Monday, December 8, 2008

After crunch time...

Hi Everyone,

My apologies for not posting in a while, I hope you will sympathize with my weekends now being drowned by papers and assignments to fulfill in the upcoming weeks. As soon as I am done for the semester, which should be mid-week next week, expect a post from me on what I have been keeping up on in my quest for frugal, green life.

Take care until then!
-Frugal Green Girl

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Giving Thanks

Hi Everyone,
My apologies for not posting in a while, being a graduate student leaves hectic times in the middle to end of a school semester, so I hope you will be forgiving ;) Over the course of the next month my posts may be a little less frequent due to the crunch time of finals.

Anyways, I'd like to take this time, with it being so close to Thanksgiving, to think about gratitude. "Gratitude?" I hear you say, "What the heck does that have to deal with saving money or going green?" Well, more than you would think.

In counseling, therapists will many times implement the use of something called a gratitude journal, where each day (usually right before you go to bed), you write down 3 things you are thankful for that day. This many times will decrease depressive symptoms, according to research, as well as my own personal experience. Now, I know likely most of you reading do not suffer from depressive symptoms, however, this can also be a protective factor in addition to increasing happiness.

"I still don't get it, what does it have to deal with money or green-ness?" In especially American society, our culture defines happiness by how many things one attains, whether its material possessions or the titles we earn, etc. A gratitude journal reinforces the idea to be grateful for what we have, and that things could be much, much worse. Many times we think we would be happier if we had x amount more money, or had that pair of designer pants, or that new flat screen TV. But research shows that isn't the case, and in some cases, it could be the opposite. Lottery winners after a year are no happier than where they were before they won, and sometimes they may even lose their friends over this "wonderful" happening. Especially when the holidays come around, I'm happy just to have a loving family that I yearn to see at Christmas, rather than worrying and thinking about all the gifts I will receive. Because I live so far away from my family, I am thankful when I do get to see them, and it puts unneccessary ideas and thoughts out of my mind, leaving whats most important, the people in our lives. Just as they say "absence makes the heart grow fonder", when we are deprived of luxury we will then appreciate it when we can experience it.

Another idea is called a "Thanksgiving Jar" where families, or it could just be yourself, will write down on a slip of paper when they are thankful about something good that happened recently, and you place it in the jar. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, there should be a decent amount of things to be thankful for, and they are read by members of the family.

Either way, when Thanksgiving comes around, be thankful for those things that are most important to you, and even consider trying one of the ideas listed here. You will be amazed at the positive feelings they give you, and what you may give to other people as well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Free Learning!

I recently have been taking on a great free treat, podcasts. I am a mac user, but those of you with windows can also use iTunes to get a vast directory with every topic under the sun in podcast topics. Take an astronomy class from UC-Berkley, learn daily Spanish, or subscribe to podcasts on learning how to be more "green". If you are into talk radio, this is another great outlet as well, since topics can be specific to your own interests. Also, I know in the case of my husband, he has a particularily long commute to work every day, so there is always room to take advantage during the daily drive to play podcasts on American civil war history (yuck!). There are also video podcasts available too, if you like to watch your speaker. I like to load up on a podcast before a long trip on an airplane or by car on our journey back home, it makes things much more enjoyable and time go a little faster.

You don't need an actual iPod to use "podcasts" either, any mp3 player can work just fine! Depending on the length of the podcast, you may also be able to burn them on to CDs, if you do not have a type of mp3 player transmitter to your car radio. Grow your interests with podcasts, its knowledge at your disposable, with entertainment on the side. The list of podcasts on iTunes is growing every week too, so check back every once in a while!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Great Article on Saving Money for Families

Check out this great article from on 101 money-saving tips for families

Friday, October 17, 2008

Upromise, for the future or today!

Upromise is an awesome program that you can sign up for online, in which participating retailers will donate to a college fund for you (if you are under age 25) or your child (or future children) when you buy their products.

You can participate in the program through many mediums:
a) Getting the Upromise Citi Credit Card. With the credit card, 1% of all purchases go towards a college fund, and 10% of purchases at selected restaurants and grocery store/drug store items.
b) Shopping online at selected retailers with your registered credit or debit card. Savings range from 1-25%.
c) Dining with participating restaurants. When you register with the Upromise website, you will be provided a list of local restaurants in your area that are a part of the Upromise program, and you can receive up to 8% in college savings.
d) Using your grocery store and drug store "club cards" - when you enroll there is a place to provide the numbers of your grocery store and CVS store card numbers. Different products will offer different amounts of college savings, and the Upromise website also offers e-coupons on other select products.
e) In addition there are also ways to save money for college on travel by booking with many popular online companies like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity (also rental cars and vacations); ordering from select retail catalogs; and other random services. For example, if you have a wireless line with Sprint, you can earn $50 per line.

If you have a child, considering having a child, or are in college yourself, consider registering with Upromise. In addition, family members and friends can donate to your fund with same registration process online. You receive the amount you get back from your purchases either via check, having it deposited into a 529 fund, or you can already put it towards a student loan already taken out. Every little bit helps!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


As someone who is training for and working in the field of mental health, we are all taught how hard it can be to find someone to help with problems or issues in our lives. There is an inevitable stigma that follows the idea of "therapy". For those of you unfamiliar with the experience of therapy, let me advise you, a) we do not have you lie on a couch to talk about yourself, thats a personal choice for you; b) not every therapist will ask you in-depth questions about your childhood, believing that's where you problem is (although there are still some out there that do); c) by going to therapy does not mean you are crazy, everyone has problems, and this is one of the many common ways to resolve personal problems; d) its important that you feel comfortable with and trust your therapist. I've had bad experiences myself, so if that person creeps you out or is not connecting with you, find another therapist.

In addition to feeling comfortable with the idea of going to therapy, there another issue of finding a way to pay for it. The hourly rate can be pretty ridiculus! I've been looking around at possible sources to receive free or close to free therapy, besides private practice, which is typically far from free, and here is what I know of or have discovered.
  • Students - If you attend a college or university, it is likely your school has a counseling center which will serve you for a smaller rate if not free. I've seen universities where you will be charged after the first session (for very cheaply in comparison to private practice rates), or sometimes it costs nothing at all, all you have to do is make the appointment.
  • Health and Human Services-type-organizations run in your local county - Often times your local county will have therapists and psychologists on board that are working for free to earn hours toward licensure, and fees are assessed on a sliding scale, meaning they assess fees to you for services based on your income, family size, and other financial obligations. You may have to do some searching on the internet for these services, like checking out your county's website, or typing in "[your county] mental health center" on google. In addition, many private practices to incorporate a sliding scale fee, but you won't know until you ask around. To look for services in your area, check your phonebook or type in "mental health in [your city]" on google to get a list of practices with their websites that might provide this information.
  • Check your insurance policy! I was shocked to find that my insurance company, pending authorization, lets me see therapists in private practice for only $20 co-pay per session. (Not to say $20 isn't a lot, but it is much cheaper than the normal cost). However, the risks with using your insurance is that diagnoses are released to them. If your comfortable with that, go for it. If your insurance still has a crappy co-pay rate, check on it occasionally in the upcoming year. With the recent approval of the bailout bill, there was also a "mental health parity" bill approved, which means that insurance companies must be fair in assessing fees for mental health treatment - meaning they have to cost the same rates as it would be to treat a physical condition.
  • Group Therapy/Support Groups - Group therapy is a commonly used method due to the fact its cheaper since only one or two therapists are needed to serve a large amount of people in a group at one time. In addition, people learn greatly from their peers as well as with guidence from their therapist, so a lot of times its a win-win situation. Good places to look for these are health and human services type organizations from the county, non-profit mental health organizations, and hospitals. Again, type in "mental health in [your city]" on google to look at websites of practices that offer these services. Looking at my local hospital's website, there are numerous support groups for free, however, due to the fact its a hospital their support groups are more aimed towards those with physical conditions.
  • Online therapy/support groups - Due to my personal circumstances, I use these and find them to be helpful. Its also nice if you do not feel like going to actual group therapy, however, I don't believe you will get as much out of doing this online. It's a very different experience. One of my favorites is, which provides support groups for all different types of medical conditions, as well as other life circumstances that can cause a potentially great amount of stress. In addition, its also like facebook or myspace where you have a profile page and can journal and set goals for yourself. You're also likely to find support groups in places like Yahoo Groups or Google Groups, all you have to do is search for it. If you can't find what you are looking for, consider starting one! I'm actually liking this a lot, so give it a try if you think it would be useful to you.
  • Student Training Centers - If you are close to a university that offers graduate programs in counseling or clinical psychology, then you might be in luck! Often times these programs will have clinics set up in university buildings which offer therapy for relatively cheap due to the fact that it is a training facility for students who are supervised by professionals.
If you are having some personal struggles in your life that you think you would like to open up about, but not your wallet, consider trying some of these options. If you have any questions for me, please feel free to comment or email

Good luck!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Nutrition and Your Body

I don't think you need me to tell you that good nutrition habits will help keep the doctor away, as well as any medical bills or even money for cold or flu medicine. There are awesome ways to plan out your diet on and of course, books galore on the subject. I often found myself discouraged with eating right because I didn't have the time or the money to do so. "That means making meals I don't know how to make and spending a lot of money at the Co-op for organic foods" I would tell myself. Not necessarily true. I know most of my meals are "on the go" types. Rarely do I get time to actually sit at the dinner table to eat (and then again, I do not have children to feed either). A good strategy for preparing on-the-go lunch types are one word: leftovers. On Sunday night, when I actually have time to prepare a meal, I make it larger than usual, and then use the remaining leftovers as my lunch for the rest of the week. Easy, microwavable, and likely to be healthier than fast food or a bag of potato chips. In addition, good lunches can consist of some excellent sides that come in bulk, like buying a large bag of pretzels, and putting them in a sandwich bag and then a REUSABLE lunch sack everyday. I also buy a large sack of string cheese or yogurt, and possibly some canned fruit into a small tupperware container. This is also where your reusable water bottle comes in handy. Lunches like this can generally cost (depending on ingredients) less than 50 cents!

Not everything has to be organic to be "green" or healthier. I always thought you would have to shop at the Co-op to be eating healthier, and I have often strayed away because their prices are generally very expensive. I wish I could afford to be a regular patron, but being a student does me no favors here. There are many items in your grocery store that already offer organic options, and you might not even know it. Even making switches from white rice to brown rice, white bread to wheat bread are going to be steps in the right direction. After eating healthier foods for a while, I notice that I can't go back due to the awful taste. Lays Baked Chip options have already turned me away from most regular fried potato chips...they just taste different now. Your produce section by far will be your healthiest, and likely provide more organic options. Kashi, usually found in the cereal aisle, offers some great granola bars that I have almost everyday for a mid morning snack. They offer a lot of great (and tasty, I might add) options for high dietary fiber intake. Kashi is one of many companies known for its organic nature, and natural gravity towards wellness. Right now they are offering coupons for a free cookie, one of their new products. I have also been noticing grocery stores are now adding separate "Natural Food" or "Organic" sections to the store. It will all be coming together before we know it, as grocery stores are now seeing the value of providing customers with healthier choices.

Beyond this information, if you have not seen documentary films like Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, or Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, I would highly recommend either. They examine so much of what is going on in the food industry with corporations, and you can see the physical and psychological effects of bad eating habits, and the effects of this lifestyle on the environment, in Super Size Me. Consider either my "green recommendation for the month". BBC America also has a show, You Are What You Eat, which each show examines a generally overweight, British citizen every show, and shows them how their diet is effecting their behavior and life, and how to make positive changes in the right direction, which includes basic recipes as well as exercise routines. Think of eating healthy as a long term investment in your health.

I'd also like to invite you to take part in Vegetarian Awareness Month. Give it a try for a day if you aren't a vegetarian already. Many studies have shown that vegetarians are generally healthier and live longer than the rest of us meat eaters. Although I am not a vegetarian, I do appreciate vegetarian options and their lifestyle, and do occationally take part.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Christmas is coming sooner than you think...

As a graduate student, I think its almost a prerequisite that you live a great distance from home during your studies, I'm currently holding a 600 mile buffer-zone myself. Anyways, Christmas has always been a stressful time for myself, not because of finals or worrying about gifts to give...its those people who want to buy me gifts I have had the problem with. I had trouble communicating with both families, people got upset with me and other people because they had bought me both the same thing. Not only that, that also meant returning stuff, which is every person's dream right after Christmas. Talk about a waste of time, money, and energy mending the wounds of Christmas chaos.

This year, I have taken a new approach with the help of At this website, it allows you to create a universal registry of items for any occasion (or none at all), including Christmas. You can even get a button added to your browser tool bar so that any time you are browsing a webpage and see something you would like, just click on it and a small window will pop up where you can edit the title, price, add any notes (like, "Won't be released until Dec. 12"; "Would prefer in white"; etc.), and designate the priority of the item. The viewable list will also provide a picture and link to the page you took the item from.

Then, when you are ready to share your list with all of those people who wish to shower you with gifts, you can share with them through email available. You can put a password on the list or make it entirely private if you are worried that too many people would buy you things ;) Anyways, so now your mom can look at your list, and can make the choice to buy an item from the site you provided, or choose the "Offline Reservation" button, which means they are going to either buy it in person or somewhere else online. Either way, it will let other people know the item has been bought.

"It will take away the surprise!" I hear you say. Have no fear, simply modify the list and click the option that says "Suprise me!" and you won't be able to know who has bought you something or what has been bought, just like Amazon's wishlists. In addition, having these lists are always helpful because you are asking for things you would actually like, want, or need. Theres nothing like faking that smile and bringing your item back or perhaps throwing it in the closet. I have especially made a point this year to not just put fun things on my list, but also more practical items like an electric toothbrush or a blender.

I'm excited to try this one out, and I am hoping this will reduce the conflict and stress of previous years. If you know what I am talking about, give it a look if you have technologically connected relatives. Heres to the start of the Christmas season!

Verdict: The Diva Cup - Two Green Thumbs up!

After spending the past few days with my little silicone cup, I found that I have come to like it a lot! I was incredibly skeptical, just because I think all women have issues down there, and we're all different. I wasn't sure if this would work with my weird body. It does take a few days to get the hang of using, and it will seem a little strange to use at first, but it has been VERY effective in its purpose. I desperately want to tell people how great this invention is because I feel that much better about producing less waste for the environment! Anyways, here are some of the pluses and minuses experiences I have had this past week with the Diva Cup.

Plus: No, absolutely no, leaks. Not even a little bit. I'll have the confidence to possibly ditch the pantyliners next time around. Hands down though, I've never seen anything like this before, and its friggin' awesome!

Minus: I'm still finding a bit of difficulty with removal, but again, I think that's something that takes time to get the hang of. It usually doesn't take me longer than a minute to remove after using it only a few days.

Plus: The cup can stay in place for 12 HOURS! Which means that if you are in a place where you don't have access to a private bathroom and sink, you likely won't need to remove it until you get home. However, the Diva Cup comes with a full set of instructions on cleaning and changing your cup in places other than your own bathroom, don't worry!

Minus: If you sleep with it in, it might take a few hours in the morning for gravity to pull it down, which can be a little scary, so I would recommend trying the cup out first during the day time hours rather than at night. With experience, you'll learn how it will work with your body.

Other pluses: Talk about less waste! This cup provides all of the benefits of tampons without the waste or TSS risks. Every year, an estimated 12 billion sanitary pads and 7 billion tampons go into our landfills, furthermore poluting with some of the toxic ingredients used to make these products. Think of the difference you and a few of the friends you tell (and the few friends they tell) would make a difference by not contributing to that waste. You don't need to get a hybrid car to make an impact on the environment. In addition, we are also talking about great money savings too! Women spend on average $150 - $200 a year on disposable feminine hygene products. I payed $30 for my Diva Cup and will expect to see a savings of $50+, and the following year will see even more because the Diva Cup can be reused again and again!

I want to thank the fellow reader again who suggested this idea, it is such a wonderful alternative and it has been a great inspiration for my blog these past few weeks. I hope this will encourage fellow female readers to look for healthy alternatives for feminine hygene products for the environment. Check a couple of posts down if you missed it!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shopping Smart for Clothes

One thing that I have been trying a lot recently when I purchase clothes, shoes, anything I wear, I will first and foremost try it on in the store. Although trying things on in the store is often times a pain in the butt, it will prevent you from buying a lot of things that are impractical or don't fit. Dressing appropriately is difficult to discover when you are looking at an item on a hanger. Its about body shape, color, fabric, fit, etc., and it will be impossible to see these things without trying on your own body. In addition, if the clothes don't fit, always always ALWAYS return them. Commonly, when I buy new pairs of shoes that end up giving me blisters, I just throw them in the closet and forget about them, which is basically like throwing money away. Barry Schwartz talks about in his book, The Paradox of Choice, that we will often hold on to things that we don't use until the "psychological value" has worn off. We feel this need to keep these items, because we spent money on them, but we don't use them. The main reason to try things on in the store is to prevent you from bringing an item home so that it won't end up in your closet for the rest of its life.

A common suggestion from the folks at What Not To Wear on TLC is to bring clothes that may need a more appropriate fitting to a tailor. And if it makes the difference between wearing or not wearing clothes, or even being more satisfied with how a piece of clothing fits, consider having the items alternated for your own body. We're all different and don't fit the designer's size!

When you shop for clothes, shop as smart as possible and make sure these clothes fit you personally! You will get more wear out of your clothes, and spend less on the ones you never wear!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Follow Up to Friday

For those of you who read Friday's post and was left curious, I decided to investigate further for more green feminine hygiene products at my local co-op today. While I left the store with a Diva cup, which I am excited to try out, there are a couple of other products out there for "greener" periods. First, there are washable pads. You would likely have to buy a decent store of them, and at my co-op they were about $10 each, however, you will have to see them as an investment, just like those who use cloth diapers, which I also hope to write on eventually as well. If the idea of washing them grosses you out, a lot of times there are services out there that can do the dirty work for you, like places that clean cloth diapers. For an online directory, check out this website. Next, there are pads and tampons that are "chlorine-free" and organic cotton pads. Obviously these are an option, however, they will cost you some chunk change every month, since most organic products cost more than their regular counterparts. Since I am all about saving money and the environment at the same time, I opted for the Diva Cup since it fits the bill.

When I actually get to try out the Diva Cup, I will leave a product review here, for all of you who might be contemplating the switch as well. Thanks for all of your feedback and ideas!

Friday, September 12, 2008

For Ladies Only...

So ladies, I know you have all seen commercials on TV for "shorter, lighter periods" with oral contraceptives, and there are also birth control pills like Seasonique that only give you periods every 3-4 months rather than every month. I have always been super-conscious about doing this, I figured, "Hey, this is going up against what the body natural does, and since it sounds like one of those ideas that is too good to be true, it probably isn't healthy. I bet when you do get periods, they are for like two weeks, too." However, I recently had the annual exam with my nurse practitioner, and I decided to ask her about them. She told me not only is it okay idea, but your period is typically lighter when you do have it.

So now I want you to think about how much you spend on those lovely "feminine care" items every month. I consider myself an over-user, since I am paranoid about the smell, leakage, TSS, etc. I would say I spend at least $5 monthly on those items. Times that by 12, that's roughly $60/year. Also, if you buy wipes or any other accessory-like items, add those in too. Now times that amount by 4, instead of 12. That's roughly $20 rather than $60. I know you're probably thinking, big deal, $40, but that can be used for a lot of things, including a savings account with interest!

If thats not enough to make you think about finding a way to have less periods, consider how much waste goes into the environment every time you have a period. Applicators, tampons, pads, wrappers, plastic bags, wipes, the list can go on. All of these go into a landfill like any other garbage, unless you are one of the rare, super-environmental conscious women that uses washable forms of feminine care products. Imagine the amount of waste you use for periods goes down by two-thirds. For me, thats close to 4 garbage bags. Think about what you might be using.

Not to sound like a drug commercial, but check with your doctor if you think one of these options might be right for you.

I know this choice is not for everyone, and I hope no one is offended by my mentioning of oral contraceptives here. While I am liberal, I understand not every one is, or agrees with the use of birth control. Due to the nature of my blog, I am always looking for ways to save money, and save the Earth, in ways not thought of by most. This posting in no way advocates for particular sexual lifestyles.

Fellow reader Melisma, posted a comment regarding another form of feminine protection...

"I'm a HUGE fan of the Diva Cup - check it out here: (Think of it like switching from plastic to canvas bags!) It's a little silicone cup that you tuck up there and empty a few times a day during your period. Surprisingly little mess, and super easy. It lasts for many years. It takes some getting used to, but it eliminates virtually all that garbage created by tampons and pads. Anyone can use it - it doesn't have any hormones and I can't imagine a way it could conflict with moral beliefs."

What a great way to go green! I'm definitely looking into it, thanks Melisma!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bill is Back!

I was incredibly excited this past weekend to see Bill Nye is back on TV, (and I sit and remeniss about the good ol' days of kids programming on PBS), only now he has a new series on Planet Green called "Stuff Happens". It looks at how things are made, and how they effect the environment. Also, some green tips are slipped in too, of course. Its almost like his original show, only minus the annoying kids, the narrator dude, and the lame-o music video at the end. So mostly pluses. Anyways, check it out or DVR it, I learned a lot about bathroom products during the last episode.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Tips for this week

I have been thinking about some things I have been telling people to do over these past few weeks, and forgetting about my lovely readers here at Frugal Green Girl! Anyways, here is a summary of some tips for saving some money from my experiences over the past few weeks:
  • If your a woman (or a high maintenance man), hair products can cost a load of money every month, especially wearing top brands like Paul Mitchell. If you are looking for a cheaper way to get these same products without the ungodly price, check out your local Sally's Beauty Supply. They offer a whole section of "generic value products" (come in black and white bottles) that will even say on them "Compare to: Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Serum". There is literally a whole wall of these products and I would recommend to give them a look especially if you have a daily assortment of expensive product.
  • Podcasts. If you haven't been around this area on iTunes yet, give it a look. There is a podcast out there for everybody, and the majority of them are absolutely free. I had a friend who didn't have a radio with him at the gym but liked to listen to NPR while he exercised. They had NPR podcasts, problem solved! You can take Spanish lessons, catch up on shows you missed, or find out ways to be more green! Ask for a subscription and it will automatically download new podcasts everytime you open iTunes, or ones you don't have yet. If you ever wanted to take a class in your spare time, podcasts are a great place to find what you are looking for without the price.
  • I've also been disturbed lately by the high amounts of dog crap I see around my apartment complex, which allows dogs. For some reason people believe that since it's waste matter that it will decompose on its own and be okay just leaving it, since its done in nature too with wild animals. Well, those animals do not eat processed foods or human food for that matter, and it will not decompose properly. So be sure to pick up after your animal with biodegradable bags, they make them quite handy these days. For more ways to green your pet, check out this article at Planet Green. A lot of these tips are easier than you think, like adopting from a shelter, spaying or neutering your pet, keeping your dog on a leash or the cat inside, or simply putting ID tags on your pet are many ways to be green.
Hope your weekend has been treating all of you well, and I hope to post again sometime this week.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Measure your ecological footprint!

There are tons of places online where you can measure your "ecological footprint", I happened to try this one from Conservation International. Helps you think of and learn about more ways you can help the environment in the process. Thankfully, I scored a 50, which shows great progress for me! Give it a try and see where you fall...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Happy Labor Day!

Hello everyone, my apologies for fleeing off this week, but it has been a crazy week. Right now I am currently studying for my Master's degree examination, which is on the 19th, in addition to starting new classes and jobs, so my future apologies for my less frequent entries on here, they will likely be once or twice a week. It comes with the craziness of a new school year.

Anyways, here are a couple of things I have been trying/doing lately to help the environment and/or save money:
  • Cutting down on appliances used to do my hair. On weekends, since I don't have to look so amazingly beautiful, I don't dry my hair with a blow dryer or use my straightening iron. I know not all of us can get away with it, but I have actually had people tell me they like my hair better without all the product and finesse. It takes less of my time to work with too!
  • Spending less time in the shower. I do this by either cutting back on shampooing (not everyday) or just trying to do things quickly. Shampooing everyday can actually harm your hair since it is removing the natural oils that make your hair smooth and pretty.
  • Take a look at what your city provides in terms of recreation facilities. My husband and I just took advantage of using the local indoor aquatic center, and found it to be a great facility where kids can be separated from adult swim, and we can work on all of those strokes to be the next Michael Phelps. And the great part is, because it is run by the city, it won't cost you an arm and a leg to go every time.
  • In addition to facilities, our city also runs adult sports leagues, which are also quite cheap. We are looking to play some old-school dodge ball this year, and they also offer kickball, softball and other fun sports that you can enjoy. Its a great way to meet and socialize with friends without spending a lot of money to go out.
  • Devising recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes. I have put together a potential recipe for Pizza Hut's Meaty Marinara Tuscani pasta, and that will save me some money since I love to eat it so much! I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out!
  • Michael's craft stores have teamed up with Wilton cake decorating to provide classes at a very cheap price. During September, tuition is 50%, from the usual $36 4-week class. I consider this an investment, especially for what cakes today cost. You can make your own amazing cake for a made-from-scratch price. Plus, the compliments are always great to boost your self-esteem. The only disadvantage is it makes me want to quit school and open a cake shop. They should have offered that in home ec.
  • Catch stuff at the end of the consumer season. I have wanted patio furniture for a long time now, but I didnt want anything big since we will be moving in a year. Going to the local department stores, I found some nice $7 lawn chairs on clearance with it being the end of the summer season. Now I can sit outside with out being uncomfortable in the grass from bug bites.
Well, that's most of what I have been discovering lately! You should be covered for a little while ;) Happy Labor Day everyone!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Down time...

I apologize, with a new school year starting, I am still getting adjusted to my new hectic schedule... I will be taking a break until the weekend. Green on!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

With the Upcoming Election Season...

Now, as you know this blog is not about politics, however, with the upcoming election and the environmental issues associated with it, I thought this entry could deem appropriate. Our candidates have very different proposals regarding laws and proposals on the environment, oil-drilling in the Arctic, use of renewable energy sources, etc., and it is definitely something worth paying attention to. I'm not going to tell you to vote for McCain or Obama (or anyone else, for the matter), but what I am going to tell you is to make sure you are educated about the issues at stake here, and how it is a reflection of your personal values. These people will effect the beautiful world you live in, and its future.

My husband ran across a stellar website,, which is designed to be a non-partisan source that evaluates speeches and statements of presidential candidates and other politicians regarding their opponents or their own stance on issues. Please give it a look when you have the time, before you get sick of seeing all of those political ads! ;) It's truly a good resource for those already caught up in the he-said, she-said business.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reader's Digest Article

Reader's Digest has recently published a good article on 10 ways to save some money here and there, so give it a read if you have a chance.

Some of my favorite tips include:
  • Using Skype to communicate with long-distance family and friends. I use it frequently to video chat with my mother 600 miles away for free. You can also make "normal" phone calls with it, or the regular computer IM/chat. If you don't have free long-distance, consider downloading Skype.
  • - I had never heard of this website before, and it's quite an interesting concept. You know all of those extra-curricular activities you did in high school? Well now you can get back into the swing of things with these listings of interest groups in your local area that meet and have some fun (listed as an alternative to going to the movies or other activities that might cost you). Everything under the sun from poker players to language speaking groups, to political and sport groups is available to you.
  • If you are disatisfied with your current cell phone, or plan, and can't get out of it, consider listing it on and transfer your contract to someone who is looking to get out of activation fees and less than a 24 month contract.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Another satisfied Freecycle customer!

Today I decided to finally get rid of all the odds and ends in my house that I have been meaning to get to Goodwill, only I thought to try out for giving away stuff. I listed about 5 items and within in an hour already had interested individuals. By 5pm, I had gotten rid of half of it. I felt so good getting rid of stuff, I am a minimalist at heart, especially when this stuff has been sitting around all summer. Getting rid of stuff always makes me feel lighter and less stressed, (coincidentally, my husband is a pack rat, which produces at least one fight every 3-5 months).

When the person came to pick up some items, I never realized the sense of gratitude I would receive from a total stranger. I was just happy to get rid of these items, but this person was truely grateful. He gave me some coupons to his place of work, and thanked me for the items. is truely unique, you aren't going to get the same experience from Goodwill, or donating to faceless individual. Makes me want to clean more often!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

For your other journal...

So yesterday's post talked about keeping a diary of what things typically cost you so that you know when they are on sale, or when to take advantage of a sale. While you're out buying a journal for that purpose, grab another one for this entry too.

I strongly recommend using another journal (or notebook, find them on sale in school supplies this time of year) to record EVERY cent that goes in and out of your hands. I'm not kidding when I say EVERY cent of every item you buy, or any income you take in. I have been reading Your Money or Your Life, a popular read in personal finance, which makes this ultimate suggestion to begin with. At the end of the month (or throughout it, actually) I highlight items that are not necessities, and you will come to see where all that extra money you should have is going. This exercise makes you INCREDIBLY aware of what you are spending, and it may even seem like a chore to spend money knowing you have to write it down in a book (and possibly feel guilty about it later). The only things I do not itemize specifically are food purchases. Although this would likely also help me become more aware of overspending on food, I don't keep a bible-sized journal with me to write it all down. If you ever look at your bank statements and wonder where your money is going, this is a great habit to start since it is all there in your little book. And if you are good at updating it daily, it really isn't a chore, 5 minutes at the most. I have been keeping up since the beginning of the month and it has been helping me tremendously in managing spending habits.

I keep a column on one of the pages for "eating out", which also serves as a reminder for me the last time we went out to eat, therefore I am less likely to spend money on eating out realizing we just did a few days ago. It is a great self-monitoring tool, especially for those with busy lifestyles.

Again, I would also like to recommend reading Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin, its been out forever, and you are likely to find it at your local used book store (as I did). They offer great tips and perspectives on how to change your outlook on money, and it is a great read for anyone looking to change their personal spending habits. Most blogs I have seen on saving money make it a top book on their list.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What does this cost?

Many of the tips I have been reading regarding saving money suggest keeping the infamous "price journal". I know when I started trying to save money, trips to the grocery store were different, mostly because I had no idea what was a "normal" price for a typical item. I had no idea what was expensive and what was a good deal. Especially when you come into trying to start saving money out of the blue and/or do not have a lot of experience cooking, this is good habit to keep up with. The premise of the idea is to basically keep a journal where you record what things cost that you buy on a consistent basis. Be sure to be very specific when recording these items, like the brand and size of the product. That way, when things go on sale at the grocery store, you will know a) how much you are saving, b) if the sale is worth taking up on, and c) how much to stock up on.

Keeping a journal like this will also likely make you more aware of what things cost in general. The experience of writing down what prices of things actually cost bring a bigger realization of where your money is going, and if it is really worth it. A journal is incredibly cheap to pick up, especially with school supply sales going on right now, it can be anything that fits your lifestyle, which is important to note since it should be traveling with you for grocery trips. Borders and other book stores typically sell cheap $2 journals as well, if you would like something more fancy, go for it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Reflection of my Trip

Greetings from Boston! I am happy to say my trip was successful, and it left me tired after my jam-packed days (and watching Michael Phelps win all of those metals!). Anyways, for those of you who don't know, I am a graduate student in psychology, and this trip to Boston was to attend the American Psychological Association 's National Convention. And although I didn't spend a ton of time at the convention (I'd rather be sight-seeing), USA Today wrote an excellent article on what psychologists believe is means to "be green" based on studies presented at the convention. It was addressed in the article that psychologists find that the idea of "going green" may seem overwhelming or confusing to most people. When we think of going green, some people may believe that it requires a HUGE lifestyle change, when in fact, it doesn't always have to be that way. When starting this journey at first, I thought myself that this can be a lot of work to help the planet, but it is really worth it. I have come to find this experiment as well as blogging on here has taught me the value of energy and money. People may get a tendency to feel helpless among a sea of people who do not contribute or live similarly. Everybody thinks they need to go out and buy a hybrid car to save the planet, when there are little things (as with the purpose of this blog) that can help save the Earth one step at a time. People may also feel no guidance when approaching a green lifestyle, and find it overwhelming in itself. As we all know, there are no real instructions to going green, its all up to you, and how far you want to go with it. I generally agree with these insights, and believe it is a major reason to the barriers of more people going green, the lack of education, awareness, and resources to such a lifestyle.

For more information, USA Today also has a great bunch of articles and tips on green lifestyles, as well as testing your knowledge about what helps the environment. I actually didn't score so high on their Environmental IQ quiz, and learned something. Another interesting article talked about feeling the "green guilt" (adapting to green lifestyle habits out of feelings of guilt), which according to USA Today, 20% of Americans feel.

Beyond my reflections from above, I also wanted to mention things from the trip I have learned regarding travel, as a previous entry on the subject seemed useful to readers. Tips that I learned from my travels are as follows:
  1. If a city has a subway system, USE IT! This is by far one of the cheapest methods of transportation, and fairly quick. Get a map either before you go or as soon as you arrive so that you can find transit locations in the city. I only wish I had one where I lived and I wouldn't need a car.
  2. I actually ended up packing food in a large suitcase. I travel light, and I used half of my checked bag for food to eat when needing that snack for the morning at the convention so I wouldn't have to pay for expensive food there, or even from the hotel cafe. I even packed some zip-loc bags to put cereal in for the morning.
  3. Again, look for the free activities in the city. Boston's Freedom Trail was a big hit for us, not only because it was free and took up the majority of an afternoon, but it also let us to small admission priced to free historic attractions.
  4. In addition to packing food, we also looked carefully for the local OSCO drug store to buy things like milk or soda that we couldn't pack in our bag, its much cheaper to buy a 6 or 12 pack of soda then to buy an individual drink every place you go. Bringing a water bottle may also not be a bad idea.
  5. Look for alternatives. We wanted to see Fenway Park, but instead of going to a game (which can be quite pricey for Boston - around $50-$80 a seat, and not including their $4.50 hot dogs), we took a $12 tour instead. That way we also saved time by only being there for an hour instead of 3-4 hours.
  6. Students - bring your college IDs with you, they will get you discounts everywhere!
I am still getting settled here (catch-up at work), and school starts in a few days, so I hope my entries will still be daily, but I can't make any promises. Busy-busy as I am sure you are as well. Have a great week!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Compact Pact

This will be my last post until next week...Cheers from Boston!

A recent environmental movement has come about from San Francisco. I had heard of similar strategies from my college "Environmental Ethics" class, but this is the first time I have seen it in the mainstream (recently discussed on CNN). The Compact is a group of individuals who agree to voluntary simplicity, more specifically, they agree to not buy anything new for at least one year, with exceptions to things like health and food items, toliet paper, car fluid, underwear, etc. Members are only to shop at consignment shops or used good stores. They are also allowed to purchase services, like admission to movies or museums, haircuts, music downloads, etc.

So what is there big difference from living normally, besides agreeing to not buy anything new? Through this experience as well as their past, members of the Compact know the difference between "want" and "need". I have mentioned it multiple times on this blog how I struggle with this concept, as I am sure many of you do as well. Our culture produces an endless need for things we truly only "want". In turn, our children grow up to do the same. One of the advantages to members, as discussed in the CNN article, is that children benefit more and see the value of the dollar through this experience. Sure, they might not have the hippest clothes for school or have the latest electronic item, but in the long term, they will understand the value of money and spend it wisely.

One member called the Compact "a very low level of activism". Its amazing, because I certainly do not believe this to be the case. This is a MAJOR fight against corporate America. The Compact in San Francisco runs the "Really Really Free Market" where Compact members meet to exchange or give away items they not longer need. The Compact is also a big advocate of when getting rid of items to make sure it does not go to waste. These Americans are not different from you and I, they have hit turning points in their lives as well, and found out what really matters in life. This is not a tree-hugging, hippie family that you might imagine, and perhaps you may consider taking on a more simplistic lifestyle yourself. They are saving money by helping our planet, which is not so hard to do as I have come to find. For more information on the Compact, or to find a chapter in your area, check their blog.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The nitty gritty details of health insurance

I absolutely hate health insurance, for two main reasons: 1) Too many people die each year at the hands of this for-profit industry, and 2) its frickin' impossible to understand anything regarding your health insurance plan when you sign up for it. I don't know anyone who says "Yes, I know what my insurance covers and what I will be paying for."

I had to get an eye exam this past week so I could get my contact lens prescription renewed, however, I had chosen not to elect a vision plan when I signed up for health insurance earlier this year. So I figure, "crap, I am going to end up paying $100 for an eye exam so I can buy expensive contact lenses." For the hell of it, I decided to check my health plan online. I am currently with United Health Care, and although I pretty much hate all health insurance companies, United does an extremely good job at providing information regarding your personal health care plan online, which is much easier to understand then the paper work you sign from the beginning. So come to find out, even though I did not elect a vision plan, my plan still allows a yearly eye exam, saving me $70. I still had to pay for a contact lens fitting, but the savings are well worth the look into the plan. You pay A LOT of money for health care, so be sure you know what your plan offers you.

Another great aspect of my health insurance's website is they offer a cost estimator - what you would be paying out of pocket - for certain conditions or like having a baby, as well as a lookup of doctors and hospitals that are participating in-network providers, which also can save you money and numerous phone calls. Be sure to check out if your health insurance website for guidelines on who to see and planning accordingly. For all of my readers who do not live in America, my envy is with you :)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Travel Planning

In the upcoming days I shall be quite busy, so my apologies for less frequent entries should that be the case.

Right now I am in the midst of planning an upcoming trip to Boston. Planning for a vacation or a trip can be essential when you are trying to save some money, and here are some tips I plan to offer as guidance:
  1. If you are going to a big city, like Boston, check out the museums online ahead of time, in particular, look for their free days. For example, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts has a free admission period from 4-9pm on Wednesday evenings.
  2. Pack as light as you can. If you have a plane leaving past your hotel check out time, and you aren't going directly to the airport, you may have to pay to check baggage at the hotel. Right now my plan is one duffle bag and one carry-on.
  3. Check out what restaurants and grocery stores are around your hotel. These can save you BIG on money. Some times on business trips I am reimbursed for meals per diem, and I will end up getting extra money back since I went to Jimmy John's every day or stopped by CVS for some things to eat. In addition, consider packing any small food that may fit. I know I have a friend who survives most of her trips on protein bars.
  4. Big cities like Boston have various ticket or pass deals that allow you into numerous attractions for one low price. The Go Card and City Pass are examples of programs that run in multiple major cities and can provide a lot of value for your dollar. However, be aware of what you want to see and do in your time limit so that you do get your money's worth, especially with the Go Card which can be around $55 for a one day pass.
  5. Forget about cabs unless they are an absolute necessity. Cities like San Francisco and Boston offer great transportation on their subway system, which is usually a great money saver, or public bus services.
  6. Along with using the subway or bus systems, consider looking for hotel on the outskirts of downtown. Hotels in the center of downtown will likely be the most expensive (and also the most luxurious :( ) I found a much cheaper hotel that can shuttle you into the city or is very close to a subway station.
  7. If you are open to options of where to stay, I have done a previous entry (July 11) on the Couch Surfing Project. Stay with a local for free instead of paying out the wazoo for a hotel room. Stay with friends or relatives if you have the opportunity to do so as well.
Those are my top tips for now, and you will probably hear some more as I pack this week. Happy traveling!

Friday, August 8, 2008

For the book lovers out there...

Thanks to Tom who commented on this article about using, which does not involve a point/credit system, and you can trade pretty much any media (books, DVDs, CDs, and video games). I tried it and I loved it, my first book is on the way!

I can't help it. I love books. I would like to say I finish (or have even started) all of the books I currently own, however, that is far from the case. Every trip to the bookstore is very exciting, a new learning opportunity on the horizon. Unfortunately, these trips are quite expensive, and leave me with a load of half-read books on the shelf. What's a frugal girl to do? Obviously, there is a great path I have taken with, but another way which will also leave you just as satisfied, and maybe even more such, is an online book exchange.

I have been trying out, and have also glanced at, both are venues to search and swap books with others. Both work on a point/credit system, and both are a little bit different in the distribution. Basically, the more books you list to swap, the more points you will get to earn books from others. In otherwords, this is not another place where you can accumulate more crap! If you start an account with, after you list 10 books, you will get 2 credits for books (limit one offer per household). Obviously, you would also earn points/credits by the books you give to others, and lose some when you get books from others. Postage is not something you are paid for since someone will return the favor for you when you get a new book. You can also buy credits if you have nothing to give, but I doubt that is a reality for anyone :)

If books aren't your fancy, there is also and, where you can swap DVDs and CDs you don't use anymore. Don't buy more, swap whats sitting on your bookshelf or closet!

Also, if you try out, note that it is not limited to just paperbacks, they have hardcover books available too. :)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Safe cleaning supplies

Have you ever been cleaning your shower with bathroom cleaner and inhaled way too many chemical fumes and begin coughing? With the chemicals that go into anything nowadays, household cleaners are ones to watch for, especially when considering the health of your family. Ever think of making your own household cleaners? Remember, there were days without Windex, Draino, and Clorox, and I am sure your grandmother can attest to it. As you'll see from below, most homemade cleaning supplies involve water, vinegar, and baking soda. Anyways, here are some stellar recipes for common household cleaners, only they will keep your home a more natural place to live.


1/2 teaspoon liquid soap (vegetable-oil based soap recommended)
3 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
2 cups of water

Mix ingredients together and pour into a spray bottle.


Pour one half cup of baking soda and one cup vinegar down the drain, plugging the drain immediately until the foaming stops. Then rinse with hot water.

I always see the ladies from "How Clean is Your House?" on BBC America use this to clear up everything. Its that basic science fair volcano only this time its your drain!


In a 32 ounce clean spray bottle, place 4 tablespoons of liquid fabric softener (you can chose the scent you like best, or use liquid fabric softener you already own.) Then fill the spray bottle with water, leaving about an inch from the top. Gently shake, then use just as you would use Febreeze.

"Scrubbing Bubbles"

1 cup water
1/3 cup rubbing alcohol

Combine and pour into a spray bottle. Simply spray the shower when you get out, no rinsing is required!

Toliet Bowl Cleaner

Mix a solution of water and vinegar. Recommended proportions vary from three tablespoons vinegar in one quart water, to three tablespoons vinegar in two cups water, to a 1 to 1 mixture. Some recipes add a drop of detergent.

The Simple Dollar also has a great recipe for laundry detergent.

There are tons of great recipes out there where you can look these up, which is where I got most of these (Thanks to Moms Budget and Creative Home Making).

If mixing things together is something you are into, check out your cleaning products aisle to find Green Works products, which are made by the people who make Windex, Clorox, etc., and have developed the same products, only they are made of 99 percent natural ingredients. The 1 percent is merely preservatives and dyes, which the company is currently working on to make it 100 percent natural. Green Works currently makes all-purpose cleaner, glass and surface cleaner, toliet bowl cleaner, bathroom cleaner, dilutable cleaner (pine-sol like product) and liquid dish cleaner. And if you checked your Sunday coupon section, there were a few coupons in there for Green Works products.

There are also products made by Seventh Generation, which include a wide variety of cleaners and detergents that are free of dyes and fragrances, as well as being all natural. Check out their website for coupons. In addition to cleaners, they also make chlorine-free products for baby, and feminine care.

So either way, provide your home with healthy chemicals that won't pollute the environment, or more closely, your own environment.

Making that list of free activities

A great way to start some preventative ways of saving money is to have a list of activities to do in your area that are free. That way, when you feel like doing something, you have your list of things to do right there, and you know you don't have to spend money to have a good time. Most free things to do are maybe so obvious you have over looked them. Here are a few from my own area, and maybe they can inspire some for yours:
  • Take the dog to the dog park and enjoy nature!
  • Play at the Frisbee golf course
  • Go to your local library and rent some movies or get some books to read
  • Watch for "free days" at local museums
  • Make a postcard for PostSecret
  • Learn a craft or art you have been meaning to take up
  • Read a book on your shelf that you havent read yet
  • Walk downtown (but NO shopping)
  • Start/write entry in blog!
So there you go, start your own list so that some day when you are bored, you can remember to enjoy the things in life that are free.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

That weird, cheaper gas station down the street

A couple of months ago, the first bio-diesel/flex-fuel station in town opened a few blocks from where I live, offering alternative fuel options to cars with the option. What the hell is flex-fuel? Is it any good for the environment, in addition to being about $1 cheaper per gallon (2.99)?

According to CNN Money, Flex-fuel vehicles running on E85 fuel will do the following:
  • Gives less fuel efficiency (in comparison to gasoline)
  • Even while the fuel cost is cheaper, it will still cost you more each year with less fuel efficiency than running with gasoline.
  • Give small increase in peak horsepower
  • Burns more cleanly than gasoline in terms of air pollution, however, since they must burn more, it makes things close to even in comparison to regular gasoline.
If your car is a flex-fuel vehicle it should indicate it somewhere either on the car itself or in the manual. Flex-fuel vehicles have been made since around 1991, so it isn't completely unheard of. Flex-fuel stations are hard to find outside of the Midwest (I wouldn't know, though), due to the fact that corn is the heavily involved ingredient in flex-fuel, however, it can take many other forms. New forms of fuel, like cellulostic ethanol (made from plant parts), are in the making which may replace petroleum based parts of fuel.

So if you are thinking of investing in a new or used eco-friendly vehicle, you'd be better going with the Prius, or maybe just a more fuel efficient car (I am proud to say my Pontiac Vibe makes the Kelley's Blue Book List of most fuel efficient cars). You dont have to have a great car so help the Earth either, many parts of a car are recyclable as time takes its toll, so be sure if a car part needs to be replaced, whether its the oil to tires to batteries, the old part may be recycled. Better, greener cars are on their way too. For those of you who watched "Who Killed the Electric Car?" Saturn is now in the process of developing the Saturn Flextreme, a 100% electric car with zero emissions, and very sleek as well. Rock on Saturn!

For more information on Fuel-Flex vehicles, here are a couple of resources:
Kelley Blue Book Article
CNN Money

I'm becoming one of those people...

Just a brief observation I would like to share with you that I have noticed about myself in the past month...I am really starting to care about what other people are or are not doing for the environment. I cringed when I saw how many plastic bottles of soda my in-laws brought with them, and even more when they did not throw the caps away... no one seems to know that plastic bottles need the caps removed to be recycled. I see plastic bottles of water and I want to tell people to get reusable ones, and if they are using reusable ones, I want to check it's number on the bottom. Good thing or not, I am becoming much more aware of how wasteful and unaware other people (as well as myself) are to the world around us.

But in other news, I got back from heading to the recycling center, mostly to recycle massive amounts of cardboard and aluminum cans. I still hate how this community does not recycle collectively, you have to take things to a recycling center and not get anything in return except the comfort of knowing you did what you could for the Earth in your own mind. Does anyone know of ways to start a program in their community?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Home Drying

Today on my journey out, I decided to purchase a clothing dryer rack. Primitive, I know, but I am slowly realizing that going green is a lot of going back to the way things were before there were modern conveniences, like dryers. I remember many times as a kid when my mom would hang laundry to dry out on the line, and how wonderful it smelled, especially bed sheets. Mmmmm... Nothing beats the smell of sun dried laundry, I don't know what it is about it that brings out the wonderful clean smell. So anyways, our dryer is so inefficient as is, (typically taking around 90 minutes to dry one freakin' load) I thought this could be an awesome venue to try. Putting clothes on a drying rack is not limited to someone with a house either, anyone living in a space no matter how small can work this into their life due to the drying rack's collapsability. Getting a drying rack is also a very wise and cheap choice for two big reasons: 1) you wont be paying as high of electric bill, and b) you being green by are conserving energy.

In my area during this time of year, it is usually around 96 degrees everyday. I washed a blanket before my in-laws came last week and it dried in a little over an hour hanging it over my back patio fence. Drying outside is especially great for the summer, since it is so hot out and the sun does all the work. In the winter, you can dry inside, it will just obviously take longer without a sun.

But then my clothes will take forever to dry, you say? Drying clothes inside will typically take about 24 hours, and if you are running into a "clothes emergency" that frequently, then you need to plan better :)

Anyways, go check out the laundry section of your local department store and pick up one of these bad boys, they are fairly cheap, and will save you loads of money on electricity in the long run, and by the by, helping conserve energy.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Transportation across the country

As a tip I have been giving away to friends and family lately (since I live so far from them), there are 2 other forms of transportation that I am aware of for long road trips that do not involve flying (expensive) and driving yourself (tiring).

First, consider taking the train! Amtrak is a system that provides transportation to many major U.S. cities at about half of the cost of flying. See the sights, or just relax while you travel. Traveling by train, I have looked, typically takes about as much time as it would if you were driving yourself. The delays come from making stops along the route.

Secondly, there is also Megabus provides a bus system with extremely cheap fares ($5-30), however, there are some limitations here. A) It only goes to MAJOR U.S. cities. So if you don't live close to a major metropolitan area, this could be a problem. B) Since you are going by bus, can take much longer than it would than driving yourself or by the Amtrak system. If time is of the essence, this might not be the best option.

If you are taking an upcoming trip, or would like to but do not have the money to fly and/or can't drive, there are some other options out there. If any readers have some additional travel shortcuts, send them my way or post them in the comment section!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Cook that food with great web recipes

I have been slowly trying to make myself cook and bake more, especially since its (a) healthier, (b) saves money, and (c) can be partially, if not wholly, organic.

I would really like to recommend if you are looking for a great recipe exchange website. Whats even better, is that users are allowed to post reviews of recipes, that way you know which ones are better than others. I found an amazing recipe for pumpkin bread on there, and I am continuing to look for things that I or my husband could eat.

They even have recipes for people with special diets, like I, for example, am always looking for foods and meals with high fiber due to a gastro-intestinal condition, where there are recipes as well as tips on how to incorporate fiber into a meal without even noticing it.

Give a look and see what good stuff you can find!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

My Favorite Store...ALDIs!

Yes you know that weird looking store with the orange and blue logo that has very limited store hours in comparison to most grocery stores? Why is that you ask? Killer deals!

I have to admit, the first time I entered an ALDIs, it was with my parents, and I thought we must be poor or something. There are no shelves for groceries, they are merely stacked upon pallets like a warehouse, only much much smaller. ALDIs does not have "luxury items" in their grocery store, this is basically the essentials in terms of food. Whatever you find here is what most human beings eat, and at a very good generic price. If you are into cooking, this could be your dream to save money. 79 cents for a loaf of bread? 99 cents for a box of generic nutri-grain bars? 39 cents for hot dogs? The deals keep coming, for many reasons. If you have ever seen the Duggar family on Discovery Health channel, or maybe TLC, they feed a family of 19 for less than $2,000 a month on food from here.

First, you will notice this is a smaller than average store...less to run, less to cool, less to heat, and less employees you will need. Second, they hold their shopping carts hostage. Thats right, if you want one, you'll need a quarter. The reason they do this however is to keep the store needing less employees. When people put their carts back, you do not need another employee to run out and get carts like at your local Wal-mart, whose sole job it is. Third, there are also no employees to bag your groceries, or bags to use to put your groceries in for that matter. ALDIs does not provide customers with bags, although you might be able to steal some boxes from pallets of food in the store. You can also purchase bags at the store, but hopefully you have your own by now! Fourth, since the store has such limited hours they do not need to have extra employees around to work the check-outs. In addition, cashiers at ALDIs make good money, I believe, in the $10 an hour range.

Perks with this store chain are consistent. The produce you will find here is typically incredibly fresh. While I would still recommend your local farmer's market first, this would be my second choice. Every so often there is some interesting deal in the "non-food section", some thing that you have either been looking for but haven't found the right price (enter ALDIs) or an item that looks like something you could use. Most also have a small Health and Beauty section so if there is a need for a random item you wont need to run across the street (or town) to get it.

If you are at a loss of what to cook from the items available at ALDIs, The Aldi Queen can help you find great recipes made entirely from foods from ALDIs.

So if you haven't given ALDIs a try, look for one. I grab everything in that store I even remotely want and can't leave spending more than $28. Me and my reusable grocery bags, finding deals!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Renovate and save!

Habitat for Humanity not only builds houses for needy families, but they also run Habitat Restore stores in many communities. Since all the materials to build Habitat homes are donated, a lot of times they will have excess stuff that they do not need for the homes they are building, and many corporations will donate to the store as well. Habitat Restore will sell these items to you for a VERY minimal cost. If you are big into DYI jobs, Habitat Restore can be a frugal person's dream, saving you hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the size of the job. In addition, by putting your money towards Habitat Restore you are putting money back into building more homes for the needy and the community.

To find a Habitat Restore near you, click here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Green" film of the month

My apologies for absent posts, things have been chaotic lately, the in-laws have been visiting :)

Anyways, today I would like to recommend a film for you, rent it on Netflix or Blockbuster or you can get it from Best Buy. I am a huge fan of documentaries and loved Netflix for the fact they had as many documentaries as I wanted to see. The sad part about documentaries is that they are hardly available at local video rental places and other types of video stores. So for this weekend, give "Who killed the Electric Car?" (2006) a try, as my "green" film of the month. This film documents the coming (and unfortunate going) of the EV1, a vehicle made by GM and was serviced by Saturn dealerships.

The film provides humor, but is also very educational regarding how recent cars like the "hydrogen fuel cell" car actually works. The director goes through each prospective new "greener" car, if its any good, and also who is to blame for the loss of the electric car (EV1). You'll also run into some interesting people throughout the show, like Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson, and Ralph Nader, if you are into famous people. It is also narrated by Martin Sheen.

If you haven't been a big goer of documentaries before, the point is to educate you, but in the end to make up your own mind.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Getting a AAA Membership

If you own a car, or travel with someone frequently in their car, consider getting a AAA membership. Although they provide many forms of insurance, their membership program provides 24-hour roadside assistance at very reasonable prices. Basic membership dues start at $53 a year. Plus, you save by using your AAA membership EVERYWHERE. Hotels, restaurants, entertainment, you name it, you will likely get a discount of some kind (The AAA website provides a list of discounts for your area when a zip code is entered.)

I can advocate that AAA can be a real lifesaver when those inconvenient, and sometimes huge car emergencies come up. My Grandmother still has a membership and anytime I was having an issue with the car, like one time I got locked out of the car, she called AAA, they dispatched an associated AAA towing/auto service, and they came and unlocked my car, free of charge. All you have to do is have the AAA member present. Just this past winter I was in another car conundrum on the road (on the way to the airport, just our luck), and I wished we would have had a AAA membership (We have since moved out of my Grandma's area :( ) it would have saved a lot of worry and money, since towing a car in it self is usually around $100-$150 dollars. (Depending on the level of membership, AAA will agree to tow your car x-amount of miles.)

For the discounts and personal reassurance a AAA membership can provide, I believe it is worth the small cost. Check out what they can offer you at

Friday, July 25, 2008

My first trip to the Co-op

Since starting my green/organic venture, and since I moved here about a year ago, I took my first trip to my local Co-op today pick up some things for lunch. I was overwhelmed by its size, I have only been to one other co-op in my life and in comparison this is much bigger. For a city of 100,000, I guess I had to expect something bigger ;) Anyways, I was looking for some organic romaine hearts, so I picked up some of those for $3.99, I also bought some fair-trade organic dark chocolate ($3.49), and some Cinnamon Swirl bread ($3.49). There was also a great deli area that provided a salad bar, fresh pizza, and other items to eat on the spot in their restaurant area. One thing I do plan on picking up in the future is milk, which comes in the nostalgic glass bottles, and from my own area. The glass is reused, which means less waster for the environment, in addition to less gas wasted traveling the products from far away. While in the check out lane, I picked up an issue of a magazine dedicated to living green in my own local area. Awesome! In addition to getting a discount for using my reusable bags, you can also get a discount for becoming a share-holder of the store. As a part of being a co-owner, my local Co-op also provides coupon books, cooking classes, and you can even share in the Co-op's profit through patronage refunds. I think I might take up this tempting offer soon.

I would encourage you to check out your local Co-op or Natural Foods Store, even if you don't get anything. I remember being amazed the first time I went into a co-op and found out just how many things that are good for the Earth (like detergents and other cleaning products) or how many things that can be organic. There is even organic soda! So check it out sometime, you'll be surprised. Don't know where your local co-op is? Check out the Co-op directory service

In addition, I also mentioned I purchased fair-trade chocolate. What exactly is fair-trade?

"Fair trade is a system of exchange that seeks to create greater equity and partnership in international trading system by

  • Paying fair wages in local context;
  • Supporting participatory workplaces;
  • Ensuring environmental sustainability;
  • Supplying financial and technical support;
  • Offering public accountability.
  • Respecting cultural identity;
  • Building direct and long-term relationships; and,
  • Educating consumers."
(As quoted from Basically, when we import things from other countries for "cheaper", fair-trade items provide the producer in that country with a more fair amount if not equal to what is paid for it by the merchandiser in the United States. Fair-trade items are marked throughout the store.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Spend some time at Ecobunga

Looking for great deals on organic and green products? provides great coupons, sales, rebates, and news regarding green and organic products you may find in your area or online. The founders of Ecobunga provide incentive for you to go green if you don't think it will save you money, and from what I have found from the beginning of this mission, is that being green means saving money most of the time anyways. Their goal is to provide you with all the resources to go green without being a major inconvenience for you or to make it a more expensive choice. But, as Kate Gosslin says (Jon & Kate Plus Eight on TLC), even if it is more expensive, I hope you see going organic as an investment in your health.

So anyways, if you are looking for some good deals on organic products, check out Ecobunga. If you check my blog often, there is an Ecobunga feed along the side bar if you want to see what recent deals have been posted. Go green! :)

Go Paperless

I know most cell phone companies offer this option of paperless billing, and perhaps some of your other local cable and utilities companies offer it as well. I just joined AT&T last month, and I see it as a good option to take. Most wireless bills are pages upon pages long due to your cell phone log and detailed list of everything on your plan and its charge. When you sign up for your account online, you have access to everything, and on AT&T I can even change my rate plan and features of my plan that I want to add or get rid of, so it saves that annoying trip to the store. To go paperless, typically all you have to do is sign up for an account online, and select the option to go paperless. Usually you will get an email when there is a new bill for the month.

In addition to going to paperless billing, also consider paying your bills online. I know it might be a scary thought about giving bank or credit card information, but usually even financial institutions have some sort of bill pay system, and they already have your information, so try that first if you are scared about giving away personal information. It will save you money on writing checks, and the stamps you use to mail those bills. Another way of saving on stamps is to bring your bill to a local bill pay center. Where I live, the majority of bills can be paid at your local grocery store service desk, which I am at the grocery store frequently anyways, as I am sure you are too. See what are options where you live, most companies will post online where you can pay their bills without using stamps.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Etsy that

So a couple of weeks ago I posted about making your own gifts, crocheting, jewelry-making, etc. as potential gifts for the holidays and other occasions. However, if you are an avid craft maker who has a lot of spare time, I suggest giving a look at to sell your items and make some cash! Etsy is a great website where you can create your own "shop" and sell your handmade items. Or, if you like handmade stuff, check it out yourself and get an original piece of art. There are thousands of beautiful items for sale that can make great gifts or treats for yourself. This site is a lot of fun to browse with the unbelievable amount of things you never knew could exist. If you are looking to buy or sell some lovely handmade items, give a try!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Subscribe to your favorite stores!

After investigating some of the websites I have posted for stores mentioned in this blog, I have come to find there is a great value (most of the time) in subscribing (via mail or email) to your favorite stores. As I discussed in the used store post, Half Price Books offers a wonderful coupon subscription service. They gave me a $5 off a $20 purchase coupon to start with, and it seems there will be more good deals coming my way via email or mail. I some how got on Kohl's list as well so I receive emails for their promotions. Be sure to watch out for the email overload if you subscribe to too many stores, I know some people who have an email account just for that purpose. Other big stores, like Best Buy and Borders, run great rewards programs through their stores for can only be benefited from this service! All you have to do is ask to sign up at the check out. After my husband and I bought our new TV we received $15 in gift cards from Best Buy. In addition, sometimes I use the coupons from subscribing to a local craft store to treat myself, so try to look for stores that you might stay away from because its not a "need". If there is a great local store in your town that you love, see if they have a website for promotions and such. There is nothing like giving to your local economy.

However, it is important to note the difference in how these coupons are used. I do not go into Half Price Books to buy a $5 book I need and then look for $15 more of books so I can use to coupon "to get a deal". This is how people sometimes end up hoarding things, because it was a "great deal". Its important to maintain the big picture when using coupons and rewards programs...make sure its something you would have bought without it.

On a separate note, I know I should not personally subscribe to clothing store ads or coupons simply due to the fact I still spend money on clothes like there is no tomorrow. Remember, if it isn't a "need"... (thats about how far I get when I am looking at that swim suit and think how cute it would look on me, and I never hear it again). Basically, as a shopper, know your weaknesses, know thyself! :) I bring my husband along sometimes because I know he will rush me through the store so I don't buy things I don't need.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

USA Weekend Insert

Did you get your Sunday paper today? Check out the USA Weekend Insert that has a huge article on "how to save on nearly anything". If you save paper (or money) by reading articles and news on the internet, its also available online.

Just a couple of highlights...

To elaborate further on Saturday's entry on used stores and consignment shops, USA Weekend has some helpful links to find places in your area: You can find local thrift stores here, or consignment shops at this website. The article also mentions outlet stores, which I forgot to, and there is a website you can look up those as well. I did not find the consignment shop website all of that useful since there were none listed in my area, but the thrift store website was much more helpful. Happy clothes shopping!

When dining out, try to budget out ahead of time what you would like so you do not overspend. You can view menus to thousands of restaurants online at or At, you can even make reservations and earn points.

Looking to compare grocery store prices for those competitor coupons? Try to compare prices at your local stores without driving all around town. After trying it out, this site is really helpful with finding coupons and ads for your own local area. You don't even need to buy the paper to get ads from Smart Source or Red Plum anymore! You can print the coupons on their website (Mac Users need to be using Safari to do so, FYI). Beyond that, I wasn't even aware of how many places technically sell groceries (Family Dollar, for instance) in my town!

The article also highlights how to save money on gas, haircuts, travel, entertainment, garden/lawn care, and furniture. Check it out and see how you can start saving more!

Planet Green - Watch it!

If you like television, might I suggest giving Planet Green a look, if you have it. Recently I have been turning it on when I can find nothing else, and I still have yet to find I show on the network I do not like. We also have most of the shows available On Demand since the channel is so new. One of my favorites, Renovation Nation, is a great show that looks at what people do to either make their home more green, or to build a home entirely green. I used to be in interior design in college, so I find green design particularly interesting. I never knew you could collect rain water off of your roof to run the toilets in your house! Some day...
Anyways, there is also another great show, Emeril Green, which is basically Emeril, but on this show he finds someone with a tough cooking situation, like having a vegetarian daughter and another meat loving daughter, and takes them through the local natural foods market or co-op, and shows them how to buy and cook the food. I'm learning a lot so far (plus I am not really much of a cook yet anyways), and I am definitely going to try the sweet potato french fries! All the recipes are available on the Planet Green website.
There are a ton of other great shows that can teach you a lot about how to be more green, or make you feel a little more at home if you are trying it yourself. Its nice to see so many people concerned about the environment and keeping our Earth a beautiful place!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Used Stores Galore!

In my area, there are tons of ways to find gently used books, music, DVDs, and clothing at great prices. Besides recommending finding what you need online and scavenging rummage sales, here are some of the stores and websites that offer you more quality for less.

Plato's Closet is a used clothing store for young women. They usually keep high quality popular brand names in store, like American Eagle, Gap, Old Navy, Aeropostale, etc., and are also willing to pay you top dollar for the clothes you don't wear anymore. Remember, a good rule of thumb is if you haven't worn something in 2 years, you likely won't wear it again. So you can get some cash or use the cash you get to get some new clothes.

There are many other types of consignment shops, especially for children and maternity clothes that can offer you a lot for less. In addition, if you live near a large metropolitan area, check out which offers free baby and maternity items for free! There are consignment shops for regular clothes too! Give a look around your area to see what is available.

Half Price Books and Hastings are two stores that offer great prices on books and other media. You can also sell your used items to these stores. If you are looking for even cheaper books on a budget, I highly recommend your public library! Its not just a place to go when you are a kid!

In addition to these, there is also your basic Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. Every town and city is different, like the Goodwill here I know basically looks like my Grandmother's basement, which is unfortunate, so we go to other stores and options in our area. So check out what is in your area, and take advantage of what your local used, consignment, and thrift stores have to offer.

Gina, a fellow reader, reminded me about freecycle, which I sometimes forget about since I think everybody knows about it, which isn't at all true! Anyways, if you are looking for free stuff in your community that someone is also looking to get rid of, check out Thanks Gina!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Creating a Holiday Account

Today I did something that I would guess most people already do, but to me this is a more foreign concept, so I will mention it here. After going through a yearly budget yesterday, and looking at the "gifts" category, it hit me that Christmas season will be here soon and the money we have been so preciously saving will dry up from the Savings account like water in a hot desert, and I will be stuck feeling like an idiot (I do the bills) because we won't have any money left, just like in previous years. So, today I created a Christmas account at my credit union. Christmas accounts are great for several reasons:

1. Saving over the course of the year is small. Imagine only missing $5 from every paycheck over the course of the year. It adds up fast and you wont even notice it.

2. You can't touch the money until a certain point of the year, so you don't have to worry about caving. Most financial institutions I believe is around the beginning of October.

3. This puts a limit on your spending (or at least in some ways it would). If you draw from your savings to buy Christmas gifts it is easy to spend away when it seems like what you have is a huge amount. When in reality, most of that huge amount needs to go to keeping you afloat every month. This way, the amount you see is what you get, period.

I am finding that even the idea that this account has been created is giving me a piece of mind, not having to worry about how to afford Christmas when you are trying to create a decent amount in your savings account. So if you haven't thought about saving for Christmas, think about what it has been like for you in previous years. If you always end up close to breaking even or a little under, think about trying a Christmas or Holiday account at your local financial institution.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Make a Wishlist

Here is my latest tip from "The Everything Budgeting Book", and so far I have found it very useful. The author advises to make a wish list of everything you want, from things that are high on the need list to even expensive, impossible "want" things like a Honda Element (However, I just put reasonably affordable "want things" on my list). Then, write down the price, and the urgency of getting this item. Periodically update the list. The idea is that when you make a wish list, it feels like you actually have the items, since they are all stored in a place. As Americans we have this idea that we like to "own" things...that feeling we get when the bag is handed to us after a purchase, even though we can just as easily take that item and throw it in the closet for a year and not even think about it. I have to say, this wish list does work for me. Also, by making a wish list, I realized that there just aren't many things that I actually want to buy (Seriously, I have like 4 things). I like buying clothes, but I do that on the spot, which explains why I can spend so much money on them (I don't make a list of clothes I want). When you have a list of things you wish to buy, you can track how much they cost, and you even could make them like a reward item after reaching a saving goal. That way, when you do buy your item, it feels that much sweeter and worth the purchase...its something you have really thought about. Or, I am actually saving much of this list as Christmas ideas for my family, since I have a hard enough time thinking of items 3 months before Christmas. So, if you are struggling with buying your "wants" rather than your "needs", give the wish list a try, the feelings are very similar to actually having them.