I’m not proud of myself for loading up a shopping cart and then in some kind of retail panic, leaving it in the aisle and fleeing the store. Well, maybe I am a little. 

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It was about the most impulsive (repulsive perhaps) thing I’ve done in some time. And it’s all because despite how far I’ve come, I’m still me. And I just happened to be in the area. 

I don’t normally travel in the direction of the largest fabric store in the universe. But I did and there I was, only a few short blocks from the entrance. So I stopped in to just … uh, … look around.

Potential. That’s what I saw. Aisle after aisle of potential gifts, quilts, tablescapes, sweaters, hats, decorator pillows, blankets, pure joy.

There were several bargains that quite frankly one should never pass up. And that is the ONLY reason I found a shopping cart. I mean come on … my favorite brand of flannel—the really good stuff—BOGO (that’s buy-one-get-one-free for you novices)? And flannel-backed satin in the perfect shade of Christmas red for $4.59 a yard? And the most adorable fleece for next to nothing!

I made my way to the cutting table when I noticed something new: A take-a-number machine. Hate those things. But now I’m stuck, so I plucked 73 from its little mouth and pulled back to notice Now Serving 61. 

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The average American household spends most of its money—62% of an average $56,000 in annual expenditures—on just three things: housing, transportation, and food. If you’re trying to cut costs and save money, food is the place to get started.

Reducing restaurant visits and increasing your home-cooked meals is a surefire way to cut food costs. And when you do opt to eat out, here are 13 realistic, ethical and pretty awesome ways to keep your tab lean!

 

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1. Special Menu

Many restaurants offer a reduced-price menu for seniors and children. If you or someone in your party qualifies, be sure to inquire if the special pricing doesn’t show up on the regular menu. Typically these discounted menus offer smaller portions at significantly reduced prices.

2. Skip the Sodas

Skip the pricey drinks and dubious “free refills” altogether and you’ll save at least $2 a person. EC reader Lisa B. rewards herself whenever she opts for water by stuffing two bucks into her savings account.

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Encouragement. For me it is a basic need or perhaps a character flaw, I’m not quite sure. All I know is that I need encouragement, and I need it often.

I have a feeling that you do, too.

 

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This matter of learning how to manage money, living below our means, and getting out of debt can be a discouraging proposition at times.

I want to be one of the encouragers in your life—someone you can count on to cheer you on in the good times and help dust you off so you can get up and back on track during the bad times.

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Only a few months ago I paid $1.75 a gallon for gas in Thornton, Colo. That’s nearly a dollar cheaper than I paid this past week at the same location—$2.72 per gallon! What’s going on?

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AAA  blames the increase partially on a drop in fuel supply from oil refineries. As a reulst, experts say prices are likely to keep climbing this summer, so drivers will have to be strategic to manage their fuel costs.

To save a gallon of gas, you need to cut about 22 miles of driving from your week. Here are 10 easy ways to do that:

1. Hop on the bus, Gus

Even if you think this is not an option for you, check out PublicTransportation.org. You may be surprised by all the options that you have never considered. Or carpool. Leaving the car at home and sharing your commute occasionally can help you reach your gallon-goal quickly. Sharing the ride—and expense—with another person regularly can cut your gas costs in half. Check out your carpooling opportunities at the eRide Share app, eRideShare.com.

2. Take it easy

The faster you drive, the more gas you use. If your average commute includes 20 miles of highway time and you drive it at 60 mph instead of 70 mph, it will take you only three minutes longer to get there, and you’ll save approximately 1.3 gallons of gas in a five-day work week.

3. Trip-chain

Need to pick up a prescription, mail a package and go to the bank? Instead of spreading these tasks out over a few trips, chain them together by doing all of them at one time. Park in a central spot and walk from place to place. Read more

Come on … ‘fess up. You feel guilty using $.99 shampoo because it’s really bad for your hair. And anybody knows the $24 salon variety is so much better especially for chemically treated hair, right?  Wrong!

I’ve got the facts to prove it and truth to counteract lots of myths out there—plus some great tips to get you on the right path, too!

 

 

Facts

Price

Fact:  When it comes to selecting the best shampoo, the price has nothing to do with it. Some of the best are super cheap.

Mostly H2O

Fact: All shampoos are 80 to 90 percent water.  The rest is detergent with a few drops of fragrance, additives, and preservatives. By the way, agua and eau are water in Spanish and French, respectively.

Detergent

Fact: There are basically two kinds of detergent found in shampoo: Anionic (harsh) and cationic (gentle).

Hype

Fact: The only part of the shampoo bottle that’s regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the list of ingredients. Manufacturers can make any claim they like on the unregulated portions of the label. Sometimes the hype has some merit, often it has none. Manufacturers can make just about any claim they can think up!

Myths

Build-up

Myth: Shampoo builds up on hair so you need to change brands occasionally to counteract this.

Shampoo cannot build up on hair. However, conditioners, chemical processes, and other products do build-up you may need to use a stronger type of shampoo from time to time. Or do this once a month: Mix a little baking soda with your shampoo in the palm of your hand. Shampoo as usual, rinse well. There you go. No need for an expensive “rid” product to wash away the build-up of hair spray and other products

Salon brands

Myth: Salon-brand shampoos outperform inexpensive store brands.

Not true. Salon brands may have more fragrance, foam more or have more ingredients, but all of it goes right down the drain with the detergent.

Repair and nourish

Myth: High-quality shampoo can repair and nourish damaged hair.

Hair is dead and cannot be repaired. Any hair product can only provide temporary benefits to the look and feel of hair.

No tears

Myth: Baby shampoo (no-tears) is great for adults because it is so gentle.

The detergent in baby shampoo is way too gentle and not designed for cleaning adult hair especially when a lot of styling products have been used.


RELATED: Stop Making These 5 Costly Hair Mistakes


Here’s the secret

The secret to shampoo intelligence is to know your detergents. Pay little if any attention to anything on that bottle or packaging except for the list of ingredients. Water (or some fancy name for good old H2O) will always be the first ingredient. Next comes the detergent. Examples that you might find:

  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate – very harsh
  • Ammonium Laureth Sulfate – harsh
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – still harsh
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) – mild, great choice
  • TEA Lauryl Sulfate – gentle, good choice
  • TEA Laureth Sulfate – gentle, also a good choice.

Good choices

Many in the Herbal Essences and Suave lineup of shampoos—found in most supermarkets and drug stores and online—contain the gentle option Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). But don’t assume—read the labels.

With the money you save on the shampoo, buy a quality conditioner. Unlike shampoo that washes down the drain, the quality of conditioner does make a difference!


MORE: Solved: The Mystery of Hair Conditioners


Bottom line

When purchasing shampoo, consider just two things:

  1. Price
  2. Type of detergent

Interestingly, the “rinse and repeat” instruction you will read on every shampoo bottle goes back to a marketing campaign one manufacturer created to increase sales. It does that all right, and you can make your shampoo last twice as long if you skip “repeat.”

Rinse thoroughly. If your hair turns out dull and lackluster the problem may be inadequate rinsing. Tip: Pour 1/2 cup white vinegar through hair during the rinsing process. This will remove all traces of the shampoo and leave your hair sleek and shiny.

If you clip shampoo coupons and match them with shampoo sales in your grocery store, you may never pay more than a  dollar or two for shampoo again!

First published: 6-01-17; Updated 4-26-19

 

PREVIOUSLY: 26 Ways to Use Vinegar that Will Surprise You!


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It’s cheap. It’s available in every supermarket and home center in the universe and so useful around your home, you may have a difficult time believing it. That’s the power of white vinegar—the same vinegar you cook with and pour on your salad!

 

 

1. Windows

Add 1/4 cup white vinegar to a quart of very warm water to make a good window cleaner. Wipe with a microfiber cloth and your windows will sparkle.


MORE: Best Inexpensive™ Microfiber, Electronics, Automobiles


2. Computer mouse

Clean your mouse that has a removable tracking ball with a 50/50 vinegar-water solution. First, remove the ball from underneath the mouse by twisting off the cover. Dip a clean cloth into the solution, wring it out and then wipe the ball clean. Next, remove fingerprints and dirt from the mouse itself. Then use a vinegar-moistened cotton swab to clean out the gunk and debris from inside the ball chamber. Allow all parts to dry a couple of hours before reinserting the ball.

3. Laundry

Instead of fabric softener or dry sheets, add 1/2 (one-half) to 1 cup vinegar to the last rinse in your washing machine (as you would liquid softener). Your clothes will come out soft because the vinegar helps to remove every trace of laundry detergent, which causes fabrics to stiffen.

4. Watermarks

Vinegar will dissolve hard-water marks like those on shower doors, faucets and in vases. If the vinegar is hot (heat in the microwave) it works even faster.

5. Ballpoint pen ink

Got ink marks from ballpoint pen adorning a wall, desktop, or other inappropriate space? No worries. Dab full-strength white vinegar on the ink using a cloth or a sponge. Repeat until the marks are gone. Then buy your child a nice big sketch pad.

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At the foundation of your children’s financial intelligence should be this undeniable truth: It is not the amount of money you have, but what you do with it that matters.

This is true for a child managing a $5-dollar-a-week allowance or a corporate executive with a $5,000-dollar-a-week salary.

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For the better part of my life, I didn’t know this truth. On the contrary, I believed that more money was the answer. I was convinced that if we just made more money, won the lottery, or received some unexpected inheritance, all of our money problems would vanish. But the more we made the worse our problems became. Because I didn’t know how to manage what we had, more would have never been enough. We didn’t save, we didn’t give, we didn’t plan, and we had no idea where all the money went.

Unless your children learn simple, wise money management techniques, more money will never be enough.

The simplest way to get started building financial intelligence into your kids’ minds and hearts is by putting them on an allowance and then requiring them to suffer or enjoy the consequences of their financial decisions.

Here are five good reasons to put kids on an allowance program:

1. Teaches kids about real life

Nothing beats an allowance for a hands-on course in values. Having their own money teaches them about responsibility, consequences, saving and charity.

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For years I’d tried to grow a decent vegetable garden. It was the high cost of fresh basil—$3.50 for a few measly, wilted fresh basil leaves, ditto for a pound of somewhat reddish tomatoes and mostly pink strawberries—that prompted me to try.

I started with tomatoes, basil, and peppers (a salsa garden!). In no time, I added zucchini and cucumbers to my repertoire—even corn one year.

 

But I have to be honest. My harvests have ranged from disappointing to mediocre. Only that one year did my garden produce enough to share with others. I’m still trying to remember how I did that. So far, I’ve been unable to duplicate the results.

Uniquely talented

One thing I do quite well is weeds. I try not to take too much credit here, but I have to tell you I’ve never seen anyone else grow weeds quite as successfully as I do. And I can take them right through the season until they actually re-seed themselves for the next!

Oh, the effort

While I love the concept of a garden that’s not only nice to look at but actually produces something we can eat, I’m not 100% in love with the anxiety, pressure, guilt, backaches, leg cramps, and fear of needing hip replacements.

There has to be a better way

While in the past my efforts to grow a garden have been more of a hobby than a serious endeavor, I feel that changing. The high cost of food—specifically produce—tells me it’s time to get serious. We need to become more self-sufficient, but in a cost-effective way.

True cost? Yikes!

While I feel that I’ve mastered weeds, I’ve failed miserably in cost-effectiveness. I shudder to imagine the true cost of the pathetically tiny bounty I’ve garnered over the years.  That doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up on vegetable gardening, only that I’m ready for a new way to do it.


RELATED: Grow Tomatoes at Home Even If You Don’t Have a Garden


 

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