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.

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.

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.


A Pillow for your Bank Account

It’s happened to all of us. We spend more than we anticipate, a hacker steals our card info, even a mistake at the bank can lead to overdrafts. Just the other day a mistake at a local bank caused the accounts of several personal friends to appear overdrawn due to an accidental double-posting of charges.

Keeping a financial cushion in your checking account can help immensely. It can not only help prevent overdraft fees (without paying for another service), it can give you needed funds while you sort out the issue.

I keep a minimum of $500 in my checking account for this purpose. I never allow my balance to go below this amount. That way, if I ever do make a mistake while budgeting I know that I won’t have to pay outrageous overdraft fees. I call this my pillow since it cushions me if I fall.

It isn’t always easy to build up a financial cushion, especially when you don’t make a lot of money. I limit how much I spend each month so that I have a little left over to add to my padding. In time I plan to build my cushion to $1,000, the amount I kept in reserve for years but since times were lean a few years back I am still working towards that goal.

It may sound insane to some of you. You may be thinking “How can I save $500? I can barely pay my bills as it is!” but I promise you that it is possible. You may not be able to eat out as much or splurge on those little extras but you can do this. If I can build up $500 while earning minimum wage at a part-time job then you can do it no matter what your story may be.

More importantly, you should. My local bank charges almost $40 in overdraft fees per charge; a single mistake can cost you hundreds of dollars in fees if you use your bank card routinely.

I learned this lesson the hard way. Several years ago an attorney I hired cashed their check a week earlier than agreed. While there was enough in the account to cover it my balance was wiped out. I ended up owing over $250 in overdraft fees alone, on top of my other charges (which my bank thankfully paid). It took a while to climb out of that hole.

Ever since then I have insisted upon keeping a pillow of cash in my checking account on top of my regular savings. I refuse to be that stupid ever again.

How much of a cushion do you keep in your bank account? Please share your stories in the comments below.

I Hate Planned Obsolescence

The other day a friend stopped by and announced that he had a surprise in the back seat of his car. Curious, I stepped outside to see what it was.

To my surprise, he had an ancient iMac sitting on his back seat. He explained with a grin that he had been visiting another friend when he saw their neighbors carry it out to the trash.

“I immediately thought of you, so I asked permission to have it,” he explained.

We carried it into the house. It lacked a keyboard and a mouse, but it fortunately still had a power cord, so I connected a spare Windows mouse and keyboard to the machine and plugged it in.

That old dinosaur powered on.

According to my research, this machine (iMac model M5521) came out around the turn of the century, which means that it is almost 20 years old. The hard drive is a bit noisy, the slot loading CD-ROM sticks, but it still works!

The more I played with that old machine the angrier I got. This computer cost someone $999 new. That’s the equivalent of two month’s expenses for me. The thought of someone tossing that much money in the trash just pissed me off, not because they discarded something they no longer needed or used, but because of the fact that this poor machine was obsolete just a few short years after it was purchased.

That’s the way it is with stuff anymore. You purchase a new phone, computer, gadget, outfit, or whatever only to be told it is useless or out of fashion before you’ve hardly managed to break it in, so what do you do? You go out and buy a new one, tossing the old one into a closet or—like this poor old machine—in the trash.

Heck, purchase a new appliance these days and you’ll discover that the lightweight gears and moving parts within the machine will fail within a few short years. Don’t believe me? Go to the store and buy a cheap fan. See how many seasons it will last you before it dies. Next, go to a thrift shop and buy one of those ancient fans with the old cloth-covered power cords. I’ll bet that thing still runs even if it is close to 50 years old. In fact, I happen to know a gentleman who uses an old percolator to make his coffee that is even older than that! He got tired of buying coffee makers every couple of years so he dug out the old percolator his mother used to make her coffee with.

Anyway, back to this computer. After tinkering with it for a while I decided to try an experiment. I’m going to see if I can acquire the parts needed to give this puppy an upgrade and make it useful once again. I want to get it set up with some simple games, configure it for printing, add a word processing program, and let my grandson use it to play and do his homework on.

This isn’t exactly a priority to me so I plan to spend as little as possible. I’m going to ask around for spare parts to upgrade the RAM and search online for a copy of the operating system that I can download and burn to disk. If I get lucky I’ll manage to score a new CMOS battery for it, since the original is long dead.

And piece by piece I am going to turn this ancient machine into something that can be used today, just to prove that it can be done. It won’t be the fastest but that’s not the point. The point is that we spend a fortune on items that manufacturers declare completely useless years before they actually are. We spend hours of our lives each week earning money to buy items like this old computer, only to discard them as worthless a short time later, when in fact, with a little love and a bit of work, they can last longer than Big Business wants us to keep them.

I’ll let you know when I get the old dinosaur running. I will also let you know just how much money I spent turning it into something that can actually be used (paperweight is not an option).

What was the last item you saved from the trash? Please share your stories in the comments below.

You Know You’re Poor When…

During Christmas I found myself surrounded by family and friends when the subject of my cheapskate ways (and thus my website) came up. One of my companions made the comment that the majority of folks really don’t know what it is like to be poor and to do crazy (and sometimes illegal) things just to get by.

Time went on and we started discussing the crazy stuff we have done and seen others do just to survive. Some of the stories were simply mind-boggling so I asked permission to create this list so that others could get a glimpse of the other side of the fence.

To make this easier (and eliminate any potential identifying markers) I asked them to finish the phrase “you know you’re poor when…”

Here is what they came up with.

These items are in no particular order. For the record, some of these things are harsh and dark, but others are simply hilarious. I have done some of these things personally; as for the others, the only requirement was that it had to be something that they had either done personally or had actually seen done.

I make no judgment about the stories shared to me that night and I trust that you won’t either.


1. You know you’re poor when dumpster diving is an acceptable sport.

2. You know you’re poor when you never lock your door because you have absolutely nothing to steal.

3. You know you’re poor when $5 on the Dollar Menu is all you have to feed your entire family.

4. You know you’re poor when the neighbor’s fights are your version of reality TV.

5. You know you’re poor when you know how to use a box of Sudafed to pay your electric bill.

6. You know you’re poor when your grandmother celebrates every time she refills her Percocet prescription.

7. You know you’re poor when your whole neighborhood shares the cable bill.

8. You know you’re poor when you learn how to hack just so you can steal your neighbor’s internet.

9. You know you’re poor when sugar daddies are a viable source of income.

10. You know you’re poor when you envy your local drug dealers.

11. You know you’re poor when all of your tires are donut spares.

12. You know you’re poor when all of the DVDs you own are bootlegged.

13. You know you’re poor when you close your car windows with duct tape.

14. You know you’re poor when you really do live by the motto “duct tape fixes everything.”

15. You know you’re poor when all of your presents are purchased on an EBT card.

16. You know you’re poor when the most successful member of your family is a drug dealer.

17. You know you’re poor when you visit the website of your local jail to find out where your friends are.

18. You know you’re poor when you are more afraid of the cops than the dope fiends.

19. You know you’re poor when you look at the dope fiends as a source of cheap merchandise.

20. You know you’re poor when “reduce, reuse, recycle” also includes cigarette butts you pick up off the street.

21. You know you’re poor when you pray for snow so the landlord won’t come knocking.

22. You know you’re poor when a medical card means you can finally get a phone.

23. You know you’re poor when you catch a rat in the kitchen so your kids can have a pet.

24. You know you’re poor when you consider the stuff set outside after an eviction to be a free yard sale.

25. You know you’re poor when a happy meal is whatever you can buy with the change in your couch cushions.

26. You know you’re poor when you dig for change just to make it home.

27. You know you’re poor when you look at a fellow smoker and ask to share the wealth.

28. You know you’re poor when you can’t afford to eat at the restaurant you work at.

29. You know you’re poor when you steal ketchup packets so that you can make spaghetti for your kids.

30. You know you’re poor when you gather up extra napkins after you run out of bathroom tissue.

31. You know you’re poor when you call up your brother and ask him to reconnect your water meter.

32. You know you’re poor when you know how to make a pack of hot dogs feed your kids for a week.

33. You know you’re poor when you use shampoo and dishwashing liquid to clean your laundry.

34. You know you’re poor when you call your dog your official bed warmer.

35. You know you’re poor when the creek is your swimming pool.

36. You know you’re poor when you carry a fishing pole to hide the fact that you live by the river.

37. You know you’re poor when your phone is over 10 years old and you are still using it.

38. You know you’re poor when the pawn shop is on speed dial.

39. You know you’re poor when you give the scissors to your toddler and ask her for a haircut.

40. You know you’re poor when you use kool-aid to color your hair.

41. You know you’re poor when it takes five people to buy one 40-oz.

42. You know you’re poor when your second job is a phone sex operator.

43. You know you’re poor when you’re afraid to own upholstered furniture because you are so afraid of bedbugs and fleas.

44. You know you’re poor when 13 people live in a one-bedroom house.

45. You know you’re poor when the cockroaches move next door.

46. You know you’re poor when you have to take stuff back to the store just so you can buy your kids a birthday cake.

47. You know you’re poor when you have to use your dirty socks for feminine pads.

48. You know you’re poor when you are banned from getting money from the pop machines.

49. You know you’re poor when you have to pass around a 2-liter bottle because you’ve had to sell all of your glasses.

50. You know you’re poor when you go to Ruler Foods and ask to put away carts just so you can collect the quarter.

51. You know you’re poor when you exchange food stamps for cash to pay the water bill.

52. You know you’re poor when you grow your nerve medicine in the back yard.

53. You know you’re poor when you have to wipe your butt with a coffee filter.

54. You know you’re poor when you know just how far 50 cents worth of gas will take you.

55. You know you’re poor when you stick your own hair in your food to get a free meal.

56. You know you’re poor when a seafood dinner is what you’ve managed to catch in the creek.

57. You know you’re poor when you try to claim your pets as dependents.

58. You know you’re poor when you start smoking just so you can get a break at work.

59. You know you’re poor when you sell your dirty panties for gas money.

60. You know you’re poor when you raid the local tobacco field every time you run out of cigarettes.

61. You know you’re poor when you pimp out your daughters just to get the finder’s fee.

62. You know you’re poor when you count on your food stamps just to pay your bills.

63. You know you’re poor when you know exactly how long it takes for a check to hit your bank.

64. You know you’re poor when you know how to use the memo field on your checks to escape a debt.

65. You know you’re poor when you consider the weeds in your yard to be a food source.

66. You know you’re poor when you know how to make a tampon.

67. You know you’re poor when you know how to curl your hair using bathroom tissue.

68. You know you’re poor when there’s a tree in your town that everyone calls “the pooping bush.”

69. You know you’re poor when you eat dog or cat food on crackers.

70. You know you’re poor when you eat Kibbles and Bits as a breakfast cereal.

71. You know you’re poor when you’re still breast feeding your six-year-old because you can’t afford to feed them.

72. You know you’re poor when you smoke a cigarette every time you are hungry.

73. You know you’re poor when you drink a cup of hot water every time you are hungry and tell yourself that it is soup.

74. You know you’re poor when you decide to keep drinking because there is no food in the house.

75. You know you’re poor when everyone you know works at McDonald’s.

76. You know you’re poor when your job doesn’t cover your medical expenses.

77. You know you’re poor when you have to sell your dog to pay for dinner.

78. You know you’re poor when your commode sits at a 90-degree angle.

79. You know you’re poor when you have to reuse your bathroom tissue.

80. You know you’re poor when you stick stuff in empty soft drink cans just to increase the weight.

81. You know you’re poor when your cat adopts the neighbor because she’s hungry.

82. You know you’re poor when people judge you because your parents bought you an iPhone.

83. You know you’re poor when people judge you for wearing nice clothes even though you bought them at a thrift shop.

84. You know you’re poor when you are grateful that the wealthier members of your family purchase your children or grandchildren expensive toys.


Do you have anything to add to this list? Please share your stories in the comments below.


Sign of the times

While Katie and I forgo decorating our home to celebrate the holidays we still enjoy walking around our little neighborhood to examine the festive atmosphere. We may live in the ‘hood but several of our compatriots enjoy going all out for the season.

I wasn’t up for last year but since I’m feeling a bit better we resumed our little tradition this Christmas Eve. We anxiously awaited dusk to arrive, grabbed our coats, and started walking.

Our first stop was a pair of houses just a couple of blocks away. The folks who live there team up to create a fabulous display complete with music and the occasional light show so I was excited to be able to witness their annual offering.

As we approached I noticed that the lights weren’t on. “That’s odd, “ I commented to Katie. “They’re usually lit by this hour.” Disappointed, we continued our walk expecting them to be alight by the time we came back through.

The second house we approached was just as dark as the first. So was the third, the fourth, and so on. Slowly we realized something sad.

Only two houses in our little hood had even bothered to decorate. Even the brightest houses were dark and what displays we saw were muted.

It is a sad time when nobody decorates for Christmas, not even the ones who savor the season.

In my experience, people in this area don’t decorate when money is tight because they are afraid of the electric bill. It is a sign that jobs have been lost, income decreased, and fear prevails.

I wonder what next year will hold.

Were there any changes in how your neighborhood celebrated Christmas this year? Did you do more or less this year? Why? Please share your stories in the comments below.

A Penny Saved…

I went to the bank early this morning and opened that passport savings account with my spare change. The interest stinks on the account–a measly .4%–but that is still better than nothing at all—much better than spending it by sticking it in my checking account!

I plan to link it up with my checking account to use as overdraft protection. By doing this I can still have a safety net on the account while making a little money simultaneously. When the account balance goes above a certain amount (probably $500 depending upon my mood) I’ll transfer the excess the the Discover savings account online so that it can earn more interest.

It felt good to know that all of that change was going to start making me money instead of sitting here waiting for me to spend it! I wish I had gotten off of my duff years ago and created that account—but no reason to cry over spilled milk.  The account is created now!

While there the bank informed me about the new government regulation requiring people to “opt in” to allow the bank to charge overdraft fees on certain debit transactions. It does not apply to checks or ACH transactions that you have—or even on pre-authorized debit transactions but just on debit transactions when there is not enough in the account at that moment to pay for the purchase. Much to her surprise I opted out.  I would much rather my card be declined than face a $34 overdraft fee!

I am working toward paying for all of my everyday expenses in cash anyway—this will prevent me from overspending as well as increase the amount of change that can go into savings! As a result I don’t want or need that brand of overdraft protection!

My whites are now drying in the windy sunshine while I wash a load of colors.  I need to get all of my laundry washed and dried today for they are calling for several days of rain after today!

I have placed the guinea piggies in their makeshift outdoor pen so they can enjoy another day of sunshine and clover—while I enjoy another day of not having to pay for feed or wood chips!  I bring them in every night for fear of predators but take them back outside first thing every pretty morning!

To give you a glimpse into my life I present you with pictures of the piggies happily munching on their clover.  I will move the cage a few times throughout the day to keep them supplied with all of the greenery they can eat while thanking God for providing such a frugal method of providing their dinner!

Here are Bugsy and Teddy happily munching on clover in their makeshift outdoor pen.  I took their original guinea pig cage, removed the bottom and have placed a thin board on the top to give them shelter from the sun. They are never outside in the rain—this is purely a pretty-day exercise.


Here’s a close up of Teddy, the brown guinea pig.  His full name is Teddy Red cause he looks like a cute little teddy bear with red eyes! He is the most timid of the pair—and the gentlest.

Here’s a close up of Bugsy—named after the guinea pig in the movie “Bedtime Stories.” While his eyes don’t bug out like the guinea pig in the film he reminds me a bit of the gangsters from old movies that have the funny names. He’s perky with an incredible attitude.  He won’t hesitate to nip if he’s really ticked off but overall he’s a good guy—he’s actually my favorite of the two! Unlike Teddy he will come right up to you and let you pet him without holding him—and will go over anyone or anything that tries to get between him and a piece of Timothy!

Did you know that guinea pigs are actually considered food in the Andes mountains? People there will have a room with a dirt floor filled with these little guys—killing one when they are ready for dinner!

While I don’t know if I could eat one of these little fellows that brings up a valuable point—you can raise small animals like this to supplement your grocery bill.  Rabbits, guinea pigs and even female chickens could be kept easily. The female chickens would not only provide eggs but fill your belly when they got too old to produce!

I’m actually considering the chicken thing. A friend of mine raises them and has offered to help me build a small pen to contain a couple of hens—which would provide the perfect amount of eggs for this household! I am just not sure if I want to commit to more critters however!

Well I’m off to work on this yard some more—I want to get it finished before the rain sets in tonight. Have a wonderful sun-shiney day!

Is This You?

I located a gallery on CNN Money featuring some who have now run out of unemployment benefits after a long dry stretch of unemployment. If you are one of these I feel for you!

I have friends who are now breaking up their families, sending one member out of state in hopes of employment.  I have others who are still holding on here and yet others who are preparing for their unemployment benefits to end with no job in sight.

It is stories like this that fuel me to live as cheaply as I do.

When I managed to escape an abusive relationship I discovered myself jobless, no money in the bank, three hungry kids and an electric bill in excess of $600. We had one week to pay the amount before losing our electric.

Two older vehicles from the marriage were in my name, so I sold the best one of the two, begged Community Action for help and literally begged every manager in the area to give me a shot doing anything!

By the end of the week Community Action had managed to persuade Kentucky Utilities to accept payments on the balance due, I was told the engine was failing in the car I had kept—but I had landed a job in a local fast food place.

Things like that change you. Once I got back on my feet I worked long and hard to put myself through computer repair school, picking up odd jobs in addition to working on computers and keeping that day job. It was exhausting just trying to pay for all of the bills—and frustrating because I had no time for my children.

I pared down my living expenses not only so that I would have to make less money to live but also so that I would be able to watch my youngest daughter grow in a way that I was unable to watch my older children. It is my hope that this extra attention will prevent her from leading the lives her older sisters have chosen.

Each of us has our own path, and some consider me crazy for living in an old trailer on a shoestring budget, but my bills are paid and my belly is full.  I have no fears of losing my house or my car, for they are paid for and I am able to save toward my dream of owning a small piece of land.

One of my dearest friends is really feeling the brunt of the economy. She has always been generous to those in her family and is now being forced to cut back. Soon she will no longer be able to afford cell phones for her family members and may be forced to reduce to a prepay account herself. She discussed having to argue with her satellite company to reduce her package yet again so that she could continue to afford the service and worried that she would have to cancel it entirely and live like me.

I feel for her as I watch her struggle.  It hurts to hear her cell phone ring incessantly with bill collectors. Every month is a struggle just to make her car payment and she worries what will happen next.

Another friend I have to give kudos to. She says it is out of necessity but the sacrifices she has made to make ends meet are incredible. Her water pipes froze over the winter, which she cannot afford to repair.  Instead of crying she had her water disconnected to save the money while her family showers and hauls water from friends’ homes.

No phone save a small prepay used mainly for text communications (a texting package is cheaper than actually making that many phone calls) she uses the Internet at her work and at other hotspots to avoid paying that bill and concentrates her money on catching up her electric bill and car payment. Instead of using electric she uses a few coals on a charcoal grill to prepare small, simple meals.

She says that she has made these steps because she had no choice—her husband and daughter are unemployed and her hours were drastically cut at work and frankly I admire her guts at the sacrifices she has made.

My sister struggles with her bills. At times it seems she makes inroads on one to lose something else. This past month she achieved a dial-up Internet account—only to lose her phone in a billing dispute. She is considering converting a shed at a friend’s home into a simple cabin—the only way she knows to save enough money to purchase a travel trailer or something to reduce her housing expenses. Exactly what she will end up doing I do not know—I have no way to communicate with her until either phone or internet is restored at her home.


I watch the lives around me as they struggle to make ends meet while I celebrate the little things. My current electric bill is the lowest bill I have ever received from this electric company–$30.27. This is a significant savings from last month’s bill of $86, and judging from the bar chart on the bill my usage has reached the lowest point in the history of living here since last July.

Life can really stink when you have more month than money, especially when you have no method of making more money. I cannot say I am so much better off than family and friends cause dips in income and unexpected expenses hit me as much as the next person, but somehow I feel a bit more in control with the little frugal steps that I take.

What do YOU do to stretch your money as far as it can go?  I would love to hear your stories…

Counting Change

I spent this afternoon rolling change. While I do occasionally add money to my online savings account normally my change just gets stashed or added to the checking account.

I’ve decided to stop that practice and open a passport savings account at my local bank. I can link the account to my checking account for the emergency occasion of an overdraft while still earning money on my change.

Anyhow, I gathered up my change and started rolling.  Ended up with $35.97—an amount I am delighted with.  It takes $25 to open a passport savings account so I have that and some to spare!

I plan to allow my change to accumulate there and when it gets too large I will swap it over into my online savings account so that it can accrue more interest.  It may not be a simple method but it works for me. It is definitely easier than hiding money from myself in my checking account—too much of a temptation when it is in there!

When I looked at all of that change I thought about taking it to the CoinStar machine at my local Wal-Mart.  Fortunately I googled the device before I did.  Those devices charge you 9.8 cents for every single dollar they count—that is like a 10% fee just for counting the stupid stuff! Had I went to the machine I would have been forced to pay $3.53 cents just so that machine could count my money! I like that $3.53 just fine in my pocket, thank you very much, so I rolled the coins myself! 

My bank gives out the coin wrappers as a courtesy to customers so they cost absolutely nothing.. and time is cheap compared to money!

We have become so lazy that we will give a whopping 9.8% to a machine just to count our change!  We are paying almost $10.00 ($9.80) out for every hundred dollars that machine counts!

What pisses me off is that I almost didn’t consider the fact that there would be a fee! I’m sorry, but for a lot of people ten bucks is an hour’s wage and for a restaurant worker making minimum wage that is almost an hour at time and a half!


I placed my teapot back in its’ place leaving some change and a couple of dollar bills within for seed. When I was a child my father taught me to never completely empty a piggy bank cause you needed “seed” to make the money “grow.” Silly perhaps but I never completely empty the thing—in honor of Father’s memory.

Other than that I paid the tags on the van and renewed my drivers license, which means I’m good to go for another year on that front. Tomorrow bright and early I will be at the bank making some poor teller miserable as she verifies all of this rolled change and sets up that savings account!

What do you do with YOUR change?  Do you spend it? Occasionally I spend the quarters but rarely touch the rest.  Until tomorrow it was added to the slush fund in my checking account for lack of a better place to deposit it. I like the thought of it making money muchbetter!


Unless you live in the woods you will need some amount of money to survive. There will always be property taxes, groceries and whatnot in our lives—all with hands out waiting for their share of our income.

Where does your money come from? Chances are you only have a single source. It could be a job or a pension, but it is a single source nevertheless. What would happen to you if that single source of income disappeared? How would you live?

I’m going to be blunt here: income sources can leave. It doesn’t matter that you have been on the job for 20 years or were so messed up in that accident that there is no way you will get better and get off of disability.  It doesn’t matter that you’ve qualified for Social Security ages ago. Sometimes for inexplicable reasons the income that we count upon goes away.

It may not go away forever, but a disappearance for a few weeks can be disastrous to so many of us who live on low incomes and thus is the reason for this post.

Having multiple sources of income is smart. They may not be big sources of income but the fact that they are income can really come in handy if you lose your job or the bank that held your savings goes under.

There are ways of earning money that are as different as snowflakes in winter so don’t panic and think I’m telling you to endanger your government check by taking a part-time job. Just consider how much safer your life would be if you had something, anything as a teeny tiny safety net in case something happened to your primary source of income.

Look around your home for ideas. If you love animals perhaps you can look in the local online classifieds for people needing a pet sitter while they go out of town. VCI in Paducah, Kentucky is a wonderful source if you live in the area.

Do you like children? You could babysit for a neighbor occasionally.  If you enjoy crafts perhaps you could sell some of your creations for a few dollars on Etsy? Gardeners can sell extra produce on a small table in their front yard or even alongside a busy road for extra cash.

Clean a house or look online for people needed short-term assistance. These jobs generally pay cash and you can pick and choose what you prefer to do. If you have a talent for fixing hoosie-whatsits perhaps you can place a small ad in a free online classified announcing your skill. I have a friend who made extra money by running an unofficial taxi service for friends and neighbors—not only did he make enough money to more than keep the maintenance up on his van but it enabled him to go out and explore places with the Amish that otherwise he would have never seen!

If you have a mower perhaps you can mow small lawns for extra money, or rent the mower out to others who don’t have one? If you have wireless internet you could share the connection with your neighbors in exchange for a portion of the bill! You may make enough money from this to pay your internet bill entirely—thus getting your internet for free!

If you have reduced the amount of stuff you own to save storage expense perhaps you find yourself with an empty storage building or even an empty corner in the garage. You can rent out this space and allow others to store stuff there!

You could bake homemade bread, labor-intensive foods like lasagna or even dog treats and sell the finished product. Of course on a bigger operation there are rules and regulations to follow but we’re talking occasional agreements among people you know and not necessarily a business-type arrangement.

If you know about antiques or a certain item you collect perhaps you can make extra money selling some. Yard sales and thrift shops are known for good deals so perhaps if you stumble upon something at a gorgeously low price you can mark it up a bit and resell it.

If you prefer to make money online there are places like Mylot, KGBMTurk and others that pay money for doing certain things. If you like to write sites like Helium, Associated Content, Factoidz  and others will allow you to make money on your creations. In fact, some sites will pay you to post videos and slideshows!

Blogging can give you a way to express thoughts and ideas in a form that can earn you some income as well. Adding Google Adsense to the blog or even Adbrite can earn you a little money for doing something you may do anyway—keep a journal.

You don’t have to do any of these suggestions. In fact I’m confident that if you look around you will find something that is uniquely perfect for you and your living situation. The trick to a happy life is not to just live simply and frugally but to be confident that no matter what–money is going to be there to provide what we need. Depending upon a single income source—no matter how reliable it is supposed to be—is a recipe for disaster.

Please look around your lives and see what you can do to earn an extra dollar or two. You don’t have to kill yourself but make a small goal to just make a couple of extra dollars this month. Stash that extra income in an online savings account or even in a jar somewhere until it builds up where you can do something with it. Save a little of it for the future, but enjoy some of it now—you earned it!

Having sources for extra income may seem silly if you are used to making big money but a little money is a lot better than no money at all in the event that something stops your regular income source!

With this said you may wonder what I do for extra money. Well, I write online for various websites, most of which don’t give me any credit but pay well nevertheless. I am working on increasing my Associated Content library, the articles I have at Factoidz and making this blog and my simplicity blog useful to others to increase traffic. Besides that I have a diploma in computer repair so I promote a small computer repair business and pick up odd jobs doing strange things on occasion. I’ve even started a book on simplicity and frugality that I plan to market at a later date!

It may seem like I’m doing a lot but honestly I’m not. When I get an idea for something to write about I decide where to stick it that is most appropriate and there it goes. Since computer work largely involves waiting on computers I can work on other things here while waiting for them to do their thing!

I have lived on a single source of income in the past and struggled when that income disappeared. No matter how small or large that income may be it hurts! I don’t want that to happen to you.

How Far can $10 go?!?!

There is an assignment on CNN asking users to spend $10 and post pictures of what it bought. 

At first I considered the challenge and then it dawned on me:  Would it not be better to NOT spend that $10 at all?

Think about it:  You can spend that money and it is gone forever, or you can save that money and allow it to make you even more money.

So instead of spending ten bucks I’m going to stash it this weekend.

Can YOU stash ten bucks somewhere this weekend?

Bathing the Hard Way

In January a thermostat mishap while out of town caused a large number of my water pipes to break. The ground is quite damp here so instead of paying a plumber extra to climb under the soggy mess my mobile home rests on I decided to wait until the weather warms and the ground dries out before taking a look myself.

The outside spigot is on the live side of the house shutoff, so I run a water hose in through a window to power the washing machine, flush the commode, bathe and whatever else I need water for.

This is a challenge for a woman whose major weakness is a hot bath.

Baths get planned in advance these days because it takes a while to heat enough water on the stove to fill my bathtub.  I take sponge baths daily (a.k.a. whore baths when I was a child) but my cherished soak is now an hours-long ritual that no one is allowed to interrupt.

I use a metal bucket, a large metal bowl and my stock pot to heat water to boiling on the kitchen stove.  My tub is metal, so the drain is stopped up and the boiling water is poured into the tub.  It takes 2 rounds of boiling water to give a nice amount of really hot bathwater but I generally do three rounds to fill it as full as I can get.  Then cold water is poured in it until it is cool enough to step into.  This makes for bathwater much hotter than I can get out of my tiny water heater, which makes the work worth it.

I get out after a good long soak with the water still warm.  This water is recycled to give the dogs a bath, then recycled again to flush the commode until it’s gone.

I have honestly never recycled something so much in my life!!!

I guess it is a good thing to recycle, but it has pointed out how spoiled I was by being able to turn a faucet and get instant water. It has also shown me that one does not HAVE to have running water in every room or even in a house to live well.

I must admit though—I would not like to live without a washing machine. I am too addicted to washing clothes and towels for that.

I am in hopes that the ground will dry up this month so that I can take a peek underneath without having to worry about sinking knee-deep in mud.  The pipes are the pvc type so all you need are the pipes, joints and glue.

I’m not sure of the exact extent of the damage, but I should at least be able to rig up an interior spigot until I can repair it all and as for the water heater—it is not the necessity I thought it was, so I think I will look at it last to see if I need to replace the heating elements (I have it shut off at the breaker right now but am unable to check for damage until the pipes are repaired).

Yes I could probably hire it done or beg some handy male neighbor to do it, but why bother when I am perfectly capable of fixing it myself?

I am just happy and grateful that I have a water hose long enough to reach to my washing machine, and a y-connector so that I can fill up jugs and buckets while my machine does it’s thing.

I am happy that I have buckets, and the knowledge to use them.

I am downright delighted I have dish pans as well!

I wonder if people who live in tiny houses, who espouse the whole green movement—I wonder how often they wash their towels, and if that laundromat can get them clean enough?

I have an antique washstand complete with candle holders and mirror that I now keep in the kitchen for handwashing.  I keep the pitcher filled with water and a bucket nearby to hold the used water, which gets used to flush the commode. Water from dishwashing gets used for the same purpose.  Just the thought of a stinky commode is just gross, so I use every drop of water to keep it flushed, as well as keeping the back tank filled from the hose for the times when it needs flushing but there is no recycled water waiting to flush it.

If I lived near a place where I could readily access water either with a hose or containers, especially if that water source had a washer hooked up I wouldn’t really need running water in a place.  Just a compost commode to avoid flushing the stupid thing and a drain for all of the greywater produced.

That means that I am a bit closer mentally to living in a more rustic environment than I previously thought.

Life is good…..

Information Costs More than Food?

I just stumbled upon an article saying that we pay more for information than food (dead link)!

You gotta click on the link and check it out — cause for a lot of people he is exactly right!

I know people who have almost all of those things–the internet, the cellphone, the internet on the cellphone, the satellite radio, the satellite television, the DVR (modern TiVo)–even the wireless card for Internet on the go besides the internet they were paying for at home! I read the article and the comments and wanted to laugh!

I pay for a mid-grade DSL connection. That connection is my television thanks to Hulu and other places. It is my phone thanks to MagicJack. It is my radio thanks to Shoutcast. If I want instant replay I just wind back the controller on the page, so I have TiVO as well!

My two cellphones are both prepay, and combined cost $50 every three months to keep active, but we rarely use all of the time we purchase for them. We mainly keep a texting package on them and use that.

I splurge with having two cellphones, but feel safer knowing that my daughter can contact me wherever she is and regardless of where I am. That is a blessing when she is at her father’s house or out playing–or we get separated in a store.

It is cheaper to have the two prepay phones than it is to have even the smallest family plan.

So, no cable, no satellite radio–not even a television or a game machine in this house to pay for XBox live or whatever game is hot these days…

Read the article please, and leave in the comments here how much YOU are paying for information–I would honestly love to know!

Family Cloth Savings

I figured it up: When we use bathroom tissue it normally takes about 2 rolls a week of average tissue in our house.

I buy 40 packs of Pom tissue at Sam’s Club. The current price is $18.88 plus tax for those 40 rolls, meaning each roll costs $0.41 each before tax.

I make my own laundry detergent, which costs about a nickel a load. However, I prewash the family cloths before I toss them in with my normal load of whites so at most I am spending a quarter extra to wash them. In the summer I hang them out to dry so that is free, but in winter they are dried with my normal load of whites, which costs me nothing extra cause I have to dry that load anyway.

With all that in mind I think I am saving at least $0.50 a week by using the family cloths. I would be saving more if I used the more expensive tissue, but I’m cheap. That works out to about $26.00 a year savings to me personally, provided I only used 2 rolls of bathroom tissue every week.

That may not seem like much, but every penny counts in this economy. Frankly I see no point in giving Big Business that money if I can use it on something I enjoy more, like a good steak or for seeds for a garden (which will give me something back).

We work to make money then give it all back to the businesses who hire us. It’s like a form of slavery. The more we think we want the more we have to work to get it. The more we work, the more we think we want.

Hmmm…. I think it is time to research menstrual cloths. I may be on to something here…

Shopping and Simplicity

When I go shopping, I see lots of people with shopping carts overflowing with stuff. I see myself several years ago, or actually not too long ago shopping at Sam’s Club.

Then I look into my cart. I had a 10-pack of Ivory soap, a gallon of milk, a plastic washtub, some drain cleaner and a bag of Timothy for the guinea pigs. I had picked up some mushrooms and some chocolate but put them back after some thought.

I really didn’t need the washtub, but the metal bowl I use to rinse my dishes in wasn’t very satisfying when the time comes to rinse larger items.

I found myself wandering the aisles just looking at the choices. Retractable clothes lines for seven dollars each when a 99-cent piece of cord would suffice. Chunks of wood packaged to stuff in your closet – when the spruce tree you had for Christmas could have been cut up and used to scent your closet just as well.

Boxes made out of fabric covered cardboard–the type of craft I’ve tinkered with since I was a kid–but my boxes said Eggs on the side!

I could go on but there is no real point.

I felt like an outsider watching a strange ritual today as I wandered around the store. I passed people debating on clothes and cleaning supplies alike, cringing because I feel like I’m carrying a deep dark secret.

The few people I have told about this – most think I’m crazy. I told one friend about making laundry soap and was scolded for not telling him I needed money to buy laundry detergent.

I feel lonely as a result of my frugality. Friends shake their heads because I sold my queen-sized bed when I moved here and now sleep on a small cot in an even smaller room. Instead of a couch we have a rattan loveseat–the dog is the only one who uses it so why waste money on a couch?

Somehow it is all okay however. I am marching to the beat of my own personal drummer. I am not going to give in like I have in the past and follow my spendthrift friends.

I hope not, anyway.

Paying the Bills

Bills. It really should be a four-letter word. Those evil little slips of paper that land in your mailbox are just foul. Because of them we have to do another four-letter word: work. Nasty words, both of them!

Anyhow, to simplify my life I have been taking steps to work at home and spend more time with my daughter. I have published on Associated Content for most of a year now, and tonight have taken another step toward freedom: I have applied at Demand Studios for a position either writing or copyediting.

I am terribly nervous, and hopeful at the same time. They pay on average about $15 an article and would be a great way to not only build my readership but pay those four-letter words off, you know? I could write whenever, wherever – however!

Please send a wish out that I get a position with this company, and can continue my dream of freedom!


Homemade Donuts?

Good evening!

Katie came home in good spirits today, talking of Yu-Gi-Oh cards she trades with her friends. Surprisingly, she played at my feet and in the living room for most of the evening without even asking to get on the computer to check her Webkins or watch a show!

I finished a book entitled Affluenza, which was a wonderful companion to the movie they released a few years ago. If you ever stumble upon it at your local library check it out.

Rummaged through my cabinets and found a can of pumpkin pie mix, so I found a simple pie crust recipe and made a pie. Katie was delighted, and ate all of her dinner in exchange for a piece of pie. Of course, my crust wasn’t as pretty as those in the store (the crust recipe didn’t quite make enough crust to do fancy edges on my 9.5-inch deep dish pan) but that’s okay. Next time I’ll know to make a double batch and use the leftover crust to make monkey bread!

My sister has stumbled upon what she considers a great inexpensive treat: home fried donuts using ready-made biscuit dough. She says she makes a hole in the center and fries them in a bit of hot oil and sprinkles them with powdered sugar, only frying what she will eat and saving the rest of the can of dough in the fridge. Considering that a can of biscuit dough costs about a dollar and makes 8 fresh donuts but a dozen of stale donuts costs $2.50 on the clearance rack, she does have a point.

I don’t feel like running to the store yet so I’m going to look in my cookbook to see if I have the ingredients to make some donuts from scratch without buying biscuit dough. If I could make a batch but only fry them as wanted, we would have a fresh treat on occasion without having to eat a large amount of donuts before they get hard…

Anyhow, the dishes are washed and I am beat. Goodnight for now!

Out of Butter

Last night I sat down to watch The Crow and ended up blowing off washing dishes. That movie was an excellent film – I was pleasantly surprised! I should have done them, there weren’t that many to do, but I was just lazy! This morning I woke up and knocked them out in just a few minutes, annoyed at myself for not getting off my butt and taking care of them last night!

After Katie went to sleep I watched that movie and slipped outside to walk to dog and watch the meteor shower. I only saw a few shooting stars, but it felt so nice on that dark path, standing there in the dark and making wishes! The silence was so strong, only broken once by a train passing through in the distance.

As I stood there in the dark just me and the dog everything felt so right with the world I wanted to start crying. I didn’t actually tear up, but the urge was sure there. When I was a child I would lay out in the yard just watching the stars. We didn’t have street lights where we lived in the country, and the stars would just wink at you in friendliness.

This is my life. No rushing, no grabbing. Sitting at the kitchen table for hours with my daughter after school while she talks about her day and shows me magic tricks.

I actually ran out of butter yesterday. I had used up the very last stick the night before and didn’t realize it. When I went to get some out to butter my homemade bread there was absolutely none to be found, not even in the freezer.

At first I was annoyed, but then I just had to laugh. I was just out the day before, and at Sam’s a few days ago but had no clue I was so low on butter. This is the first time I have ran out of butter – totally ran out almost a decade and it took me by surprise.

You know what I did? I ate my toast laughing sans butter. I don’t think I’m going to go out and get any today, either! It feels so liberating to be out of something and NOT run to the store and get it, to KNOW that I can go but choose NOT to. Instead we will do without for a couple of days.

Instead I have it on a list with a couple of other items. I’ll pick it up later in the week when I head out for something else. My daughter expected me to follow my old habit of rushing out to the store to grab just that one thing, and was shocked that I did not. I’m kinda shocked as well, to be honest.

The day after Thanksgiving has been designated as a “Buy Nothing Day” by Adbusters. I had one of those yesterday and the day before as well without even trying! There was a time when it would have felt like an impossible goal.

Life just keeps getting better.