Showing posts with label frugal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label frugal. Show all posts

Frugal Fire Building For Backyard Fires

How to build a fire for your backyard enjoyment
As I'm catching up reading my RSS feeds on Netvibes, DH is out splitting some Oak for our fire wood pile. A cold front moved through yesterday bringing temps down near sixty, which is a nice temp for a fire. Having a fire pit, chiminea or fireplace is a great, frugal way to enjoy some time with friends, or enjoy time outside when its nice. Anyone can safely have a fire in your backyard if you follow some simple procedures.

1. Location
Select a place for your fire that is safely distant from overhanging trees, at least ten feet away from your home or any other building, and away from electric, cable or telephone lines overhead.

2. Prepare Your Site
If you are building a fire in a fire pit or chiminea, be sure the bed of the container is dry. If you have wet ashes on the bottom they will heat up and steam and make any fire smokey. If you have dry ashes, leave them in the bed to help your fire stabilize and burn more clean.

3. Gather Materials
We always build our fire in layers, and in a Teepee shape. Gather newspaper, dry leaves, dry tinder and sticks, small wood logs and then larger firewood. If you plan to have a fire for four or more hours, you'll need at least a dozen pieces of firewood. If you have fires regularly, you'll want to keep a container of dry leaves, a container of dry sticks, twigs and branches, and a container of small wood splits. Your firewood should be moved out of the elements several days prior to burning so you are sure it is completely dry.

4. Build Your Fire
We always build TeePee shape fires with plenty of air space between the layers and the wood. Air is important to help the flames reach higher for more wood to burn. It's a good way to use up those extra Sunday newspapers as a bed to start your fire, and then scavenge around the yard for some dry leaves, tinder sticks and small branches for a layer that will start easily beneath your larger logs.

5. Feed Your Fire
Your fire will burn best if you leave it alone. Light the paper on the bottom from a few different areas and let it reach up to burn the next layer above it. It will be smoky at first, but within 5 minutes or when the newspaper is burned up, you should have a smoke free fire if your materials were sufficiently dry. If your fire goes out right away, get something stiff like cardboard and "fan" the fire to get the embers to relight. If that doesn't work, get some more dry tinder and just put a couple on a time. Your teepee will collapse as it burns, so you can gently add another log to perpendicular to the layer of logs currently burning. Your criss cross pattern will help the air flow through the fire and keep it burning.

6. When Your Fire Is Over
When its about an hour before you want to end your fire, start winding down on the size of the wood you are adding. We usually wind down our fires by putting on only bark scraps (from splitting wood) on the fire. Bark will be smokey, but burns quickly and gives flames and heat. If you have a nice bed of embers you can easily burn bark. You may even want to strip your firewood  before you burn it so you can save the bark for the end of the fire. If you have a reliable fire pit, you do not need to douse your finished fire with water. Just let it burn out naturally. If you have a screen cover, you should cover it at the end of the evening.

7. Safety
Don't use any combustible fluids like lighter fluid or gasoline to fuel your fire, that is extremely dangerous. Don't play with the fire by poking sticks around too much or letting children play with the fire. Be aware of where your nearest water source is, and have a bucket or container located so you could stop any wayward flames. Do not leave your fire unattended or out of your sight.


How To Spend Less At Your Pet's Vet

My dog's allergy medication was running low so I had to schedule a visit to the veterinarian so they could poke and pinch her a little before they would renew her prescription. I personally hate having to visit the doctor when I'm healthy and well, and I don't like doing it for my pet either. They insisted she needed a visit which would cost about $56 just for the exam, plus more.

Well, I loaded up all her meds we would want a prescription for - her allergy pills, flea and heartguard stuff, and some ointment for occasional ear infections. When we got there, the vet of course wanted to give us an estimate for an oral tooth cleaning, some unneeded shots, a fecal parasite test, a heartworm test and a senior dog blood profile to check her organs. We declined the tooth cleaning and blood profile right off since those would cost hundreds each alone. They came back in the room with a printed estimate of $440 for the visit for a perfectly healthy dog. It really pissed me off. When I asked if any of them were required for her health and well being, or for her prescriptions the answer was no. How about that, they wanted to have us pay hundreds of dollars for tests that would not lead to any diagnosis or health improvement.

They also put the three medications we wanted on the "estimate" and they charged double the price of my online vet pharmacy I use ( I was going to concede and get the ear ointment at the vet since it was only $47, but when I quickly looked it up using my smartphone I discovered it was only $25 at the online pharmacy. The vet also wanted $113 for some pills that I can get online for $56. I told them I wanted paper prescriptions and to please fax them to my online vet pharmacy, since I had the order on hold pending their Rx.

We ended up paying $93 for the visit, which is a far cry from over $400. Here are my tips to save money at the vet:
  1. Just because a vet offers or recommends a service does not mean your dog needs it. You can brush your dogs teeth at home with a soft moistened cloth with baking soda. Ask the doctor if the recommended service is required. If it's not, don't do it.
  2. If you never board your dog, you don't need a lot of those shots. We decline all shots except Rabies.
  3. You don't need to get heartworm or fecal parasite tests. Give your dog Revolution which has heartworm and flea protectants together in one application. You can tell if your dog gets worms by looking at its poo when you clean it up outside. There are over the counter meds to control it if it is a problem.
  4. The older your dog is, the more dangerous it is to do surgery or sedate them for procedures. Consider the risk and reward of the process. Our dog is 13 years old and has fatty deposits under her skin that are more noticeable. They are harmless and certainly not worth sedation and surgery to do a biopsy to find out they are benign.
  5. Get all prescriptions written out and fax them to an outside online vet pharmacy to save money. Your vet will charge double the price of an online pharmacy. Sometimes, your vet will prescribe a simple antiobiotic ointment or pill that you can even get for free from Publix.
  6. Make sure your pet is clean and brushed, with trimmed nails and clean ears and eyes when you bring it to the vet. It will demonstrate that you care properly for your pet and you won't have them offering to bath, trim or clean your dog at their high prices. 
  7. Do not buy any products from your vet, they are all double the price of an online pharmacy. You can get the same products online.
  8. Keep your pet healthy and well, feeding it good food, and doing mini checkups at home (check paws, trim nails or hair, clean ears, eyes, mouth, teeth, brush hair, check for lumps) regularly so you can monitor if an issue is getting better or worse. Get treatment before it becomes an emergency which are very expensive visits.
A healthly pet is a happy pet, and will greet you warmly every time you walk in the house.

Frugal Home Maintenance - Clean Your A/C Coils

We came home from a motorcycle ride on last weekend, and the house felt warm. I checked the air conditioner thermostat and it was 84F! We usually set our thermostat to 79F which is a frugal setting in Florida. We have a lot of appliances, pumps and electronics sucking our electricity everyday, so we try to conserve where we can - which is the air conditioning. But one frugal thing we should have done a long time ago, is to maintain the evaporator coils in the inside A frame air conditioner unit. We never cleaned it after our big remodel last summer and it was a dust fest in here while we installed drywall, painted, sanded and installed carpet and tile throughout most of the house. Consequently, our poor A/C has been working very hard to pull clean air through those caked up coils.

I first noticed last week when we had the thermostat set at 79, and the temp inside was 81. And the unit just seemed to run all the time, but it was not very efficient. I suggested to my husband, we needed to change the filter. But it didn't happen. When we finally did change the filter, it wasn't really that dirty so I knew it was a bigger problem than a dirty filter. So, with the filter removed it was possible to peek into the unit and see the real problem - a layer of iced up frozen dust and grime.

If you have this problem, you can simply clean the evaporator coils yourself and save yourself a couple hundred dollars on an AC service call. If you clean your coils and still have a problem reaching temp, then it is possible you have depleted some freon (if icing coils reappear), and you'll need to call a service guy.

Anyway, it's not hard to clean the coils, we just looked up a couple youtube videos on how to clean AC coils. You probably will only need to clean the underside of the A frame coils where the air is pulled through. The top side of ours was clean. We ran to the home improvement store and purchased a water based cleaning spray that was a foaming cleanser, it stated self rinsing so no water flush would be necessary. It cost $5.48. We also purchased a roll of metal tape to seal up the AC cabinet seams for $7.48.

  1. Turn off AC at thermostat. Gather your safety gear - eye protection, face mask and something to cover your hair from debris (a hat or hanky). You will also need a flashlight, stiff brush, cleansing spray, plastic sheeting and pans to collect debris, metal tape, and a household fan.
  2. Line the area under your A frame unit with plastic, then place pans or wash tubs under to collect the melting ice, water and grime.
  3. If iced up, melt ice using a hair dryer. Do not damage the evaporator fins by chipping away ice, just be patient and melt it.
  4. Using a stiff plastic brush (I used an plastic old dish washing brush with a long handle), dip it in water and brush down the big grime and dust layer toward the drip tray.
  5. When you can see the coils and they are kind of clear of debris, don your safety gear and spray the foaming cleanser all over the coils.on the underside of the A frame. Let it sit for five or more minutes until the foam has mostly dissipated. Then take your stiff brush and clean the remaining dirt from the coils. I also had to use a 2 ft long shish kabob poker to dislodge dirt from the top apex of the inside of the unit.
  6. If you have an air compressor, it will make cleaning and drying the unit easy. We used compressed air to blow out all remaining dirt and used it to help dry the evaporator fins. You must dry your unit completely before starting up again, or you risk icing up.
  7. Dry your AC evaporator coils with a household fan pointed in there to remove all moisture. We have a large window fan we pointed up there for an hour before we started up the unit.
  8. Replace your cabinet panels and tape seams shut with metal AC tape. Replace the air filter.
  9. Turn on your thermostat. Wait several hours for it to reach temp. Ours lowered the temp 1 degree in 30 minutes, but then next degree took an hour. 
  10. After a couple hours of your AC unit running, check the coils by removing your air filter and peek up into the unit to make sure the coils are not iced up. If not, just be patient - its working.
So, it took a good portion of our weekend day; but we feel more empowered and of course will do this simple maintenance job more frequently in the future.

10 Frugal Travel Tips

Deep Fried Cheese Curds
We just got back from our annual travel odessey Up North to visit our families and friends. We drove our rental car over 800 miles in ten days and maximized the trip. Between the family get togethers, concerts, State Fair, racing events and time with grandchildren and friends, it was a whirlwind tour. Of course we tried to do it in the most frugal way possible, so here a few tips I would like to share from our travel experience.

1. In the airport and airplane - we packed some granola bars, beef jerky, Diamond almonds and some candy for snacking on the plane and throughout the trip. We also brought along some Starbucks gift cards so we could enjoy a free coffee drink at the airport. Our home airport has free wi-fi so we could have internet while we waited for our plane.

2. Wi-fi - rather than be without Internet on our trip, I opted to pay Sprint a $1 a day to make my smartphone a wifi hotspot for the ten days of our trip. Our relatives who hosted us don't have internet so it was necessary. I also switched domain name registrars this month from Blogger to Godaddy and the switch happened to occur during our trip so I had to have internet to change nameservers. My site was down for a couple days, but I'm glad to say Google doesn't have control over my domain anymore.

3. Pack your favorite foods from your stockpile - Whenever we visit family we have to do our grocery shopping in different stores with different coupon policies. To avoid the frustration of having to pay full price for coffee or peanut butter, we pack it from our stockpile at home. I like to pack a few of the higher priced items that we know we want like coffee, peanut butter, beef jerky, and unique recipe ingredients.

4. Bring hostess gifts from your stockpile - I like to provide personal care items like razors, cleansing wipes, and cosmetics; gift cards, chocolates and candy as hostess gifts for our hosts where we stay. It's always nice to leave a thank you card too with some cash to show your appreciation.

5. Research your rental car discounts - Since we are state employees we can use the Avis rental car state code and get a great deal on rental cars. We paid $19 a day for a new 2014 Toyota Camry, plus taxes. If you don't have a corporate code from your employer, you can find these codes on by searching the forums for "rental car discounts".

6. Rent the cheapest car  - This has never failed us. We rent the subcompact car and when we get to the rental car counter, undoubtedly there are no subcompact cars available so they upgrade the car at no additional charge. Or if they give you a crappy car like a Kia, just say you can't safely see over the hood and want a different car. This works consistently at smaller airports like the ones Southwest Air flys to.

7. Pack Smart - This means pack light. If you can fit your clothes into a carry on bag, you can avoid airline baggage fees. Or you could just fly Southwest where up to 2 bags fly free. But it still makes sense to pack less and just do laundry once on your vacation. Bring your own detergent too. Plan your wardrobe colors to match so each item can be worn more than once. Borrow heavy sweaters and cold weather jackets from your host if the weather turns cold a couple times.

8. Use Local Coupons - Ask your friends and family to buy advance tickets to events if they are significantly cheaper, like the State Fair. Tell them to watch out for coupons for amusement parks and other activities you might be doing with them. Check the internet to find out the deals before hand and if you direct your friends to the deals they might even join you.

9. Bring or Borrow a Cooler - We always pack a small cooler for our trips Up North. It's nice to have water and soda available in your travels, plus if you have food that needs to refrigerated like party dip, beer or restaurant leftovers you can safely carry it around between events.  Use your hosts icemaker ice if you can, but don't be too cheap to buy a bag of ice if you need it. Stay hydrated.

10. Keep Couponing - Ask your hosts for their coupon inserts if you know they don't use them. If you're in a hotel on a Sunday morning, go through the free newspapers in the lobby to get inserts, or if you're stopping at Starbucks theres probably a newspaper there too with inserts.

It's important to remember that you are on vacation, and to take that splurge if you really want. These trips are to make memories and you don't want to have regrets that you were too frugal to spend some money for a wonderful experience.

Frugal Cooking - Make Meal Leftovers

The other day I was at my hair stylist and the patron next to me was telling her stylist how her boyfriend would not eat leftovers. And I thought to myself, never in my house would that fussiness be allowed. But I overhead the gal say that her boyfriend was from a large family of seven kids, and there never were any leftovers, so they never had them. If there were leftovers, it was because the meal wasn't very good.
At my home, since there are only two of us, we usually make meals that will have leftovers. Just this weekend I prepared a double batch of enchiladas. Some meals taste better the second time they are prepared, like enchiladas, lasagna and spaghetti. I guess the tomato based products are what make the best leftovers. And as long as you pack up your leftovers in a clean manner there will be no food safety issues. Use clean containers, clean utensils, no cross contamination of raw and cooked, and wash your hands first.
Preparing meals with leftovers in mind is a frugal way to save even more, on the already frugal habit of cooking meals at home. When you prepare larger quantities it means you can buy larger quantities of the ingredients saving on the big box. You also can save on preparation time since the leftovers will be easy and quickly reheated in the microwave, or on the stovetop rather than turning on the oven again. It also provides home cooked meals for lunches at work rather than going out to a restaurant to eat, saving $7 to $10 a day. And most leftovers can safely be frozen in individual portions for months so you can have that delicious meal again.

Frugal Indoor Projects For When It Rains and Rains

It rained all night, and more rain is expected all day. Actually rain is expected for a week. No bike riding in this kind of weather. Usually my criteria to ride is a prediction of less than 40% chance of rain. I just need a half hour window of clear skies at exactly the right time, two times a day and I will ride. It's pretty obvious that summer time in Florida it rains, but I'm determined to not let it side track my plans if I can. So I plan on getting wet.
What about you? Are you going to pout and whine about it raining, or being too hot? Shit happens like this in the summer. Everyday actually. It's either hot or rainy. Both are good things, in their own way. So you have to just live with it. This is NORMAL. Get over it.
Do what you would do anyway. If you can't do anything outdoors, guess what - I bet you could do some indoor projects. There are lots of times during the year when we know we need to do a job but put if off saying "It's too nice out, let's do that some rainy afternoon". Well, here's my list -
  • clean the bathrooms - sink, vanity, mirror, toilet, shower, tub.
  • vacuum the carpets, mop the floors, even get out the attachments 
  • wash laundry
  • change the bed sheets
  • polish and dust the furniture, table tops, vents
  • clean and organize my desk - get rid of the piles of old mail and papers
  • paint touch up spots we missed from our remodel, plus other walls needing it
  • toss expired coupons, booklets and flyers. Label and organize the valid ones. 
  • clean up the pantry and toss old food and spices 
  • bake some cookies like chocolate chip
  • have sex with your partner, or by yourself
  • make some salads - like corn salsa, pea salad or broccoli salad
  • go through closets and clean out those clothes you haven't worn in two years
  • organize your spare room whatever you use it for, there is stuff in there that needs to be tossed out or donated.
The point is there are a lot of productive things you can do when the weather is not cooperative. Just make a "Honey Do" list and post it on the refrigerator. And cross things off as they are accomplished.

The Frugal Millionaire Next Door

A lady at work was teasing me the other day because I didn't want to spend eight dollars on a group lunch. She was telling a coworker that I'm "loaded" but can't bring myself to spend any money, ever. This of course is not true, but she is one of the most unfrugal persons I know - frivolous and also generous, but not frugal. Anyway, I am not loaded despite her impression (i'ts not from my frayed shirt sleeves and my scuffed old Rockports), but I hope to be loaded someday by following these simple guidelines to becoming the unassuming rich neighbor someday.
1. Spend less than you make.
This is simple math, doesn't require a college degree so even 4th graders should be able to figure out they can't buy that new $30 video game if they only got $20 in birthday money. Apply this principle throughout your life and money will amass almost by itself. This is non a negotiable factor, in fact if this is the only thing you do, you will do okay. The millionaire next door will decline those invitations to go on an expensive dinner party and suggest instead that everyone have a BBQ at their place or the local park.
2. Maintain what you have - repair rather than replace.
I  have a favorite pair of khaki shorts that has patches all over and the material is so fragile and thin with strangling threads on the seams. They are over fifteen years old and get worn about 200 days a year. They are top quality materials and they just last forever. The older an item is generally the better quality it was when it was manufactured. Stuff made in the 1980s is rock solid. Our best appliances were made in the 80's and its a shame to pass them on. New stuff is cheap and uses cheap components that do not last, its built into the design so you have to replace the item. The millionaire next door likely wears tattered but clean clothing, that may be a little out of style but they don't really care what you think. They're comfortable and practical.
3. Drive your cars until they aren't reliable.
Cars over ten years old are cheap to own. If you get a good quality vehicle (i.e., not Chevrolet) it should last a couple decades with minimal maintenance - brakes, tires, oil changes. We just replaced the brakes on our 15 year old Ford truck for the first time. This truck still has another fifteen years in it. Older vehicles are cheaper to insure and own. The unassuming millionaire next door likely has a couple of old, well maintained vehicles in their driveway or garage.
4. Spend less than 2.5x of your annual salary on a house.
This is where a lot of people have screwed up their chances of ever becoming millionaires on an ordinary middle class income. These days you can't plan on your income increasing throughout your career. When you buy a house you need to just use your income NOW. If you make $40K per year, you should only be looking at houses that cost less than $100K. If you spend more, you will be house poor and all the extra income you should be investing and saving will be used up in housing expenses. Don't concern yourself with the amount bankers will tell you you're approved for, they don't have to live with that expense for the next 15-30 years. The millionaire next door likely has a modest, ordinary home that brings no illusions of grandeur that you might think a millionaire would display.
5. Don't move.
This goes along with the point above, get an affordable home and don't move. Ever - if you can help it. Struggle through those years with the kids growing up and having to share rooms, and in the end you will not have to downsize when the kids all move out (and they will move out...). If you make a good decision on your home purchase, in a friendly, safe location near lots of job opportunities you can stay there your whole life. Moving is expensive and a waste of money paid to all the providers who make it happen. And of course, if you move you need new drapes and furniture. So, a few thousand dollars for a move turns into several times that by the time you are settled in. The millionaire next door likely has lived in their same home for twenty or thirty years and has no plans to move.
6. Invest regularly and don't touch it.
Every small amount adds up. A regular weekly contribution to stocks, IRA's or company 401Ks will slowly amass to a considerable amount over time. People who make this part of their budget early in life may simply be millionaires with some lucky investments in time tested stocks growing over the years. Sure there will be some mistakes and some losses but over time the stock market is a solid investment vehicle. The millionaire next door is the guy who made a middle class income all his life, who lived below their means but invested regularly and didn't cash it in during an emergency - probably since he had an emergency fund too. 
7. Don't divorce.
This goes without saying that the millionaire next door is content in their life enjoying simple pleasures like sitting outside on a beautiful day, the warmth of a fire on a cool night, and the conversation of friends and family, and the companionship of their spouse. All these things are free. Sure money can make things easier, but it is the emotional support and love of a healthy relationship that can ensure that a partnership is permanent. A divorce is a senseless way to waste lots of assets and money. If you're not committed for marriage then don't do it because a divorce is one of the worst things that you could do to screw up your chances of financial success. Having kids as part of that divorce makes it even worse. The millionaire next door has likely been happily married for several decades.
8. If you have kids teach them your frugal ways so they are self sufficient adults.
One of the greatest gifts a parent can bestow on a child is financial savvyness. Starting at a young age children can learn the value of saving, coupons, deals, and investing. As they grow they can see how frugal ways increase the life of items so they don't need replacing, and that taking care of something is important to longevity. Then as they near adulthood and make independent spending decisions they learn the consequences of poor decisions and also how smart their parents really are. Your children will learn to manage money the way you manage money. The millionaire next door does not have any adult children he is providing for, they are self sufficient.
9. Choose quality over quantity.
One important factor that comes into every purchase decision is quality. The better quality item will cost more than the poorer quality item. But it should have a better performance, longer life, less maintenance and ease of use. We cut a lot of fire wood for fires and over the years we have owned a half dozen chain saws. We always got the cheap ones at Home Depot and they only ever lasted a year or two before performance issues became the problem. Our last one we bought was a Stihl and we've had it many years now and it operates like brand new every time we use it. It was three times the cost of a cheaper one, but it is a pleasure to use. We also do a lot of kitchen preparation of salads and meals. A constant dissatisfier is crappy, dull knives. I finally bought a $400 chefs knife for DH and it has transformed meal prep. Now he is always looking for something he can cut up. It is a joy to use. I wish we would have had it years ago. The millionaire next door will have top quality tools, electronics or functional items even though they are expensive. The millionaire next door does not tolerate cheap shit that doesn't work as designed.
10. Ignore the Jones' and all their new stuff.
Be tough and don't give into peer pressure to  buy new stuff when the stuff you have functions as designed. So what if its not all shiny and full of bells and whistles, if yours still functions it is all you need. Once you advance to fancy stuff, it's really hard to go  back to frugal. But then again, because you are frugal you can enjoy the occasional splurge in a high quality item that seems to be frivolous. But the trick is that not all you have is frivolous, only a couple things.
So there is my recipe for success to becoming the millionaire next door. Do you have anything to add?

Frugal Reading

In case you're interested in reading a bit more this year, here are a few great books I've read just this week.
  • Bitter Brew - William Knoedelseder - a great non fiction personal story about the rise and fall of Anheuser Busch.
  • The Painted Drum - Louise Erdrich - fiction story about an indian drum that heals sickness
  • The Black Box - Michael Connelly - fiction, a Harry bosch mystery solving LA crime
  • Presumed Guilty - Jose Baez - non fiction about the Casey Anthony trial as perceived by her lawyer
I love to read and read hundreds of books a year. But the only book I've purchased is an ebook called Moneyball for $0.25 from Amazon (which is a great nonfiction story). All my books are either hardcover or ebooks from the library. I also have gotten over 800 books this past year free from Amazon. This website publishes free ebooks every day, and I usually get one a day. I only pick books with a rating over 4.6 out of 5, and with over 20 reviews. The free ebooks I have read from these selections have all been excellent, including An Unproductive Woman and Butterfly Forest.
Did you know you can lend Amazon books to others as well? Its really simple to do, just select the book in your Kindle account, and send an email with the link to your friend and they get the book for 14 days before it is automatically returned to you.
My point is that reading is a very frugal worthwhile activity. It keeps your mind sharp, and provides entertainment where ever you are. My ebooks can be loaded onto my smartphone so they are with me all the time, or they can be transferred to my Kindle or Ipad if that's what I prefer.
If you haven't hooked up with your local library online, why not do it today?
In Tampa, the local site for the HIllsborough county library is HERE.

Are Motorcycles More Frugal Than Cars?

Since the price of gasoline has been creeping up all summer, I thought I'd evaluate the costs of our motorcycles vs car/truck. Assume all vehicles are paid for and comprehensive insurance coverage is equal for all vehichles. The only variable is gasoline, collision insurance coverage and maintenance which will increase the cost per mile driven, but then again the more miles each vehicle is driven will help decrease the cost per mile.
We have four vehicles and they all have different functions. The fourteen year old truck is used for towing and hauling and toting the dog around. The eight year old car is for commuting and travel. The big motorcycle is for the guy and the little motorcycle for the girl. Mostly the motorcycles are used for shopping, and riding around on weekends, but occasionally for commuting based on the weather. All vehicles are paid for and all four vehicles have full insurance including a high level of uninsured motorist coverage.  Our total cost to own and operate these four vehicles each year is about $4500. But in actuality the $1000 gas costs are paid with coupons and gas cards at Publix, so that doesn't come out of our household budget. The remainder of the cost is mostly insurance. You may wonder why we pay so much for insurance, and I can assure you its not because we are risky drivers. Neither myself or DH has ever been the cause of an accident or collision. It is because we have 100/300 uninsured motorist coverage on all our vehicles. Since over 40% of people in Tampa do not have insurance, we need to buy insurance to protect ourselves from them. Another large percentage also drive without a valid license, so it is risky just to be on the road with all these people. Especially on a motorcycle. Especially when everyone seems to have a cell phone in at least one hand.
Anyway, here is the average cost breakdown calculated from our actual expenses over the last three years. As you can see the big motorcycle costs ($1311) almost as much to operate as the car ($1756). But the car was driven a lot more miles, so the cost per mile is the lowest for the car ($0.21/mile). And if we drove it exclusively and got rid of the motorcycle and its costs, the car would be even a better deal for the household. But, if the little motorcycle was the only vehicle needed, it actually costs very little to have around and use as desired for riding or commuting. The surprising finding here is that the truck is the most expensive vehicle to operate since it is used so little, just a few hundred more miles each year than my bicycle.
annual miles
annual cost
MC ST1300
MC Rebel
Car Camry
Truck Explorer
So, what is more frugal? The motorcycle or the car? The answer will vary for each of you, but if you keep the motorcycle insurance costs down by getting a smaller less risky model it will be more frugal. Your safety is worth something too, and small motorcycles are not as safe or easy to see in traffic. It depends on your route and if you stick to day time riding. But the cost difference is not very much. Personally, I think the risk of riding is too great to justify it with being more frugal. Don't get me wrong, riding a motorcycle is adventurous and fun and satisfies that "defying danger" excitement we all need. But unless you stick with a small motorcycle, it's generally not more frugal than a car, but would be more frugal than a gas guzzling truck.
But the best choice which has more benefits than all the above, is to just ride your bicycle.

Frugal Living: Save money every month with wise spending habits

Generating income may not be a difficult task if tried for, but you will not be able to build up your wealth if you don't have wise spending habits. Frugality is not just a way of life; it is also a state of mind! If you want to save money, you will have to find out those money leaks and adjust as per requirement. It is your mindset which will help you in saving money without becoming too much of a thrifty. You should always remember that it's the recurring expenses that take away a large sum of our income. So, if you could eliminate those recurring expenses to some extent, chances of saving money will become higher.
Recurring bills that you can cut every month
Let's take a look at some of recurring bills which you may be able to cut if you plan in a better way.
Home phones: All of us have a set or two of cell phones and hardly use a home phone. So, a home phone is not have much of a requirement. It may sit at one corner of your house and you have to pay a certain sum every month because of it. You can simply do away with it. It will help you save a certain amount every month.
Cell phones: Though cell phones are a necessity these days, it digs a hole in your pocket every month. As you can't get rid of it, you should take steps to cut the bill. You can check out various pre-paid and post-paid plans with different service providers and chose the one that suits your purpose and doesn't cost you much.
Gym membership: Most of us have enrolled in a gym and pay for it every month. But how many times in a month do you visit the gym? Due to our hectic work schedules, we hardly get time to visit the gym. If you're really concerned about your fitness and want to avoid gym membership fee every month, try jogging every morning. You can run in the parks, beaches or even on the road.
Car washing: It can be understood that oil changes and other car maintenance work may not be your cup of tea but you can wash your car on your own. You will require car soap, sponge or terry cloth rags and a hose pipe in order to wash your car. This can be easily done in the weekend and won't take much of your time.
Subscriptions: You may have subscribed for different newsletters, magazines, clubs, etc. May be you hardly visit that particular club or you hardly get time to read those newsletter or magazines. In such a situation, you can withdraw the subscription so that you don't have to pay money for that. This will, once again, help you save a certain sum of money every month.
Electricity: If you're planning to save money, then control your electricity usage. This does not mean that you will have to live in the dark. As you may have heard earlier, you should turn off the lights and electronics when you're not using it, dial down the water heater to 112 degrees, open the windows instead of using A/C, etc. This will lower your electricity bills and save your money.
If you can follow the above mentioned tips diligently, then you will be able to save quite a lump-sum amount every month.
SB is associated with various online finance related Communities. He has also made notable contributions through various articles written on different subjects related to the debt industry. He has a good knowledge on Personal Finance, frugality, saving etc. You can visit

Ideas for Frugal Family Time

According to a recent CNN Money article, many people have embraced a frugal lifestyle over the past few years, tightening their money belts, as a result of the economic downturn that has affected us all. While frugality certainly entails sacrifice, one benefit of living within ones means is that, instead of spending so much time spending money, we return to the more important things in life—spending quality time with friends and family. If you are relatively new to the frugal life, you may be wondering what fun activities you can do with your children that doesn't involve going on expensive shopping trips or eating out. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1.      Board game night
Although it may sound old-fashioned, most children love the thrill of playing games with parents and siblings. Board games are an incredibly inexpensive way to spend hours together. Even better, most games require building important life skills like strategic thinking, planning, and more. Some challenging classics that are appropriate for all ages include Monopoly, Risk, Scrabble, and Clue.
2.      Picnic in the park
With the rising popularity of tech gadgets among this generation's youth, many children are not exposed to the outdoors as frequently as in years before. Considering that playing outside costs nothing, planning outdoor activities with your family is a great, and inexpensive, way to spend quality time together. Organizing a picnic at a local park, feeding ducks, or playing simple games like Frisbee are some great options with minimal associated costs.
3.      Matinees and college performances
Kids love going to the movies and seeing shows, but think about the last time you went to the cinema. Add up the cost of tickets, food, and parking, and you soon realize that the price is simply not worth the fun. There is, however, an alternative—most local universities put on plays, concerts, most of which are free or very cheap. If your kids are in school, they'll likely get a student discount. Most movie theaters offer large discounts on morning or early afternoon shows, called matinees, that'll give your kids the fun of going to the movies without the cost. Having a filling meal before going to the movies will help you save on movie treats as well.
4.      Cooking and baking
Aside from being an essential life skill that will serve kids well later in life, especially when they first head out to college or are otherwise on their own, cooking and baking make for fun and in expensive family activities. Concerned that cooking will be too complicated for your kids? Check out these kid-friendly recipes, courtesy of
These are just a few ideas for a fun time with the whole family. The most important thing to remember is that spending quality time with your loved ones is usually more meaningful if you take money out of the picture.
This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: blauren99 

The Frugal Way To Watch Football

Did you spend money to watch the football game yesterday? Maybe you went to the game and dropped $20 on parking, and another $11 for a beer, and at least $50 for a ticket in the nose bleed section. Or maybe you went out to a bar with a big screen TV and ordered wings and a pitcher of beer and it set you back $25. Or maybe you were influenced by all those TV commercials and ordered the special satellite football package where you can get ALL the games every weekend. Or maybe you are a Tampa Bay Buccaneer fan and were blacked out from watching your favorite team at home for the 10th time in a row. Like me.
It looks like the Bucs will be blacked out all season, so if you really want to see all those great interceptions, there is a way to see it for FREE. Yup. I did. Watched it on my computer streaming online yesterday. You still get the original broadcast with all the commercials, so you can still get up to refill your chip bowl. Granted the picture is a little grainy when you expand it to full screen, but it is better than nothing. Just go to and click on AM FOOTBALL and select the team you want to watch, there are several so it doesn't matter if you want to watch the Vikings and they don't show that game in your market. You get all the markets online. There are many links you can choose from so if one doesn't come through, click the next one.
This type of viewing is not without its perils. You are watching a European feed and the potential for viruses is definitely there. There are several pop ups, but just click the red X to close them. You shouldn't have to download anything to make it work. It does require Adobe Flash Player so I would go ahead and download that first from a trusted source, like Adobe. And it also requires firefox or chrome browser, not internet explorer, so if you don't have that go ahead and download that before you set out to watch TV online too. I was able to watch it on my desktop with Windows 7, but was having trouble with my laptops with Windows 7 and XP - still troubleshooting those. I would like to get it on my laptop and connect to my HD TV for a better viewing experience.
If you're thinking of setting up your computer, don't delay if you're a Bucs fan - the next game (10/3/11) is at home on Monday Night Football and it wouldn't be cool to miss that one.

Frugal Ways to Beat the Heat

America is being subjected to another heat wave, especially the folks up North. Actually, here in central Florida it was a beautiful, cool morning of 71F and promises to be a great day with virtually no chance of rain. It's a great day to get outside!
Anyway, those of you with the oppressive heat and humidity will probably want to get out early, and then find somewhere cool inside during the afternoon – unless of course you don't have air conditioning. Then you'll want to head out to some cool places besides your un-air conditioned house.
  • The Library is a great choice for a cool indoor location that won't tempt you to spend money. You can surf the internet and read anything you want. Or you could bring your knitting and sit in a corner listening to your ipod, or favorite afternoon drive time radio show.
  • A Museum or historical site is another great choice to spend some time indoors in a cool location. This option may have an admission fee, but you might actually broaden your mind here.
  • The Grocery Store is always cold, especially in the frozen foods and dairy aisle. Just make sure you stick to your list. Plan your shop for the middle of the day when it's the hottest, but be sure you don't get stuck in traffic on the way home or all the ice cream and Popsicles will melt.
  • The community pool or a lake – just make sure there are no gators in that lake. We saw a big one at the State Park river this weekend. If you don't have a pool or a lake, pull out the old sprinkler and a large piece of plastic and just roll around on the ground in the water, It will cool you down just fine.
  • A Shady park – bring a chair and sit in the shade. If there is a breeze this will be like natures air conditioning.
  • A Church – a good old fashioned big church built with lots of block will be a nice cool place to hang out, say a prayer that the heat will end soon, and hope that winter will not be that bad – you're not complaining about the heat.
Remember to drink lots of water. No, more than that even. And don't run your heat generating appliances like dishwashers, dryers and ovens in the daytime. You're A/C can only cool your house about 20F cooler than the outside temp, so if its 100F and your thermostat is set for 65F you're in for a surprise. Wear loose fitting, light fabrics and skip the socks – wear sandals to let your body acclimate and tolerate the heat better.

Frugal Travel to Improve Your Health

Even though gas prices have stabilized, there is still great incentive to ride your bike as a means of commuting. Riding a bicycle is a great, frugal way to travel and also improves your health. Remember, your health is your greatest wealth. Having a bunch of money isn't that much fun if you aren't healthy to enjoy it.

If your destination is less than ten miles from your home, it wouldn't take much effort to bicycle as a regular occurrence. Five miles is only twenty minutes of riding and you don't get sweaty enough to negate the cleanliness of your morning shower. I do recommend you wear different biking clothes for the ride (preferably a high visibility color shirt, and your black spandex biking shorts for comfort) and just change clothes in the rest room or a private room when you get to your destination. It's also important to wear stiff, thick soled shoes like my Keen Commuters (which I absolutely love!!) which you can get for a discount with Shoebacca Coupons. Proper shoes will help avoid foot numbness from the road shock, along with biking gloves.

To make this bicycle commuting a healthy habit, it's important to have good solid equipment. Make sure your bicycle is tuned up and lubed, with fully aired tires. Also a strong rack is necessary so you don't have to wear a back pack with your stuff, which just makes you sweaty. Along with proper clothing, shoes, and equipment you need to wear your helmet. My hair is damp in the morning from my shower so when I get to work, I just comb it and it springs to life and looks great. With all the bike and motorcycle helmets I wear, it helps to have permed hair that bounces back from the helmet.
Its also important to make sure you know the rules of the road - ride with the traffic as far to the right as possible - but not on the sidewalk if you can avoid it. Your bike is considered a motor vehicle so make sure you follow all traffic signals at intersections, and give pedestrians the right of way. Signal with your arms to let drivers know you are turning, and use your bike bell to warn people you are coming along.
You will love the fresh air biking allows you to enjoy, get off your phone and get outside and live life.

My Frugal Day

Being frugal is a lifestyle and it starts everyday you wake up. Here's how I live frugal
  • Make my own coffee at home, use a reusable mug and some of that free creamer from Publix.
  • Take a shower and use the free Scrubbing Bubbles to keep the new shower sparkly clean.
  • Eat some free cereal for breakfast, along with fruit, a glass of milk and a vitamin. 
  • Pack my lunch - a salad we made on the weekend, a free yogurt and a soda. Keeps me away from vending machines.
  • Pack a snack to have mid-morning
  • Ride my bicycle to work to save on gasoline, plus get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors in the morning.
  • On Mondays, say thanks to my coworkers who bring me their coupons from the Sunday paper.
  • Check the coupon blogs, RSS feeds and forums for the deals. Do a couple surveys.
  • Start planning my shopping trip to Publix on Thursday when the sneak peek comes out.
  • After work, do a secret shopper assignment, or run an errand like change the oil in the car.
  • Make dinner from the stockpile, cut or print a few coupons I'll be needing.
  • Read a book, play with the dog, go for a walk. All frugal fun.
If we're lucky, we can go all week without spending any money, except for a few bucks at the grocery store. Of course, thats the ideal. There are always the days you need to get gas for the car, or purchase something needed.
Being frugal doesn't mean you can't do anything. Many of the best and most wonderful things in the world are free. Enjoy them.

Un-Frugal Boobs

Saturday night we went out for a pitcher of beer and chicken wings at our favorite little pub, and our favorite bartender was telling us about her upcoming surgery. Mind you that she is about 36 years old and normal weight with maybe a little muffin top above her jeans. She used to weigh over 300 lbs many years ago, and lost all the weight and has kept it off. As a treat to herself years ago, she bought some boobies. She saved her hard earned tips and has paid $10,000 for a nice pair of C or D cups, and she shows them off in the halter tops, and clothes that I would consider underwear. I would wear the tops she wears under another shirt, certainly not alone for fear of attracting too much unwanted attention. Granted DH would love it if I wore clothes like that, but I don't mind if he looks around at the other girls instead - just so its only looking.

Anyway, she was telling us that she is having surgery this week to get bigger implants. My jaw almost dropped because in my opinion her implants are plenty big already. Then she went on to tell us how this will be her third surgery, and that the first doctor was pretty conservative and only would put in the 320 cc size. Then the next doctor put in 360 cc size, and now she's going to get 390 cc implants. The kicker is she went to the bank to get a loan to get financing for her new boobs. We're not sure of the new price tag yet, but I'm sure we'll hear all about it when she gets back in a couple weeks. The bartending is her second job that she works on Saturday to help with the bills, since she is divorced with 2 young kids.

The funny thing is that DH is excited to see the new boobs. Its like if you get a new car and you want to show your friends. He expects her to practically flash him to show off the new improved implants. Personally, I think its dysfunctional to replace perfectly good boobs with new bigger ones. Granted there may be a leakage problem or something she didn't share with us, that requires more surgery - and maybe she is just getting more boobs while they're in there operating anyway.
I just shake my head, I don't understand it.

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

This is one belief in our household, if it ain't broke - don't fix it. It kind of goes along with "If you don't make a mess, you won't have to clean it up". Consequently, we have some old stuff around our house. Our outdoor TV is 1983 JCPenney color TV, with a remote that only has 5 buttons: on/off, up & down volume, and up down channel arrows. It still works fine and we just can't find a valid reason to get rid of it, and put a new TV outside in the heat and humidity of Florida.
We also have a 1986 Litton microwave, I think its 600 watts. Everything on it works as designed and until we have our kitchen remodel done, we'll continue to use it. Then we'll donate it to one of our job office breakroom since we can always use another microwave at work.
It seems like the newer appliances we've purchased just aren't as good a quality and workmanship as these old relics, and they break or become sufficient within a couple years.
Well, I'm thinking its time to get a new cell phone. Ours is a Samsung A925 we got free from the Sprint contest in the summer of 2006. We signed up for the Sprint SERO plan for 500 minutes, unlimited data, texting and picture mail, plus free nights at 7pm and free weekends. We love the plan and it meets our needs. Come to think of it we love the phone too, since its synced up with my laptop and Nokia 800m so I can surf while driving down the highway. The problem is I have phone envy when I see all that the new smart phones can do. The cameras are sharp, the weather radar is nice and they are fast. So now I want a new phone, but the SERO plan is a thing of the past and I'm afraid that Sprint will try to switch us to a different plan when we get a new phone. The pros on slickdeals SERO forum say its not a problem, but the thought lurks in the back of my mind that it could happen.
The other dilemna is what phone to get? I"m limited by what Sprint is compatible with, but there are lots of choices that are perfectly fine. I've heard LG's have short battery life, but we love our Samsung - never had a problem in 4 years, not even a battery. Plus we have all the plug ins and chargers for Samsung - is that a big enough reason to stick with Samsung? They do have the Instinct which I think I like. I'd of course love to get it free and we have a $150 sprint credit, for plans over $39 but we don't qualify as our SERO plan is only $35 with taxes and fees included.
So, any recommendations?

Tampa Is The Second Most Frugal City in America

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - (Business Wire) A Georgia peach tastes especially sweet when purchased with a coupon, if Atlanta residents have anything to say about it.
The Georgia state capital tops the list of Most Frugal U.S. Cities, according to the 2009 Savings Index1 released today by, the premiere Web destination for coupons and savings. The average user in Atlanta saved over $531 using coupons from the site in 2009. Tampa, Florida follows closely in the number two position.
"The top couponing cities reveal the tremendous savings potential coupons offer nowadays," said Jeanette Pavini, Household Savings Expert. "By spending just minutes each week printing online coupons, anyone can really cut back on their household expenses. I don't need to tell people in Atlanta and Tampa that coupons are essentially found money."
Cities in the Midwest and South account for almost one-half of this year's top couponing locales. Ohio alone is represented three times – Cincinnati (#3), Cleveland (#8) and Columbus (#20) – making it the country's most frugal state. St. Louis (#4), Minneapolis (#5), Kansas City (#10), Indianapolis (#16) and Wichita, Kansas (#19) also add to the Midwest contingent.
The South's strength in couponing is reflected in the fact that more than one-third of the top 20 couponing cities are in the Southern region of the United States. In addition to Atlanta and Tampa, other Southland cities on the list are: Nashville (#6), Charlotte, North Carolina (#7), Raleigh, North Carolina (#11), Oklahoma City (#13), Miami (#14) and Dallas (#18).
Pittsburgh, coming in ninth, is the top-ranking Northeastern city in the Index. That city along with Boston (#12) and Washington, DC (#15) make up the Northeast's only representation.
Just one Western city made this year's top 20 list, according to the Savings Index: Denver, ranking number 17.
"Multiple cities in both Ohio and North Carolina appear on the list," said Pavini. "Shoppers in all parts of the U.S. should look to the Buckeye and Tar Heel states, where consumers are putting money in their pockets every month by using coupons smartly."
Rank     City   State   Savings Index
1.     Atlanta   GA   918
2.     Tampa   FL   522
3.     Cincinnati   OH   511
4.     Saint Louis   MO   468
5.     Minneapolis   MN   351
6.     Nashville   TN   308
7.     Charlotte   NC   306
8.     Cleveland   OH   272
9.     Pittsburgh   PA   254
10.     Kansas City   MO   254
11.     Raleigh   NC   243
12.     Boston   MA   229
13.     Oklahoma City   OK   207
14.     Miami   FL   205
15.     Washington   DC   191
16.     Indianapolis   IN   186
17.     Denver   CO   186
18.     Dallas   TX   186
19.     Wichita   KS   159
20.     Columbus   OH   152
About Incorporated Incorporated is the leader in digital coupons. The company's flagship,, is the premier site on the Web dedicated to coupons and savings. currently has 19.5 million unique monthly visitors, making it the 39th largest Web property in the U.S., according to Nielsen data for October 2009. carries offers from hundreds of top brands, such as Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, Kimberly-Clark, Kraft Foods and Clorox, and works with hundreds of retailers, including Kroger, Safeway, CVS, Walgreens and Kmart. The company also offers the and Grocery iQ mobile applications for the iPhone and iPod touch. Incorporated was founded in 1998 and is based in Mountain View, California. To learn more or start printing coupons, visit To learn more about the company, visit
1 Savings Index ranks cities (with a population of 300,000 or more) based on each city's total printed coupon savings on and the network in 2009 relative to its population size. With an index of 918, Atlanta residents are nine times more likely to print coupon savings than the average American city dweller.


Is it Frugal or Cheap?

Another blogger recently wrote about this subject and I thought it fitting since we just spent a week travelling to visit family out of state, and there was mention of how "You're from the cheap side of the family". I prefer to believe that my lifestyle and money management behaviors are frugal, rather than cheap. Sure we live in an older home, but everything works as designed and besides it'll be paid for in three years, less time than a car loan. We travel more than anyone else in our families, and have more toys like motorcycles, a boat, swimming pool, tractor, trailers, power tools, hot tub, nice bicycles, and cars than most. All of these things are paid for too. To me, Frugal is getting the most for your money, Cheap is being frugal at the expense of others.  Using this definition, we are not cheap.
Recently on our trip up North, we asked our families if they could host a party for everyone to get together in one place rather than us making individual plans to see everyone. We sent envelopes of coupons and a check to cover BBQ expenses, and even paid for more stuff when we found out several more people would be attending. We left a thank you cards with more cash to cover the incidental expenses and hassle of having us stay and drink their coffee, break their furniture and mess up the place. We did not want the hosts to feel like we were cheap, and expected them to cover the costs of our visit. When we visit family, we rent our own car rather than borrowing one from someone, which we could - but that's cheap in my opinion. We wouldn't dream of staying at someones house and not offering or insisting on compensating them for the trouble. We also appreciate our neighbor watching our pet and home while we were away and give a generous gift card to let her know. To not do this is cheap.
We know people who stay at others houses and just because they are family, its okay to not offer up any thank you gift or cash. We also know people who travel and expect to be picked up at the airport by their friends or family, chauffered around town and delivered back - just because they are too cheap to rent a car.
It's cheap to eat at someone's house without providing for a part of the meal. Its cheap to drink all your hosts beverages without chipping in, or bringing your own.
It's cheap to eat at a restaurant and leave too small of a tip because you don't have change, even though the service was fine. It's cheap to bring your own lunch to work and use someone else's salad dressing or mayo, or worse yet to store your condiments or beverages in their small fridge so that they don't have room for all their stuff. Its cheap to go to a potluck lunch empty handed and yet eat all you want. Its cheap to split the bill at a restaurant when you ordered drinks and your friend ordered tap water to go with the meals. Get it? If saving your money doesn't cost anyone else their money - its frugal, not cheap.