Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Debi's Daily Dollar Idea: Click!

Today's money saving idea is easy and just takes a few seconds.  If you are like me you make the most of your computer printer.  I try to only print off what I need, but I still seem to go through reams of paper.  But printing uses more than just paper - it uses ink.  And it can use a lot of it.  If you haven't already done so, change your default printer settings to "fast draft," or "draft," depending on which settings your printer uses.  I have found that for 95% of my printing needs, fast draft works just fine.  This setting uses much less ink that the "normal," or "best" setting.  If you are paying full-price for your ink, you will notice the savings immediately.  If you refill your own printer ink cartridges (check my earlier posting for this tip) you are already saving money and will now be saving even more!  Also, color ink cartridges tend to be more expensive and won't last as long as black ink, so while you're at it change your color settings to only print in black.  The savings will continue to add up!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Debi's Daily Dollar Idea: Bread Machines

Today's money-saving idea is actually easier than you think (for those non-bread-machine-owners).  For a fraction of the cost of store bought bread, you could be enjoying homemade bread that is nutritious and easy to make.  What I love is that I simply dump in the ingredients push a couple buttons and the machine does the rest - from mixing to kneading to baking.  I can even time the machine to have the bread ready to come out of the oven when I get up in the morning.  Nothing better than waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread!
I currently own four bread machines, none of which cost me more than $5 each because I bought them at yard sales or thrift stores.  The one on my kitchen counter is the same brand as the one shown in this picture - a Zojirushi (a high quality brand).  It looked like it had never even been used, and had a users guide video inside.  I looked online and had I purchased online or in a store this brand could have cost more than $200!  So no need to buy new, unless you're looking to empty your wallet.  Your challenge this week is to stop by several thrift stores and see if they have any bread machines.  Don't fret if you've never used one before - nothing could be easier.  If the one you buy doesn't have a recipe book/users guide inside, just look online for directions.

I also have a wheat grinder and some wheat, so I like to make either whole wheat bread, or half whole wheat flour and half white flour bread.  I also make cinnamon rolls - just set the machine to the dough setting.  Once the dough has risen I take it out of the pan, roll it out on my counter, add melted butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, slice and put on a cookie sheet.  Let rise again and cook about 12 minutes on 350 degrees.  Yummy!

Discover the wonderful world of bread machines, there are so many other things you can do besides just making a regular loaf of bread.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Debi's Daily Dollar Idea: Stay Home

Today's idea is a complete no brainer: stay home!  How many times do you run to the store for a couple things and end up with a cartfull of items and a deep hole in your pocketbook?  So for this week I challenge you to live off what is already in your cupboards.  If you have your heart set on a particular food for dinner but find you're missing an ingredient, fix something else!  Take stock of what you have on hand and make up a week's worth of meal ideas using those items only.  In addition to unnecessary items you'd come home with from the store you'll also save $$ on gas.

If you look in those cupboards and find that they're bare and you just can't feed your family without purchasing a couple things, write down exactly what you need and then purchase ONLY those items.

Post how you did!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Debi's Daily Dollar Idea: Double Up

With the price of gas skyrocketing, sometimes it seems that we may have to take a loan out at some point just to fill up!  That may be an exaggeration, but higher gas prices can take a gouge out of a wallet on a weekly basis.  My idea for today is mainly a challenge:  Don't drive your vehicle (except to drive to and from work) unless you can combine at least two errands.  In other words, for the rest of the month try not to drive your vehicle if you are only running one errand.  For example, before you get in the car to drop items off at the dry cleaners grab that stack of books that need to go back to the library.  If you are on your way to do your weekly grocery shopping, run those items to the post office on the way.  And if you can arrange it, try putting off a few errands and running all of them on one trip once a week. Try to think ahead and see if you can run errands either on the way to, or on the way back from work.

This may be painful for those of us used to instant gratification.  I often think nothing of driving all the way to the library just to get a "free" movie to watch, not even considering I just used a couple bucks worth of gas in doing so.  I could easily drop off a package at the post office, pick up a gallon of milk and use my coupons to get some nearly free items at CVS on the way.

So combine trips and see how long you can go without even driving.  When you do have to drive make sure you get the most out of your gas.  Post how you did!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Deb's Daily Dollar Idea: Save the Soap

Today's idea comes from my mother, a truly frugal woman!  Sometimes we overlook ways to save money because we may only save a few coins in so doing.  But consider that a few coins added up over the course of a year is no small change!  Saving money in many instances just requires a frugal mindset.  Most of us want to get the most possible use out of something before we have to replace it.  Replace an item fewer times and save some green.  So today's idea has to do with making those bars of soap last longer.

1.  To make bar soap last a lot longer, open the packaging when you get home and let the bars "dry" out and harden before using.  A month or two should do - especially if you live in the WEST where we have dry mountain air to do the drying.  Ever notice how a bar of soap that falls in the bath water just melts away?  A soft bar of soap won't last long.  A rock hard bar of soap will last a long time - yet get you just as clean.

2.  Don't throw away soap bar slivers.  Collect them, along with those little bars you collect from motel visits, and put them all through your grinder - like your food processor.  Add a little water until softened and form into "new" soap bars the size of soap bars.  Forget them for a while and you have new, hard bars.  It is amazing how fast those slivers and bars add up.  Another plus side is a fun activity to do with your kids or grandkids.  You can use cookie cutters to form the soap into fun shapes.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Debi's Daily Dollar idea: Freecycle it

Over 8.2 million people around the world have discovered that sometimes you can get what you want by leaving your wallet at home. Over 3,000 people in my city alone are members of Freecycle, an online network that makes it possible for people to give away or receive items for free.  There are over 4800 groups worldwide, so there is sure to be one in your area.  Simply visit and put in the name of your city.  You can then join the group for your area and sign up to receive emails when people post items.  The only catch is that no money be exchanged.  Items must be offered free of charge.  You may either post an item(s) you are wanting to give away, or post an item that you are looking for.  I have used freecycle to give away a number of items, and have also picked up a few useful things, like dishes, Christmas decorations, diapers and a shelf unit.
You'd be amazed at the items people give away.  If you don't mind an item being used, it's a great idea to check freecycle before purchasing it.  It is also a good idea to ask a potential buyer to email you personally to arrange for pick-up of an item.  Unless the item I'm giving away is too large, I usually opt to meet at another location rather than my home.  Safety first!

If you do sign up for freecycle and receive an item for free, post your lucky find!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!  As 2011 rolls out I, like many people will be setting some New Year's Resolutions which will include among other things, how I handle my finances.  One thing I've committed myself to doing is paying myself first, instead of last.  It's always easiest to to set a little money aside while you still have some, instead of "just seeing" if there is money left at the end of the month to put in savings. 

PMF - Pay Myself First will be my motto for the year.  I have done this off and on but I'm determined to use a little more self-discipline in my spending and savings habits.  To do this I I'm going to start with just one simple habit:
   - put all loose coins and bills in a jar at the end of the day.  This jar as of today is sacred and will not be   broken into except in the case of dire extremeties.  By saving a little as I go I'm hoping to erase the need to use my credit card if I get in a pinch.  In my case using cash is always better than using plastic.

So here's a challenge and a request.  Get a piggy bank, jar or bottle and start plinking in your loose change at the end of each day.  At the end of the month decide what you'll do with it.  You could use it to pay down a credit card, simply let it continue accumulating, stick it in a savings account or something entirely different.

I'm interested in two things from my readers.  First, let me know at the end of January how much you've been able to stash away using this idea, and what you'll be doing with that stash.  I personally will just let it accumulate so I have a little cash on hand for emergencies.  What we don't want is for your piggy bank to look like this at the end of the month: