My First Investment

Published / by Annie / Leave a Comment

Note: this website runs a bit behind my real life. Judge my numbers accordingly.

Baby steps can move mountains. I know this; I used a progression of baby steps to not only manage to survive while raising my kids as a single mother, I used baby steps when I began my computer repair business and to learn how to start a website, write and publish books for extra money.

But it takes money to make money, or so the saying goes. It’s the ones with the big bucks to invest that make the fortunes. I don’t have big bucks; all I’ve got to start is one $160 paycheck. Sticking that puppy directly into my savings is highly tempting; the money will be insured and I’ll earn a few pennies in interest.

Can I do better than that?

I stumbled upon an article the other day that declared the death of the Silver Market. I’ve heard time and again that the most successful investors sell when others are buying and buy when others are selling. Silver has been used as currency for thousands of years; even now it is popular in the jewelry market. I’ve always loved silver jewelry, so much so that my daughter even bought me a sterling silver Mother’s Ring for my birthday earlier this year:

With that in mind I decided to check out the Silver Market. I quickly read up on it, learned how to figure out the current price of silver, and how to buy the stuff. There are two ways to do it. You can buy paper Silver, which is essentially a piece of paper that says you own X amount of silver that is stored somewhere else, or you can buy pieces of the metal yourself in the form of coins, rounds, or bars. If you buy pieces of silver, they will be shipped to you so you also have to work out how to keep them safe until you decide to cash in your investment.

The good thing about actually buying the pieces of silver is that I could stash them away somewhere. I wouldn’t be tempted to spend them every time I check my bank balance. More importantly, I would have something to actually hold in my hand for inspiration whenever I became plagued with doubts.

Worst case scenario I could have it melted down by a jeweler to create jewelry if the investment fails to pay off. I’d have a pretty piece of bling at least.

I found a reputable dealer online after a bit more research. To my delight, they were running a special: ten troy ounces of silver rounds at spot (market) price. Since most places charge a bit over market to cover shipping and make a profit I was delighted. To maximize my investment I decided to lock in the price on their website and mail them a paper check. They charge extra if you pay online.

So now, not only am I doing better than many Americans because I have more than $500 in the bank, I now have an investment in precious metals on the way. They will ship as soon as my check clears the bank.

I have no idea what the heck I just ordered to be honest. According to the description I will receive a tube that contains ten silver “rounds” – whatever that is. All I know is that it will be .999 pure silver bullion. I know that I’m taking a risk, considering how little I know about this stuff but you know what? I’ve wasted more than that doing stupid stuff before.

I’m scared but exhilarated just the same. I’ve made a baby step, wrong or right. That’s progress at least. Whatever happens, It sure beats the hell out of just sitting here reading books and wishing for something to happen.

I’ll keep you posted.

A New Focus

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on A New Focus

First off, I want to thank everyone who has commented or messaged me with suggestions. You are awesome, and you’ve given me a lot to think about.

Second, I’ve been burning the midnight oil as I try to work out a way where I, the Shoestring Girl herself, can build up some sort of passive income stream that will support me in the future so that I won’t have to worry about working should I become unable to.

I’ve temporarily ruled out real estate, though it is something I would like to explore once I get my income in a higher range. As it is, with Katie planning to move out at some point in the future, the expense of acquiring a vehicle to attend any real estate purchases is a bit more than I feel my current finances can handle. The insurance alone (since I haven’t had any for several years) would destroy my budget.

My research has revealed that the stock market has a very low entry point; you can start an account with no minimum deposit; a variety of stocks trading there go for a pittance. Did you know that Ford Motor company is currently trading for around $12 a share? I was floored at some of the prices listed. I thought you had to be rich to even enter that arena.

Thanks to Carla for recommending that I read about Derek Foster! I’ve got two of his books due to arrive any day now. In the meantime I’ve acquired several books on the stock market to read while I’m waiting. Here is a list of the titles:

  • Buffetology
  • Investing for Dummies
  • The Intelligent Investor
  • Get Rich Carefully

This is going to be interesting. I know nothing about the stock market except for the fact that my dad invested in it when I was a teen and lost a small fortune. Since he invested with Merrill Lynch I decided to sign up for an account with Merrill Edge, their online brokerage. They have no minimum deposit to start, they have a ton of information available to help beginners, and they charge a flat rate of $6.95 a trade. I found cheaper brokerages out there but sentimentality won out.

Let’s see if this old bird can figure this out.

It Doesn’t Cost a Fortune to Look Nice

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on It Doesn’t Cost a Fortune to Look Nice

The older I get the worse I look. My hair has started greying and things have started sagging that never sagged before. I’ve never really been self-conscious about the effects of aging but over time I noticed a difference; not in me, but in my customers.

While some of my customers appear to be ageless, others appear considerably older than they are simply due to the lack of care they give their appearance before they go out in public. Looking back on some of my older photos I realized with dismay that I was just as bad and resolved to find a way to improve myself.

But how? I’m not exactly a beauty guru and I didn’t want to spend a fortune either. I continued watching my customers as I searched for answers.

I quickly realized that regardless of social class, females my age can carry off a variety of simple wardrobe choices. Even an old, faded tee shirt can look nice when presented a certain way. While an old tee shirt and messy bun can scream slovenly, if you add a bit of cosmetics and a touch of bling that same outfit is elevated to a completely different level.

I had cosmetics already so that wasn’t an issue but bling? I hadn’t purchased jewelry for myself in years! I stopped wearing dangly things when my kids were babies since they liked to tug on them, then passed my collection along to friends so the items wouldn’t go to waste.

Undaunted, I started wearing cosmetics when I went out as I began searching for some budget-friendly bling. I wanted something cheap, timeless, and a bit dangly since I wear my hair up frequently. I eventually stumbled across some costume jewelry that had been placed on clearance. The simple hoops and studs met my needs without destroying my budget.

I’ve now clipped my nose hair, plucked my stray eyebrows, donned a bit of cosmetics, and added a bit of bling to my everyday wardrobe of jeans and tee shirts. Now, to my delighted surprise, I actually receive the occasional compliment as opposed to the indifference I’m accustomed to receiving so my self-confidence has received a boost as well.

Not a bad haul for the cost of a dollar and a little time!

What little things do you do to improve your appearance? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Difference Between the Poor and Wealthy

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on Difference Between the Poor and Wealthy

I’ve spent my nights after work and my days off researching the wealthy. I wanted to learn what they did differently in their lives to see if I could learn from it. To my surprise, I tend to behave rather similar to wealthy folk in some areas.

I read a lot for self-education. This one seems to top most of the lists I’ve come across. While unsuccessful people tend to be big sports fans and watch a lot of movies and television shows, the wealthy tend to spend more time reading. Warren Buffett spends several hours a day reading, for instance. That is probably why the millionaire I met years ago advised me to read books written by people who had accomplished the things I wanted to do in order to improve my knowledge. I would not be where I am today if not for taking his advice to heart.

Wealthy people invest in themselves. Whether it be investing in their health or their education, they tend to spend more time and money to improve themselves than the poor do. While I don’t have much use for the medical community, I do spend a small fortune in books for self-education.

There are other items on the lists I’ve uncovered, but one item in particular stood out.

While the rich buy assets, the poor tend to buy liabilities.

What does this mean? It means that the rich tend to spend their money on things that will make them money instead of costing them money. For instance, while a poor person (I hate to use this term on someone who can afford to do something I can’t currently dream of) might buy a boat what will cost them in taxes, marina fees, and whatnot, a wealthy person would use the money to buy a piece of a business or some rental property. As a result, while the wealth of a person with a poverty mindset will decrease over time, the wealth of someone with a rich mindset will grow.

To my surprise, I’ve discovered that it’s not really about how much money you make. Doctors and lawyers have a lot of money coming in but since they don’t buy many assets quite a few of them struggle financially. Truly wealthy people actually frown on the behavior of these people, since they invest in bling instead of their futures.

Looking back on my life I’ve seen where I’ve committed the exact same mistake. Instead of using any extra cash I had on hand to invest in assets, I merely saved it, stretching it so that I could take time off to spend with my kids. While I don’t regret this decision, I no longer have children to worry about so it is time I start to change that mindset.

Now the next question is: how do I apply what I’ve learned?

I Hear Banjos!

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on I Hear Banjos!

A while back I had an older gentleman in my line. He was unkempt; his hair looked like it had seen neither brush nor a washing in some time. I waited patiently as he sat down in front of my register and whipped out a discolored sandwich baggie to sift through the stack of money in search of a twenty to pay for his order.

I gave him a smile as I handed him his change, telling him to have a great day before I turned my attention to my next customer.

He returned a few minutes later, saying that he’d forgotten to buy some bread. As he went through my line again, he discovered the fact that I wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. He informed me that he’d been looking for a “good woman” to take care of him, that I was absolutely perfect for the position, and that I’d never have to work again since he had plenty of money to take care of me with.

I humored him, informed him that he was being a bit forward as he revealed to me his entire financial status, and sent him on his way as he declared that he would return to court me properly.

Yeah, right.

Guess what? He did. My spidey sense alerted me that someone was standing behind me a few weeks later. I turned and got smacked in the face by a single rose, held by the man I’ve now nicknamed “Deliverance.”

Eyes bright as Manson’s, he apologized for taking “three weeks and X days” to return and explained the delay. He’d been working to repair his transport. Failing that, he’d been out all day shopping for another vehicle. When he bought it, would I go home with him?

“I’m not in the habit of going home with complete strangers,” I snapped, creeped out by the odd gleam in his eyes.

He informed the customers in my line that I was “the perfect housewife,” he just knew it, and that he was going to convince me that he was serious about taking care of me. I noticed that some of my male customers started shifting to defensive positions. He had this look in his eyes that made me wonder if he was thinking about tossing me over his shoulder and carrying me to the hills, so I was more than a bit nervous.

After some back and forth I had to assert that no, I wasn’t going to give him my phone number and I definitely wasn’t going to go home with him or tell him where I lived no matter how much he badgered me.

“But I need to see you!” he protested.

“Sorry.” I wasn’t sorry at all. I just wanted him gone since by that time I was shaking. I eventually had to tell him that he needed to go because I had to get back to work before firmly ignoring him to deal with my customers.

He thankfully took the hint. Promising once again to return he finally left me alone to deal with the line of concerned customers that had grown since his arrival.

I really hope he doesn’t come back again but if he does I’ll be ready. A friend of mine gave me a taser and I’ve bought some mace just in case he ever decides to make good on the threat I could see in his eyes. I’ve also alerted management and set up an emergency code just in case he reappears at the store.

I’m not going to take any chances.

Clearance and Coupons

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on Clearance and Coupons

The other day my daughter and I decided to visit a local store and search for bargains. While many times we don’t find anything that we need, occasionally we come across a really good deal.

This occasion we struck pay dirt. The store had clearanced four boxes of Alka Seltzer Night Time Cold Medicine for $3 a box.

This is one of our staples in the winter when we don’t feel well. We typically spend $6 or more a box during cold season since local stores occasionally raise the price in winter. The normal price at that store was $6 a box so we knew we would save at least $12 on the purchase. We grabbed all four boxes and headed to the checkout.

My kid happened to have an app on her phone that will apply any available coupons to purchases made at that store. She did her thing on the two I purchased (we split the expense in half since we both use the stuff) and to our surprise saved another dollar per box!

We ended up purchasing four boxes of our favorite cold medicine for $2 a box instead of the regular $6. That ends up being a savings of $16.96 once we add in the sales tax we would have had to pay on the higher price. We saved 2.32 hours of income (more if you calculate taxes) simply by watching for bargains, buying in bulk, and applying available coupon discounts.

Two hours’ of wages, folks! That’s two hours of our lives we won’t have to spend working to purchase something we need and use. Since we split the cost we both saved over an hour’s wage each.

We’re rather chuffed about that. Even better, we now have the supplies on hand for the upcoming winter so we won’t have to walk to the store while ill to purchase what we need.

Have you scored any real good deals lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

What I Really Want

Published / by Annie / 13 Comments on What I Really Want

I’ve done a lot of thinking as my Katie’s graduation approached and even more now that I know she will leave the nest in a few short months. What next? What do I want to do now that I know I’ll be on my own?

I honestly don’t know. I don’t know if I want to remain here, relocate, or do something entirely different. I mull over the possibilities and I come up blank.

I do know one thing, however. I don’t want to ever struggle financially again. While I enjoy my simple, frugal lifestyle, I want to build up a larger margin of safety than I’ve had in the past. I want to know that I’ll be okay whether I work a public job in the future or not.

I could do this by marketing my books more aggressively but to do so would compromise my morals. How can I in good conscience market to a group of people who are already struggling financially? I started writing to help people, not rob them blind!

The answer is I can’t. Not if I want to sleep at night.

So I’m going to have to do some research. I want to build up another source of passive income that is unrelated to this website or my book sales. I want to build it to the point where it can not only support this website in the event my book sales completely tank, but to the point where it can support me whether I work a public job or not.

Now, there are a lot of scams out there that promise to do that. I want to avoid them, so instead of following the crowd I’m instead going to study those who have managed to do what I want to do. Since the Average Joe doesn’t get much press, I’m going to research wealthy people, those who started with very little and ended up rich enough that someone wrote a book about them.

Hopefully I can figure out how to apply what I learn to my own life and develop a system that will allow me to not only build a better nest egg for myself but to give you an idea of something you can do to improve your own financial picture.

To start, I know that Chris Gardner was homeless and somehow managed to get a job in the stock market to build his wealth. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and others started their own businesses. Robert Kiyosaki made his fortune in real estate as did many of the people who were featured in the “Millionaire Next Door” books written by Thomas Stanley. At the moment I don’t have the resources to even consider real estate as an option so I’ll have to read, and keep reading, until I figure out something that I can start from where I currently stand.

Any suggestions you have concerning research would be extremely welcome. Thank you.

A Storm Is Coming

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on A Storm Is Coming

Thanks to my beloved Katie’s upcoming wedding we’ve got people re-entering our lives that we haven’t associated much with for ages. This is fine. It’s more than fine, since some of them want to help out with the wedding plans and whatnot.

What is not fine is the fact that certain ones have decided to start in on how I choose to live my life. When Katie moves out I “need” to relocate cause I “can’t” make enough money around here. Now, mind you, we’ve got several factories in the area that I could go to should I choose to do so but my current part time schedule is enough to pay my bills while I figure out what I want to do next.

Not only that, I should move despite the fact that it would cost me twice as much in rent and I would probably be forced to give up my pets. And I’m supposed to do all of this without either vehicle or driver’s license.

I…I kinda told them where they could kiss.

I’ve spent my whole life getting talked down to. First it was because my parents were considered less than ideal, then once I reached adulthood it was due to the choices I ended up making. While I try for the most part to ignore the haters, it does bother me at times. Right now I’m so upset at one person’s superior attitude that I’m ready to spit bullets.

And that’s okay. I own that upset because I understand that while others have a right to voice their opinions I have a right to tell them what they can do with them. It’s also motivating me to figure out my next major life goal now that Kate’s an adult.

It’s a good thing to become angry, to stand up for yourself and force people to back off. It’s definitely preferable to allowing jerks to push you around!

When was the last time you told someone to take a flying leap? Please share your stories in the comments below.

No Regrets

Published / by Annie / 11 Comments on No Regrets

Now that the kid has graduated from high school, what do I do now? My whole focus these past decades has been caring for her.

So now that she’s engaged, that her life is heading in a direction different from mine, it is time to start thinking hard about my next step. Do I want to continue as I am? If not, what do I want to change?

I know I prefer a simpler life, but I also know that I don’t want to take a chance on history repeating itself. Those lean years continue to haunt me. I don’t ever want to experience that again!

It is time to hit the drawing board, to figure out my next big goal in life. Before I do that, however, I want to share something with my haters.

For those who told me that I was lazy, who complained that the only reason I wanted to live on less was to avoid working, you can kiss my lily white ass. I wanted to spend as much time with my daughter as possible but in order to do that I had to stretch my money as far as it could go. It’s kinda hard to spend time with your kids when you’re working your ass off.

I lived on less, worked less, simply so that I could enjoy the fleeting time I had with my daughter, and I don’t care what anyone thinks about that. I also shared my skills to help others make ends meet easier, regardless of their personal reasons.

I have no regrets.

Katie’s Graduation

Published / by Annie / 11 Comments on Katie’s Graduation

The big day finally arrived. My youngest, the reason I worked so hard to live on less, finally graduated high school.

It was a bittersweet day. I spent close to 20 years striving to work less so that I could spend as much time with her as possible. I swam against the current as a single mom but this day marked the moment where the journey was finally over.

My baby is now an adult even more so than she was when she turned 18.

A friend of mine drove over four hours to celebrate with us. The first thing we did that day was surprise her with flowers.

The next thing we did was take her and her boyfriend out to Olive Garden. We wanted to make this a day she would never forget.

We gifted the kids with a round of gag gifts. Her boyfriend C really got a kick out of one of them!

As we told him, we figured that since he was going into the Army he could use the guy for practice! Oh how he laughed! His real gift was a journal in which we inscribed “to keep track of your future adventures with Katie.” He was touched.

We also got him a set of crowns so he could remind Katie of who was the “king” – complete with spares for when she knocks them off his head! She got a tiara, of course – she is my princess!

After digging out some other gifts Katie finally got around to her big one from my friend. I’d given her my gift earlier because I didn’t want to detract from the moment. Here’s the expression on her face when she realized that my friend had gifted her with a pair of diamond earrings.

Once the dust had settled C had another surprise for my daughter. I was the only one aside from him who knew his plan. He smiled at her and announced. “I’ve got something to go with those earrings.”

That was when he proposed.

After all of that we still weren’t done. We drove them around and took lots of photos of them to mark the big day.

Once we dropped them off so they could do their thing prior to graduation my friend and I went out for a good stiff drink to mark the end of an era. We both needed it by then. My friend had known her since she was a baby and I needed liquid strength to get through the graduation ceremony. Not only was my youngest daughter graduating, I was lost. I’d spent so many years trying to be the best mom I could be, trying to spend as much time with her as I could. It didn’t help that, like my daughter, my dad had been dying of terminal cancer as well when I had graduated from that very same high school. I was filled with bittersweet memories, all of which came to the surface as I sipped on my Jack and Coke.

Thus prepared, we headed to the stadium for the graduation ceremony. We looked around, relieved to see that her dad, my ex-husband, actually managed to attend. He’d had Hospice take him. Once the ceremony finished we met up with the kids and took some more photos. I’m the one with the red shirt and big boobs.

So this is it, folks. The end of an era. My goal of raising my daughter is complete. Katie has not only graduated high school, but she’s engaged as well.

I’m both proud and sad.

How to Start Buying in Bulk

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on How to Start Buying in Bulk

It can be a challenge to switch from only purchasing what you need to buying in bulk. Not only do you have to figure out where to put the items you purchase you need to save up money so you can start buying.

I enountered that issue when I resolved to return to my old stockpiling habits here. Money was tight since I was still recovering financially from my injury. I’d also repurposed my old stockpile storage to maximize my living space but with a little shifting of both possessions and finances I made it work.

Create a storage space

You will need to designate a place to store your stockpile. The area will need to be clean, dry, and protected from vermin. A metal shelf in an out of the way spot is ideal if you don’t have a convenient closet or pantry. Try not to store your supplies around water sources in the winter. A broken pipe can destroy a fortune in paper supplies really fast. I learned that the hard way many years ago. I stored my bathroom tissue stockpile beneath my bathroom sink. When the pipes burst I lost a small fortune. Mice and rats can also be a threat to your supplies so make sure you have traps, poison, or other deterrents near your storage areas. I keep the majority of my stockpile on a wire shelf that is kept far enough off of the floor and away from walls to prevent them from climbing onto it. My cats like to help guard my supplies as well.

Start small

Unless you decide to devote part of your income tax refund to the investment your funds will be limited at first. You can overcome this by selecting one or two items at a time to stock up on. I started out by buying a stockpile of bathroom tissue on my first payday. The next payday I laid in a supply of paper towels. Over time as those needs were met I expanded to other items like soap, shampoo, feminine hygeine products, pet food and the like as money allowed.

At first it will seem as if you are spending more (which you actually will be in the beginning) but over time you will begin to reap the savings. As it is, we are now able to make a large purchase once a month or so to keep plenty of supplies on hand.

Take advantage of windfalls

Instead of splurging on treats when a windfall comes, use part of it to increase your stockpile. I use my income tax refund to stock up on all sorts of items and try to purchase enough of certain things to last us the entire year or longer. This increases our money savings as prices tend to rise over time.

Watch for sales

When something you use goes on sale, purchase extra when you can even if you already have a supply on hand. I had recently purchased a large package of paper towels a few weeks before my store offered them on sale but I still purchased some because I knew it would save money in the long run.

Consider online purchases

Online stores will frequently offer closeouts and bargains to online shoppers that aren’t available locally while some offer significant discounts to first-time customers. My daughter stocked up on leggings the other day with this method. She discovered that an online store offered her favorite leggings at a 50% discount to new customers. She purchased several pairs and saved a week’s wage as a result. That was like getting an extra paycheck, especially since the leggings in question will last her for several years.

The savings can really add up, even if you only work for minimum wage like we do.

Use social media

It is becoming common for extreme couponers to offer items for sale in social media groups at a significant discount. Joining these groups can save you a small fortune on your favorite brands.

Keep extra money available

Always keep money in your account to take advantage of unexpected sales. You never know when a local store will decide to go out of business and sell their remaining stock at a HUGE discount. I’ve seen some places decide to sell everything in their store for 90% off or simply have a crazy low price for everything. It is also common for stores to stock up on a bargain that they’ve found and pass the savings on to their customers. Keeping money on hand for these unexpected bargains can save you a small fortune.

What other tips do you know that will help people learn how to stockpile and save money? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Art of Buying in Bulk

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on The Art of Buying in Bulk

I was taught as a child that buying items in bulk not only saved money when you purchased the items on sale or at a discount, it made life considerably easier because you didn’t have to worry about running out of stuff constantly.

I must confess that over the past few years I questioned that teaching. Minimalist gurus preach expansively against the practice and encourage you to buy only what you need when you need it. I watched my friends purchase just enough supplies to last until their next pay periods and questioned them extensively about the practice, hoping for some tips. While some of them touted the benefit of having the ability to switch brands on a whim and keep up with changing needs, I noticed that they all shared a common refrain: they only purchased what they needed at the time because that was all they could afford.

Despite the fact that this raised alarms in my head I decided to try it. I used up my stockpiles and followed the practice for several years. While it does make shifting brands easier and allow you to avoid large stockpiles of items that you stop using as your needs change, I discovered the hard way that it costs a significant amount more than my old method of stocking up. I also discovered that, on many items such as bathroom tissue and basic cleaning supplies, I didn’t switch brands near as often as some claimed to do. In fact, I realized that the primary reason many of my friends switched brands so frequently was due to cost. They would buy what they could afford at the time even if it wasn’t the brand they preferred.

More importantly, I discovered that it’s a pain in the ass to go shopping every single payday, especially when you don’t own a vehicle.

My current job allows me to see the differences between those who buy in bulk and those who refrain. I noticed that the ones who purchase large amounts of items on sale tend to be wealthier than those who do not. It breaks my heart to see a customer forced to count their pennies in order to purchase a single roll of bathroom tissue, especially when I know from my research that they would save money in the long run if they had simply purchased larger packages to begin with. While I know from experience that financial challenges strike all of us from time to time, buying in bulk when money allows simply makes sense.

The Art of Buying in Bulk

Stock up when money is plentiful. Income tax season is an ideal time to purchase stockpiles of things that you know you will use. Bathroom tissue, paper towels, feminine hygeine products, and cleaning supplies won’t go bad just sitting on a shelf so stock up on these items whenever you can take advantage of sales. I make it a habit to take advantage of back to school season to stock up on notebooks, office supplies, panties, socks, and other items that are offered at a discount then.

Keep money in reserve to take advantage of sales. You never know when you will stumble upon a good bargain so it pays to keep some money available to take advantage of these opportunities. For instance, just the other day the store I work at offered a 16-pack of paper towels for a dollar less than the regular price on two 8-packs of the same brand. While we don’t use a lot of paper towels (one roll typically lasts us a couple of months), the dollar I saved is a dollar (or more, if prices go up) I won’t have to worry about earning in the future.

Know what you need and use. Keep an eye on your stash so that you will know when you are getting low on something. This allows you to start looking for sales before the need is urgent. Few things are more annoying than to discover that you’re on your last roll of bathroom tissue or your last sanitary napkin while you’re sitting on the commode. Last minute purchases can eliminate your money savings.

Use caution when stockpiling perishable items. It isn’t a bargain if most of it will go bad before you use it. Watch your expiration dates carefully. For instance, it saves us money to purchase milk in gallon containers as opposed to half-gallon but there are times when we don’t drink it all before it goes bad. To combat this we buy the containers with the longest expiration date and never purchase more than a gallon at a time regardless of price. We also refuse to purchase milk on clearance since we know it will go bad long before we can drink it all. While canned goods can last for years past the expiration date, items like flour, milk, crackers, and cereal have a limited shelf life.

Stock up during clearance sales. My daughter enjoys giving gifts so after Christmas we stocked up on wrapping paper and related supplies when they were placed on clearance for half price. We focused on items that could be used for any occasion but also selected a few things specifically for the Christmas holiday season. We saved the equivalent of several hours’ wages by doing that.

Check the per-unit price. On some items it is actually cheaper to purchase several small containers of an item instead of a single larger one. For instance, the store I work at purchases four pound bags of sugar by the pallet to save money, passing the savings onto their customers. Since the demand is less, they actually spend more to purchase larger packages of sugar. The people I observe buying the larger packages don’t seem to realize that they aren’t saving any money in this case. While occasionally the larger packages can be offered at a savings, it pays to bring a calculator to verify.

Avoid stockpiling fads. Children are fickle creatures. While they may go through copious amounts of a certain item for a time, the day will come when they suddenly decide not to use it any longer. When my children were younger they would go crazy over a certain brand of cereal. I would stock up only to discover a few days or weeks later that they wanted to move on to something else. I ate a lot of super sweet garbage to avoid waste in those days!

Set aside a place to store your stockpile. It won’t save you any money if the items get destroyed before you can use them. I have spaces reserved in my cabinets and on a shelf to avoid this occurrence.

Never use credit to stockpile. The interest charges will eliminate any money you save.

That’s all there is to it. By taking advantage of sales and buying in bulk you will not only remove the need to purchase certain necessities constantly, you will be able to keep more of your paycheck in the end.

Do you buy in bulk? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Grocery Savings

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Grocery Savings

One of the things I have never done is factor the cost of food into my budget. Our spending varies too much based on bargains, bulk buying, and available finances for us to set aside a certain amount every month.

While some months we barely buy the basics like milk, other months we come across good deals to take advantage of or we use our available cash to stock up on staples. Our grocery store jobs have really benefited us in this area.

For instance, the grocery I work at had several cases of Manwich that were marked down to ten cents a can in order to liquidate their stock before the expiration date last year. Since I am well aware of the fact that canned goods can last for years, I bought a case of 24. I spent $2.40 as opposed to the $24.00 or more I would have normally paid (I can’t recall their everyday price but I know it was over a dollar a can the last time I purchased it).

My chest freezer has a tidy supply of Hawaiian Sweet Rolls–a treat in our house–that I purchased for a quarter apiece along with a nice stockpile of meat that was placed on clearance or on sale.

My most recent purchase was a case of Mac and Cheese. They were nearing their expiration date but since that stuff will last for ages past that I snagged it without hesitation. Katie loves the stuff so I routinely use it as a base to make other dishes when we have it available.

I paid $4.99 for a case of 24 boxes, which equals up to twenty cents a box. The current price for the stuff is 39 cents a box, meaning that I purchased it for roughly half-price. It will take us several months to use up this supply; I expect it to last us for most of the year. Even better I managed to save most of an hour’s wage by buying in bulk when I discovered the bargain.

Do you purchase food in bulk when you run across a good deal? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Beauty of Old Things

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on The Beauty of Old Things

Several months ago my daughter surprised me with an odd request. She had noted that many of her friends and family were giving away their collections of old vinyl albums; could I help her select a record player so that she could play them?

While I am aware that vinyl is making a comeback, the last thing I expected was for my daughter, the Streaming Queen, to want to explore a technology that I abandoned decades ago. She has been so gung-ho when it comes to subscribing to this service or that, taking her music and stuff with her on her phone that I was taken aback.

When I finally managed to stop laughing I agreed to help her. I figured she would quickly get bored and pass the items on to me–and I would selfishly enjoy the nostalgia.

I helped her select a portable record player, get it set up, and showed her how to use it. I instructed her to keep a coin nearby to help with skips and even how to clean the records if they were dirty.

We’ve ended up with a new ritual as a result. When my daughter is at home she selects one of the albums from the ones she has managed to scavenge and plays it for both of us. She gets to expand her mind with older music while I get to savor the blast from the past.

Her friends are rather surprised when they come over for a visit. She likes to pull out her favorite Big Band album and use it as background music when they come over. Considering that most of her friends have never even seen a record player in real life, much less heard such old music, they are usually quite surprised.

Watching my daughter has made me realize the error of my ways. I eliminated my old stereo system along with a huge collection of vinyl, cassettes, and 8-tracks many years ago under the misguided notion that modern was better. While I see no logic in regret, I do see opportunity. No one wants to use older technology any longer. If it isn’t the latest and greatest it’s tossed out with the trash or practically given away at thrift stores.

While I don’t see myself actively shopping to replace my old stereo system in the future, I’ve decided that I won’t hesitate to fish one out of the trash or buy one if I stumble across a cheap offering at a thrift store. I’m always stumbling across interesting dumpster finds so it shouldn’t be an issue to locate a small music collection as I go about my daily life.

If anything, I’ll be saving something from the landfill while reducing my dependence upon the Internet. I will admire the beauty of the past as I carry it with me into the future.

We have been much too quick to discard the old, I’ve decided. For me, that stops now. Do you have any older items that you still use? Please share your stories in the comments below.

It’s Okay to Own Things

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on It’s Okay to Own Things

It’s become fashionable to throw things away. Out with the old, to make room for the new. There are even groups out there that will help you get rid of your things and encourage you to eliminate as much of your stuff as you want.

I know. I was one of them.

In time I realized that the Minimalist movement had devolved into little more than a pissing contest; a competition to the bottom. “I’m better than you, because all I own fits into my backpack.”

“Tough,” someone might respond. “I got rid of my backpack last week.”

There is some good to be had in the Minimalist movement. If you find yourself overwhelmed with possessions, especially if you have reached the point that you are tripping over stuff, you might need to thin down.

However, unless you’re preparing to move house or backpack around the globe it’s not really beneficial to get rid of all of your things, especially if you use and enjoy them.

The trick is in the using. If you have a cabinet full of dishes that you’ve not touched in years, you might want to pass them on to someone who will enjoy and actually use them. It doesn’t make any sense to clutter up your life with a bunch of stuff you don’t actually use.

Now that I’ve decided to settle down in this little town I’ve allowed my possessions to increase as a result of my revelation. I enjoy reading so I collect interesting books when I stumble upon them for free or cheap. I keep a decent-sized collection of unread material now but as I read them, the ones that I know I won’t need for future reference are passed on to friends or donated to the local library.

When I stumble across a clothing stash that someone is giving away that actually fits (and is something I will wear) I add the items to my wardrobe. I discard the pieces as they wear out.

I don’t go crazy buying things but I do make room for things that come into my life that I will actually use. Since I have no intentions of moving in the near future (and I am nowhere near the point where I’m tripping over things), this allows me to increase my comfort level while saving money as well.

You should start doing this as well. Once you eliminate the things you really, truly, do not use, don’t hesitate to add something you will use to your collection of possessions if the price is right (preferably free, of course!).

Just remember that this isn’t an excuse to start buying everything in sight. If you have something that does what you need, use it instead of buying new. Just because you can own it doesn’t mean that you should.

Katie’s Prom

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Katie’s Prom

My daughter’s growing up. It’s hard to believe that she is 18 and on the verge of graduating high school. She even has a boyfriend now. He’s leaving for the Army in a few months so he’s resolved to spend as much time with Katie as possible before he leaves. He even gave her a promise ring this weekend.

Here are some photos of them at Prom the other evening.

I am in awe of her beauty, of how wonderful they both look in these photos. I am in awe of how quickly she has grown up. It seems like yesterday I started blogging as I searched for a way to be the best mother I could be; to spend the most time I could with her while she grew up.

I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that it’s been ten years since my very first post on that very first blog. What’s next? This can’t be all there is in life. I’ve spent the last 28 years focused on raising my children…what do I do now?

I’ll figure something out. I always do. In the meantime I’ve something else to focus on: how did someone so beautiful come from a woman as ugly as me? 😀

Disconnect

Published / by Annie / 8 Comments on Disconnect

As the days stretch into months I’ve gotten rather lazy when it comes to guarding my personal time. Whereas I used to go to extreme measures to have quiet time in which to write I found my days have become a whirlwhind of messages, comments, and other communications from folks both near and far. Every time I would sit down to write I would end up being interrupted, losing my train of thought, or going on some random goose chase down the halls of the Internet.

Ding.

Ding.

Ding.

<Hey, you on?>

<I see you’re online. Why are you ignoring me?>

Random thoughts. Pointless comments. Gifs and pics and jokes galore. The more I asked people to leave me be so that I could write the more they seemed to want to communicate until I realized that I was approaching my breaking point.

Early one morning as the beeps began I found myself missing my ancient Windows XP laptop. It might have been old and decrepit but it had one serious advantage: it couldn’t go online.

I could turn that old computer on and work all day without having to deal with a single person messaging me. They couldn’t, since the computer wasn’t connected to the Internet.

I leaped out of bed and dived for the ethernet cable attached to my computer. Soon it was unplugged and my world lapsed into silence.

I accomplished more today than I have in over a month.

Do you ever take time to disconnect from the Internet? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Life Without a Remote

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on Life Without a Remote

We don’t often think about the little conveniences that we have these days. While those of the older generation might remember, many of us tend to forget just how life used to be in the past.

A while back, that reality slammed down on me. I was visiting a friend. We were just hanging out, watching a bit of television while we chatted when his phone rang.

“Here,” he handed me the television remote. “Pick out something to watch while I take this call.”

I stared at the device once he left the room. All of those buttons. Some were to change the channels but others, I gathered, controlled other things like the DVD player and whatnot. Completely befuddled, I played with it. I ended up messing up the television for a moment, switching the channel to another device.

I quickly muted it, then figured out how to get the television back to where it had been previously. Afraid to press my luck I left it like that, completely silent.

My friend returned a few minutes later. “Why did you mute it?” he asked. “I went into the other room so you wouldn’t have to.”

“Oh, I was afraid that the noise would still bother you,” I lied. I wasn’t about to tell him the truth!

He gave me a look and started laughing. “You don’t know how to work the remote, do you?”

I shrugged, embarassed. I’ve used a computer to watch movies on for so long that the devices have outgrown my limited knowledge.

He offered to teach me but I refused. I see no point in learning how to use a device that I have no intentions of owning in the future, so why bother cluttering my mind with useless knowledge? I’ll figure it out if I ever need to…which I hopefully won’t.

Have you ever stumbled upon tech that completely befuddled you? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Bill Collectors

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on Bill Collectors

Several months ago I received a phone call. It was a debt collector, claiming that I owed money on an old debt.

Since I’ve been living and writing about the stupidity of debt for a decade, I was skeptical. Even if I did happen to owe something to someone that I magically didn’t remember, that debt would have fallen off of my credit report years ago.

“You do realize that you’re talking to a woman who preaches against credit, right?” I informed the man when I stopped laughing. “I’ve been writing books and articles condemning credit for a decade. Now, tell me just why you believe this debt is mine.”

He did. He claimed that I had opened a credit card over a decade ago and then stopped paying on it some time later. I asked him for the address where I lived when I had the card.

I hadn’t lived in that house for twenty years and I told him as much. “Unless you can give me an address where I’ve lived within the legal statute of limitations on debt, I’m going to have to conclude that this is a scam,” I informed him calmly.

He couldn’t. The man didn’t have a single address for me other than the original one he mentioned.

I didn’t take out a credit card when I lived at that address. I was far too broke at the time to even consider it.

The man huffed and informed me that the debt would damage my credit rating and haunt me for X more years. I laughed. “Do your worst. I don’t own a house, I don’t even own a car, so I have nothing you can place a lien on. So unless you can supply me with valid proof that this debt is mine, I’ll just take my chances. I don’t use credit anyway.”

The man promised me that he would send the information on. I gave him my current address and told him I would look for it.

That was several months ago. I’ve not received a single thing.

Since then I’ve done a bit of research on bill collectors. There’s a scam going on where companies will create completely false debts in hopes that the marks will pay. Here is one particular article that I found rather interesting on the subject.

This is just one reason why I don’t believe in using credit. Not only do you pay a ridiculous amount of money for the ability to live above your means, you open yourselves up to predators who steal your information and attempt to bully you into paying on debts you don’t actually have.

Be warned, folks.

Cash register

It Pays to Use Cash

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on It Pays to Use Cash

How do you handle your money? Do you deposit your check every payday and then swipe your card when you want to buy something?

Every time you swipe your card in public you place yourself in danger. Not only do you put yourself at risk of having your card information stolen by skimmers, you also run the risk of spending more money. Studies have shown that people who prefer cash over cards spend less money. Even worse, some banks charge you a fee every time you swipe your card. My personal bank charges me a dollar every time I use my bank card as a debit card at stores.

Carrying cash can eliminate this issue. If you withdraw the amount of cash you have budgeted for gas, groceries, lunch, and other extras during that pay period, you eliminate the danger of overspending. You know you have so much money for the week, so you need to be careful with your money.

Paying cash also eliminates any chance that you will fall prey to a skimmer. They can’t steal your card information if you don’t give them access to your card in the first place.

If you’re worried about being robbed of your cash, place your money in a place where thieves won’t look for it. My father kept his stash in his sock; I keep mine in an assortment of places aside from my wallet (no, I’m not going to tell you where). It also helps if you don’t attract attention by driving fancy vehicles or dressing in clothing that indicates you’ve got money. It makes little sense to rob someone who appears to be broke just to get a few pennies. Dressing simpler also comes in handy when haggling for a lower price. Some sellers tend to charge more if they think you can afford it.

While you can’t pay cash when shopping online, you can do this for the everyday purchases you make locally. Food, fuel, and other everyday purchases can be made just as easily with cash as with plastic.

If you are not paying cash for your everyday purchases, you need to start doing it now. Your budget will thank you.