The #1 thing no one has enough of and we all squander frequently is????

Time.  Once it’s gone you can never get it back.  Yet every day we all waste time on tasks that generate no benefits of any kind and in some cases have costs.  Why do we do this?  Sometimes it’s a way of avoiding doing something we don’t want to do.  Sometimes we do it because we’re acting mindlessly instead of mindfully.  Sometimes we actually fool ourselves into thinking we have a limitless supply of time.  We don’t.

So – what can we do about this time wasting problem?  The down and dirty answer is – stop doing it.  Really.  Just stop.  Instead, before you begin any task – no matter what it is – think about it.  What is the benefit of doing it now?  Is there a benefit to doing it at all?  Is there something else you could do instead that would yield a greater benefit?

Perhaps defining “benefit” might be helpful.  Does it make you feel good?  Does it generate income?  Does it help you or someone else?  Is there a penalty or cost to not doing the task now – or ever?

Libraries are wonderful places – and they’re free!

Use your local library.  Really.  What could be more frugal?  Membership is free.  They have all kinds of stuff that lots of people don’t know about – music CDs, DVDs, magazines, newspapers, phone books for other areas, and of course – books!  Picture books, novels, information books, poetry, art books, cook books, gardening books, self-help and how-to books.  BOOKS of all kinds and for all ages.  Even the small libraries usually have lots of stuff to borrow that makes a visit worthwhile.  Right now, for instance, it’s coming up to thinking about what seeds to start and when, for the summer gardening season.  So – go borrow a book or a video and learn something new.  Don’t forget – it’s free!  Well, as long as you return things on time, that is!

Bargain shopping – frugal budgeting?? Or not.

Although there are lots of after Christmas sales on everywhere you look, buying a bunch of stuff just because it’s there and you might need it – someday – is not being frugal, living frugal, or anything even approaching frugal.  It’s not even being sensible!  What it is, is being loosey goosey with your hard earned moolah – unless of course you really do NEED all those things you and your significant other, or child(ren) just popped into your shopping cart.  More than likely though, those things are just in there because they’re on clearance and the price is too good to pass up.  However, when you find them sitting at the back of the closet 6 months from now, or in whatever the place is in your home (spare room, basement, attic, etc.) where useless items wind up – well, go figure!!  Was it frugal spending?  Or, did you get caught up in the Boxing Week hoopla and blow your budget – again.

Being frugal, i.e. saving money takes effort!

Check your bills and see how much you pay every month for things like banking fees and cell phones.  Then do some comparison shopping on the Internet. It’s work but not hard work. Try to compare apples to apples.  That’s the hard part.  Those companies know we don’t want to pay more than we have to but they change their packages just that little bit to be different from the competition.  You have to know what you NEED, what you are willing to get stuck with, and what you absolutely don’t want – and stick to it!!  Don’t upsell yourself based on “just in case I need that later”.  That’s a big frugal boo-boo!  Just get what you need now.  That’s being frugal. Best of luck, Cheryl

Are you being frugal by making the most of points cards?

Recently I cancelled several credit cards because they either had fees or they offered nothing more than credit. I did a little research and found some no fee credit cards that give me something extra – either points towards items of my choice or travel or lower priced gas. The only catch is that you have to pay the full balance off each month or you pay higher interest rates than some of the fee-based cards. Not paying interest is being frugal anyway, so that’s not a problem for me.

Ho ho ho – No, no, no!

I don’t hate Christmas, but I do dislike the crass commercialization of it as just another retail event.  I’m also not religious, but I do very much appreciate the time off to spend with my family.  So, as a means of both saving money and simplifying life, my family has decided not to participate in the mad rush to the mall to spend, spend, spend.  Instead, we’re going to spend time together doing things we enjoy – like playing the original Monopoly or Scrabble or doing a puzzle or watching a great old movie. 

Will anyone feel cheated?  Nope.  Is there a particular item that someone just has to have?  Nope.  Will we go shopping on Boxing Day with even more bargain hungry shoppers pushing each other out of the way in their quest for ‘the best deal ever’?  Absolutely not.  What we might do though is try out some new recipes for turkey or listen to Christmas carols because we haven’t been listening to them for 2 months in the malls. 

What are you going to be doing this holiday season?  Are you going to shop ’til you drop?  Has anyone else quit the commerical rat race and said ‘thanks, but no thanks’?  I’d love to know.

Bathroom Decorating on a Budget

Just because there aren’t thousands of dollars available for decorating doesn’t mean that a bath can’t be unique, dramatic and thoroughly satisfying. Here are a half dozen frugal ways to spice up any bathroom.

1. Collections of inexpensive mirrors add both light and space to any bathroom. They reflect colors, faces and other decorations and add character and interest. Mirrors are much more effective when grouped together rather than being a scattered mass simply hanging on a wall.

2. Pictures or prints can be massed on a wall. For maximum impact hang them closely together rather than separated. Pictures can be striking if they have a ‘theme’, such as:
The frames or photos have a uniqueness in common – oval shapes, women only, pets
This decorating tactic works best in a powder room, rather than a full bathroom, because of the high moisture.

3. Needlework makes a striking wall accent. For instance, sampler patterns from Colonial America are easily available and a few samplers grouped on a wall create a totally unique bathroom.

4. For color and charm, throw a rug on the floor. In a dull or drab bathroom, a rag rug or oriental carpet will add charm and beauty. Just be certain to use a non-skid pad underneath, especially if anyone will be stepping out of a tub or shower.

5. Collections can spark interest and admiration. Pottery is an unusual accent piece for any bathroom. Or you might consider old bottles, perfume atomizers, shaving mugs or other flea market collectibles.

6. Color is the quickest, cheapest and easiest ways to change any bathroom. Unusual colors on a bathroom wall, like melon, chocolate brown or peach, will add drama. Accents like brightly colored towels in a monochromatic bathroom will provide an outstanding accent. Add living color with plants or freshly cut flowers.

From Two Incomes to Frugal Living

Many families start living a frugal lifestyle because one partner wants to stay at home with the kids. If you are going from a two-income household to one, you may be afraid of what all has to be done to live frugally. Below are several steps you can take to make the transition easier.

1. Start with cutting down your debt. Credit cards have to go. They are way too tempting to have around when you are trying to cut back on spending. Cutting your debt is the easiest way to find extra money in your budget. It will take a while, but is worth it.

2. Look at what is necessary. For example, do you really need to pay a water service for a water softener when they are relatively cheap through a home improvement store? For less than one year’s rental on a softener unit, you can purchase one and cut the rental from your monthly bills.

3. Be frugal in your decisions. You are looking to keep your household running smoothly without having to go to work. Work with your partner to make a list of financial priorities. Make plans for the future.

4. Take on extra work. If you are highly skilled, you will probably be able to find some way to add to the family income while staying at home. Whether it is crafts that you sell locally, babysitting or catering, you can do things that you enjoy and make a little extra money for the budget.

5. Have an emergency fund. When only one person works, if they are injured or have an accident, chances are that nothing will be coming in. If you are a stay at home mom and become ill or hurt, you will need to have someone watch your children. An emergency fund helps cushion your budget from emergencies. You should have at least three months worth of expenses in an emergency fund. That way, when things go wrong, your budget doesn’t suffer.

Low-Cost Frugal Vacations

What makes a perfect family vacation? That depends on your family; what they like to do, where they like to go, the ages of your children, even your parenting style. But most families will agree that a perfect vacation needs to be relaxing and fun with something for everyone. There is a seemingly endless list of resorts in the United States that fit that description. But for many parents, there is one more essential aspect of the perfect family vacation. It needs to be affordable.

One of the most fun and inexpensive vacations is camping. Yes, you could spend a fortune on supplies, but why not plan a survival camping trip? You can find nearly free campsites at most National parks. Fish for your meals or collect berries and other plants.

If you want to really make this an experience, do some research and have everyone pitch in to create your own shelter, make fishing poles and other cooking items. Study books on what plants are edible and go on treks to find tem.

Another idea is to study pioneers or Native Americans and make this an experience of trying to spend a few days as they did. Vacations can be both fun and educational. You could also take day trips to tour historical landmarks. You can peruse brochures and set up your own family tour, rather than joining an organized one. Pack a lunch and picnic on the field where the Battle of Gettysburg was fought or on the banks of the Delaware River.

Once you start looking, you will start to get ideas from every direction. Packed lunches and the cost of gas and you can have a day that will live in your memory and the memories of your kids for years to come. Where will you spend your next vacation?