Saturday, September 1, 2012

HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON VEGETABLE GARDEN POISONS

The word ‘poison” does not really sound too good when applied to food out of your garden that you and your family are going to consume. In truth, poison is not something you really want to consume and as a practitioner of the gardening arts I avoid using poison like poison. For no matter how hard you may try to wash the poisons off of your vegetables it will be in the back of your mind that you might not be getting rid of all the poison.

I relegate poison to only those times when nothing else is helping. Then I use a mild and also less expensive poison like Sevin. There are many home remedies for treating disease and infestations of insects and they range in effectiveness at curbing diseases and insects from none to working as well or better than main stream garden center poisons. The main items I use to treat disease and control insects are lemon juice and dish soap. I have found that lemon is a repellant to most many insects (including mosquitoes’ b the way). I have also found that dish soap is fairly effective in getting rid of worm type insects and aiding in protecting your plants from bacterial diseases. Both of these remedies are much cheaper than purchasing standard anti-bacterial and insect killing chemicals. In fact, many garden chemical companies offer their own version of soap for organic gardeners and others who are concerned with the well being of their families. Note: I like to purchase lemon scented dish soap so I’m sort of getting a bigger bang for my buck.

Of course the cheapest way of avoiding the expense of high priced poisons is to be proactive in your garden. Many people remember that as children one of their first gardening experiences was being placed in charge of picking tomato worms off of the tomato plants. Certainly hand picking insects off of your plants is the cheapest way of pest control. Cutting infected fruits, leaves and, branches from your crops should always be done to help curb the spread of bacterial diseases. Again, this is the cheapest form of disease control.

Now when it comes to controlling weeds in my vegetable garden I never use any chemicals at all. I pull out weeds and if I can’t pull them out I use a hoe to chop them out. Depending on how often it rains, you many have to pull and/or hoe weeds every week or two. Using muscle instead of poison will always be the most inexpensive way to control weeds.

Overall, you can cut back or curtail altogether the use of chemicals on you vegetable garden. This might improve not only your financial situation but it could in the long run improve on your health  costs. Either way, there are ways to garden and save a fortune.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

PICK A COIN AND SAVE A FORTUNE

The thing about saving money is you have to make it something that is fun. It’s not just the kids that need to have fun saving money but you personally need to have fun which means you have to get a kick out of what you have done. Saving money is all about finding personal satisfaction in what you have accomplished.

An easy way to have fun while saving money is just to pick a common coin that you get in change; a penny, nickel, dime or, quarter in the U.S. and every time you get home from work or a store you sort that coin out of your change and you save it. You can save that coin in a bottle, can or, piggy bank. The important thing is that you establish a habit for yourself to save that coin.

Of course before you start saving you should set some goals or reasons why you are saving a particular coin out of your change. Otherwise without goals you will be tempted to raid your piggy bank of coins whenever you go to the store. This will destroy the discipline of saving money and in the end, you will end up with a bunch of stuff you bought not because you needed to but such stuff but, because you could buy such stuff and it made you feel good to spend the money.

So the coin(s) you save should be designated for a particular purchase. It could be for Christmas or Hanukah gifts or it could be for an appliance or maybe a trip. The thing is whatever you designate the saving of a particular coin for, it should be more important to you than just stuffing your change into a piggy bank. Otherwise, your saved coins will be spent on lunch or groceries.

Getting your kids to pick a coin and save might lead to astronomical savings for yourself and teach your children that stuff is not free. Have them save a particular coin to buy a video game they want or to buy the latest very cloths that all the other kids are wearing. Rather than hitting mom and dad up for $10, $20 or, $50 for whatever a kid thinks they need immediately it will force him/her to maybe think ahead of the moment and perhaps evaluate whether or not they really want something.  Letting kids save for what is really important to them will empower them in the long run to be better consumers. Making choices as to how money is spent (a scarce resource for most people) is perhaps the most important life lesson that anyone can learn.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

ALWAYS GET MULTIPLE ESTIMATES BEFORE YOU COMMIT! FOR A PRODUCT OR SERVICE

Even though we intuitively know that it is wrong, for convince we often agree for a product or service with the first person we’ve come into contact with that offers that product or service. We must always keep in the back of our mind that when we purchase products or services (particularly expensive ones) that we live in a competitive society and that there might be someone out there that can provide a product or service cheaper or even of higher quality then the first person we talk to.

It can be quite astounding the differences in prices given by various individuals. Of course some of that occurs because of overhead differences. For instance a drywall contractor who pays most of his employee’s health benefits might have to charge more than one that pays the minimum benefits he is required by law or contract to provide.
Now there is something to be said for using that first person you talk to about providing a service or product if they come either highly recommended by trusted others or you’ve done business with them before. Still, seeking competitive bids from others could help to keep the person you want to handle the service or job stay competitive in his or her prices. Should the person you want to do the job be somewhat higher on their price then others then tell that person the prices quoted by others. Although that person you want may only lower his price a small amount if anything thing at all that seller of a product or service should offer you a plausible explanation as to why the prices are different. If that seller cannot then perhaps you should cross that person off the list of persons you will do business with.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SAVE MONEY WITH YOUR OWN HERB GARDEN

Want a great way to save money and get some really good food.  Do you have a small space and want to get a big bang for your buck? Try a herb garden. Herb gardens are easy to grow and many herbs are perennial in Northern Michigan(will come up next year without replanting). Fresh herbs are especially expensive in stores where a few stalks of oregano, sage, chives etc., can be $2.00 or more. Furthermore, nothing tastes better than fresh herbs. Once you start using your own herbs you will wonder why you spent so much money for so little flavor from dried store bought herbs?

Some favorite Northern perennial plants you can grow in your herb garden are: sage, mint, chives, oregano and catnip. Basil is a popular herb to grow but, it is an annual in Northern Michigan. Dill will sometimes seed down and come up the next year but, I don't count on it.

All of these plants can be purchased in most garden centers (sometimes in produce departments in some supermarkets), and are easy to grow. Just plant in well drained soil and keep them watered enough so they won't dry out. Remember though, keep your basil plants covered when it freezes. Also, remember that oregano spreads by roots and is a prolific seed producer so, you will need to keep it contained from the rest of your garden and yard or, it will cover your entire property.

The herbs talked about in this article require little care other than weeding, watering and trimming in the fall. I like to start my plants with a little peat around the roots when I plant them especially, if the soil tends to dry out and get hard. Once established outdoors however, a good mulching is all the soil care these plants require. Any basic fertilizer will work on these plants but, you should avoid high nitrogen fertilizers since they will burn the leaves of your plants and make your harvest less abundant and succulent. Overall, herbs can be taken care of just like your other plants. The herbs mentioned above do like lots of sun and water so, plant in fairly sunny locations and don't be timid about getting out the hose or watering can.

Herbs are great for container gardening so if you have a sunny patio or window sill, you are ready to start herb gardening. From window sill to sauce or frying pan gives you the freshest herbs you can get for your favorite dishes.

I like to plant my herbs with my other perennial plants like rhubarb and asparagus. That way, with all my perennial plants in the same area, I know which garden to clean off first in the Spring.
Overall, herbs are easy to grow, will save you lots of money and, give you a fresh garden to kitchen flavor in your cooking.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TEACH YOUR KIDS TO SAVE AND YOU WILL SAVE MONEY

“Teach your kids to save and you will save money” is the kind of statement that people of my generation would call a “no brainer”. The less you spend on your kids for fad purchases and impulse buying, the more money you will have to send your kids to a good college so, that you won’t be supplementing the income of a 42 year old that works part time at a drive up window.. There is nothing wrong with any kind of work but, in the real world of rent, car payments and groceries, income counts. It is better (better paying), to have the education to run the store that has the drive up window then to simply be responsible for the window.
Start training the children to save at an early age. When a child is very young, have them make themselves a savings bank. Don’t buy one in the store. Have them make the bank out of, for example, a plastic jar (metal cans might have sharp edges and may rust on the coins and make a mess). For most children you should be the one to cut a slit in the lid of the jar however, the child can decorate the jar either directly with markers or, by using scrap paper or old gift wrap paper. In short, it is best if the child feels ownership in his first savings bank. It also saves the parent the money of buying some lame bank the kid will dump in the back of his/her closet and never put a cent into it.

The main lesson to be leaned by children is that if they want something bad enough then, they must make sacrifices to achieve that item, skill or, to belong to a given group of peers. Life is all about making choices and reaping the rewards and unfortunately, the consequences of those choices. If a child saves $50.00 then, they should first be made to take the $50.00 out of their savings bank before mom or dad kick in any money. If the kid doesn’t have the savings to buy an item they must learn to have the patience to wait, sacrifice, and save for that item.
Over time, the sacrifice and savings ideology may begin to cause your child to automatically make decisions of sacrifice/denial (cost/benefit in business school). The child will no longer come to you for every small purchase because the child will take care of the item themselves out of an analysis of cost/benefit.
Just imagine how much money each family could save if each time little Jimmy or little Suzie wanted a $5.00 item in a store and little Jimmy and little Suzie were confronted with the fact that the cost of the item would come out of their personal savings. If the child was saving that money for something the child thought was important then, the parent could remind the child that by buying the $5.00 item the child would have to earn an additional $5.00 toward the other purchase.

Forcing your kids to make tough choices will save you and, them a fortune. It is a simple “no brainer” that teaching kids to save early in life will save their parents money and will make the kids happier and wealthier individuals. You are not torturing your kids by making them earn money for things they don’t need. Making them earn money for things they need is not always a bad idea either (like fashionable cloths).

We all can remember our parents trying to teach us to save for items that we felt we had to have. Of course there was always something sweet about buying stuff with money you earned and saved. It is a great feeling for kids and it is just as enjoyable for an adult.

This blog is written from common sense experience regarding ideas to help children learn to save.  These are not text book however, they are how many people I know who have money were raised.  I have an eight year old nephew who could have written the blog.  He finds ways of saving money that surprises everyone in the family, including myself.  When a child smiles as she or he fills up their homemade ( piggy)  bank then, something good has happened.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

MAKE A LIST OF “I CAN DO PROJECTS” AND SAVE A FORTUNE

When you have a few moments to think about ways to save money try to make up an “I can do” list. Just think of all the tasks that you currently pay someone else to do that maybe you or someone in your family can accomplish and thus, save some money. Just make sure that these tasks are things that you really could do with some education if needed versus things you really should not do because you just don’t have the background and you don’t have the time or perhaps finances to learn a particular skill like electrical work or plumbing.

To put it bluntly, if you don’t know how to do something then it might be dangerous and even more costly to do something yourself. I’ll use my own experience at doing my own plumbing as an example. Yes, now I am able to do much of my own plumbing repair. However, because when I tried to do my first rudimentary plumbing on my own I ended up buying way too many parts that I did not need and could not return. I guess I was just trying to be like my dad who was an engineer and did all of his own plumbing and electrical work. My background was business and finance and all I knew when I started my first plumbing task is that water was supposed to run downhill following the laws of gravity. Boy was I wrong. Water leaks out wherever it can because pressure beats out gravity every time.

Now, I am not trying to discourage people from doing any plumbing tasks themselves or any other repair jobs themselves. Just make sure you either know what you are doing before you start or get a friend or relative who can help you learn how to do the repair. In short, if it is the first time you are doing something then get someone knowledgeable to help you with your task or at least inspect your work once you are done.

Yard care like mowing and fertilizing your lawn are two things that you might be able to do yourself without too much difficulty. Certainly planting trees and shrubs and even grass is not too far beyond what anyone can do with just a few trips to the internet or maybe a conversation with your nearest garden center manager.

Household work can often be done to save money. With all the modern conveniences things like dusting, cleaning carpets, bathrooms and, kitchens can easily be done by someone in the household. Most people can do all of their own housework because even if you have a busy work schedule how long does it take to do a batch of laundry or wipe down the banisters on the stairway? Most tasks like laundry you can do while doing some other task like wiping down the stairway banisters or cooking. Employers call this multi-tasking.

Cooking for yourself and your family will really save you a fortune. With all the terrible stuff that is reported to be put into prepared foods and certain restaurants foods now days I am not sure why everyone does not want to cook for themselves. You can make your own foods more nutritious, more delicious and save a fortune at the same time.

Of course there are many other tasks that you hire out that maybe you can do yourself or at least pay your kids to do. I am a firm believer that paying your kids to do something is a savings because you can make them do work for the family at the same time you can make them happy to get some extra money to buy a CD or video game which otherwise they would want you to buy them anyway. Making kids work for what they want is one of the greatest life lessons a parent can give. It’s like the mother bear teaching her cubs to pick berries.

Monday, April 2, 2012

LOOK OVER YOUR INCOME TAXES AND SAVE A FORTURNE

I have always made out my own taxes ever since I was a high school student  and my Economics teacher showed my class how to fill out tax forms. In college I was a business major and I went on to MBA School. I of course had several classes in accounting, finance and, economics. I was a member of Sigma Iota Epsilon which is a business fraternity for exceptional business students. I also had additional professional training in real estate, insurance and, estate planning. I have also managed and owned several businesses over the years. I have also been a stock investor/trader for more than twenty years and an investor in collectables for more than 40 years. Still, every time I read through the IRS tax code books and booklets I learn new ways of saving and even making money from the tax code.

The only problem with the tax code is that it changes every single year. Therefore, planning on getting a tax credit or deduction from one year to the next is problematic since our elections are on a two year cycle and each new congress makes changes to the tax code. There is also a lag between a law being enacted and the same law being implemented. That is why you need to have a very competent tax professional to prepare your taxes and having a professional to rely on is absolutely imperative if you want to get all the deductions and tax credits.

The very rich who are very smart, have armies of accountants and attorneys making sure that they pay little if any taxes. Most people do not have the resources to hire people to examine their taxes for a zero tax or even a positive cash flow from the IRS. That’s why you should review your own taxes even if you have someone else make it out.

A cursory examination of your tax forms might find some mistakes your tax preparer might make but, if you take the time to read through the IRS books and booklets you might find even more ways to keep your tax bill low or even getting money back from the government in excess of what you paid in over the past year. Even if your tax preparer does a perfect job of filling out your taxes perhaps there might be some odd things you could use to decrease your tax burden.

I recommend that everyone read through all tax books and booklets that cover deductions and tax credits. Even if you don’t find any money in your examination of these tax books and booklets you might get some ideas on how to spend money in the next year that might save you a or make you some money.

Now if you have questions about your taxes you can ask either your tax preparer or contact the IRS. I have always found that individual IRS agents to be very informative and helpful.

Overall, you can possibly find some ways to save or make money by reviewing your tax forms both forms that are state and federal. Deductions and credits for home interest, medical costs, heating fuel costs, heating incentives (woodstoves, solar, wind etc.,) and various financial losses can help make your personal tax burden decrease. Financial losses might just be paper losses like those from limited partnerships or real estate and other depreciations. After reading through the IRS literature if you have questions don’t be afraid to ask the IRS. There may also be state and local deductions you might find when paying your local taxes.  Currently, Michigan allows many elderly and low income  individuals to receive up to 60% back on their homestead property taxes.

You might want to review the taxes you paid in previous years to see if you might get some money back. You have the right to file an amendment to your taxes over the past few years in order to get back money that the government owes to you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

SPRING TIME IS THE BEST TIME TO CAN

Here in Northern Michigan we like to go canning in the Spring. Of course this is not the run of the mill canning of fruits, vegetables or meats. Instead, we are going after a much more valued item then can be found almost anywhere. I am of course talking about cans and bottles that have a deposit on them (it is ten cents in Michigan). Spring canning is a tradition in my home state. All you need is a sack and a pair of plastic gloves(these gloves can be reused if washed in sanitized water).

Any grocery store that sell items with a deposit on them is required to take the same exact bottle/can back and give the person bringing said bottles/cans back, ten cents each(this is Michigan law so check the laws in your own state). Of course you can check around to find out which stores take back the most brands so you don't have to travel all over town to take back all the bottles/cans you pick up. I know of one elderly man that waits around in grocery stores and volunteers to take off your hands those bottles/cans that the store you are at will not give you deposit money for because they do not carry the particular brand. This might be a way of easy canning but, it might not be kosher with your grocer. Many grocers will make extra money off cans left behind at bottle machines that are not accepted. Grocers will wait until they have perhaps a few hundred dollars in bottles/cans that their store does not sell and will then take a trip to the competition to make some quick cash.

In the spring, cans and bottles pop up out of the snow banks along roadways, paths, boat landings, parking lots, and parks/recreation areas of all types. It is just like going out and picking up dimes all over the place. Sometimes coins are also lying around in the Spring which you could just consider a bonus. Why be poor when there is so much money laying on the ground.

Canning is not just a Springtime hobby. Many people make a good supplemental income picking up cans year around. I was once told by a serious year around caner that he supplemented his income by $15,000 per year. He and his son went canning every weekend. The money was used for the boys college education.

I know many elderly people who supplement their incomes by canning. Many people don't have the health to work out at a job or run a business when they are elderly. Canning is a job you can do at your own pace and it is not too physically difficult yet, does provide a good deal of overall exercise. An idea, instead of jogging down that trail or path every morning, why not take along a sack and a pair of gloves to pick up cans and bottles. You'll get exercise and make money at the same time.

Personally, every time I go fishing I always search the area around my fishing hole for bottles and cans. Once I found a plastic sack full of bottles and cans lying in the woods near a public boat launch. The sack had been lying there a long time and had been partially covered up with dirt and leaves but, there were enough bottles and cans in the sack to pay for the gas I used on my fishing trip. Since then I make it a goal to find enough cans/bottles to pay for my gas each time I go fishing.

I also enjoy going to all the festival places in Northern Michigan. Of course I don't go to festivals to spend money. I go to festival hot spots after the festival is over so I can make money off the dropped change and those beautiful big dimes called cans.

I hope everyone is as excited about canning as I am. It is great family fun. Make a picnic out of a weekend canning expedition to a park. The trip may pay for itself. Besides, you will get to enjoy the great outdoors with your family and teach good citizenship at the same time. After all, canning is a sport created by our society to help clean up our environment.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

THE REFRIGERATOR IS A TREASURE CHEST

Most people have a good deal of their paycheck each week ending up in their refrigerator, freezer or, pantry. Many people already believe that by shopping sales, using coupons, substituting store brands for name brands etc., they are already doing all that they can to save money on their food bill. But, saving money when you purchase your food is one way to save however, you can still save much more by simply managing your food better once you get it into your house. Just think about the price you pay for food items you have to throw out each week. If you could save $10 each week by better managing your food waste, you could save $520.00 per year. That is at least a small fortune in these hard times. Get use to saving on food waste and over a lifetime you will have saved a modest fortune. Therefore, just by better managing what you have, your refrigerator will become a treasure chest.

The first thing you need to do before you even go to the grocery store is to make a list of items you need. This should entail going through your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry and, wherever else you happen to store food. This way you purchase what you need rather than purchasing items which are not needed. Grocery items, even canned goods, are perishable and are generally dated with either “use by” or “sell by” dates. You should arrange like items so that close dated items are in the front and items with older dates (dates further out into the future) are behind those with close dates. A lot of money is wasted because people don’t pay attention to the dates on their groceries until they find that they have an entire gallon of spoiled milk in the refrigerator. Or, maybe their eggs have a funky smell when they go to make up a batch of cookies. Of course anything that I think might be spoiled I toss out to the garbage. Saving money is great but, getting sick is not worth saving fifty cents on some raunchy mayonnaise.

One way to combat having to throw close dated items out is to of course find ways to use the items quickly. Most meat items you can freeze and thus, prolong their usability for months. Most bake goods can also be frozen for future use. If you have a lot of eggs then perhaps you could make up some baked goods to freeze. You could also boil the eggs and pickle them in vinegar. I’ve often used up extra eggs by making up a large number of pancakes and then freezing them for future microwave breakfasts.

Produce items don’t usually have dates but, they usually will not last more than a few days in the refrigerator or on your counter. There are reasons to keep certain items like potatoes and tomatoes on you counter and not the refrigerator where they will keep longer however, I do have an idea or two on how you can keep potatoes in your refrigerator. I keep tomatoes inside my refrigerator. Inside or outside the refrigerator tomatoes keep for such a short time that I really do not notice much change in texture by keeping them refrigerated. It does add a few days of use if they are refrigerated. Potatoes can be kept in your crisper however; they will wither up over time. They wither because they are becoming dehydrated in the cold just like your house gets dry during cold winter months. You can at least partly replace the moisture in your potatoes or most vegetables by soaking them in water. Cutting off the end (butt) of your lettuce, soaking it in water and placing it back in the refrigerator, will crisp it up nicely.

Almost all fruits can be frozen and/or juiced. Even bananas can be frozen for later use in banana bread. You can even freeze them with the skins on. Just make sure your bananas are really ripe before you freeze them if you want really good banana bread.

Leftover meat, pasta, rice, vegetable, bread and, many desert dishes can be divided up into serving sized storage containers and frozen. You can even make up your own TV dinners. I save my old TV dinner and frozen entrée trays and reuse them this way. I just wrap them up in freezer wrap. The advantage of freezing leftover versus just leaving the dishes in the refrigerator is that many times people do not want to eat the same dish two or more days in a row. By the time they are ready or willing to eat the dish again it has spoiled while sitting in the refrigerator.

One way to save a little on items you throw out is to buy items you don’t use much of in smaller quantities. For example: if you only use a small amount of mayonnaise from a large jar before you have to throw the jar away, buy a bottle that approximates the size you will be using. Buying things in large quantity can save money only if you are not throwing the extra away. If you can only consume twelve eggs before the expiration date comes up then why would you spend extra money to buy three dozen?

Condiments can be a real source of waste in the refrigerator. Older condiments I like to try to use up as perhaps a glaze on some ribs, a ham or, even a roast. Older bottles of fruit juice can also be used to glaze and flavor meats. In order to get ketchup that is stuck in the bottom out, I will add just a little bit of vinegar to the bottle and then swoosh it around until the ketchup can be poured out. The point is when I see something is getting old but it is not yet spoiled, I will try to use it up as soon as possible. Overall, a few extra minutes each day can make an impact on the money you save. To misquote Ben Franklin: A penny saved is better than a penny earned because on the money you save you do not have to pay taxes.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

CHANGE DIET: SAVE MONEY AND MAYBE LOOSE WEIGHT

There are several ways that minor changes in diet can help you cut your calories and also increase your savings. However, no one should make any drastic changes to their diet without consulting their doctor. What is suggested in this blog are just a few ways you can save money on your grocery bill while at the same time cutting back on some general items which might help fight the “battle of the bulge”. These ideas are ones that I and people I know have tried in order to increase savings and decrease spending.

Cutting back on portions and substituting food items are the two main ways of saving money. Starting with breakfast it is easy to see where grocery bills could be brought down. Perhaps instead of eating two eggs, two slices of toast and, two slices of bacon you might try having just one egg, one slice of toast and one slice of bacon. The same goes for your consumption of coffee or other beverage. Perhaps eating dry toast once in a while or poached instead of fried eggs might be a way of cutting back on fat consumption which in turn cuts back on what you spend at the grocery store. Dry toast does not have to plain toast since you can try a bit of cinnamon on it for flavor. If you’re a cereal eater try eating a bowl of oat meal once in a while in the place of a perhaps very sugary and costly cereal.

For a snack break you might try eating some crackers with jelly or jam on them. I have found this to be a good way of curbing the mid-morning desire for a pastry. The crackers I liked to use when I worked out were just plain saltines and the jam was homemade and the fruit came from my garden or my fruit trees. The saltines and jam snacks cost just a fraction of a deep fried jelly or creamed filled doughnut and I would say the calories, at least the ones from fat were much less. Crackers with cheese or crackers with peanut butter might be another way to go if you don’t like jelly.

Taking your lunch to work really will save you at least a small fortune over time. I liked peanut butter and/or jelly but certainly tuna, chicken, ham and other meats and vegetables always made for a nice meal at work. You can also eat much leaner meats and in proper portions by making your own sandwich and taking it to work. Usually, restaurant and deli sandwiches have huge buns stacked with some very fatty meats. You might also try bringing in some fresh veggies or fruit to spice up your lunch. Soup or homemade chili from home might be just the type of lunch that keeps your calories low, your food cost low and, maybe you might just be getting food with a bit more nutrition in it.

I remember for years that my mom would carve up the turkey, chicken or, roast beef from our traditional Sunday dinner and make up sandwiches for my dads lunch. She would freeze the sandwiches so they would keep for at least the next week. My dad would usually get some vegetable or fruit in his lunch which would come out of the garden or off the fruit trees.

Supper is the last meal of the day and can be one where you find a great deal of savings simply by cutting back the portions you eat. My sister and brother-in-law lost a tremendous amount of weight simply by eating foods in portions which are recommended. Every recipe and every frozen food will have suggested serving sizes. Unfortunately, for most of us we ignore the suggested serving sizes and simply eat until our stomachs can hold no more. For myself I know that overeating at supper time was a way of finding comfort from a very stressful day at work. Most of us should go for a walk to get rid of stress rather than overeating.

Well, my sister battled the temptation of overeating at supper time by fixing up dinners in plastic containers which contained foods in their proper proportions. By having foods measured out in their proper proportions it is harder to overeat the main course and then skip out on the very nutritional courses of fruits and vegetables. The main course is usually a meat and with the fantastic prices of meat today it can save a lot of money by not filling up on it and skipping the rest of your meal.

Finally, you have night time snacks to deal with. You can try serving your favorite snack in small bowls, bags or, sacks. Like with supper, serving corn chips, potato chips and other snacks in proportions that are closer to serving and nutritional size might be a way to curb consumption. Curbing consumption curbs costs, calories and all the other nasty things like fats and salts. Also, try substituting popcorn for fatty snacks. Everyone wants butter and salt on their popcorn but, at least if you pop the popcorn the old fashioned way you can curb the intakes of the bad stuff. I’d suggest substituting vegetables from the garden for snacks when you can but, most people want high carbohydrate snacks at night so, popcorn or perhaps cheese and crackers might be cheaper and healthier than any kind of deep fried snack.

Remember, the above a re just suggestions and you should consult your doctor before you make any drastic changes to your diet however, eating healthier while eating foods that are more wallet friendly will save you a fortune over time.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A FEW SEASONAL ENERGY SAVING TIPS

Energy costs are one of the few things in life that you have some control over. There are limits to controlling these costs such as maintaining a level of warmth in your home so you don’t freeze or have to replace some burst pipes. However, just stepping back and looking around the house and seeing where you may save a little money on heat be able to save you at least a modest fortune.

Caulking around windows and doors is an obvious way to save on heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer. Keeping doors shut and shutting them as soon as possible can be a valuable way of saving some hard earned dollars over a hot summer or very cold winter season. Another less costly way of controlling the temperature in your home is to open windows early in the morning to cool your house naturally during those horrible summer months. Not only will this give your air conditioner a break for a few hours but you will also get a little fresh air inside your home.

You can change the thermostat’s temperature settings depending on the time of day. This is another way you can save money without much difficulty. Keeping heat mainly in rooms you live in is another way to save some money. One house I owned had extra bedrooms that I seldom used so during the winter months I would close the heating vents into those rooms. Just make sure there are not pipes in the walls or floors in rooms that you shut the heat off. Otherwise you might be in for some expensive repairs.

Dressing appropriately for the season should help you stash some excess cash. Cool cloths in the summer and layered cloths in other seasons will allow you to personally adjust your body comfort without turning up the thermostat until you feel warm.

Over the past years I and many people I know have gone to rechargeable flashlights and outside lights as a means of saving a little bit of money on lighting. My solar lights are bright enough to light up the front porch for a few hours after the sun goes down. You might try adjusting outside lighting use depending on the moon and the clarity of the sky. When the moon is out and the sky is clear it is just like twilight all night long and I can see almost my entire front yard. The moon is a great natural security light and what I find best about it is that moonlight is free.

Rechargeable flashlights have been around for years. You can even find crank rechargeable flashlights, camp lights and radios in many sporting goods departments. I use a camp light as a night light in my bathroom and I always use crank lights when I get up and around at night. These flashlights do have to be cranked (recharged) often but the savings in battery costs alone more than makes up for the slight inconvenience of using a small amount of muscle energy to charge the flashlight.

Saving energy by using less electricity on lighting can be as easy as opening a window to let sunlight in instead of using artificial light. Even the use of a night light in your bedroom can be eliminated just by leaving your blinds open enough to see around your room. Finally, painting your rooms in lighter colors will make it easier to see at night. It’s all about that old physics thing again which tells us that dark colors are better at absorbing light and lighter colors will reflect light better.

Finally, there are many ways of saving money on energy as the seasons change. The most important thing is to plan for these changing seasons by making a list of things you can do to save some money when either the snow is blowing or the hot summer sun is beating down. All in all if you plan, you can save a fortune.

Monday, January 2, 2012

JANUARY IS A GREAT TIME TO BUY COATS AND JACKETS

January is truly a great month to get a great deal on winter-wear. Most winter clothing like coats, jackets and, boots can be purchased at very deep discounts from the original retail price. It is the time of the year when you can walk into the clothing area of almost any big box retailer and observe a sea of big red signs with the greatest word in the bargain hunters lexicon printed upon them. That word of course is “CLEARANCE”.

Many times you can find winter clearance items at 40%-70% off of the regular retail price. So what does
that mean for the consumer? Well it means that a brand new regularly priced $300 jacket marked down 70% from regular retail can be purchased for around $90 (this of course varies depending on sales tax charges). The savings on such a deal is an astronomical $210. Even if you buy a $300 jacket at 40% off you will still be saving $120. Most retailers run normal sales at just 15%-25% off the listed retail price so the clearance deals are clearly better in most cases.

Now why do retailers run such great clearance deals in January? Well, for one thing the holidays are over and many people are just spent out of money. In order to entice cash strapped and credit card maxed out shoppers to buy, prices need to be dropped substantially. Many retailers finance their businesses on money borrowed from their wholesale suppliers in the form of credit on merchandise. The retailer makes his profits by turning his inventory into cash at a profit and then he can pay off his suppliers and buy more merchandise for the next season without maintaining a debt from the previous one. Turning last seasons merchandise into dollars is a very high priority for many retailers.
At the retail store level the managers are under a great deal of pressure to make sure that their departments are ready to change over from season to season. The competition to be just a little ahead of other area retailers in seasonal changeovers is a real driver in getting that old merchandise marked down and out the door. Retail managers must make sure that they have space for next season’s incoming merchandise. For whether or not the sales floor has room for it, the new seasonal merchandise will be arriving.

There are of course drawbacks to shopping for winter cloths in January. The biggest drawback is that you will be shopping with a limitation on many styles, colors and sizes. There will be limited availability on many items and stores willing generally be unwilling to order you something for a clearance price unless, perhaps for a store with outstanding customer service they might be able to get you the item you want from another store in the same chain and sell it to you at the clearance price. It certainly does not hurt to ask a manager if they would check to see if another store has the item you want.

Besides the limitation on choice you have in winter clearance merchandise you also have a limited time to wear your winter items for that year. However, in states like Michigan where I live winter lasts until about April in most years so you would still have some time to wear your newly purchased winter-ware. Of course, remember that a few weeks prior to the big clearance many are glad to get a $300 jacket as a gift even knowing that someone paid full price or nearly full price for the item.

Overall, shopping seasonal clearance can be a great way to save a lot of money on sometimes very expensive brand new merchandise. In order to shop seasonal clearance you just have to get a mind set that the best time to buy seasonal items is in the middle of or end of a season. So, many of the things you buy will be for next year. However, in the case of winter clothing depending on where you live, you might have several more months to wear your expensive looking low cost clothing. So shop clearance in January and save a fortune.

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