. But I had a really hard time buying something brand new.

I grew up pretty poor. I don't resent or have any hard feelings about my upbringing because I know that it was a lot better than some of my friends' who had more money. But we didn't have much. While other kids my age would have wished for a new car on their 16th birthday or a new computer when they went off to college, I knew that those were things that my mom was unable to buy for me. I never asked for them and never even hoped for them.

I rarely buy things new if I can get them used. It's part frugality....but the other part was that I guess I never felt like I deserved nice new things.

Isn't that silly? I mean, I literally have enough money to buy a brand new computer, I know that my husband has used "our money" for things that were just as expensive, yet I still had a hard time spending that much money on myself.

I cried for two days.

Finally my mother convinced me that I was worth it. And after I confessed to my husband what I was really feeling about it, he felt so bad and told me that I was totally worth it.

So now I'm typing on my new computer. And I'm trying to convince myself that I do deserve nice things...

The funny thing too is (especially if you believe in the Law of Attraction), as soon as I bought the new computer...almost $300 has unexpectedly come my way. I mean, it was money that I knew I would get some time, but it came a lot faster that I thought.

Go figure.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Scared to Buy a New Car?

I sure am. I'm pretty sure that our car is about to bite the dust. And there's no reason that it shouldn't. It's a 12 year old mini-van that only cost $1500 a year ago. It owes us nothing. It's been a good car.
But it means that I'm facing the scary prospect of buying a new (to me) car. And that scares me.
See, I've never actually done this. I tried once, when I got my first job out of college. But my credit score was bad/non-existent at the time and so I was turned down. I remember feeling so humiliated about that. After all, a friend of mine had just financed a used car and I made significantly more money than she did.
I hate negotiating and I hate people trying to rip me off. And you always hear stories of car salespeople being like that. My husband's not good at things like that either, so I can't defer to him (and even if he was, I'd have to handle all of the arrangements because his English isn't that good).
Well, fortunately, I mentioned this to my friend, who loaned me a copy of the book href="">What
Car Dealers Won't Tell You. This book is fascinating!
I'm not even that far into it, but I'm just so excited about it that I had to post! It's written by Bob Ford, who's been working in the car sales business for over 30 years. So far, it walks you through all of the steps that the car salesperson will go through to get you to buy. Little tricks that they may play depending on the type of buyer you are. It gives you hints on what to say and when to say it. And provides a bunch of checklists to make sure that you are getting what you want (and not getting extras that you don't need).
I'm so happy that I'll be walking into the dealership with this knowledge floating around in my head. I'm still a little nervous, but I'm feeling much more confident. Still might not go for awhile, but I'll let you know when I do.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

How Do You Spend Your Free Time?

When you have free time, how do you spend it? Do you veg out in front of the TV? Do you read a good book? Go for a walk? Work on your business?
I believe that how you spend your free time says a lot about how successful you will be in the world.
OK, I have a confession to make. I used to smoke a lot of pot. I'd come home from work, smoke pot with my friends and sit in front of the TV. I'd have ideas of things that I wanted to get done, but never the motivation to do anything.
I know that not everyone smokes a lot of pot, but a lot of people do come home from work and just sit in front of the TV. And let's face it...a lot of what's on TV is STUPID.
When I moved to Japan, I stopped smoking pot and I didn't have a TV to watch (Well, I had a TV, but the shows were in Japanese and Japanese TV is only funny the first few times). This increased my productivity dramatically. Finally, I was able to get things done.
If you have big dreams, you have to work on them. You can't just sit around and wait for something to have to make something happen yourself.
It's really all about inertia. If you sit around doing nothing, then you're more likely to just keep sitting around doing nothing.
However, if you make a commitment to work for just 15 minutes on whatever project or goal you have in mind...then you're more likely to keep on working at it.
So if you want to reach your goals, commit to just 15 minutes. Everybody can spare 15 minutes right?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Does Payment Affect Your Effort?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately due to my freelance writing efforts. I don't know how many of my readers have looked into different forms of freelance writing, but there is a huge range in how much writers are offered for their writings.

On one hand, you have people looking for content for article marketing, websites and blogs. Through sites like elance, many people are looking to pay writers about $3/article. These are articles between 300-500 words.

A bit more standard of a price for web content articles seems to be $7-10 per article.

I've been paid $45 for some web content articles, but I think I may have been "lucky" to get that gig, as many people say that those jobs are few and far between.

Now, on the flipside, if you were writing for a traditional print magazine, you could get $1/word (give or take).

Reading various forums where the different types of writers gather, I've noticed that there is a huge difference in the amount of time put into these articles. For example, on sites where there are a lot of content writers, you'll see discussions about how to write your content faster...many people claim to be able to write 4 or more articles in an hour. On the other hand, on forums which feature more traditional writers, you'll see them talking about how it takes them a week to write an article, including research, interviews, writing, and editing.

And it seems natural right...I mean, if you're only getting a couple of dollars per article, then you really need to whip out articles quickly to be able to get a livable salary from your efforts. If you're going to make $1000 for the article, you can afford to take your time and put in a really good effort.

Nobody will admit to slacking off when they are not getting paid a lot though. Everyone always says that they turn out the same quality of article, no matter how much they are getting paid. I just don't believe that this is true.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Reasons to Quit a Job

It often seems scary and risky to quit your job, but there are many reasons to quit a job. You just have to get past your fear and look forward to the future.

Are you treated poorly? If you are overworked and underpaid, then it may be time to thinking about quitting. There are many other companies that do treat their employees with respect and you would do well to seek these out.

Is your job challenging? Some people prefer routines and prefer a job that's easy and will not require much thinking. Others work better when they are being challenged. Which type of person are you/

Is there room for advancement? Some jobs are just fine, but they don't offer any room for improvement. You've hit the ceiling, which means that you will never get more respect or more pay. Most people need to work in a job that will allow them to advance to higher positions as time goes on.

Do you want to spend more time with your family? This is a great reason to quit your job. Some people don't think that this is a valid reason, but don't let them convince you otherwise.

Are you just plain unhappy? Do you dread getting up in the morning and find that you're always counting down the days til the weekend? Time to find something else. Everyone deserves to be happy with what they do. Find out what you don't like about your job and try to make amends.

Of course, all of these are good reasons to quit your job, but you do need to have a plan in place for what you will do after you quit. Will you look for another job? Will you wait until you have another job before quitting? Will you go back to school? Will you work from home? Make a plan before quitting your job and you will be fine.

Click here to read an article about how to quit your job and stay financially secure.

Friday, January 18, 2008

How to Quit Your Job and Stay Financially Secure

We all have times when we just want to say "Take this job and shove it!"

Believe me, I know. I've had several jobs that I didn't like.

But the trick is to quit your job and stay financially secure at the same time. That part is a little more difficult. It requires a lot of careful planning (and a bit of sneaking around). But it can be done. Following are a couple of different ways that you can do this.

How to Quit Your Job and Stay Financially Secure

  • Have a new job lined up. This is the path that most people choose to follow. If you already have a new job that you can step right into, then you won't have any problems staying financially secure after you quit your job. However, this requires being a little sneaky because you have to apply and interview for jobs without your current employer knowing it. Be careful! Don't do any searching at your current job.
  • Sign up for COBRA benefits. Many people stay in their jobs because they are afraid of losing their health insurance. Without insurance, medical costs can be prohibitively expensive. They can put you into debt very quickly. But you can sign up through COBRA to extend your health benefits if you won't have them after you quit.
  • Have savings. If you have a decent sized savings account, you can easily quit your job and it doesn't matter if you don't have any money coming in. You can just live off of your savings.
  • Make a transition. Many people who want to start a business make a transition. Try starting your business in your spare time so that when you are ready to quit, you already have some income coming in.
  • Know what you want to do. If you have a solid plan for after you quit your job, you'll be set to be more financially secure. If you don't know what you want to do, you may find yourself floundering.

We chose to beef up our savings account before quitting our jobs so that we could be financially secure while starting a business.

Want to know more about how to quit your job and stay financially secure? Click here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Frugal Vegetarian Recipe (Ooops Thursday) -- Dry Curry

Oops. I forgot to post this yesterday. I was thinking about it all day, so I don't know how that happened. But anyway, here it is.

This recipe is a vegetarian/veganized version of a popular Japanese dish. It's basically fried rice, but using curry spice. It's very yummy. I eat it all the time.

Frugal Vegetarian Recipe -- Dry Curry

1T oil
2 cups rice
1/2 cup shelled edamame (I buy them shelled)
1t garlic powder
1T curry powder
dash of salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large skillet.
Add the rice and toss. Add edamame and toss together. Add the spices and stir some more. Once the rice has turned a nice yellow color, it's done.

So easy. So cheap.
To be honest, I'm not entirely sure of the measurements of the curry and garlic. I usually just shake a bunch on. So adjust to your own taste!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why Save Money

In today's world the message is usually "spendSpendSPEND!" It can be hard to imagine why you really might want to save money.

I understand wanting to have certain things. We all have little things that make us happy and there are few people who could be completely happy living a very frugal lifestyle.

However, there are still many good reasons to save money. Here are just a few:

  • Security. We never know what's going to happen. Unexpected expenses come up. People lose their job. You just never know. Having some money set aside will make you feel more secure. You will be able to handle life's emergencies.
  • Retirement. If you want to retire, you're going to need some money to do that with. You won't be able to rely on Social Security. Make sure that you are automatically investing into a 401k if your company offers one, and look into other options such as IRAs if they do not (Actually, you can still invest in IRAs if you have a 401k).
  • Education. The cost of education is rising. If you want your children to go to college, then you should start saving to help pay for it. This will reduce the amount of debt that your child has after graduating. Even if you don't have children, you may want to save money so that you can go back to school yourself. Check out Upromise which allows you to save money for school by shopping at places you would normally shop. (aff)
  • Fulfill your own dreams. Everybody has a dream. Whether that dream is to travel the world, start a business, or just spend more time with your family, you probably need some money to do that. Saving money allows you focus on your own dreams.

My husband and I saved money so that we could try to build our own business. I tell this story (and how you can do it too) in the ebook Save to Quit.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Robin Hooding It -- Affiliate Programs, Adsense, and Other Ads

I've recently noticed that other bloggers are being more upfront about when they are using affiliate links and it got me to thinking about it...

Before I really get into it, I'd like to explain a bit how affiliate programs, adsense, and other ads work. If you have a blog or website, you already understand this, but I'm not sure that other people do.

Almost everyone has heard that if you have a blog or website, then you can make money by putting ads on your site. But unless you have a really big and popular site, advertisers aren't exactly lining up to pay you hundreds of dollars to display their ads. What most blogger or website owners use are affiliate ads. The blogger chooses programs that he or she thinks will benefit their readers and puts those ads on the blog. In most cases, the reader needs to click on the ad and make a purchase for the blogger to make any money.

For example, I have ads for ING Direct in my sidebar. I use ING and I have had a good experience with them, so I feel comfortable recommending them to other people. ING does not pay me to place that ad on my site. However, if you were to click on that ad and sign up for ING Direct, I would get some money.

That said, I believe that affiliate programs are a sort of modern day Robin Hood. They take money from the "big businesses" and give them to "the little guy" in exchange for promotion. I often click on people's ads because of this. In my mind:

  • It's a way to "tip" the writer of a blog that I enjoy.
  • The writer deserves to get a commission for recommending a product.
  • Buying through affiliate links helps people to build a salary where they can work from home.

Other people seem to feel different. On a popular web forum that I frequent, there was once a thread about whether you buy through affiliate links or not. I was surprised by the number of people who said that they REFUSE to buy through a person's affiliate link. What a bunch of #*(&#@ !!!!

To be fair, these people are primarily referring to info-products and their thought is that the creator of the product should receive all of the money for their product and not have to share with affiliates. I can understand this point of view, but I disagree with it.

On the other hand, I suppose that you might have people who know about affiliate programs and who feel that you are somehow being sneaky by using affiliate links and not being more upfront about it. I think that this is why I've seen a movement towards mentioning that you are using affiliate links.

I'm optimistic and I like to believe in the goodness of others. I believe that purchasing products through affiliate links is a way to support your fellow bloggers. I also think that whenever possible, people should ACTIVELY SEEK OUT affiliate links to purchase through (e.g. If I'm going to buy from 1-800 flowers, I should try to find someone advertising that program.). I think that if more people understood how affiliate programs work, we'd see an increase in affiliate incomes as people tried to make sure that a percentage of their money is going to "the little guy".

So because of that, I've decided that I'm going to be more upfront about my use of affiliate links.

What do you think?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Tips for Being Frugal

In a world where everywhere you turn, someone is telling you to spendSpendSPEND, it can be very difficult to try to save money or get your debt under control. We're all tempted at times and I thought that it was about time that I introduced some tips for being frugal.

These are things that have helped me and my husband as we prepared to save to quit. I hope that they can help you as well.

Tips For Being Frugal

1. Make sure that everyone is on board. If one person in a couple is trying to save money while the other person is spending, then you're fighting a losing battle. Facing debt head on or saving towards a shared goal is something that a couple has to do together. Both partners need to participate actively.

2. Check out free things. There are many free events in your town and participating in these things will help prevent you from feeling board (and spending money because of this). Also make sure to use your local library. Many people love reading, but choose to buy books! This is a waste of money, unless you will use the book over and over again. Instead, borrow books from the library for free.

3. Spend sometimes. This is just my personal opinion, but I feel that if you are too frugal, you are one day going to hit a breaking point where you end up going on a major shopping spree and thwart all of your efforts. So instead, I think that it's a good idea to occasionally spend money. For example, go out to eat once a month instead of once a week. Buy a new bracelet instead of a whole new outfit. You get the picture.

4. Watch less TV. This is really rough for some people, I know. However, when we watch TV, we are exposed to a lot of advertising, not just during the commercials, but within the programs themselves. The people in TV shows almost always have nice gadgets and nice clothes and when we compare their lives to our own, we find that we come up short. This is crazy! We're comparing our lives to fictional characters. When you watch less TV, you'll find that you start to have less desires for more material things. You'll also be able to spend more time on things that matter more to you--reading books, exercising, or working on your business. It's OK to have a few TV shows that you enjoy...but you just shouldn't veg out in front of the TV for 5 hours every night.

5. Make it a game. Instead of thinking of being frugal as being a chore, make it fun. Challenge yourself to meet deadlines. See how fast you can fill up your coin jar. Have a bigger bank account than the Joneses.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Extreme Money Saving Ideas

(Note: Some of the ideas expressed here are of a questionable legal nature. I do not in fact encourage anyone to use these. It's meant to be a humorous looks at extreme money saving ideas.)

Are you tired of all the same old money saving ideas?
Do you think that you've completely exhausted your frugal resources?
Are you ready to take your frugality to the next level?

Read on for some extreme ideas for saving money:

1. Steal toilet paper. Have you ever gone to a public restroom and found that they have extra toilet paper rolls? This is where a large bag comes in handy. Take an extra roll or two with you. No extra rolls? Just take a significant amount from the roll that's provided.

2. Eat only rice and beans. Rice and beans are about as cheap as you can get (Except maybe when ramen goes on sale for 10 cents). You can save a lot of money by eating only rice and beans. No fruits. No veggies. No meat. No dairy. Just rice and beans. This'll probably cost you like 10 cents per person per meal (complete guess).

3. Go "shopping" at the lost and found section. If you ever find yourself needing something, go to the lost and found section of a public place and give a vague description of the item that you need. For example, tell them you lost a pair "black sunglasses". Chances are, someone lost a pair of black sunglasses and you can totally score them!

4. Use soap as shampoo. There's really no reason to buy separate shampoo and conditioner. Simply use your bar of soap as shampoo. No conditioner. It works!

5. Recycle cards as postcards. Whenever someone sends you a card, cut off the front and use that as a postcard. You won't have to buy postcards and the postage is cheaper for a postcard. You may want to make a list of who sends you what cards so that you can make sure to not send the postcard to the same person that sent you the card.

I hope that you've enjoyed these (humorous) extreme money savings ideas.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Frugal Vegetarian Recipe Wednesday-->Chickpea Curry

This Chickpea Curry is another favorite recipe of mine. I make it at least 2-3 times a month (and it lasts a few days). Sometimes, I'll substitute lentils or split peas for the chickpeas depending on what I have on hand...

Frugal Vegetarian Recipe #2-->Chickpea Curry

1 onion (optional)
2 cloves garlic (or 1T garlic powder)
1T oil
2.5 cups chickpeas
1 can tomatoes
1.5 cups water
2T curry powder
broccoli (optional)

1. Heat the oil in a sauce pan and sautee the onion and garlic until translucent. (I put the garlic in after the onions have been cooking for awhile so that I don't burn the garlic)
2. Add the rest of the ingredients.
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low-medium. Simmer until most of the water is gone, about 45 minutes.
4. I like to add broccoli to this. You can use either frozen or fresh. Add it about 10 minutes before it's finished cooking.
5. If you want, put half of the curry into a food processor and blend it for a smoother consistency. Then mix it back in.
6. Serve over rice, or with Indian bread (naan, chapatis, whatever..)


Save to Quit Ebook

I've just put my Save to Quit ebook for sale. It details all of the steps that my husband and I took in order to be able to save enough money to quit our jobs. It's also packaged with a bonus book 500 Ways to Save Money.

Check out the Save to Quit sales page here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Frugal Cooking -- What Foods Are A Good Deal?

If you're at all interested in frugal cooking (and you should be if you want to save money), then you ought to know what foods are almost always a good deal.

These foods should become the staples of your diet. They are cheap and filling. And almost always a good deal.

  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Dried beans
  • Ground meat
  • Frozen veggies

(Frozen veggies aren't always cheap, but they are often cheaper than buying fresh or canned, so I've included them on the list.)

If you base the majority of your meals around these foods, then you'll start to significantly save money on your groceries. If you're being frugal, then you should never ever ever buy junk food or prepared meals. These are much more expensive.

Check out The Hillbilly Housewife for more frugal cooking ideas.

I love The Hillybilly Housewife. She's got cool "emergency menus" that can feed a family of four on just $45 a week.

Friday, January 4, 2008

How to Save Money for Children

Many parents are worried about how to save money for children and rightfully so. College costs are rising and more children are relying on their parents much later in life than they used to. Couple this with a Social Security program which doesn't seem like it's going to last, and parents are facing a bit of a conundrum.

Save for the kids or save for my retirement?

Of course, in an ideal world, you'd be able to do both and I do believe that this should be the goal that we're working towards. However, today I will only focus on saving money for your children.

Here are the steps you should take to save money for children:

1. Get organized. If your own finances aren't together, then it will be difficult to plan to save for your children. Start a file folder for your financial information and make sure that you know all of your accounts, where they are and what's in them.

2. Make a commitment. You don't have to commit to a lot. Just make a small commitment which will help your children in the future. For example, to start you may want to just set aside $50 per month. Or dedicate your coin jar to your children's savings. Any little bit will help and it all starts to add up. In the future, you will probably be able to save more.

3. Set up a separate account for your children. You do not have to allow them to have access to it and you don't even have to put their name on it initially. Just make sure that there is a separate place where their money is going. ING Direct offers a high interest rate and allows you to easily do this. Click here to sign up for ING Direct.(aff)

4. Set up a 529 plan. Whether you do this is up to you. A 529 plan allows your money to grow tax free. It is later to be used for college or other qualified educational expenses.

5. Join Upromise. Upromise is a great way to help save for college. When you have a Upromise account, it's linked to your credit cards. When you make a purchase through qualified stores, they give a percentage of money back. This money goes into a 529 plan for educational expenses. It's a great way to save, simply by spending money that you normally would spend. Click here to join Upromise.(aff)

I hope that this list of steps has helped you to understand how to save money for children. Do you have any additional ideas or tricks?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Money You Save From Quitting Smoking

I quit smoking last August and it was one of the best things that I've ever done, both from a money-saving and good-health standpoint (though I have to admit it wasn't all that good for my waistline. Now you know what my resolution is.

I know that a lot of people are trying to quit smoking as a New Year's resolution, so I thought I'd do a bit of math to figure out the amount of money you will save from quitting smoking.

Of course, it's hard to get exact figures because cigarette prices vary so much from place to place. I generally smoked "fancy" cigarettes when I smoked (American Spirits) and I lived in big cities where cigarettes tend to be more expensive. So what I did was I figured how much cigarettes cost at $6 a pack (a typical price for my brand and area) and then in parentheses I've figured the price at $4.50 per pack, which I think is more common in America.

The Money You Will Save from Quitting Smoking

If you are a two-pack-a-day smoker, you will save:

  • $4380 ($3285) in a year
  • $43,800 ($32850) in ten years
  • $$219,000 ($164,250) in fifty years

If you are a pack-a-day smoker, you will save:

  • $2190 ($1642.50) in a year
  • $21,900 ($16425) in ten years
  • $109, 500 ($82,125) in fifty years

If you are a half-a-pack-a-day smoker, you will save:

  • $1095 ($821.25) in a year
  • $10,950 ($8,212.50) in ten years
  • $54,750 ($41,062) in fifty years

If you are a three-cigarettes-a-day smoker, you will save:

  • $330 ($247.5) in a year
  • $3,300 ($2,475) in ten years
  • $16,500 ($12,375) in fifty years

Pretty sobering when you see it all spelled out like that isn't it? I'm not going to get on a soap box about quitting smoking or anything, because I know how you feel. I used to smoke. And I liked it. I quit several times before this last time. Every time it would be so easy that I would just go back to smoking.

If you're not ready to quit smoking yet, I highly HIGHLY recommend switching to American Spirits brand cigarettes. It sounds silly, I know. But the fact that this brand has no other chemicals added actually makes it easier to quit smoking. I used to smoke Camels, but I think that no matter what Your Brand is, you've probably had this experience:

When you run out of cigarettes and you bum one off of someone else, if it's not Your Brand, it's not as satisfying. You feel like you didn't really smoke a cigarette. That's because the special blend of chemicals in Your Brand has gotten you addicted specifically to Your Brand. I'm not even joking about this. I know it sounds all conspiracy theory, but it's true.

Switching to American Spirits breaks you of the addiction to the chemicals in Your Brand, but you're still addicted to the nicotine. However, it was my experience that it was much easier to break the addiction to the nicotine than it was to break the addiction to the chemicals in Camels.

Just my experience.

I found that the book "The Easy Way to Quit Smoking" by Allen Carr helped me to quit. To be honest, it didn't do that much...but it did make me see how silly I was to start smoking again after quitting (which I'd done in the past). I suggest getting this book out of the library.

However, if you can't wait, the EasyQuit Method (aff) seems to be a comparable program.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Frugal Vegetarian Recipe Wednesday-->Lentil Stew

I've been a lifelong vegetarian. Never eaten meat. Except a bit of bologna that I didn't know was meat when I was 3 or 4.
Anyway, I get a bit kick out of making frugal vegetarian recipes. I love to think that something cost me just $2 to make and then lasts for a couple of meals. I've been experimenting a lot recently and so I thought that I would share my recipes. One every Wednesday. This is the first.

Frugal Vegetarian Recipe #1-->Lentil Stew
1/2 onion
2T olive oil
1 can of tomatoes
3/4 cup of lentils
2 cups water
2T garlic powder
1t basil
1t rosemary
1t savory
1t parsley

(If you don't have some of those spices, you can eliminate them. No biggie.)

1. Cut up the onion and sautee it in a a pan on medium-high heat. If you like onions, you can use a whole onion. I'm not a huge fan, but I like a little taste of it, so I use just half.
2. When the onion is cooked, add the can of tomatoes, the lentils, water, and spices.
3. Cover the pan and bring the contents to a boil.
4. After it's reached a boil, turn the heat down to low.
5. Let it simmer, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. You want it to form a nice thick stew, not watery. So if there's too much water, let it cook a bit longer.
6. Serve either by itself or over rice.

Note: Do not add salt to this while it's cooking. Salt makes lentils tough.

This saves well. It almost tastes better the next day.
You can also make this in a crockpot by just adding all the ingredients and cooking on low all day.