Thursday, December 30, 2010

Debi's Daily Dollar Idea: Crock it

I'm all about saving money.  And if I can save some time in the process all the better.  Making use of your crock pot will do both.  Especially in the summer when heating up your oven to cook a few baked potatoes also means your air conditioner needs to work even harder to keep the room cool. 

In my "investigations" about crock pot versus an electric oven I've discovered that an average crock pot uses about 200 watts of electricity an hour, while an oven heated to 350 degrees uses about 2,000.  The crock pot uses less electricity, doesn't heat up the kitchen the way the oven will, and you can fill it in the morning and forget about it until you're ready for dinner.

There is a plethora of websites devoted to crock pot cookery, including thousands of recipes.  I'll share just one simple idea: use the crock pot to cook baked potatoes.  Simply scrub the potatoes, grease and place in the crock pot.  An average sized pot will hold 10-12.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 4-5.  That's all there is to it!

What is your favorite crock pot recipe?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Debi's Daily Dollar Idea: Call, Call, Call

Some of us have at one time or another forgotten to pay a bill on time, written a check before adding money to the account, or are just paying a high interest rate on a credit card.  Those late fees, overdraft and high interest charges take a bite out of an account balance.  It "pays" to just pick up the phone and call the bank, the credit card company or the business and beg for mercy.  I have had late charges removed, credit card interest rates reduced and bounced check charges reversed simply because I called.  I was told once by a customer service agent that they allow a charge to be reversed once a year.  Now that credit card companies are under more stringent regulations you may not get the interest rate reduced, but it can't hurt to try.  They want your business, and it pays to keep the customers happy.   So next time you incur a late fee pick up the phone and see if they will either reduce or eliminate those charges.  Ask them if there is anything else they can do to reduce your bill.  Always be courteous, remember the adage "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar."  

Monday, December 27, 2010

Debi's Daily Dollar Idea: Rediscover the Public Library

Simple idea, but don't pay for something you can get for free at the public library.  Unless you want to keep a book you're probably only going to use once, why pay for it?  Most libraries let you check out a book for three weeks, and one week for newly released books.  If someone else hasn't placed a hold on the book you can usually renew the book twice.  Plenty of time to finish the book and return it.

I regularly check out videos and DVD's.  However, you can rack up late fees is you're not careful.  At my library videos may be checked out for a week, DVD's for two days.  And as with books, as long as there is not a hold on the item they may be renewed up to twice.  I can place a hold for a particular movie I want to watch and am notified when the movie is available.  No need to run to Blockbuster and pay $4 for a movie when they're free from the library!

Need to check out something from a newspaper?  Head to the library.  My library carries all the major newspapers, as well as our local papers.  They also have every magazine available.

A lesser known resource at the library are conference rooms.  My Toastmasters club met at the library for several years at no cost.  If you are a member of a club or organization that needs a place to meet check out availability at the library.  If there is a fee for a room it will be nominal.

Check out your libary schedule for monthly events such as book clubs, lectures, teen and children's events.  Our library system regularly offers classes on painting, making jewelry, local history, health, exercise, gardening, cooking, and more.  Craft classes are held weekly for children and teens.

Libraries also provide assistance with filling out tax forms, and usually provide the forms.

If you find yourself driving by the library on your way to the book or video store, make a u-turn and keep the green in your pocket.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I read this info at the blog (link provided at the bottom of this post.)  Since most of us are in the throws of a cold winter, any ideas about staying warm while keeping the electric company out of our pockets is welcomed.  I typically see electric blankets on clearance after Christmas.  So if you can wait a week or two you might get a great deal on something that can save you a lot of money.
Electric blankets and pads cost little more than many non-electric comforters, and only use about a nickel's worth of electricity per night to operate. Yet according to the U.S. Department of Energy, for every degree you turn down the heat during the winter, you'll probably save about one to three percent on your total home heating bill.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Deb's Daily Dollar Idea: Skip the soda

Today's money-saving idea is simple: skip the soda.  When you go out to eat at a restaurant, whether sit-down or drive-thru, opt for water instead of a drink.  You may only save a buck or two, but if you're paying for several people it will add up.  Consider also the number of times you buy soda over the course of a year and by choosing water instead of other drinks, the savings really begin to pile up.  Add in the serendipity factor of not ingesting all that refined sugar, caffeine and who else knows what, and the health benefits add up also.  So do yourself, and your wallet a favor.  Drink up, but only H20.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Debi's Daily Dollar Idea: Thrift Stores

Today's Daily Dollar Idea may not be a new one to many, but it's one that has saved me hundreds, if not thousands of dollars through the years.  No matter where you live your town is sure to have one, if not a dozen thrift stores.  Before getting in your car to drive to Wally World, Macy's or Target, consider if you could purchase what you need at a Thrift Store.  Simple idea, but I for one sometimes "forget" to consider finding what I need at a thrift store, thereby paying a fraction of what I would if I purchased an item new.

Most thrift stores have clothing, dishes, appliances, furniture, books, shoes, toys, music and much more.  I love going in the store with a $5 bill in my purse, and then leaving the store with a bag of items and $1 still in my purse!   I couldn't begin to count the items of clothing thrift stores have provided for my children and myself, several pieces still with the original price tag on them (which means they've never been worn!)  One of my favorite finds was a round, glass turntable plate that goes inside a microwave oven.  I accidentally broke mine, so finding it was the highlight of my day!  Paid a buck for it, and it was the perfect size.  I've also purchased 3 different bread machines at various times, each for $5, and each in perfect working condition. 

I've also purchased canning jars, drinking glasses, dishes, bread pans, and a host of other kitchen dishes.  I bought dirt cheap winter coats for my daughters on a trip to Utah.  Why pay $50 for a coat they only need for 3 days?  At $3 each, the coats I bought in a thrift store were like brand-new, and you couldn't tell they'd been previously owned.

So consider shopping at a thrift store next time you head out to buy something you just gotta have.  Then see how little green you have to use to get what you need.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Debi's Daily Dollar idea: Free Samples

Today's money saving idea is brought to you by hundreds of businesses who give away their products for free, in the hopes to make you a lifelong customer.  Over the past couple of years I have stockpiled free samples of diapers, pull-ups, paper towels, garbage bags, make-up, shampoo and conditioner, lotion, pens, granola bars, candy, drink mixes, laundry detergent, dishwasher tabs, cereal, rice mixes, infant formula, dog food and more.  The internet makes it a cinch to find, and send for free samples.  My favorite freebies website is:

When you get to that website lick on "Real Quality Samples," and "Coupons/Deals" and "Other Free Stuff."  You should be able to find several samples to get started.  Visit daily, or a couple times a week or once a month, depending on how much time you have, and how much free stuff you want!

 I have used many of the individual samples of shampoo and conditioner when I go on trips.  I've given the diapers away to new moms, and we've enjoyed countless treats without spending a penny.  Sometimes you can request free samples when you visit individual company's websites.

Why pay for something when you can get the product for free?  Once you get started you may want to keep a "Got it for Free" journal to keep track of those freebies.  Feel free to leave feedback when a freebie shows up in your mailbox!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Saving money on printer ink

If you are like me the above picture may represent the number of ink cartridges you go through in the course of a year.  I find myself printing off articles, coupons, decorating ideas, instructions, coloring pages, kids homework and other things on a daily basis.  I do try to only print what I deem absolutely necessary, and still I go through reams of paper like water it seems.  While I've thankfully managed to score some great deals on paper, the major cost of printing is not the paper, it is the ink.

If you find yourself printing more than a few pages a month you might want to look into refilling your own ink cartridges.  I save about 75%  over the cost of purchasing new ink cartridges, and it just takes a couple minutes each time the ink cartridge runs low.  If you have never tried refilling, here are a few tips to consider:

1.  Don't be scared!  It's just black ink, not a snake!  Follow the directions on the refill kit and you should be fine.

2.  Not all printers work well with refills.  I use a HP printer and mine does just fine.  You'll just have to try it with your printer and see if it works.  Do some research on the internet for your particular printer, and see if others have any tips.

3.  Don't overfill.  If ink overflows the top of the cartridge slowly pull some back into the syringe.  Always better to underfill than overfill.

4.  Don't let the cartridge dry out - refill as soon as the printer starts running out.  Drying out will ruin the cartridge and then you'll have no choice but to purchase a new one.

5.  Check for a store that offers ink refilling.  Once in a while Walgreens in my area will run a one-day special, offering to refill an ink cartridge for $1.  Even I can't refill my own cartridges for that cheap!  Even their everyday refill price is less than purchasing a new cartridge.

6.  Set your default printer setting to draft, that way you save ink on every page.  The draft setting works just fine for 95% of what I print out - including coupons.  If I need to print something that I need to look professional, I change the setting to "normal," or "best" just for that document, then change it back to draft.

7.  Cartridges can usually be refilled between two and 10 times.  They will eventually reach the point where you have to just shell out money for a new cartridge.  Consider either recycling them (most schools have recycling programs) or turning them in yourself and earn some cash.  For example, I get $2 in Staples rewards for each ink cartridge I turn in.  Payment is sent out quarterly (I believe it's quarterly anyway) in the form of a Staples Reward certificate, which is just like money that you can spend at that same store.

8.  Once you are saving money refilling your own ink cartridges, start looking around for good deals on paper!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Say "Cheese!"

Today's money-saving idea comes from my favorite sister-in-law Debra:

Here are a couple of ideas that might be new to someone out there:

Did you know you can freeze milk?  The lower fat milks freeze best for longer times.  Whole milk ought to be used within 2 weeks.  To use frozen milk, just let it thaw (on the counter is how we do it), shake it well, and drink or use as desired.  We like it best when it still has ice slushies in it - YUM.  Anyway, freezing milk helps me limit my trips to the grocery store and thus save money.  I also get to take advantage of sales on milk this way.  Try it!

You can also freeze cheese.  Shredded cheese or stick cheese are naturals for freezing!  Just plonk them in and use them within a year or so.  I do like to buy my shredded cheese in bulk and divide it into quart or sandwich bags before I freeze it.  That way, I just get out what I will use right away and the rest stays fresh frozen. 

Block cheese freezes beautifully and can keep for about a year in the freezer.  When you freeze block cheese, there is a trick to getting it to not crumble when thawed.  Make sure you thaw it in the fridge instead of on the counter.  That is the big secret.    Now you can take advantage when cheese goes on sale and stock up for later!  BTW, I have frozen all kinds of cheese successfully from cream cheese (thaw completely, then stir it well to restore creaminess - or use without stirring for cooking) to Monterrey jack, cheddar, parmesan, Mexican cheese blends, etc.  I have NOT tried American cheese.  We don't like it, so I've just not tried freezing it.  Has anyone else?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Debi's Daily Dollar Idea

Anyone remember Reddy Kilowatt?  That lovable cartoon character that was the spokesman for electricity in the 1960's?  I remember my mother telling me not to stick forks and other items in the electrical outlets because Reddy Kilowatt would get me.  I've learned not to be so curious about those outlets, but Reddy still manages to get me anyhow - in my wallet.  If I'm not careful he'll drain that wallet faster than I can say "Reddy, leave me alone."  Thankfully I've learned a few tricks that keep Reddy, and his wallet-snatching lightning bolt fingers out of my pockets.

There are a hundred ways to conserve electricity around the home, and in the previous post I highlighted one of my favorites - putting the dryer on notice by using a clothesline instead.  I'd like to list another idea that helps to lower that monthly electric bill:

Unplug, unplug, unplug.  My kids think I'm the electric outlet czar because I'm constantly either unplugging appliances, or turning off the power switches.  Because of "phantom electricity," appliances and other electrical devices that stand ready to deliver power immediately when turned on can use up to 75% of the power used when turned OFF.  Yes, you read that right.  Televisions, computers, microwave ovens, digital clocks, and other appliances all draw power when turned off.  No sense having the television and microwave ready to power up when we're all sleeping at night.  In my home I have four television sets (I'm pretty embarrassed to admit to that number!)  Three of those either have an XBox, or a DVD player hooked up to them.  By unplugging them each night I'm stopping the electricity use from seven items.  Then add in the microwave oven, ceiling fans, lamps and other items I either unplug, turn off when not in use, or switch off at the power strip and there's even more savings.

CHALLENGE:  Take an inventory around your home and see how many items stand ready to deliver electricity and then get in the habit of either unplugging them, or plugging them into a power strip that has an off switch.

Use Reddy Kilowatt responsibly, and keep your green in your wallet!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Debi's Daily Dollar Idea

I'm toying with the idea of creating a new blog about ways to save money everyday.  This would include couponing, thrifty finds, ways to cut back on electricity, anything that keeps the green in the wallet and the red out of the checkbook.  My plan is to do the research and both save myself money, and pass along my info so as many as possible can benefit from saving as well.  Sometimes these savings ideas will be coupled with a challenge

So, here's my first Debi's Dollar Idea:

8/6/10  Hang up freshly washed laundry instead of using the dryer.  For the next week don't use the dryer, and keep track of how many loads you didn't spend that electricity on.  If you have access to a clothesline, use it!  Take advantage of the free drying power of the sun.  Or, hang items inside your home.  I frequently put wet clothes on hangers and line them up on the shower rod, from cupboard handles or doorways.  Large, heavy items such as towels, blankets and jeans often find themselves hanging over the fence.  Your neighbors, or even your own family may think you've lost your marbles.  But if you can save yourself a few bucks, who cares?

I'll be checking with my electric company to see just how much I'm saving per dryer load I'm NOT using.  Perhaps an extra challenge would be to use the money saved from not using the dryer to help pay down a credit card, or to add to an existing savings account.