Archive for the ‘Frugality’ Category

I was a vegetarian for two years in college — but like other vegetarians I’ve met the smell of frying bacon pulled me back to the dark side. However, I still find a diet with less of a focus on high-fat meat and more of a focus on beans, veggies, and healthy grains to be very satisfying.

PiggyBank Raid’s contest this month ($20 prize!) seeking frugal, primarily vegetarian recipes has inspired me to pull out some of those fave recipes or even to try some new ones to submit to the site by June 30.

I’ve got a two and a half weeks to cook up a few tasty dishes — focusing on quickness and ease of preparation, frugality, and health all at once — and the ones I submit I’ll also post here as a part of my Cheap Eats series, with price breakdowns.

Already on hand in my pantry are some bags of beans I’ve been considering doing something with this weekend. And I also had been planning to hit the farmers’ market this Saturday, so the timing couldn’t have been better.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been fulfilling my need to come home to goodies in my mailbox with free samples. I’ve also been busy swapping books with other members of Paperback Book Swap.

I can’t say enough good things about how cool this is (and note: despite the name members swap hardcovers and audio books, too).  Signing up is easy to do:

  1. Post all of the books you are willing to swap — you get 3 credits just for listing your first 9 books.
  2. Each book you then request “costs” you 1 credit.
  3. You also recieve credits each time you successfully fill someone else’s request.
  4. Each member pays the shipping and packages the book up (they provide a nice wrapper to print out for use with the address information included) — which is usually only $2.13 media mail.

I’m loving it. I picked up a set of $1 stamps and have some random denominations I use to stamp the packages I’m sending. If the book is under a pound, you don’t even have to go to the post office — you can just leave it for your letter carrier.

Since I purged most of my book collection when I moved to Arkansas from California a year and a half ago, my listings are light but as I’m an avid reader and plan to keep using the swap to both get and receive books. 

These are the kind of reasons I love the internet.

 I am addicted to free samples. 

It started out innocently enough — I’d see a link here or there on personal finance and debt reduction websites, click, and a few weeks later a sample of some new product would arrive in my mailbox. Score!

Now, I refresh the Absurdly Cool Freebie Finder at least 5 times a day to see what’s been added.  The Freebie Finder does all the hard work for me — it filters out most scams and referral pyramids and aggregates freebie offers from the top freebie sites. I don’t think a day has gone by in the last month that I haven’t found a sample that I want to try.  

My faves are laundry products, personal grooming (shampoo, toothpaste, skin care, etc.) and cat food, actually.  I only request samples for things I will actually use. Toiletries go in a bin in the bathroom that I raid for travel or my gym bag — no need to buy new travel sized items! And running a load or two of laundry with “free” detergent can’t be beat.

While the savings to my household budget may not be huge — the pennies add up.

But honestly, I get a big kick out of coming home to sample boxes in my mail. Buying a lot of products (books, movies, gadgets, etc.) used to fulfill that same need — but now I get it met with freebies!

The Savvy Steward also had an interesting link in the Festival of Frugality that explains how to write and send letters with no envelope needed

 Fey, if you are reading this, I know I’ve been a bad pen pal but I am going to try this out with a letter to Ez this week!

Mapgirl’s Fiscal Challenge is the host of the 68th Festival of Frugality and my blog post on Tips for a Great Yard Sale was featured in the carnival!

Some of the other frugal highlights:

Debt Hater is hosting the 67th Festival of Frugality this week.  Check it out for a series of great tips on eating cheaper, smarter shopping, and getting lots of cheap and free items.

yard-sale-sign.jpg

This Saturday, I’m joining in on my dad’s homeowners association’s huge neighborhood yard sale.

I love having yard sales. Once a year, I find that it’s time to take a good luck at the clutter and see what can be sold for someone else’s use. Not that I’m a pack rat, but I’m always amazed at the stuff I buy or are given that I have no longer have a need.

Admittedly, I’m working on not making many of those purchases from now on — there’s still stuff lying around the house that I’d like to sell for a few extra dollars.

Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years that have really made my sales successful:

  • Price and label everything — a pack of removable Avery garage sale labels are more than worth the $1 I just paid for them at Kroger.
  • Be ready to haggle — haggling is not something many Americans are very good at, except yard salers. I always price my items a couple of dollars higher than I expect to get, knowing I’ll likely come down a bit, if asked.
  • Hang up clothes on a line or clothes hanger — clothes sell much better when people can look through them like a department or clothing store.
  • Make clear and concise signs — Simply put “Yard Sale”, the time, a large arrow for the direction, and the street address. Use flourescent or bright poster board and a very thick black Magic Marker. Make sure it’s securely affixed to a pole. I also like to buy a couple of cheap helium balloons and tie them to a tree or pole in my yard. Here are some great examples of what, and what not, to do.
  • Have plenty of change and small bills ready — because of course your first customer is going to buy a 50 cent item and only have a $20 bill.
  • Have a helper — it hasn’t happened to me often, but there are pro shoppers/scammers out there that work to distract or overwhelm you, clammering with prices, until you say yes to a total lowball offer just to get them to leave you alone.
  • Donate everything after the yard sale to the Goodwill or another thrift store –don’t bring what doesn’t sell back home! Or if you do, Freecycle it that weekend.

The Yard Sale Queen also has some great Yard Sale Customers from Hell stories. I hope this weekend I don’t have a story to add to the list!

MSNBC reported a few days ago that the gas spike we have seen in the last few weeks — up 20 cents in some areas — may be short-lived. But with summer coming, they are likely to rise again.

As I was considering my need to begin looking hard at my budget, fuel is an item I don’t give much thought to. Filling my tank today however — which ran me about $34 — I started to consider it more.

I’m fortunate to live literally less than 3 miles from my job and a tank of gas can last me weeks if I don’t drive the hour to Little Rock too often.

But summer *is* coming and as a part of watching our $$, my brother, sister-in-law and I have been considering some vacations we can take camping. There are so many places we want to explore in Arkansas. Camping was also our main vacations as kids. When a family is on a tight budget, you can’t get much cheaper than a few days camping under the stars.

Gasbuddy.com is a resource to help the frugal out there find the cheapest gas prices in their locations across the U.S.

The station I went to today is on the list in my neighborhood — but even cheaper than that is Kroger, by at least 3 cents, using points earned with their loyalty card. I do my primary grocery shopping there and need to add fuel-ups as well to the shopping list.