Woman opening bright pink wallet to discover complete lack of money

5 Ways to Give Yourself a Raise

Is money a little tight? Hoping a raise will come through soon? I hate to burst your bubble, but even if it is exceptional, a raise probably won’t do much good. 

By the time a raise is adjusted for taxes, you’ll be lucky to see half of it in your bank account. And if that’s not bad enough, it’s a common problem that when you earn more, you automatically spend more. Reckless spending can consume a lot of cash, fast. 

Woman opening bright pink wallet to discover complete lack of money

The degree of reckless spending seems to rise in direct proportion to income. It won’t be long until you are back in your old financial rut just barely getting by. Sadly, until you get serious about your spending, more money will never be enough.

The secret to getting cash inflow to exceed outflow is to reduce the outflow. That is a solution available to almost everyone.

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11 Practical Ways to Stretch Your Food Budget

If soaring food prices are getting you down, help is on the way! Here are some basic saving strategies, practical solutions, and novel ideas to stretch your food budget—and make your life easier.

Grate savings

You pay a lot to have someone else grate your cheese for you—at least twice the price of buying cheese by the block. Currently, at my supermarket, cheese in blocks runs from about $2 to $2.50 a pound for the store brand to about $5.00 a pound and more for name brands. The very same cheeses, pre-grated, run almost exactly double across the board, $4 to $10 a pound. Here’s the tip: Grate it yourself. It will stay fresher and you’ll save money, too.

Pro tip: Commercially grated or shredded cheese comes with an added ingredient like potato starch or modified cornstarch to prevent “caking” or “clumping.” Well, guess what? Those anti-caking ingredients inhibit melting, too. Now you know why pre-grated or shredded cheese doesn’t seem to always melt as readily, often leaving an odd thickened texture.

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No Need to Shiver: Easy DIY Ways to Cut Heating Costs This Winter

What if I told you there are a handful of sneaky ways you can cut the cost to heat your home that won’t require you to wear a down-filled, hooded parka 24-hours a day? Would I have your attention? Great, because that’s exactly what I have for you today.

Young woman wearing a red winter jacket with furry hood, holding her hands together on isolated background

These easy tips could cut your heating bill by 20 percent or more, and none require more than 30 minutes of work. You will need to purchase a few inexpensive supplies but all are readily available. Don’t worry—you will quickly recoup those costs in lower heating bills.

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Homemade spreadable butter on homemade breat

Make Your Own Spreadable Butter

You’ve seen the little tubs of “spreadable butter” in the dairy case of your supermarket. In fact, you may purchase them because they’re just so convenient. And if you watch your prices you know the typical spreadable could almost be considered a luxury item. 

Homemade spreadable butter on homemade breat

Most “spreadables” are part real butter, part canola oil. Others have olive oil or some kind of an oil blend. What all of these spreadables have in common is that they remain perfectly soft, even while refrigerated. 

Today I want to tell you how you can make your own spreadable butter for half the price. 

One 8-ounce tub is the equivalent of two sticks of butter. Depending on the brand, spreadable butter runs from about $.30 for store brands to $.50 for name brands, per ounce. Curiously, butter costs just about the same per ounce ($.30 to $.50) unless you buy it in bulk at Sam’s or Costco, while canola oil comes in as low as $.05 an ounce. Read more

Cute boy writing letter to santa, waiting for christmas

How to Live the Life You Love on Your Current Income

Living below your means does not mean giving up what really matters. Spending less than you earn is the way to have and do those things that will let you live the life you love.

I’ll never forget the time I asked one of my young piano students what he wanted for Christmas. It was a generic question, a pleasantry. I wasn’t looking for make, model, and serial number, but that’s what I got. He whipped out a 60-page list from his book bag. I gulped, checked to see if this child was serious (he was), and quickly proceeded with his music lesson.

Cute boy writing letter to santa, waiting for christmas

Somehow I think that most of us have a bit of that kid in us. We want it all. And every bank and credit card company out there is affirming the notion and willing to make it happen.

In time, however, we reach a maximum level of satisfaction. And the more we attempt to increase that level, the more difficult it becomes to retain a sense of fulfillment. More becomes less as our feelings of satisfaction diminish.

By the looks of some of our closets and garages, we’ve been doing a pretty good job of trying to get it all. But how much of it satisfies? What portion of what we have is actually contributing to the quality of our lives? Read more

An Amazing Way to Slash High Heating Bills

Until several years ago, I didn’t know something existed called a heated mattress pad. It makes sense since I’d lived in Southern California for most of my life, where it is mostly warm all year round.

Relocating to Colorado where the seasons are more pronounced, I had a lot to learn about heating a house without going broke. That first winter our heating bills shot to the moon because we were heating the entire house to a comfortable temperature day and night. Trust me—high heating bills can be shocking.

surprised woman gets letter with bad news

Lower the temp

We saw a semi-dramatic reduction in the heating bill when we decided to lower the thermostat to 60 F. at night and use this Bionaire micathermic space heater in our bedroom, but that wasn’t altogether successful. My husband and I have different internal thermostats. He would be cold while I’d be turning the space heater down a notch or two.

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Ask Me Anything: Best Chromebook, Granite Stains, Estate Planning, and More

What’s inside? Here are the questions I’m answering from my bulging reader mailbag. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. Or just scroll through to read all. Enjoy!

Contents

1. Best Inexpensive Chromebook Computer 

2. White, filmy, hard water stains on granite

3. Help me overcome impulse buying, please?!

4. Is there any way to remove a Super Glue spill?!

5. Which is the best iron for quilters? 

6. Downloadable software for Estate Planning

7. Homemade Almond Extract, please!

Q1: Our son, in his first year of college, has asked for a Chromebook computer for Christmas. Can you point me to the Best Inexpensive option? I don’t know a lot about this and trust your recommendation. Thanks! Barb

Smart kid you have there! Chromebook continues to be a mind-blowing option when it comes to laptop computers. My choice as of today (things change so quickly in the world of computers) is the Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA, which comes with an Intel Core Processor with 64GB flash storage and 4GB RAM, and up to 10 hours of battery life. All of that means it’s fast and efficient.

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Young couple looking on laptop on Christmas eve to see that everything is paid in full

How to Avoid Christmas Debt When You’re Short on Cash

And just like that, we’re headlong into the most wonderful time of the year, when I challenge you to make it a debt-free Christmas. Because there are few things that feel as good as facing the New Year knowing that everything is paid in full—no Christmas debt to hit you in the face come mid-January.

Young couple looking on laptop on Christmas eve seeing that everything is paid in full

But when you’re short on cash it doesn’t feel that wonderful. The temptation is great to put just one more Christmas on credit. Before you give in to that terrible idea, consider that you have options. You can choose to arm yourself with a very important tool. You won’t have to run out and buy this tool because I am absolutely sure you have it already. And you won’t have to go on a whole-house search to find it either.

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closeup of a house-shaped chalkboard with the text home sweet home written in it and a bunch of lavender flowers in a flower pot, against a rustic pale blue background

Simple Ways to Keep Your Home Smelling Clean and Fresh

When it comes to housekeeping, there’s nothing quite so lovely as the smell of nothing. That’s the way clean is supposed to smell—like absolutely nothing!

Clean is the absence of odors from animals, people, garbage, rot, mold, mildew, smoke, dirt, grease, and grime—not the presence of spray fragrance on top of odors. Check out these simple ways to keep your home smelling clean and fresh. And for those who love a scent, I have some ideas for that too.

Abstract white room with white bed, waving curtain on window. White room minimal interior depicting clean and fresh

Deal with moisture

It’s the number one cause of household odors, according to cleaning expert Rachel Hoffman, author of Cleaning Sucks. If you suspect this may be the source of that sour smell when you walk into a room, wonder no more. Invest in an inexpensive hygrometer that measures specific humidity. Test every room including the basement and attic. If you discover humidity levels above 60%, consider using a dehumidifier.

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dishwasher open to reveal clea dishes and utensils

14 Things That Should Never Go in the Dishwasher

Without a doubt, my least favorite household chore is hand washing dishes. That makes my dishwasher the one appliance I can’t live without. I love it. In fact, I have this motto that if it can’t go in the dishwasher I don’t need it.

Despite all my efforts, I still end up having to hand wash a few things since having learned the hard way there are certain items that should never go in a dishwasher. They can be ruined or they can ruin your dishwasher. You should hand wash them instead.

dishwasher open to reveal clea dishes and utensils

Wood

You’d be amazed how well I can fit wood cutting boards, bowls, and utensils into my dishwasher. But what was I thinking? I’m careful to not expose my wood floors to standing water because that’s just asking for trouble—but these small items made of wood were somehow impervious to the brutality of super hot water plus detergent followed by blistering high drying heat? So wrong!

Bottom line is that water causes wood to swell and distort. Detergent strips the natural oils, causing wood to crack. Wood needs to be hand-washed and dried quickly. When you need to disinfect, use a mild solution of one gallon of 70 F (cool) water plus one teaspoon of liquid bleach will do the trick.

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