Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
My husband ran across a stellar website, politifact.com, 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
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.
- Meetup.com - 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 celltradeusa.com 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
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. Freecycle.org 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
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
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Students - bring your college IDs with you, they will get you discounts everywhere!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
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 freecycle.org 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
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Friday, August 8, 2008
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 half.com, 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 Paperbackswap.com, and have also glanced at bookmooch.com, 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 paperbookswap.com, 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 swapadvd.com and swapacd.com, 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 paperbackswap.com, note that it is not limited to just paperbacks, they have hardcover books available too. :)
Thursday, August 7, 2008
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.
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.
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.
- 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!
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
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.
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
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
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
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.com. 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
I would really like to recommend allrecipes.com 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 allrecipes.com a look and see what good stuff you can find!