If You Want to Save Money Take Safety Seriously

Safety is Frugal

The other day I read an article about frugality where a young woman told a story in which her tires were bald and unsafe, but she didn’t want to spend the $400 to get them replaced. She seemed to believe that this was the frugal approach, but she couldn’t be more wrong.

Safety violations waste money whether they are at home, at work, or on the road. Every year millions or maybe billions of dollars are wasted cleaning up messes that could have been avoided with some simple safety precautions that were skimped on. Remember the gulf oil spill? If regular maintenance is good for the wallet, then taking safety precautions is mandatory to keeping you finances in good order.

It is not hard to imagine all the ways that skimping and procrastinating on safety measures can bring hardship. It might even cause death or serious injury to you aor someone you care about. Those bald tires might cost you an accident that totals the car. Or they could cause a deadly accident. Taking care that your equipment is in order isn’t just frugal, it is essential to good citizenship.

So don’t stint on tires, checkups, fire protection, or proper gear for your activities, such as helmets for bicycling. Whatever it cost in money or time to stay save is actually a bargain. So take some time to evaluate in the next couple of days. Make a few lists: home, car, work, hobbies, and any other place you spend time. Write down all safety issues and make sure that everything is in order. Check the batteries in things. Check the fire extinguisher. If there are items that aren’t up to snuff—fix them now. And breathe a little easier.

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Get More Flavor for Less Money—Grow These Five Herbs Indoors

Fresh herbs add great flavor to home cooking, but buying them at the market is prohibitive. The herbs come in bunches much larger than usually called for, and only stay good for a few days. But if you have a sunny windowsill you can grow your own herbs for the cost of a pack of seeds. Then you can trim just a few leaves off as needed without hurting the plant. This is clearly the frugal solution.

You will need a bag of rich potting soil, a bag of something called perlite which is added to the soil, and some powdered limestone. You will also need some nice small ceramic pots with saucers, and a few seeds for each herb that you are planning to grow. If you know a seed saver you may be able to get them to give you a few, otherwise you may have to buy a whole pack of seeds for each variety.

Take the potting soil and mix it two to one with the perlite. Add a teaspoon of the limestone to each 5 inch pot and mix well. The pots should be filled to one inch below the rim.Then poke a two hole with your fingers and plant one seed in each hole. Water the pot gently and put in the windowsill. Keep just moist and in a few days you should see your little seedlings popping up through the soil. To get started I recommend you grow these five easy to grow herbs: Oregano, Basil, Thyme, Chives, and Mint. They all like full sun, and to be kept moist but not overwatered.

Try growing these five and see how much money you save and how good they make your food taste. Then perhaps you will branch out and create a whole indoor garden.

Don’t Throw Your Old Clothes Away—Mend Them!

 

We all have them—a little pile of cloths that are still it great shape except for that missing button or stuck zipper. You could go out and get a new one. Or, you could spend five or ten minutes doing a quick repair and save the money for something else. Like everything else, some repairs are easier than others. Sewing on a button is at the extremely easy end of the spectrum. Replacing a zipper is one of the hardest.

The first step is to create a sewing kit. Get a small box, about the size of the old cigar boxes. Gather several colors of plain thread, needles, straight pins and safety pins. Also get small pair of scissors, a thimble, and a very small box for stray buttons. The clear boxes that straight pins come in work well.

Then it is time to sort through and get the things that need repair into a pile, and put them into some sort of container. A basket is nice but a cardboard box will do. Pick out the most important item and decide what it needs. If it is missing a button, do you still have the old button? Get out the sewing kit and find out. You may need to buy a new button. Take the item along if you need a new button, so you can match it to the old ones. Then thread a needle with thread to match the garment and tie a knot at the end. Go through the little holes in the button over and over. When it is on tight, clip the thread and tie another little knot.

If the problem is a straight tear at the seam, turn it inside out and re-sew in matching thread using small stitches along the same place where the seam came out. Don’t make the stitches too big or they will gape when you turn it right side out.

Those two repairs are very simple. But what if the tear isn’t along a seam? You may have to use a patch. This is where some judgment comes in. If the item in question is a pair of comfy jeans, by all means patch away. But if it is a silk business blouse you should realize that you won’t likely be able to use it again for its intended purpose. You may have to replace it. But—don’t throw the old one away just yet. Drop it into yet another container. This last container is the patch and scrap bag.

To do a patch, find a fabric that is about the same weight as the target fabric. Cut a piece that will fit over the tear or hole generously. Fold under the edges of the patch and pin down with the straight pins. Then sew a seam all the way around the very outside edge of the patch.

If the trouble is a misbehaving zipper the whole thing is going to take a bit more thought. I am including a link to show you exactly what to do. But you may be better off paying a seamstress to do it for you. It won’t cost that much and may save you a lot of trouble.

While you are at it you should check out your shoe wardrobe. It is always a good idea to repair your shoes for as long as you can. This is generally a job for a professional. Even if you pay someone you will save hundreds of dollars over time.

So next time you are tempted to blow your clothes budget over a little tear, think again, and bust out the sewing kit instead.

Here are some helpful links:

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2011/09/20/frugal-skills-sewing-can-brighten-up-your-life/ General Sewing Post

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SKGa4St10I Zippers

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrSs_DiJ-ZA Buttons

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CALifgXuP_8 Patches

The Frugal Health Plan—Exercise

 

A Sunset Stroll

The frugal health plan is the one you create yourself, not the one the insurance companies sell, though that will be the topic of a future post. Today’s focus will be exercise, one of the cornerstones of a healthy life, and completely under your control 99% of the time. Even if you are bed-ridden you can likely still wiggle around, and that is better than nothing. But the vast majority of us can do much better than that. Exercise does not have to involve expensive equipment. It does take time, but not THAT much. It can take many forms.

Here are a few of the ways we can fit exercise into our daily lives:

Walking—try parking as far from where you are headed as possible. And if you are going to a big walkable city, take public transportation and walk when you get there. You will be doing yourself a favor when it comes to parking too! Or make walking in your neighborhood a daily ritual. Take a sunset walk. Bring the whole family or a friend for a stroll and a chat.

Dancing—this is great fun and great exercise. Many places have free music in the summer, and even if not, getting into a club is not expensive if you stick to water and dance your buns off. If you want to get fancy take salsa or ballroom lessons, but you can also just go and do whatever the music moves you to. I know one man who dances four nights a week and that is his whole program. A woman I know was newly divorced and miserable. She started to gain weight on the Ben and Jerry’s post breakup program, and that made her even more miserable. Then a friend DRAGGED her out dancing. She LOVED it. Soon she was out every night, lost 20 pounds, and met a new man. When you dance anything can happen.

Working Outside—gardening, raking leaves, digging in the dirt. You have to be careful to vary your movements for a full workout, but it still beats sitting by a mile.

Get in the Water—swimming is an amazing low impact full body workout. Just take a gander at the bodies of the Olympic swimmers to see what swimming can do for you. And if getting in the water isn’t for you, try paddling, sailing, or other boating adventures. Remember to put safety first and you will see a side of the outdoors you can’t see any other way. Near me is a Laguna with a huge nesting ground in the middle, accessible best by kayak. Is there something wonderful in your neck of the woods that you can only get to by boat?

Then again, if none of these ideas work for you there is always the gym. Exercise is one thing a frugalista should not mind investing in. Medical bills are much higher than even a gym membership. Not exercising is a known health risk. People who sit too much have a higher mortality rate than those who move. But there are also positive benefits to exercise besides not dying so soon. Many disorders, including depression respond well to exercise. Studies show that exercise is the best natural antidepressant. It’s good for both body and mind. So put on those sneakers and let’s rock!!

Reduce-Reuse-Recycle: The Art of Repurposing

Today’s post is on the second item in the Holy Grail of sustainability—reusing. For many Americans the default action for fulfilling needs has been “buy it new”. For some, it has been look for it used, which is an improvement. But—it may be unnecessary to buy anything at all. Why not look around at what you already have and repurpose something?

In the home it may be using empty jars for food storage, a rock as a doorstop, or a wheelbarrow as a planter.

In clothing it could be cutting a dress in half and making a skirt, or using a big scarf as a beach cover-up. There are things all around us everyday that could be used for something else if the need arises. All it takes is some ingenuity and a desire to live frugal and green. What have you repurposed? How did you get the idea? Share your stories here!

As inspiration I suggest the following links:

http://www.stampington.com/greencraft/

http://www.amazon.com/Restore-Recycle-Repurpose-Beautiful-Country/dp/1588167690/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346364207&sr=8-1&keywords=recycle+restore

 

She’s Frugal and He Isn’t—How to Handle It

 

Another Money Fight!

Handling money wisely can be hard enough when there is only one person involved. Frugality, though very rewarding, takes work. But, as a single person your own needs and desires are the only concern. This becomes much more complicated when another person with their own viewpoints and needs comes into the mix. It is complicated even if the two of you are as alike as can be. So we can just imagine has difficult it becomes when the two of you have radically different ideas about spending and saving.

Fights about money are very high on the list of things that cause trouble in relationships and marriages. Money fights can even lead to divorce.  And even if there is no fighting, having a real spendthrift as a partner can lower your quality of life, or even leave you in a very difficult financial predicament if they should die before you. So getting this right is serious business.

If you are just starting out in a relationship with someone that you suspect has a wildly different idea about spending you have plenty of options, and no real obligations. Just keep the money separate until you are sure that any problems have been worked out-which may be forever. And don’t let your self be forced to spend more than you are comfortable with for any joint activities.

If you are living with your spendy partner already but are not married, now is the time to separate the money. They might get mad, but this is better than you getting broke. One thing that works is the three-account plan. One account for you, one for your sweetie, and one for the house. You are then able to control your money while still contributing to the household. There are differing views on figuring the household contribution. Some say it should be equal, but the Frugal Goddess prefers to have each contribute a share commensurate with their income.

To figure this out, add both incomes together. Then divide the by smaller of the two incomes by the combined total. This will be the percentage of household expenses paid by the person with the smaller income.

For example: If she makes $2500 a month, and he makes $1500 a month, the total income is $4000. So, divide $1500 by $4000. The result is .375. Now let us imagine that the total household expenses are $2000. He would pay $750 a month, and she would pay $1350. Each would retain control of the rest of their own money.

The household account should cover housing, food, home insurance, and anything else that is shared. Personal phone bills, and individual car expenses if each has their own car would not be included. Each couple has to decide for themselves what should be shared.

If you are thinking of marrying a spendy person when you are frugal, I would recommend a pre-nup that details the extent of your financial involvement before the fact, and, if you are in a community property state will serve as a protection on your future earnings. It may not be romantic, but neither is being poor when you didn’t have to be and it wasn’t your fault.

If you are already married you are in a bit of a predicament. Have you had a heart to heart with your spouse? If so, and no agreement was reached, or agreements have been broken, you may have to take stronger action. It may be good to consult a lawyer and find out if you can protect yourself and remain married. If this is your situation I wish you the best of luck. For the rest of us—romance is much more satisfying when our financial boundaries are not being violated. So take action now to make sure that being in love is not the same as being subject to the whims of another.

Retire in Style Even if You are Broke!

 

The other day I saw a startling and scary statistic. Over 60% of Americans, when asked how much money it would take for them to feel absolutely comfortable at retirement, quote a figure of 4 million dollars. Yet the average amount of actual retirement savings is a mere sixty thousand. This is a huge disconnect. If what you actually have at retirement age is 60K, either you are going to be living on a tiny social security check, or you will not be retiring at all, but rather continuing to work.

This situation is complicated by those that were “forcibly retired” in the crash of 2008. If you are over sixty and lost your job in the crash, and you have not been able to get another job, it would not be stretching the truth to say you are “retired”. This is a frightening and unfair thing, but there it is. So what do you do?

First of all, if your unemployment has run out and you are approaching 62, go get that social security check. It may not be much but it beats the alternative.

Then, whether you retired by choice or by force, try these tips:

  1. If you are going to take up a hobby, consider one that has side benefits, such as vegetable gardening, sewing, computer repair, or carpentry. These are all useful skills that can save you money, but they can also enrich you in other ways
  2. Cook your own meals. Nothing else has such an immediate beneficial effect on your wallet, your health, and your quality of life.
  3. Cut your housing expense by getting a housemate. Studies show that living with another person will help you live longer and healthier than living alone. Even if you are married having a housemate can be helpful in other ways than just cutting your living expenses. And if your home is in danger of being lost, using it to create income could save it.
  4. Having deep friendships is more important to quality of life than money. Stay in close touch and find free or inexpensive activities to enjoy together. Things like picnics and movie night.
  5. If you have a little capital, start a small business. Just make sure it is rock solid. Buying an already successful business and changing nothing may be just the ticket. Things like coffee carts and vending machines are possible choices. The idea is not to take a risk but rather to carry on with a sure thing.
  6. If you are a good salesperson and very social, try a network marketing business. Many of them are require a very minimal starting investment. Just make sure you really love the product. These businesses are all based on word of mouth, and your integrity is important. Also, really succeeding is hard work, but if you have the right personality and the right product you can supplement your fixed income nicely.

Then there are a few techniques that involve the underground economy, so I am not recommending them but merely reporting what others have done to create a better quality of life in retirement. These techniques are barter and creating an all cash business. Remember those useful hobbies mentioned above? Can you trade your skills in these things for things you want and need? Can you sell your skills for cash? If so, that is how you get those small luxuries that are necessary for a rich and happy life. You could advertise with flyers on bulletin boards or by word of mouth through your circle of acquaintances, and get paid cash.  There are retirees that enjoy a much higher standard of living than they would otherwise by using their talents and skills to advantage. Some of them are even having fun.

If you are getting near to retirement and are worried about having enough, look into some or all of these ideas, and above all, enjoy this phase of your life. You worked hard and you deserve an abundant life!

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