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Archive for 'Frugal Living' Category


Scrooge writes on saving Christmas

Published 12/1/15

Scrooge writes on saving Christmas By Peter Andrew

Bah humbug. Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with the holidays. It's great when people observe the religious elements, exchange cards, eat too much, drink too much and give joy and wonder to children in the form of seasonal spirit and extravagant presents. After all, most kids have just two opportunities a year to have their material dreams fulfilled, and only one comes with seasonal magic.

Get a grip, grown-ups

But it's different when it comes to gifts for adults. When you want something, don't you just save up (or get out the plastic) and buy it? Do you really think someone else could do a better job of buying the thing you want? It's not as if the exchange of gifts between grown-ups isn't a zero-sum game: You're almost always trying to guess how much the other person's going to spend so you can match it. And, if you get it wrong, don't you even things up the following year?

After years of faking happiness over slightly off (or downright bad) gifts, adults in my circle of family and friends have agreed on a $15 holiday present cap for each other. Amazingly, some of the inexpensive ones I've received remain precious many years later.

Peculiar presents

Unless they're your own, it can remain very difficult to buy gifts for kids. Of course, that's been the case since the very beginning. One wise man turned up in 1st century Bethlehem with gold, but the other wise guys decided on frankincense and myrrh. And, Read the full article »

4 ways to stop a wedding invite from breaking the bank

Published 5/28/15

4 ways to stop a wedding invite from breaking the bank By Peter Andrew

If you're like me, you're going to be a sucker for weddings. No quantity of divorce statistics or doubts about the gene pool from which one of the happy couple was derived is going to stop me loving every second. And I really don't care whether it's an over-flowered church affair followed by a reception at a fancy country club, or a bland, city hall ceremony with a party in the back room of a bar afterwards. It's the whole atmosphere of happiness and well-being that gets me. You'd be amazed how often I get something in my eye, just as someone I care about is saying "I do."

So I'm truly disappointed on those occasions when I have to turn down a wedding invitation. But I sometimes do, just because I can't afford to attend. Every year, American Express publishes a survey about the cost of attending nuptials as a guest, and be prepared to be shocked by the results of the latest edition from April, 2015:

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How to fix a broken savings strategy

Published 4/3/15

How to fix a broken savings strategy By Peter Andrew

The only thing that stands between me and my being a good saver is my inability to differentiate between things I want and things I need. Show me something that it would be nice to have, and I'll show you the spectacular display of mental gymnastics necessary to turn that object of desire into a necessity. It's not that I'm a noticeably stupid person in most respects. It's just that my brain seems to have a blind spot when it comes to impulse control.

Either that or I'm too stupid to recognize my own stupidity. Looking around though, it appears I'm not alone in having impulse control issues when it comes to spending.

Most Americans financially unhealthy

Fifty-seven percent of adults in this country say they struggle financially, and 43 percent of U.S. households find simply keeping up with bills and finance payments a real challenge. Those numbers come from a new study from the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), which seeks to better understand people's "financial health," something it defines as occurring "when an individual's daily financial system functions well and increases the likelihood of financial resilience and opportunity."

Two other figures from the study show just how important savings are to achieving such health:

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2 steps to making saving easier

Published 1/22/15

2 steps to making saving easier By Georgie Miller

It may still be early in the year, but if you're like me, you've already failed at a New Year's resolution (or five). I think one of the reasons so many resolutions fail is because they require that you take an action (or not take action) every single day. Saying I won't buy myself coffee every morning is easy. However, if I have to drive or walk by the coffee shop on a daily basis, it's only a matter of time before my willpower gives out and I'm in line for some caffeinated bliss.

That's why I experience more success by using strategies that fall into the category of "set it and forget it." In other words, if I only have to do something once, then I don't have to worry about a daily inner battle that I'm all too likely to lose. A little bit of effort up front can save me quite a bit later. How do you do that? Here is a simple two-step process for effort-free savings.

Step 1: Determine how much you want to save and work backward

How much do you want to be putting aside every month and why? Once you know that, then all you have to do is to figure out how to keep that money from hitting your checking account where it's likely to be spent.

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Building a better brown-bag lunch

Published 12/2/14

Building a better brown-bag lunch By Georgie Miller

If you're anything like me, it's hard enough finding your way to the coffee pot in the morning -- let alone making a plan for a healthy and delicious lunch.

As a result, it's easy to fall into bad habits. Takeout and frozen meals may be fast and convenient, but they aren't necessarily the best choice for your wallet or your waistline. So how can you take the pain out of bringing a healthy and affordable lunch to work?

Here are two brown-bagging strategies that require a minimum of advance planning -- and money.

1. Simmer your way to savings

Every Sunday, I get out my slow cooker and survey my refrigerator and pantry.

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5 everyday ways parents can save money

Published 6/16/14

5 everyday ways parents can save money By Holly Johnson

According to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year, the average cost to raise a child born in 2013 to age 18 is expected to be $241,080. Government number-crunchers examined weighty expenses such as groceries, transportation, shelter, day care, health care and education to reach this frightening figure.

The cost of raising children is definitely something to think about before you have kids. Your kids will need necessities like food, shelter, health care and education, and some of these expenses may be hard to skimp on without losing something in return. However, it is extremely easy to save on other everyday needs your children will have. Here are a few ways to do it.

1. Stick to secondhand

Thanks to garage sales and the magic of the Internet, you can find all kinds of used kid's stuff for pennies on the dollar.

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