Archive for the ‘Frugal Tip’ Category

You Can Eat Organic And Still Be Frugal

Monday, May 7th, 2012

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about how expensive it actually is to eat organic. For starters, let’s point out that most people waste a lot of money on groceries anyway. So any discussion of a grocery budget must begin and end with reigning in excessive purchases. You shouldn’t sacrifice your health so that you don’t feel bad buying ten boxes of popsicles. Most organic foods are more expensive than their conventional counterparts, but sometimes only by nickels and dimes. Remember that phrase “don’t get nickeled and dimed?” It applies here.

Another consideration is that not all foods need to be purchased as organic. Many foods contain extremely low amounts of pesticide residue, to the point where it is a virtually negligible amount. Onions, corn pineapple, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mangos, eggplant, cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms are all examples of fruits, vegetables and legumes that won’t have adverse affects on your health if their inorganic versions are consumed. Figure this into your grocery list.

Something else to consider is where you’re buying your produce. If you buy from Whole Foods or another specialty health store, then yes, the organic foods are going to cost you a pretty penny. But if you’re smart and go to farmer’s markets and buy from local farmers, you can get incredible deals on organic food. Towards the end of the day, many farmer’s markets will feature even better deals. It’s not uncommon to walk out with several bags of produce that you only spent a few bucks on.

Buying locally from farmer’s markets is important for another reason too. The produce will last for longer. Store-bought fruits and vegetables have been aging in transit and could have been sitting on the shelf for days, even weeks. Farmer’s markets produce is fresh and is much less likely to spoil. This means you will waste less and spend less on your groceries for that week.

For these reasons, the perception of organic as an expensive luxury is a myth and an extremely unfortunate one. Eating organic can save you money on groceries in the short run and can save you money on medical bills in the long run. Studies have shown that people who eat organic are healthier overall, which means you can expend to live a longer, more productive life. What could be more frugal than conserving on health and grocery costs?

Home Savings Tips: The Eco-Friendly Edition

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Before you try and reduce monthly expenditures by figuring out how to make the right decision about refinancing your home, you should always make a conscious effort to exhaust all forms of cost-cutting. There could always be an extra $50 or more being wasted every month that you could easily collect if you just went about your finances with slightly more stringency. In this article, we’ll focus on ways to cut energy costs from your home and other eco-friendly ways to save some green. Such measures may save you pennies, or they may save you a fortune. Either way, they’ll save you money.

Convert to compact florescent lamps: When you first buy CFLs you may question the economical intelligence of your decision, as they tend to cost double what you’d pay to get traditional light bulbs. But over time CFLs will save you nearly $40 per socket in terms of electrical costs. Add up all the lights in your home and that’s serious savings.

Buy water bottles: If you’re anything like my family, bottled water is an ostensible staple of grocery shopping. But this huge expense can be eliminated by making the one-time purchase of water bottles – which you and yours can reuse again and again by refilling them with tap water. Help your wallet while you help Mother Nature at the same time by banning bottled water from your home.

Hang-dry if possible: We’ve become so accustomed to the washer and dryer as a pair that we’ve forgotten how we ever managed without the latter. But during the summer months it’s always worth it to opt for hang drying your wet clothes outside, and in the winter you can hang them up indoors to capture much-need humidity in your home. All the while save money on gas and electricity.

Fill your fridge at all times: The work your fridge must put into adjusting its internal temperature from that of the outside means that nearly one-sixth of your electrical bill goes to powering the refrigerator. Reduce this by keeping your fridge packed at all times, as more colder items help re-cool the inside quicker. Avoid a higher grocery bill by using jugs of water, which provide the same results.

Unplug chargers that are not in use: Most electronics have components that prevent them from drawing energy from the socket when turned off. However the simplistic design of device chargers means that there is no such feature, and that even when chargers are not actively charging a device, they continue to use energy. Reduce this by making it a habit of unplugging chargers after charging.

Winterize and summerize: Even the most weather-hardy of us will inevitably use heating and cooling if we have access to it. But whether in the summer or the winter, huge amounts of this readjusted air will never make its way to us if we have unsecured ventilation and poor insulation. Take the time to tape down ducts (hence duct tape) and make sure your windows and doors are sealed and free of cracks. Look into painting your roof white if possible, as it’s a cheap adjustment that can save you countless dollars on cooling in the summer.

Even if a refinance or another form of monthly payment lowering is inevitable, it’s still important to attempt these sorts of cost-reducers. You’ll either lower the amount of debt adjustment you’ll have to commit to, or prevent such maneuvers entirely. No matter what though, you’ll be saving money. In order to get on the path toward financial freedom, you have to embrace any and all ways to get the most from your budget as possible, and not let anything go to waste.

Have a great New Year and stay frugal!

Review the Accuracy of Medical Bills

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

I’ve been fortunate that my last few trips to a doctor were regular check-ups. I have, when I was younger, gone for more serious reasons like a fractured bone or some other “minor” issue (as opposed to something more serious and systemic). One of the big lessons I have from those experiences was that you really need to review your bills, or those Explanation of Benefits (EOB), forms because you never know when you’ll find an error.

One of the trickiest jobs in the world has to be medical billing. Think about how long it takes for you to understand your health insurance coverage, now picture a poor medical biller who has to deal with a dozen different insurance plans every single day. The amount of training and practice that requires must be astounding, even given all the technological help they get. Medical coding errors have to be expected. The biller isn’t doing it intentionally (it’s not like they’re paid based on that), they’re just doing their job.

Let’s say your insurance gets charged for a more expensive procedure (or a more expensive wrong procedure) but you don’t pay anything out of pocket (beyond your deductible). Since it “cost” you nothing, is it worth challenging the bill and telling your insurance about the error? Yes. Most health insurance plans have a cap as to how much they will reimburse, both annually and lifetime, so it’s important that the billing is accurate. If you are billed for a $5,000 procedure when you only had a $500 one, that’s $4500 from your lifetime/annual cap that you can’t use anymore. Those are medical services you may need one day that you will have to pay for out of pocket because of a medical billing error.

So the next time you get one of those EOBs, double check it. It’s in everyone’s best interests to keep medical costs down and force medical billers to be on top of their game.

Young Professionals: Stocks Can Help Create a Nest Egg for Later in Life

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Young professionals entering the workforce have more to worry about than just landing and keeping a job. Often, there are college loans to pay off, as well as car payments, credit card bills and rent or mortgage payments.

On top of that, young professionals planning for, or who already have, children may already have other debts and financial responsibilities. For those with a soft spot for the latest technological gadgets, enjoying nice meals, or traveling, debt can quickly get out of hand. Due to these factors, many people often do not take enough time to consider saving for retirement.

Investing part of your income in stocks is often a necessity to ensure that you have a nest egg for later in life.

How Do I Invest?
You might be thinking that you have no idea how to get involved in the world of trading stocks, and that’s okay. You can get all the stock market help you need from financial advisors that will help you make the right investment choices.

Why Invest Now?
For those recently joining the workforce, investing for a retirement that feels like eons away might not seem to make sense or be necessary, but if you take time to think about it, starting to invest is a smart choice. Investing a little each month now will prevent you from having to invest a lot more 10 or 20 years down the road. Getting a head start could make thousands and possibly millions of dollars of a difference.

Do I Have Enough Money to Invest?
When we think about investing in and trading stocks, we often immediately envision impossibly large amounts of money. For many people just entering their careers, there’s obviously not a large excess of money floating around at the end of each month. Don’t let this make you feel like investing in stocks is inaccessible. Stock shares come in a wide variety of costs, the least expensive of these being penny stocks. While penny stocks are not really a penny per share, they are $5.00 and under. Compared to the hundreds of dollars paid for each share of many well-known companies, $5.00 or less does seem like pennies.

Thinking about your future now and considering your investment options is a big step in right direction to reaching financial stability and wealth. Take advantage of financial professional willing to guide you along a oath toward a comfortable retirement.

Monitor Your Credit Score for Fraud

Friday, January 28th, 2011

With the rise of banking online and a general lackadaisical attitude towards online privacy, identity theft is much easier than it was years ago. Ten years ago, you didn’t have social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. You didn’t know someone’s sister’s name or their mother’s name. Today, you can find out a lot of personal information just by using Google.com.

That’s why it’s now critically important for you to keep on top of your identity and make sure that you aren’t being taken advantage of. One of the common ways to discover that you’ve been the victim of identity theft is to learn that your credit score has plummeted due to fraud. It’s common but that doesn’t mean it’s right. The last thing you want to deal with when you’re buying a house or a car is that you can’t qualify for a loan, or that you have to pay through the nose on the interest rate, because your credit is abysmal.

The first step is to remember to review your credit report at least once every year (you can do it for free at annualcreditreport.com). I like to stagger my reports every four months at each of the credit bureaus – in the spring I go to Experian, in the summer I go to Equifax, and in the fall I go to TransUnion. The reports will be free, though the bureaus will try to sell you all sorts of credit monitoring services.

Next, I would check your credit score as often as reasonably necessary. Reviewing the report is good enough but it’s often good to know your score before you apply for a loan. When you request your own credit score, it’s considered a “soft pull” and does not affect your score. When a bank pulls your credit, it’s a “hard pull” and has a negative impact on your score. (it’s OK to shop around with multiple lenders, all similar inquiries made in the same 30 day period are considered one request for credit score purposes)

So, keep on top of your credit score and your credit report and you won’t have to worry about identity theft.

How to Find Online Coupon Codes

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

One of the best ways to save money on an online purchase is to do a quick search for coupons or coupon codes right before you checkout. Unlike in a store where you’d have to have the coupon with you before you checkout, shopping online means you can abandon your cart for a while to search for a coupon. Fortunately it only takes a few minutes to do some searches to find if there are any active, valid, and available coupon codes for your purchase.

Whenever I do this, my first stop is to RetailMeNot.com. In minutes you can find out whether a coupon code is available for your store, of which they cover 65,000. One of the nice features of RetailMeNot is that visitors can vote as to whether or not a coupon is still valid, so that feedback can be important to know whether or not you should pursue a particular code. The last thing you want is to spend 30 minutes finding another dollar to spend (perhaps for a $10 off $100 code) only to learn the coupon is invalid.

If RetailMeNot comes up empty, do a search with Google. That will yield a treasure trove of coupon sites that might have a valid code you can use. Even if you don’t think a code exists, try looking it up because you never know. Even traditional brick and mortar stores offer coupons, for example Home Depot offers a ton of Home Depot coupons entirely online for free shipping, dollar off, free haul away, etc. I bet you didn’t know they even HAD coupons!

Finally, if you’ve searched half a dozen sites, tried RetailMeNot, and are still not able to find one… it’s possible one doesn’t exist. At this point you need to decide – buy it now or wait for a coupon? If you can wait, it often pays to wait for a sale or some other promotion. If you can’t, it’s time to pull the trigger.

Frugal Tip: You Are What You Eat

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Part of being a frugal-minded person is being able to discern value. Value does not mean you spend the least amount of money possible all the time. It means, in part, that you know when to spend and when spending is not worth it and there is a better alternative.

Food is one of the things that I used to be cheap about and I have learned to become frugal. My family’s nutrition is important to me, and there are times where it seemed easier to grab the processed pre-packaged high calorie/fat things versus really looking at what are frugal alternatives. As my family began to eat healthier, yes we did spend a bit more money of food, but at the same time, we learned how to shop fresh smarter.

Buy in season. Look for sales on produce. Find out what can be frozen (cheese is my favorite thing to freeze!) and what is not (please do not freeze lettuce… just saying). Plan a menu around what is fresh and inexpensive this week. Buying fresh does not need to break the bank – but it may require a little extra effort.

Frugal Tip: Donations Are Good Year Round

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

One of the things I have tried to do in my own life is live a life without clutter. I am not very successful at that, but I do make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of things in my life that have no real meaning to me and simply take up space.

One of the ways I accomplish that is by eliminating many of the things that come into our home before they find their own place to be. After the holidays is one of the biggest times that a lot of unnecessary stuff comes to my house to find a home. So I work to find new homes for the things that I don’t want or need.

If your house looks a little overrun – donate what is useful to some but not useful to you. Your home will be a little easier to manage and someone else can use and treasure what you may not.

Frugal Tip: If You Shop, Shop The Sales – Before and After

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Holiday times are upon us, and many many people take advantage of the pre-holiday sales. But what about the post-holiday ones?

I am not just talking about sales on Christmas merchandise – but on many many things. My supermarket, for example, stocks a number of things during the holidays that they don’t want hanging around afterwards, even though it is not all holiday-themed. So I can find a great price on anything from toys to cookies to stemware, even if they are not “Christmas” exactly.

If there is something you need – think about where it might not be needed anymore, from a store perspective.

Frugal Tip: Ovens Are Warm

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Here is the midwest US, it is cold.  And getting colder, as winter gears up and December rolls on.

As I shudder at my higher heating bills, I also try to create heat where I can find it.  And to me, that means my oven.

NO, I am not using my oven to heat my house.  But when I bake (which I do several times a week as it is), I leave the oven door open after I’m done to let the heat escape into the house.  Actually, I often stand in front of it, because I keep the house on the chilly side.

Do not try and heat your house with your oven or dryer – that doesn’t make sense.  But using a little heat you created anyway…  works for me!

(PS Make sure no children, pets, or silly people get near open appliances.)