Archive for the ‘Frugal Challenge’ Category

No More Restaurant Food – Frugal Challenge

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Welcome again to another edition of my summer re-run series. I am bringing topics from the past back up to the forefront this summer so you don’t have to take time out of your busy schedule to sit at the computer and scroll around looking for topics you missed – or can’t recall where to find one you are looking for.

I hope you’ll enjoy this Frugal Challenge today.  I thought it was a timely subject since we’re all running around like crazy this summer.  It’s hard to resist pulling into the fast food place when you’re headed back home from the lake or beach.  But, if you do that even a few times a week the cost really adds up.  Take a moment if you will to read this post.  This is a classic money saving step for so many of us.  Enjoy:

Hot Soup websizeAnother Monday, another frugal challenge. Are you ready? This week the challenge is to not eat any “restaurant food”. That means no eating out, no take out, no pizza delivery and not fast food. Are you game?

We hardly ever eat out these days, but that wasn’t always so. When I was working, I was notoriously bad about ordering a pizza or heading through the drive through on my way home from the office. Just the thought of having to cook and then clean up was just more than I could handle after a hard work day. I’m sure some of you are in the same boat.

Here are some thing that helped us make the switch to a homecooked meal existence:

Plan Ahead – If you have what you need at home to cook a fast and simple meal, you’re much more likely to do it and of course you’ll have dinner on the table without too much work or fuss. I make a menu plan for the week and then get what I need in one shopping trip.

Have Some Emergency Meals Ready – This really works well on those days when you’re super busy. Just cook up a few things that will store well in your freezer. Casseroles and baked dishes like lasagna work really well for this. I also like to keep one or two frozen pizzas from Aldi in the freezer for the same reason. I can pull them out, cook them and have dinner ready in about 30 minutes.

Simplyfy – You don’t have to cook a fancy meal every night. My family is perfectly fine with pasta and tomato sauce, a quick stir fry or even eggs and toast or pancakes for dinner. Find a couple of meals that you can put together fast and come back to them on nights when you’re tempted to order out.

Of course dinner isn’t the only meal we tend to eat out. How about lunch, breakfast or a quick snack? Not this week. Pack your lunch and take it with you to work and pack your breakfast or eat it at home before you leave.

Like all of our frugal challenges, this one is designed to develop a new habit that will save you money (in this case by cooking all of your meals and get out of the eating out habit), but this one also has an added side benefit. You’re most likely going to eat a good bit healthier by sticking to homecooked meals.

Fewer Trips To The Grocery Store – Frugal Challenge

Monday, July 5th, 2010

I started a little “summer re-run” series for our daily posts and have gotten some very positive response.  It seems not everyone has time to scroll around into the archives to find interesting challenges or topics.

Yes, there are several items from the archives that should be brought forward again so you busy folks can have a chance to take a look.  Here is one that is a very simple idea that can save A LOT of money at the grocery store.  I hope you’ll find today’s challenge timely and useful.  Here it is:
Supermarket
Creative Commons License photocredit: kozumel

Let me quickly explain the logic behind this week’s challenge. No matter how disciplined we are, each time we head to the store we are bound to buy some extra “stuff” that we don’t really need.

This week, we’re not going to let that happen. The challenge is to only shop once this week. (Or if you’re already doing this..go for 2 weeks or even the whole month). This will do two things.

1) It will force you to plan ahead for the week to make sure you have everything you need and enough food to make 7 breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

2) It will keep you from any extra purchases you may have made that 2nd and 3rd trip to the store.

Let’s talk about how to plan for this once a week shopping trip. I usually start by making a list of all the meals we will have that week. It’s called Menu Planning and once you get the hang of it, it won’t take you more than a few minutes and will make your life so much easier the rest of the week.

Make sure you include items that perish quickly (fresh produce, herbs etc.) early in your meal plan. When you get back from the store, put meat you will need during the first 2 days in the fridge and freeze everything else.

That’s about it… give it a try and enjoy all the extra time you’ll have by not having to go to the store every few days.

Not Too Late To Start A Small Garden – Frugal Challenge

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Tomato PlantsEven though many folks are already starting to pick their first ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans, it’s never too late to start your own garden project.

Your neighbor’s corn may be “knee high by the 4th of July” but never you mind that.  Grab a few big containers, take a stroll through your local nursery or farmers market (yes, they sell  plants, too), and get a few veggies growing on your patio.

One of our favorite vegetables to grow in containers has always been the “patio tomato” or cherry tomato.  You can plant this just about any time of the year because they grow and mature quite fast.  It seems like from the time they flower to the time their fruit turns red, it’s only a matter of weeks.

Two tricks to planting cherry or grape tomatoes this late in the season:

1) If it’s very hot where you are, give them a little more shade. Double down your effort to water regularly.  You may even want to do one of those “upside down bottle” tricks so the soil doesn’t get the chance to dry completely in the heat of the day.

2)  Be sure to choose a big deep container for planting, much bigger than the plant itself, and bury that tomato plant as deep as you can.  I have pinched off several bottom “branches” just to get the tomato plant buried deeper and grew some very strong and generous plants.  The plants you find now will be quite large and probably leggy if they’ve been in a small pot for too long, so you’ll have lots of stem to bury.

Tomatoes are probably the simplest plants to start late, however you can always plant things like herbs and lettuce just to get a few green things growing.  The reason this is frugal?  Usually, the plants in the nursery are very inexpensive right now.  They don’t want to baby those things forever!  They want you to do that!  The other frugal aspect, of course, is you get to eat the veggies you grow.

Don’t give up on your garden even though it’s late.  Even a little tomato plant on your patio can brighten your day.  And if you get your children involved, it will brighten their day, too!

Have a great frugal Monday!

Gardening With Kids Book Amazonp.s.  If you want to get you’re kids started gardening, check out this book to help you get them started right. Click to read Grow It Cook It With Kids and get started today.

You may also want to revisit my article about gardening with kids.  Just click on the link below to get an overview of the 5 basic elements to consider when planning a garden with your child.

Planning A Garden With Your Child

A Few Favorites – Food Savings – Frugal Challenge

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Empty WalletThis week I thought I’d find a few of our favorite frugal challenges and bring them up once more this week.  I know how it is when you’re scrolling around a website looking for something you know was there… but where?

There have been some frugal topics through the years here at the Hillbilly Housewife that folks had fun with and reported saving money.  That’s the idea – finding frugal ideas that actually work.

That’s why I thought I’d bring back a few favorite frugal challenges this Monday.  This particular batch is about different aspects of saving money on your grocery bill.  Click on the links and see if you can put these frugal practices into effect for yourself this week.

Cook More Beans – This is a no brainer in my house.  We rely on bean meals two to three times a week.  Eliminating expensive meat for cheap beans is an excellent way to cut back on your grocery bill without sacrificing nutrition.

Find Those Loss Leaders – If you’re not sure exactly what that means, it is the grocery store’s attempt to pull you into their store with one or two really good bargains.  Your job is to figure out which deal it is!  If you can, you will save a lot of money on your grocery bill that week.

No Convenience Foods For A Week – So many of us have been used to picking convenience foods off the grocery shelf that we forget we don’t actually need to buy them.  Most of these foods and condiments can be made at home for less.  Check out this post for actual recipes.

Menu Planning – As much as I say this over and over again, many people still don’t realize the importance of planning meals when it comes to the grocery budget.  Yes, it’s convenient to have meals all planned out, but the real saving is not in time and trouble, but in money.  Check this out and see if you’re not convinced.

Those are some of our frugal challenges through the years.  I hope you take time to read through them to get re-energized in your quest for a more frugal food budget.

Let me know what you think and maybe I’ll do a few more of these groupings of frugal challenges from the past.  It never hurts to review our lessons!  Have a great day today and I hope you stop back often to share your ideas and views, too.

Stop Wasting Money On Bottled Water – Frugal Challenge

Monday, June 14th, 2010

glass of water websizeSummer is here and it’s getting hot.  We all want to be sure to drink lots of good, clean water, and we want to be sure that our kids have plenty of water with them at all times.

The easiest way to keep lots of drinking water in your house is to buy cases of bottled water.  But at what price?  There is a more frugal and environmentally friendly way to have plenty of drinking water available to your family.

I did a little comparison shopping recently to see how much it actually costs to drink bottled water.  On the surface, the numbers didn’t seem too bad when we bought a case of water in 16 ounce bottles at a good sale price.  Doing the math, it figured out to about $1.25 per gallon, which per bottle comes to only about $0.15 cents.  Now, that’s a great price compared to what you would pay for a single bottle of water in a vending machine or convenience store.

water filter faucetBut then I compared that $0.15 bottled water to filtered tap water.  If you spend about $30 for a faucet filter attachment and roughly $10 for a replacement filter every 40 gallons or so, you will spend about $0.30 per gallon of filtered water.  In our bottled water calculation we figured a gallon of water would cost us about $1.25.  So, that 16 ounce bottle of water that you paid $0.15 for, costs you $0.04 to get it out of your faucet filter.

You may be thinking “15 cents, 4 cents, what’s the difference?”  If you have only one person in the house drinking only one bottle of water a day, you will save about $40 a year.  Now let’s make it real.  You have 4 people in your house, each drinking 4 bottles of water a day. With that kind of water consumption your yearly savings will head into the $600 plus per year savings range.

With this one simple change in your buying habit, you can save enough in a year to buy a new lap top computer, take a road trip, buy an airplane ticket, buy a new appliance, pay off a credit card, get new tires for the car, etc.  Can you really afford to pass up this huge savings?

There are frugal strategies that have a good return on investment, and then there are frugal strategies that have a great return on investment.  This is one of those simple money saving tips that will have a big impact on your budget for very little effort.  The bonus?  You’ll be doing the environment a big favor by not adding to the production of plastic bottles.

Get each family member a couple reusable water bottles and fill them up with your own filtered tap water.  You’ll see the savings almost immediately when you walk by the cases of water in the grocery store without stopping to pick one up.

No more money wasted out of your grocery budget and no more energy wasted producing all those plastic bottles.  This is one frugal lifestyle change that really adds up to some very real money savings!

Nutritious And Frugal Food Choices That Stretch The Family Budget – Frugal Challenge

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Shopping Cart web picIf you were forced to restock your entire pantry from scratch, what would happen to your family’s budget?  This is not an unheard of event, either by design or by circumstances.

A friend of mine who moved to the south some years ago found out the hard way that bugs live in dry foods when not properly stored.  Her entire pantry, everything that was not sealed in glass, had to be thrown out.  This meant pasta, rice, flour, sugar, and seasonings.  Bugs don’t stop to see if a box of spaghetti is open, they just chew right through.

Shortly after that, she was hit by a hurricane, knocking out the power for nine days.  This meant whatever food in the refrigerator or freezer she and her family couldn’t eat or give away had to be thrown out.

Restocking a pantry from scratch can be devastating to your grocery budget.  How much money would it take to restock your food as it was?  Could you ever afford to completely restock your food supply if you lost it all?  Then, the bigger question is, would you even want to?

When we’re creating a frugal family budget, normally food is the most flexible item on the budget.  We can all look at our grocery expenses and make cuts.  We may buy too many prepackaged foods and expensive treats.  If we eliminate even a few of our luxury food items, we can see results in our budget very quickly.

Now, getting back to the empty pantry and refrigerator scenario… if you had to restock your supplies, and had a very tight grocery budget, what would you buy?

You may have to look at your grocery list a little differently than you might normally.  We often start with our favorite recipes and build a list from there.  But, for this week’s frugal challenge, I’m suggesting that you don’t look at your groceries like you normally do.  Instead of looking at what you  normally cook for meals, you are going to take a look at what you COULD buy to save big money on your food budget.  Here are a few examples of food items that are frugally priced yet yield the nutrition our families need.

Dried beans and peas – This is the basic food for frugal meals and super nutrition.  Buy bags or cans of black beans, garbanzo, navy beans, pinto beans, split peas, and lentils.  Choose dried for the best value, but go ahead and stock up on cans if necessary for quick meals.  Beans and peas are a protein as well as a vegetable, so you’re doing double duty when you serve these inexpensive powerhouse foods.  This is the one food you can NOT afford to skip and should be a staple in every pantry.

Brown rice – Skip the white fluffy rice.  You want whole, long grain brown rice in your house at all times.  Brown rice packs a whole lot of nutrients and fibre into a little bit of food.  Keep a batch of rice cooked and in your refrigerator at all times and you have a quick meal in the making, for just pennies a serving.

Potatoes – Like brown rice, potatoes are also a great “vehicle” for a whole bunch of other food.  Potatoes are not the enemy when it comes to weight loss either. They are packed with nutrition and fibre and does the body good!  The weight-gain culprit is what you ADD to the potatoes.  Keep that in mind and enjoy baked potatoes topped with fresh vegetables for a filling lunch or dinner.

Pasta – Along with brown rice and potatoes, pasta is another excellent vehicle for good, wholesome meals.  Be sure to buy whole grain pastas to get the most in the way of nutrition and fibre.  Stock up on fun shapes and sizes so you can create interesting as well as frugal dishes.

Nuts – When compared to the price of meat, nuts comes out on top.  You may want to start replacing meat with nuts several times a week.  Simply sprinkling a handful of chopped nuts on a salad or vegetable dish provides your family with the protein they need in their diet.  Buy nuts that have not been roasted and salted for your best nutrition and value.  If you prefer the taste of roasted salted nuts, go ahead and put them in the oven with a little salt on a low heat and roast them yourself.

Eggs – Not just for breakfast anymore!  Choose eggs as a source of protein in salads, casseroles, even soups.  The recipes for eggs are numerous and varied, so you should never tire of whipping up an egg-based dish for your family.  Cheap and packed with nutrition, eggs should always be on your grocery list.  If you’re on a cholesterol reduced diet, here’s a note: egg whites have just as much protein as the entire egg without the cholesterol.

Onions, Celery, Garlic, Salt and Pepper – The price of seasonings can send your budget into shock.  If you have a limited food budget, there are ways to season without buying those little jars for big money.  These standard “flavoring vegetables,” with the addition of a little salt and pepper, can pack a wallop when it comes time to add pep to your food.

These foods would be what I consider the “staples” in everyone’s pantry and refrigerator.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money to keep your kitchen stocked when you shop these basic foods first.

Then, a trip to the grocery store to buy a few things like bread, milk, butter, peanut butter, chicken, meat, fruits, and vegetables will be all you need.  You can create hearty meals with just a few items once you have the pantry and refrigerator stocked with the basics.

If you are on your way to the grocery store today, I hope you’ll consider building a stockpile of these frugal and healthy foods.  Then, see what kinds of frugal and filling meals you can come up.  Feed your hungry family and stay within your grocery budget – now won’t that be a great day!

Remember The Clothesline – Frugal Challenge

Monday, May 31st, 2010

My friend Patti Winker over at RemarkableWrinklies.com has been reminiscing about clotheslines and the way that sun and wind dried sheets make a person feel.  So, I thought I’d chime in with my own thoughts about clotheslines and drying clothes naturally.

I’m bringing back a post I did some time ago, and judging from the comments received on this topic, you are just as passionate about drying your clothes in the sun as I am. As a matter of fact, you’ll see clothes on my line just about year round!

It’s disheartening to know how many people are prohibited (by their landowner’s association) from drying clothes outside.  It’s a shame because this can be one of the great money savers in a household, not to mention an energy saver for our planet.

I hope you enjoy this post I’ve resurrected and please feel free to voice your opinion or share your tips about line drying your clothes.

clothesline web sizeIf you’ve been watching some of the headlines these days you’d think a war had been declared on clotheslines. And, you may be right. In many parts of the world, especially where there are homeowner associations, laundry left billowing in the breeze could send you to the courts.

Granted, no one wants to gaze upon tightie-whities or bloomers flappin’ in the wind right out in plain view, but a discretely placed clothesline with discretely placed undergarments should not be causing the sort of alarm that is apparently being raised. We all know how to pin up our unmentionables behind our lovely sheets and towels. If we can all follow certain clothesline protocol, then what’s the problem?

The problem is that some folks agree to association rules and then, when the power bill gets ridiculous and the planet needs saving, decide they want to do something to help.  So, what are frugally and environmentally minded folks supposed to do?

There are a few alternatives to stringing a clothesline between two trees in your front yard or installing full-out clothesline poles.  For instance, a portable clothesline may work. An inexpensive folding clothes rack can suffice for drying at least some of your laundry.  Another option may be a retractable clothesline that you attach to the side of your garage or house, pull out to hang the clothes, then retract when not in use.

Hanging your clothing inside on hangers may be an option.  If your air conditioner or your heat is running you actually have a pretty good little drying system inside already.

A simple option is to buy an inexpensive tension rod, the kind that you would hang a curtain on, and position it in a door frame where you have good air flow between rooms. Hang some items there and you’ll be surprised how fast they dry. Remove the rod and put it away for the next load of laundry.

Another option is a small retractable clothesline attached above the door frame in the bathroom and run across to the tub.

My challenge for you today is to find an area outside of your house, apartment, or condo to hang a few clothes. If you can’t possibly find a spot, set up drying areas inside your house to accommodate at least a few items every washday. You’ll be thrilled when you find your clothes dry and it didn’t cost you one extra penny.

More Reasons To Use Less Detergent – Frugal Challenge

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Wash Tubs old fashioned webI’ve spoken in the past about cutting back on the amount of  washing detergent used in a load of laundry or a load of dishes in order to save money.

Sure, it makes sense to use less soap in order to cut back on the cost, but I’ve read recently that there are other reasons why less is better.

In a book entitled Appliance Handbook for Women: Simple Enough Even Men Can Understand, author Vernon Schmidt (a veteran appliance repairman) discusses the wisdom and the reasons behind using less detergent in today’s washing machines and dishwashers.

Not only are you saving money on your detergent purchases, you may also be saving your appliance.

The reasons?  Most newer washing machines and dishwashers are designed to use less water in a more efficient way.  Less water means less dilution of the detergent.

Also, many detergents have become more concentrated and even contain better cleaning solvents.  Again, use less and get the same amount of cleaning power.

Just as important as saving money on detergent, is saving wear-and-tear on your appliance.  Using too much detergent in a load of laundry or dishes over a period of time can really gunk up the works.  Literally.  Gunk, crud, goo – whatever you want to call it – can build up in your appliance, around the seals, sometimes causing mold to grow.

Using too much detergent over a period of time will inevitably cause your appliance to suffer.  This could result in your appliance requiring numerous repairs or it could even result in a shortened lifespan for your appliance.  You can see how the money starts to really add up.

Using less detergent is a good frugal decision.  If you can make your detergent supply last twice as long by using half as much, well, that just makes sense. Now,  look further into the future and you’ll discover that fewer repairs and a longer life for your wash machine and dishwasher is priceless.

Appliance Handbook for Womenp.s.  Interested in even more appliance maintenance and repair tips from an expert?  Click on this link or the graphic and take a look.

Not only will you get simple maintenance tips, but also sound advice on how to treat your appliances well to make them last a long, long time.

An Excuse To Visit The Farmer’s Market – Frugal Challenge

Monday, May 17th, 2010

vegetable gardenWe discussed the advantages of buying food locally, and in season, last year  in the post “Becoming A Locavore.” If you want to take a look, just click on the link, then come back and we’ll pick right back up again where we left off.

Today I wanted to cover the same ground once again as the growing season is getting underway.

Before we had so much mass transportation of food, we used to eat what we could grow, or what our neighbor could grow.  If we didn’t have a garden, we shopped at our local grocery store or visited a farm to get what we needed.

Food shipped from thousands of miles away became the norm for many decades.  However, we now know that eating locally is better for us, our economy, and our environment.

If you think about where your food comes from before you buy, you will be making an informed choice that can benefit you and your family in a couple ways.  Locally grown food is more nutritious and normally less expensive since there are fewer shipping costs involved.

If you are fortunate enough to have a local farm or farmer’s market, shop there before you shop at your grocery store.  However, you may find that your local grocery store may carry produce from a local farm right alongside their regular produce.

Buying your food locally will help to:

  1. support your local economy
  2. reduce  the world’s energy consumption
  3. reduce your grocery bill

Buying locally naturally means eating seasonally.  The food you’ll find will depend on the season and the part of the world you live.  Even the coldest climates produce crops during some part of the year.  Your dinner in June may include peas, in August you may have corn, in September you may be harvesting squash, and in November your dinner may include rutabaga.

Planning your meals around the seasons and the local crops is challenging, but interesting.  Take some time today to discover your local farms and farmers market.  See if you can find vegetables, fruit, eggs, chicken, fish, and even meat locally.

This is one frugal challenge that is about more than saving money – it’s about a lifestyle.

Eat LocallyEat Locally Kindlep.s. Looking for more information on eating locally?  Eat Where You Live is an excellent resource.

Click on the link above or the pictures to take a look.

You’ll notice both a book version and a Kindle version.

p.p.s. You may want to also check out the book Edible – A Celebration Of Local Foods by clicking on the link.  It’s another great look at not only why we should eat locally, but how.

I hope you’ll take this challenge and eat healthy – and locally!

Shop Smart Online And Get Free Shipping – Frugal Challenge

Monday, May 10th, 2010

laptopMany of us use the internet to shop around for deals.  Then, just as often as not, we find our “‘deal” loses its appeal once the shipping costs are added in.

We are faced with a decision – empty the virtual shopping cart, or pay the shipping and feel regret, perhaps, that our good deal wasn’t so good after all.

I did a little shopping around the internet this weekend for items I needed and found a few good deals, but was disheartened once the shipping came up.  That’s where I stopped and took my own advice.  You don’t get unless you ask, so I started “asking” around for free shipping coupons.

Was I ever pleasantly surprised to find the free shipping coupon I needed – and it worked!

Many people have shared their frustration with me about finding free shipping coupon sites that either 1) the coupon doesn’t ever seem to work, or 2) the site requires a membership fee before you’ll get any coupon codes.

What I learned is this:  do your research, don’t give up, and don’t pay anything for a membership.  There are plenty of coupon and free shipping sites to explore; you don’t need to fork over your hard earned money to find them.  After all, you started this to save money, not spend more.

A few sites I’ve found have been very useful.  Here they are:

RetailMeNot.com is the site in which I found a coupon for free shipping this weekend, plugged in the promotion code, and the shipping was in fact free.  In other words, it worked!  Was I right to worry and be suspicious?  Sure.  Never assume a coupon for free shipping or any other promotion is guaranteed to work.  Double check your final order page before hitting the ‘finalize sale’ button.

FreeShipping.org (*see note below) is another very friendly site.  You can browse a particular store for free shipping as well as other offers and promotions.  I haven’t tried this in an order yet, but will be sure to come back and look around when I’m ready to shop again.

*BEWARE!  You’ll notice this site is “.org NOT.com.  Don’t get them confused.  FreeShipping.com is a paid membership, what they refer to in their sales page as an “Insiders-Club” for discounts, reportedly unavailable to the rest of the shopping world.  Do some deep research before you sign up and pay the price to this or any coupon “insiders-club.”

I just thought you’d be interested to know about a few easy-to-use coupon shopping sites.  It’s always a pleasant surprise when you get to the check out online and the shipping really IS free, or the discount has been given.

Don’t assume your online discounts and coupons will always work, but don’t give up looking for them.  Even though I had a positive result during my little online shopping experience, I will always remain vigilant when I shop on an internet store, or anywhere for that matter.

Thank you for reading and I hope the next time you shop online you’ll find some really great deals, too.  Have a wonderful and frugal week!

online coupon codes Kindlep.s.  Want more information on how to save online with coupon codes?  Click on the graphic or link to see how you can learn tips and tricks to save money shopping the internet.

Start Planning Now For Your Family Vacation This Summer – Frugal Challenge

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

calender webHere it is May already!  School will be out shortly and then summer is upon us.

Like most families with kids in school, summer is the time when everyone can get away together and have a little fun.

Like most big “purchases”, the more effort you put into preparing for the purchase the better price you’ll get and the better choices you’ll make.  Last minute purchases are almost always disastrous to a budget.  Consider your family vacation something you “purchase” this summer and you’ll see why planning ahead is a wise move.

Last summer I wrote a post about Sticking To Your Vacation Budget.  You can click on to read the suggestions I made, then come back and we’ll talk about what needs to be done even before you have a budget to stick to.

This is a short outline of the basics you need to cover before you reach that final day of school.  It’s a very limited outline, but may get you planning at the very least to agree on a vacation with your family.

1) Review your last several summer vacations. Be honest here – how have your plans worked out in the past?  Were there sticky situations that you need to avoid?  Ask each family member to give you some high points and low points so you can see what you would like to repeat, or where you need to improve.

2) Review your income. Again, be honest here.  How much CAN you spend realistically on a summer vacation?  A trip to Italy may be a dream, but is that something your family can save enough money for?  Can you spend $100 a day? $50 a day? $20 a day?

3) Review your savings commitment. How much money can you realistically have saved by the time you take a vacation this summer?  Starting today, can you put $20 away each day?  $5 each day?  How much money do you currently have saved?  Who’s contributing to this savings and how much?

4)  Review the time you have available. How much time can you spend away from work?  Are there any other commitments you have for the summer?  Are there lessons or sports that the kids need to be involved in?

Now, you have a rough outline.  Get out your calendar and mark the available days for each family member.  When those days coincide, you have an idea of the time you have available to spend together.

By reviewing these basic items, you’ll be well on your way to making some decisions about vacation time with the family.

Today’s challenge is to take a few moments to write out your step-by-step review and begin the planning process.  Knowing what you have to work with (money, time, and preferences) will get your vacation off on the right foot.

Plan Adventures In State And National Parks – Frugal Challenge

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Oh dear.  I’m a little behind on this one!  Missing opportunities to take advantage of free admission to our state and national parks does not sit well with me.

state park Cape Disappointment WAMany state and national parks offer free admission days, as well as free programs throughout the year.

Most notably, there are a variety of events scheduled around Earth Day, which was observed on April 22nd this year.  However, it’s not too late to start planning your fun, frugal family outing for the next free admission days in your state or national park.

national park Glacier MontanaMy challenge for you today is to make a list of all the frugal fun adventures offered by state and national parks in your region.  I’ve found, unfortunately, that if I don’t write down a list of  adventure goals, I’ll miss important dates, as I just did.

The following are a few links to get you going. This is by no means an all inclusive reference for websites that will give you the information you need. You can always start by simply searching by “your state park” and, of course, the US National Park Service.

I hope you’ll find at least a couple destinations to take in the splendor of our state and national park systems.

National Park Service – Find A Park By State

National Park Service

Wikipedia – National Parks By State

State Park Directory – Tourist Information Directory

LLBean Park Search

p.s.  If you’re still looking for ways to find the best state and national parks available, check out these two books for ideas and contact information so you can start planning your frugal adventures.

parks state amazonparks national amazonJust click on the images to take a peak at what these books have to offer.

Plant An Herb Garden And Save Money – Frugal Challenge

Monday, April 19th, 2010

basilEven though planting a garden isn’t always the most frugal adventure you can have, I am a firm believer in planting as many herbs as you can possibly grow.  The reason?  Herbs for cooking are very, very expensive no matter where you live.

Whether you buy dried herbs or fresh, you’ll notice the price can really add up.  And, if you like to cook like I do, those herbs can take a big bite out of the grocery budget.

What happens to me, is that I sometimes eliminate the herbs in a recipe just to cut costs.  That’s not much fun and also changes the results of whatever dish I’m making.  For instance, the thought of eliminating oregano from something like Eggplant Parmesan just seems like a culinary crime.  But, fresh oregano was $2 in my grocery store for a few little sprigs.

So, this is what I’m suggesting.  Plant yourself a little herb garden.  It doesn’t have to be big or expensive.  If you don’t have a large garden space, or your weather is a bit iffy for the herbs you’d like to grow, consider an inside garden.  Many herbs don’t need a lot of room.  In fact, you can usually grow a little selection of herbs right on a windowsill.

Herb Garden AmazonI’ve also found some pretty sophisticated multi-pot herb gardens.  Take a minute to look at this clever design by clicking on this image:

In just a little space (even hanging it) you have herbs to use to your heart’s content.  And, just consider the wonderful aroma that will be wafting from this pretty array of plants!

Having even a few of the basic herbs you like readily available to you can make a big difference in your cooking.

Take a few minutes this week and get yourself a little herb garden planted.  Gardening, even a little bit, is a fun hobby which yields tasty results.  Get your youngsters involved too and you may even enjoy some great family moments together.

Keep Up Your Frugal Efforts By Fighting Fatigue – Frugal Challenge

Monday, April 12th, 2010

clock websize 3

I’ve noticed a pattern recently.

The days I feel that old afternoon fatigue and don’t take a few minutes to rejuvenate, my frugal plans fall apart.

How can fatigue affect frugal living?  For me, when I get tired, have low energy, feel fatigued, I start making short-cuts.  I don’t want to bother keeping track of our budget.  I don’t want to cook.  I avoid my menu plan.  All these little tasks that, when I’m fatigued, seem like huge undertakings.

What happens then?  I don’t pack lunches for work or school, which wastes money when we have to eat out.  Too tired to deal with kids after daycare?  For a price, they can stay in for an extra hour.  Nothing is planned for dinner so I’ll just swing into the drive-thru for tacos or pizza or something.  If I’m too exhausted to do even that, maybe my husband will stop and pick up something for dinner.  Of course, I know what that means.  Lots and lots of snacks and candy!

All these little short-cut items add up in an even bigger way than you may think about at first.  Not only is the money being spent, but the credit card is getting hit for all these last minute short-cuts.  The check book is at home while we’re driving around spending money on things that were not in the budget with a credit card that we shouldn’t be using.

None of this wasteful spending would have happened if I would have heeded my body’s warning signs;  you’re getting fatigued – do something quick!

Instead of fighting that afternoon or end of day fatigue, try a few simple methods to restore your energy:

Close Your Eyes – Sit back with your eyes closed for about 10 or 15 minutes.  That’s not enough time to knock a hole in your scheduled day, but it is enough time to relax and refresh.

Roll Your Eyes – Relax your eyes by rolling them around, up, down, side, side.  Eye doctors often recommend this to their patients who complain of eye stress during long periods of reading or working with figures. When your eyes are stressed, you will feel fatigued.  Moving your eyes around and stretching the muscles in your face around your eyes will relieve this stress.

Walk Around – Another quick rejuvenation trick is just to get up and walk in a new location.  Leave your kitchen, office, or where ever the fatigue first set in.  Walk out and get the mail, pick a flower, or even just walk around the block.  Just a 10 minute walk in the fresh air will revitalize you and you’ll get right back on track with your day.

Eat Protein – How about a little snack?  And, not just any snack.  Eating protein will give your fatigue the heave-ho.  A little leftover chicken, a slice of cheese, a handful of nuts – all good energy boosters.  Good for your energy and your health.

Drink Coffee – Caffeine is a tried-and-true fatigue fighter.  If you can tolerate caffeine in your diet, a cup of coffee is a great way to fight fatigue.  Just one cup when you start to feel that dragged-out feeling is all it takes to get you back on your feet again.  More than one cup is probably more than you need, so don’t over-indulge.  Too much caffeine can wind you up so tight that you come crashing down after the effects wear off, leaving you more fatigued than before.

Now that you see the connection between fatigue and a ruined frugal budget, I hope you’ll put into practice these simple methods to fight off fatigue during your busy day.  You have a successful working budget.  Don’t let fatigue even upset one line of it!  Take care and have an energetic and frugal day!

Shop Around For Best Prices On Prescription Drugs – Frugal Challenge

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Prescription Medicine BottleYou know the saying; “Never assume.”  I was reminded of this by a friend recently who filled a prescription.

My friend Patti over at RemarkableWrinklies.com knows about watching her budget.  She, like many others, pays for her prescription medications out-of-pocket.

When it comes time to fill a prescription, there’s a lot of price checking and negotiating going on.  However, everybody gets lazy, and it can cost you. Here’s a lesson Patti wants to share:

“Watching every penny is important for most household budgets, ours included.  So when it comes to more than a couple pennies, it gets really important.  Prescription drugs can cost a lot of money.

My lesson in filling prescriptions as frugally as possible occurred a little over a month ago.  That lesson is, in so many words “don’t trust what you hear.”  I heard that a certain “members only” pharmacy had the best prices, because, after all, they’re huge.  Which makes sense.  Quantity should equal lower prices.

Rather than check around anywhere else, I made an assumption that the information was correct.  I marched over to the pharmacy mentioned and filled my prescription, assuming that it was less expensive than anywhere else.

A few weeks later, I happened to be in another large store with a pharmacy and got curious.  I asked the pharmacist for the price on that particular medication and he was quite happy to oblige, and presented me with a printout with the price of the medication.  I was surprised to say the least.  The price for the prescription in this particular store was 10% less than the larger competitor’s pharmacy.

After that, I decided to check around other pharmacies in the area and see what I could come up with.  The price difference was staggering!  Anywhere from 10% cheaper to 50% more expensive!  When I had all my figures together, I went back to the pharmacy that was 10% cheaper and had them switch the prescription over to their store.

These are the pharmacies I compared, because they are the ones that are available to me:

  • CVS
  • Publix
  • Sams Club
  • Target
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart

I can’t assume that the same price difference occurs in all areas, so I won’t tell you which pharmacy was the least expensive.  I will say, however, that you should not assume that the biggest will be the cheapest.  Also, every area is different and offers different pharmacies, so you’ll have to do your own checking.

Which is my point.  You have to do your own checking.  Don’t trust someone’s opinion about where you should go for the cheapest prescription medications.  It will take some leg work; many pharmacies won’t give you the information over the phone.  You may need to take your prescription around with you and go to each pharmacy before you decide.  Is it worth the gas money?  Well, one pharmacy is walking distance from my house but the price is 50% higher than the lowest price. Because this is a prescription that I’ll need to fill every month, it’s a significant savings.  Don’t get lazy – it could cost you a lot of hard earned money.”

We all make assumptions.  Like bigger stores offer bigger savings.  That may or may not be true.  However, as Patti found out, it’s not always the case.  All I can do is repeat:  Don’t get lazy – check before you pay out that money you work so hard for.

p.s.  There are also many discount cards available for prescription drugs.  Ask at the pharmacy before you decide to fill your prescription there.  Be honest and tell the pharmacist that you need to check prices before you fill the prescription.  They want to work with you so that you’ll keep coming back.  Click here to learn even more ways you can save money on your prescription medications.