Wednesday, May 23, 2012


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” 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


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.


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