Tuesday, August 29, 2006

When Frugal Living is a bad thing...

Everybody likes to save money. We all get excited about bargains.. its the way we are made.

Sometimes though.. being frugal is such terrible economy that it needs to be redefined from a way of saving money.. to an expensive hobby.

Here are a few things that defy true frugality.... many are the epitome of False Economy.

1. Gardening:
Unless you already have all the equipment, supplies, and skills... you WILL lose money by gardening. If you further compound your False Economy and decide to "put up" the fruits of your exhaustive labor by canning (requires a canner, jars, lids and usually extra ingredients).. you'll lose even more. Gardening is a wonderful hobby, but it's a hard sell at Frugal living unless you don't value your time at all. Even without counting your time... it's very easy to spend more in garden prep, seeds, tranplants, fertilizer, insecticide, mulch, and tools than you could possibly recoup in grocery savings. Factor in your time to prepare the soil, plant, tend, harvest and preserve.... and it stops feeling very frugal. Gardening IS however.. a lovely hobby.

2. Displacing water in your toilet tank:
Unless you live alone (in which case your savings will be even less), this can be a very dangerous practice in terms of frugality. That tank is designed to use a certain amount of water to flush... without enough water.. you get clogged pipes, which at the very least will require you to plunge it.. and usually requires a serious bout of cleaning. Worst case... you need a plumber or to buy a "snake". Your time is valuable, cleaning supplies cost something.. doing laundry is expensive (you know somebody will toss some towels down to "soak it up". AND.. the pennies you'll save a month on your water bill doesn't justify the risk and inevitability of clogged drains. For households with grownups only.. you might get away with it.. watch out for this False Economy if you live with children!

3. Most House Renovations:
Most household renovations, with the small exception of some paint jobs.. are true False Economies. If you will be living in your home longer than ten years, and want to redo the kitchen, bathroom, den, add a room etc.. you might recoup your investment. Otherwise.. it's very difficult to recoup any money you spend on a house. That especially means things that don't show.. like replacing wiring, plumbing, garbage disposals, a/c units, gutters, and so forth. Frugal means not wasting your money/time/resources. I do believe that most renovations are very poor investments. Don't fool yourself into thinking you are saving money by replacing those old windows with new efficient windows. You'll spend thousands of dollars for the new windows.. and will save maybe $200 a year. Same goes for new insulation, installing solar panels, or anytime you replace something that doesn't actually NEED to be replaced.

4. Saving stuff:
Whether it's a collection of mayonaise jars, rubber bands, newspapers, or spare parts... You pay for storing it. Most of the time... that junk goes in the garage, or displaces stuff to the garage.. so you can't park vehicles in the garage. In addition to paying for storing it.. your car will use more gas warming up and cooling down if parked outside.. the paint and interior will fade, and you face higher depreciation and risk of damage/loss if you leave it outside. Most stuff people save has negligable value and is easily and inexpensively replaced if needed. Declutter your life, and you'll find yourself a happier person.. and that's priceless.

5. Doing your own taxes.
In general.. if you are single, living in an apartment, don't trade stocks and don't give to charities.. you can do your own taxes and save money. Anybody else is probably better off getting them professionally done, because a professional will find you deductions you'd have never thought of... and you're less likely to be audited if you use a reputable firm too. Our tax savings (from using a professional) more than pays for the somewhat high fees we pay for the service.

6. Discount Clubs/Buying Network Memberships:
Very few people save money.. most spend MORE than they otherwise would. The savings per item is minimal, and the temptation to buy in bulk (waste, storage) is great.. and the temptation to buy stuff you'd never have thought of buying is great too.

7. Multi-level marketing "distributerships"
You won't make or save enough money to justify the time, stress, and aggravation. At least half the people I know who'ved tried these have gone into debt on the road to "get rich quick" multilevel junk. Not to mention alienating people because whatever else mult-level marketing programs do.. they alienate friends and family.

More here and

Monday, August 28, 2006

10 Dumb Things to avoid

10 Dumb Things to Avoid while trying to get out of Debt:

1. Taking out loans to pay off other loans.
That includes refinancing a mortgage or using a Home equity line of credit. Dealing with debt that way is dangerous, and as the huge number of bank incentives to do so SHOULD show us.. doesn't usally work. Two wrongs don't make a right. Your bad habits got you in debt to begin with.. all those poorly thought out decisions.. don't take on new temptation.. you'll end up regretting it.

2. False Economy.
Your time is worth something. Don't spend hours that you could be making money or creating wealth (see below) dealing with frugal things that only save pennies at best. Don't choke on a gnat and swallow a camel. Installing thousands of dollars of weatherproofing/insulation in a house you won't stay ten years in.. that's poor economy... you'll never recoup that money.
I could fill a book with all the ways we practice false economy.. Instead, I challenge you to reconsider every frugal choice honestly to see if it's really saving you anything, or if it's a net loss.

3. Do any remodeling projects.
Seriously.. they always cost more than you think. Painting a room might be ok.. but be prepared for things to go wrong and your couch to need recovering after somebody trips with a paint can.

4. Start a business.
Any business. Just say NO! Most businesses fail after the entrepreneurs pour thousands of hours, thousands of dollars and untold levels of stress into it. Don't do it. Wait til you are debt free before even considering it. Unless you've hit on a model that requires no capital, minimal time, and no space... (and if you have.. let me in on the secret!).. no business startups please!

5. Close any lines of credit.
Pay it off, cut up the card, but leave it open. Open credit will help get you a better score.. a better score translates into a better interest rate, and lower interest rate translates into less money you spend. Don't open new debt.. but you CAN leverage a good credit score into a better interest rate on what you already have.

6. Buy "wholesale" club memberships and use them.
It's very difficult to save enough money using a wholesale club to justify the membership, time, and temptation. Those places are filled with things you don't need but will want the second you see it.. better stick to your neighborhood grocers.

7. Drive more than a little out of your way to fill up at a cheaper gas station.
Do the math. A 30 gallon tank of gas at $2.85 will cost you $85.50. A 30 gallon tank of gas at $2.77 will cost you $83.10.. just $2.40 difference per fill-up. Factor in how much gas you spent getting there, wear and tear on your car, your time..
you can easily find a net loss if you drive more than a few minutes farther.

8. Go shopping unless you absolutely have to.
Groceries.. you need them. Anything else.. you can probably do without, or buy online where it's easier to ditch the stuff in your "Cart". Going to malls or any store just to browse, or without a specific thing in mind is a very bad thing. Consumerism is what got us in debt in the first place (usually), and the best way to avoid temptation is to steer clear of merchandise in the first place.

9. Have a Yard Sale.
You won't make much money.. usually just pennies on the dollar spent, and that's for stuff in good shape.
Instead... itemize your junk, just make a simple list (like.. 3 mens shirts, 4 slacks, 15 womens scarves etc).
Place it in boxes or bags, and take it to your nearest Battered Women and Children's shelter and get a tax receipt.
It's better than Goodwill IMO. They sell the stuff they can't use to Goodwill for $5.00 a bag.
Take the tax receipt and your itemized list.. and deduct up to $500.00 from your taxable income.
The IRS has a splendid chart, but you can approximate it by figuring what your stuff would be priced at a thrift store and claiming that.
By the time you figure your costs, time, and stress.. it's a rare yardsale that's worth the effort. Trust me on this one.. Yard Sales aren't the way out of debt!

10. Spend alot of time "researching" Getting out of Debt/Frugal Living/Personal Finance etc.
Frugality, Personal Finance, Debt consolidation.. you can spend hours researching it.. but what you really need to be doing is putting your own sense of reason in action and DOING something about it. Get organized financially. Keep good records. Declutter your house (mind) of things that oppress you and slow you down. Learn better habits, break old bad habits.
This principle.. is to stay focused and not get too caught up in "the best way". There will always be a latest, greatest way to get out of debt, lose weight, get organized, become wealthy etc.. The only one that will work though.. is the one you start and finish. Don't get sidetracked.. pick something easy and stay with it.. avoiding temptation by not pursuing every "best" idea you come across. Get started DOING something about Debt today.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Make it yourself


Here's a fantastic and free site with lots of make it yourself projects. Everything from kid's crafts to how to make party lanterns to how to sew/cook/garden etc.

I enjoyed the recyling ideas, and will be using several (including the Breyer's Ice cream carton crafts) with my children.

Have fun being frugal!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Frugal Pest Control - Osage better than Orkin?

A few years ago, I came across THIS
website about the fruit of the Osage Orange tree.. the fruit is commonly called Hedgeapples. They are a strange green fruit, and if you leave them around your house.. they will discourage just about all bugs... esp spiders. I've tried them.. they worked for me!

Osage Orange is in season now.. so next time you go for a walk or to the park.. keep your eye out for these free and frugal (not to mention all natural!) pest control treasures!

Surveys for cash!

I've been doing paid surveys for about two years now. The very best survey company is Pinecone research. However.. they don't let you just sign up.. you have to be referred... so... as they are now taking referrals for Men ages 17-24... here is the link! Pinecone pays $5.00 per survey and sends out checks to arrive within a week after each study. I'm not in their favorite target demographics.. but even so.. I get around $50.00 a year, and each survey usually only takes 10-15min.

Males 17-24, Sign up here, one per household!

Some of the other survey companies I've tried have NEVER paid out, and others have so-called "Screening" surveys that seem to be actual surveys and then will say "sorry, you don't qualify", after a fifteen minute survey.
Pinecone isn't one of those.. if you get a survey email.. and you fill it out.. you'll get the $5.00 every time.. and no wasted time. So.. if you are looking for another income stream, consider Pinecone. If you want to do Pinecone, but aren't a male 17-24yo... check in periodically at Phoenix Freebies in their survey forum.. because they'll post any referral codes for Pinecone as soon as they can.

My children have each gotten payouts from Weekly Readers ages 5+ and my daughter has earned about $30.00 last year through Kidzeyes ages 6+.

I'll post more of my "Paid Survey" winners next week.

Practical Thinking about Expenses

It's very easy to fall into the consumerism driven mindset that says we "need" things other than basic survival necessities.

What do we really need in life? Shelter, Water, Food, Warmth, Clothing, Transportation.. and Medical care or RX should be on there too.

Nearly everything else that average American's spend their money are definite non-essentials. Think about it.. Does anybody really NEED a $4.00 cup of coffee, a fastfood meal, or spikey heeled shoes? No.. we don't.

We also don't need boxed snacks and cookies (I've started making two batches of banana or pumpkin bread each week and a batch of cookies instead.. guess what? It's cheaper, they taste better, and they are far better for us... my husband added that homemade goodies are comforting to eat!)

We don't need to go to Movie Theaters or rent videos (Library has lots of videos, or you can trade if you really need video entertainment).

We don't need cable TV. Instead... how about something that money can't buy? Building relationships with family and friends through games, outings and entertaining company at home. Not to mention excercise, throwing balls with young children, or having "time" to make goodies that comfort!

I've started to question every purchase. Here is what I ask myself. Self.. is this purchase worth my husband spending this much time away from home at work? Is this purchase worth not being able to save for vacations, retirement, recovering my couch? Is this purchase worth not having the money saved to pay for orthodontics for five children? How many years past retirement age do I want my husband to NEED to work? Is it worth it? Invariably.. the answer is a resounding NO!

Spending on frivolous things is taking money and opportunity from our future selves. I don't know about you.. but I want to have a bright future, one without debt and with the ability to pay cash for our needs and reasonable wants. So here I am.. pluggin away to reduce our debt load.

We are still in the early days of change.. but already, there is more money free to pay down our loans.

Perhaps the best thing about beginning to affect change.. is the empowering mindset that we have a plan and it's being put in action.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Frugal, Fun and Free

Here are some great sites for cool frugality. It won't cost you a dime to be educated by these folks in the ways of FREEDOM. Becoming and Living Debt Free!

Free the Drones

Frugal for Life

Homeschool - The Frugal Choice

I just posted this on my homeschool blog. I've given a breakdown of savings.. in brief...(read the whole post if you want the detailed version)...

Annual Savings for my three school-aged children, ages 8 (3rd grade), 6 (1st grade) and 4(preK4):

$2142.24 saved by Homeschool V Public School
$9132.00 saved by Homeschool V Private School

In an effort to further reduce costs... I can tell you that we also visit the DR's alot less frequently than most families with "schooled" children, and spend far less on medicine.. Mainly because we aren't exposed to the constant barrage of unwashed hands/sniffly noses and such that keep schools covered in germs.

I've got friends who have Homeschool HighSchoolers.. and although their books tend to be a little pricier.. it still would cost them at least double or triple to send their child to Public school.. and at least 10X to send to private school.

Considering that most Homeschoolers score far and away above the national average on SAT tests.. Homeschool does seem to be an extraordinary value.

Five First Steps to Debt Free

1. Realize that being in debt is a bad thing. It's sort of like the AA 12 step program... admitting you have a problem is the very first step. My husband and I were discussing debt and why we want to get of of it with our 8yo daughter last weekend. I was so impressed with my husband.. he told her.. "Taking on Debt is like stealing from your future self". A profound thought, to be sure. And it's true, also. Getting out of Debt, and living without Debt is the very best step to being free.
Debt is a bad thing.. realize it, accept it, and do something about it.

2. Honestly access your debt. Include such things as... not saving any money for short and long term goals. A lack of savings translates into a debt to YOURSELF. It's bad enough to owe other people money.. but living at the extreme edge or beyond of our income creates a debt to our future self as well. List every creditor, list every major "undone" savings goals... and be honest about it.

3. This probably should have gone first.. but I believe that seeking God's help is a major part of becoming Debt free. It seems obvious from the Bible that God disapproves of debt.. because it puts people into servitude.. and that's a bad thing. Asking God to deliver us from debt and to help us gain personal discipline and good stewardship goals.. it's all part of the process.

4. Honestly access your income and resources.. not forgetting such things as free time, talents, training etc that could translate into more income. In order to become debt free... you need to have income, and you'll need to WORK hard at it. In my case.. I'm a SAHM of five children.. there's not a whole lot of free time to be had. However.. I do have some options, and I'll be getting into exactly what we are doing a little later. This is just the first five things to do.. and it all starts with being honest.. to ourselves and to God about where we really are.

5. Start the process of eliminating expenses. Identify extraneous expense. Eliminate Extraneous Expense. Create both income and debt reduction in one fell swoop. Eliminating expense is a double whammy.. and should be the very first practical step towards becoming debt free. It's the first step to self discipline, the first step to good stewardship, and will provide great satisfaction when you have tangible proof that your efforts are working.

Next.. I'll be posting about specific expenses we're eliminating, additional sources of income we've found, and lots of frugal tips to help with all five "first steps" of the Get Out Of Debt - Be Free life.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Getting Out of Debt - Free or goodfree

It's my dream.. becoming debt free. And now.. I have a way to document all the cool things I learn about on my journey to living free of debt.

It's the "good" life.. living "free".. hence the blog address.

My first post... just a couple links that I've found helpful.

This is my favorite Freebie site. They also have tons of money saving forums to browse through. A must see if you like free samples, or bargains.
Phoenix Freebies

What got me started on my road to Frugal Living...
Frugal Living

And something for every-Mom...
Miserly Moms