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4 Kitchen Money-Savers That Pay for Themselves in No Time at All

I’m crazy about gadgets—everything from quirky can openers to smartphones. Hand me a Swiss Army knife and I’m in heaven—the more blades and utensils the better. And when that gadget is a true money-saver? Oh, be still my heart!

four kitchen appliances that are money savers

My favorite gadgets, of course, are ones that actually help me to save money and/or time. I’ve been fooled from time to time, spending good money on things that just did not perform well. Or the gadget turned out to be so cumbersome, using it actually complicated rather than simplified my life.

Take that One-Second Needle. It was a great idea, but sadly that is one gadget that needs to be put out of its misery, in my humble opinion.

But now and then I strike on a gadget that is so magnificent in its functionality and money-saving properties, I can’t wait to tell you about it.

Today, I want to tell you about four gadgets for the kitchen that I consider to be wise investments—money savers!

All four are inexpensive enough to pay for themselves in a short period of time—and then to continue paying off in food savings, which is saying a lot as food costs continue to soar. Read more

16 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.

Granted, one of these strategies on its own is not likely to make a huge difference. But lots of small strategies working together—that’s the way to see huge results.

grated cheese

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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17 Things You’d Be Smart to Buy at a Dollar Store

At least a couple of times a week, someone will ask me what I miss most about living in Southern California. Because we lived there for 47 years before pulling up roots and relocating to Colorado, you might assume that it would be a long list.

food on display in a store

But my usual response is “Not much!” and not just to get a laugh. Truth be told, I can only think of two things: Good pizza and my beloved 99 Cents Only Store—the best “dollar” store ever, AND the food retailer no one knows. The company’s nearly 400 stores derive close to 80% of their sales of $2.4 billion from categories such as fresh, grocery and consumables that overlap with those of traditional grocers and discounters.

Admittedly, I have not tried every pizza option in our new location, so hope springs eternal. But I cannot find even a hint of a plan to expand 99 Cents Only Stores to Colorado, and that’s a cryin’ shame.

Good thing there are other brands of dollar stores nearby while I wait for 99 Cents Only Stores—the gold standard when it comes to good stuff cheap—to get smart and open a store in my neighborhood.

Here’s the reason I love dollar stores in general: It’s easy to match quality with need when what I need does not require much quality. Let me show you what I mean about need vs. quality with this quick list of 17 things you’d be smart to buy at a dollar store:

Greeting cards

Don’t expect Hallmark’s complete line to show up at the dollar store. But you can expect first-quality greeting cards for just about every occasion. This is my go-to source for greeting cards that I know will be opened, enjoyed for the moment, and tossed. Nothing wrong with that, but I sure don’t want to spend $3.99 or more for a disposable card when I can get it for a buck!

Gift Bags, gift wrap

A dollar store is the best place to buy gift bags and gift wrap for a fraction of the cost of traditional stores. And why not? The gift bags and all that gift wrap are going to end up in the trash in just the time it takes to rip open the gift. So who needs super, high-end quality for disposable gift wrap? Dollar store quality is plenty good, and cheap to boot. Gift bags and wrapping paper are my favorite examples of matching quality with need.

Paper goods

Paper plates, cups, disposable tablecloths, plastic cutlery, balloons, and even theater-size boxes of candy—if you need it for a party and don’t need it to last for more than a few hours, the dollar store is the place to find it.

Wax paper, parchment paper, aluminum foil

These are hard to compare price-wise because the square footage is different in the boxes at the dollar stores than the boxes in the regular grocery stores. However, they are still cheaper per inch. I also really like the pre-cut pop-up foil sheets that are huge frustration savers.

Seasonal decor and favors

Want to decorate for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day and any number of other holidays? Love to fill  Christmas stockings with trinkets, small gadgets, and other kinds of fun stuff? You’ll find everything from packages of spider rings, to glow sticks, streamers, wall and door decor and on and on—all super cheap—at the dollar store.

Pregnancy tests

Hold on. It’s true—most dollar stores sell pregnancy tests for a dollar that would cost upwards of $15 or more in a drugstore. Are they reliable? I suppose they are if they do what they say on the label. And assuming the test kit is sealed and not beyond its expiration date, why not? If you’re worried about a false response, buy a few kits to make sure. At a buck each, you’ll still save a bundle.

Double-sided tape

You can get 130 inches of this tape at the dollar store. This is a shorter tape than the 450-inch roll for $4.79 at Staples, but it is still cheaper per inch.

Beauty and personal care

Get ready to be blown away by all the shampoo, deodorant, shaving cream, soap, body wash, razors, hair accessories, hair care gear, bandages, and personal care items in the typical dollar store. You may not see a lot of name brands—but then again you might, depending on the day. As for unknown brands, check the ingredients. It may be junk or you just might find products that are similar if not the same as the more pricey options you’re used to.

Containers to get organized

Why pay $3.99 each for plastic shoe boxes with lids to organize the kids’ rooms when you can get them for a buck at the dollar store? Dollar stores are notorious for their containers, bins, boxes, and organizational helpers.

Having a Garage Sale or need to sell a car? Dollar stores are the place to find ready-made plastic signs for posting. Just use a marker to fill in your specific information in the spaces provided and you’re set.

Reading glasses

Yep, you’ll find them too, at a dollar store. Probably not a huge selection, but you’re sure to find at least a couple of options that fit and in the magnification strength you need. And when you do, grab a few pairs because you know how easy it is to misplace reading glasses.

Home decor

Where do you go when you need a  picture frame, a flower vase or wreath, doormats, or another kind of home decor? Check the dollar store! 

Cleaning supplies

Look on the shelves of the cleaning aisle at any dollar store and you’ll find lots of off-brand bleach, cleansers, dish soap, laundry detergent, stain treatments, toilet cleaners, glass, and mirror cleaners, too. And don’t be shocked to find an occasional name-brand in the lot. Look for microfiber cloths, sponges and scrub brushes and other equipment as well.

Kitchen utensils and accessories

I suggest caution when considering cutlery, tongs, spatulas, and so forth from the dollar store. Much of what you’ll find is not worth spending a dollar on. But on occasion, you’ll come across a super bargain on name brand, excellent-quality kitchen utensils, and accessories that will bring a great deal of value to your kitchen. Things like measuring spoons and cups, spoon rests, name brand kitchen scissors, peelers, scrubbers and cutting boards; towels, pot holders, and placemats, too.

I have rubber spatulas, serving spoons, glassware, and measuring cups from 99 Cents Only that I’ve had for many years and they’re still my favorites. 

Tools

Not every tool in a home or garage needs to be a top-of-the-line, name brand with a life expectancy of many decades. Take a tape measure, duct tape, glue or maybe even a tiny set of screwdrivers for the kitchen. You’ll find all those things at a dollar store. Picture hanging kits, handy assortments of screws and nails, too.

Non-perishables and produce

The main thing I miss about 99 Cents Only is the fresh produce. Not kidding! I would make 99 Cents my first stop on the way to the supermarket. Beyond bananas, I couldn’t predict what I would find in the fresh produce section, so I’d stop there before going on to the supermarket. Oh, the bargains on beautiful, locally grown produce!

You will find lots of food in the typical dollar store. The array of canned goods and other non-perishables is impressive. Just make sure you know your prices. You don’t want to pay $.99 for a can of soup that is regularly priced $.69 at the supermarket. It can happen.

Clay flower pots

Look for great flower pots, especially if you like to decorate clay pots. They make great gifts, or awesome decor for windowsills, patios, and porches. You’ll see the same $1 pot at Lowes is $3.97.

Pet supplies

From name-brand pet food for dogs, cats, and fish to vet-approved toys, leashes, food dishes, and even an occasional doggie sweater or Halloween costume—the dollar store lets pets live the good life without their owners worrying about the cost. You just might be surprised by what you’ll find.

In closing, let me remind all of us of this important principle: Even the best deal in the world is not a good deal at all if it’s something you don’t need or won’t use.

Question: Do you frequent a dollar store? If so, what’s the best—or worst—thing you’ve purchased there? 

 

 

Stop Making These 5 Costly Hair Mistakes

No one knows your hair better than you do. But is it possible that in your efforts to keep it healthy and looking good, you are washing money down the drain needlessly? Consider these costly mistakes many people make.

A woman looking at the camera

Mistake: Expensive shampoo

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! Price has nothing to do with it.

The secret to shampoo intelligence is to know your detergents. Look at the list of ingredients on the shampoo bottle. Water (or some fancy name for it) will be the first ingredient. Next comes the detergent. It’s tricky, so keep this list handy.

  • 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

When purchasing shampoo, consider just two things: price and the type of detergent (the list above). If you clip shampoo coupons and match them with shampoo sales, you may never pay more than $1 for shampoo again.

Pro tip

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

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What to Do When You Can’t Pay Your Bills?

You’ve lost your job. You’re furloughed. Perhaps your hours have been severely cut back. For whatever reason, suddenly you don’t have enough money to pay all of your bills.

You’re scared, angry, worried, and seriously overwhelmed. You may have promises of unemployment benefits and stimulus-type money coming, but when? What are you supposed to do right now? Which bills should you pay first and which ones can slide for a while?

A group of people looking at a laptop

This is not easy. But I want to assure you that it is doable. As bleak and horrible as things look right now, you will come through this. We’ll do this together.

Here’s a basic rule of thumb according to the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center in its book, Surviving Debt:

“Always pay essential expenses first. If any money is left, you can decide which nonessential debts, if any, to keep in your expense budget.”

That’s a great directive, but what is an essential expense? How do you know the difference between essential and non-essential when you need groceries, the car payment is past due, and the bank just left a threatening voicemail message?

Grab paper and pen

Create two columns and label them: Essential, Non-Essential. Now, let’s take that stack of bills and the expenses you have right now and separate them into those two columns by asking this question of each one: What’s the consequence if we don’t pay it right now? 

  • An essential expense represents a serious obligation that if not paid could produce immediate severe, even life-threatening consequences. These are the expenses you must pay first, in order of the severity of the consequence if you don’t pay.
  • A non-essential expense represents an obligation that if not paid right now might harm your credit score, or require you to make a phone call, make you feel embarrassed—but will not result in a serious consequence right now.

As you fill the two columns, keep in mind not all of your essential expenses of food, essential medication, and gasoline. You won’t have a statement for those “bills,” but they are critical expenses and you must allow for them in this process.

Rule to follow right now

Here’s the rule to follow as you make your two lists and then prioritize them by the severity of the consequences to either pay or let slide:

Do not make payments on non-essential expenses and debt when you have not paid essential expenses even if your nonessential creditors are breathing down your neck with phone calls and threatening messages.

We’re going to concentrate first on your essential expenses that if you do not pay will create life-threatening or otherwise very serious consequences. And we’re going to do this in a specific order.

Do not misunderstand!

I am not suggesting that you should just walk away from your financial obligations. You must pay your creditors, you must pay your bills. To not pay them is not an option.

Of course, it is not ideal to let some of your bills slide for awhile. But your situation is what it is. Your resources are severely limited. In time, as things improve (they will) you will be able to get caught up completely.

But for now, you need to know how to get through this month.

Prioritize

Once you’ve determined which bills are essential, prioritize them according to the severity of the consequences you will suffer for non-payment.

Here is a guide to follow, listed by priority. Read more

Best Ever NO-YEAST Homemade Bread

Hot, homemade bread with no yeast, no egg, no oil, and no sugar. For hard-core bread lovers, that may sound awful, but you just have to try this.

For those times when you’re fresh out of yeast—this is the recipe you’ll be glad you’ve kept handy.

Bread and Loaf

No-yeast bread, often referred to simply as soda bread, is different than a light, airy yeast bread. It’s rustic, more dense—a bit heavier than yeast breast. And oh, so delicious. Eat it plain, toast it or serve it warm and all slathered up with butter.

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Clever Ways to Make Meals from Leftovers

How to use leftovers? Oh, let me count the ways. There really are so many ways to make meals from leftovers, something the late Julia Child preferred to call “the remains of the day.” Such an elegant way to refer to leftovers.

A refrigerator filled with food, with Kitchen and Blender

Regardless, both terms refer to anything from half a pan of lasagna to a dab of mashed potatoes that sit in the fridge until they turn green, at which time we feel a lot better about throwing those leftovers away, right? These days, with the price of food soaring—that’s like throwing cash in the garbage.

RELATED6 Ways to Stop Throwing Rotten Produce in the Garbage

The secret to sticking to a food budget is to first find a delicious use for every last bit of what we buy, then have an immediate plan for leftovers, and finally, to be diligent to follow through. Really, it all comes down to choosing to see leftovers as ingredients for new dishes—not just multiple go-rounds of the same thing until it’s finally gone.

Contents

Click on one to go straight to it, or scroll down to enjoy all.

1. Pasta
2. Pizza!
3. Tortilla chips
4. Bread
5. Cheese
6. Eggs
7. Mashed potatoes
8. Coffee
9. Rice
10. Chicken, turkey
11. Fish
12. Meatloaf
13. How long to safely keep leftovers?

Pasta

Spaghetti Frittata

So, imagine spaghetti for breakfast. Impossible? Not at all, although this recipe works for lunch or dinner, too. For this recipe, you can use any kind of plain pasta—or go wile and use up last night’s leftover pasta smothered with sauce. Basically, you’re going to add protein value with eggs, milk, and veggies. Then, fry it up in a skillet and you’ve got Spaghetti Frittata.

Pasta Stir Fry

Stir-fries are a great way to clear out the refrigerator and use up bits of produce. Stir-frying is really one of the best leftover technique you can have up your sleeve. It’s a matter of throwing together leftover pasta, vegetables, a protein like chicken and some kind of sauce.

Pasta Mama

It’s one of our favorites—for any meal of the week. Does it sound familiar? That’s because you recall Pasta Mama from a previous post. Find it here.

Pizza

Pizza eggs

Cut 2 slices of pizza into bite-size pieces. In a bowl, beat together 8 to 10 eggs. Add the pizza pieces, stir to cover all the pieces and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Spray a large frying pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high. Scramble pizza-egg mixture in the pan for about 6 minutes or until fully cooked. Top with grated or shredded cheese and serve.

MORE: Absolutely the Best Way to Store and Reheat Leftover Pizza

Pizza lasagna

This takes a little imagination, but bear with me. Use your favorite lasagna method or recipe, substituting the lasagna noodles with leftover pizza you’ve cut into strips. It’s amazing so you really should give this a try.

Tortilla chips

Breakfast scramble

It takes only 10 minutes, and the results are amazing. Crush up that partial bag of tortilla chips—crush ’em good! Then fold chips and salsa into eggs and add cheese for an awesome Breakfast Scramble. Full recipe here.

Tortilla soup

It’s quick (under 30 minutes!) and demands tortilla chips to finish. Perfect! This recipe from Martha Stewart is super easy, too.

Bread

French toast

In a bowl, beat together 2 eggs, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 2/3 cup milk. Soak 6 slices stale bread in the mixture, turning to coat both sides. Next, heat lightly oiled skillet over medium-high heat. Place bread in a skillet over medium heat and cook on both sides until golden. Serve with butter and syrup.

Croutons

Rub 4 slices of stale bread with a crushed clove of garlic. Cut bread into cubes, crouton-size. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add cubes and cook, stirring often, until crispy. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

French onion soup

This recipe actually calls for the bread to be stale—either a baguette or another crusty variety. Each serving of soup uses two slices of bread, one on the top and one on the bottom. Or check out my favorite French Onion Soup recipe, which admittedly is a bit more involved, but so worth it.

Avocado toast

Spread any kind of toasted bread with a touch of a schmear of mayonnaise followed by soft buttery avocado, a bit of lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Then, kick it up with these additions: sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced cucumbers, cilantro, sprouts, sliced olives—whatever you have on hand.

MORE: 7 Awesome Ways to Use up Stale Bread

Cheese

Fromage fort

It’s not what you’re thinking—blankets of cheese spread over furniture for kids’ play! Actually, it’s French for “strong cheese.” Translated, it is a delightfully economical blend of whatever odds and ends of cheese you have around plus some wine, garlic, salt, pepper and herbs.

Basically, you throw all of it (think leftovers from last night’s party) into the blender and Voila!, a spread for crackers and baguette, or a dip veggies. Don’t judge, this really is quite amazing.

There are no rules or recipes, just guidelines. But the main thing, the salient bit, is that you just wing it. You have to check it out!

Mac ‘n cheese

Pretty much a no brainer, right? Well not exactly, depending on which cheese you have in need of a delicious way to be used up. If it’s white cheddar, hallelujah! This copycat recipe is my family’s all-time favorite. If you’re a Panera Bread fan, you’re going to love it, too.

Eggs

Breakfast bowl

Probably not what you’re thinking. The idea here is to enrich that bowl of plain Cream of Wheat with an egg and vanilla. The result is a creamy breakfast pudding. Yum! Find the recipe here.

Pavlova

What to do with all of those egg whites leftover from that recipe that called for only egg yolks? How about a meringue dessert. The fancy name is pavlova, and it is delightful! There are endless recipes out there for pavlova, but you won’t find one easier and more foolproof than Easy Pavlova.

Mashed potatoes

Potato cakes

Mix cold mashed potatoes with an egg or two, leftover pieces of fish, ham, corned beef plus chopped onion and a little flour to hold it all together. Form into small patties and shallow fry in oil, until brown and crispy.

Topping

Use leftover mashed potatoes as a topping on a savory pie filling. You’re not likely to have a lot of potatoes, so think individual shepherds pies or chicken pot pies.

Gluten-free cake

Mashed potatoes are an ingredient in many gluten-free desserts, paired with gluten-free self-rising flour, like this Lemon & Orange Cake or this Lemon Drizzle Cake.

Coffee

Sauce

After pan-frying chicken or pork, deglaze the pan with coffee instead of wine for a deeper, southern-style gravy sometimes known as Red Eye Gravy

Freeze it

Coffee ice cubes are great in iced coffee; they don’t dilute the drink as the ice melts. Or add your preferred milk and flavorings to the coffee and pour into popsicle-type molds for a frozen treat tomorrow

Brine

Coffee-based brines that include spices such as cloves, star anise, peppercorns and, of course, plenty of salt make for delicious and super moist roast chicken. Here’s a recipe for your consideration: Coffee Brined Chicken Breasts.

Rice

Fried rice

The main ingredient in fried rice is … leftover, white rice! And it’s so easy, if not forgiving. All you need is a good roadmap to follow. And I’m sure you’re not surprised that I have that for you right here in New Life for Leftover Rice!

Rice pudding

Most recipes for rice pudding call for uncooked rice. That’s not much good when it’s cooked white or brown rice leftover that needs a yummy use, and quick. That’s why I love this recipe, Old Fashioned Creamy Rice Pudding. The first ingredient is 1 1/2 cups of cooked rice! I think you will agree that it is fabulous.

Chicken, Turkey

Chicken soup

Of course, chicken and turkey are pretty much interchangeable when it comes to making soup. You may have a heritage recipe handy, one that has been handed down through your family tree. Or if not, this one could easily become your go-to recipe of choice.

Club salad

Use cut-up turkey or chicken to top a salad. The protein fiber combination makes for a perfect meal!

Mediterranean wrap

Forget shelling out the big bucks at the local sandwich shop. Instead, repurpose last night’s chicken or turkey in your own healthy version. Grab a flour tortilla and use it to wrap chicken (or turkey) and your choice of grilled vegetables.

Turkey pot pie

Or chicken. Honestly, just the thought of homemade chicken or turkey pot pie makes my salivary glands go crazy. If you’re with me on that, here’s a pretty awesome, if not foolproof, recipe because father knows best, right? Dad’s Leftover Turkey Pot Pie. Be still my heart.

Fish

Salad

What to do with those bits and piece of leftover salmon, halibut or another type of fish? Even if it’s breaded or deep-fried, don’t toss it out! It can make a fabulous addition to tomorrow’s lunch.

Fish casserole

Move over tuna casserole. This fish pasta is oh, so much classier. While it calls for 1 1/2 pounds of white fish filet, I know you can figure out how to use yesterday’s leftover flaky fish. Since you’ll be baking this in a casserole for fewer than 25 minutes, no worries about it drying out or otherwise turning ugly.

Meatloaf

Chili

Use chopped up leftover meatloaf in place of ground beef to make homemade chili. It’s all seasoned and ready-to-go.

Quesadillas

So easy! Mix together chopped up meatloaf, onion and green pepper or other toppings of choice. Stir in your favorite BBQ sauce. Cover a flour tortilla with the mixture, top with shredded cheese and top with the second tortilla. Place tortilla in the skillet cook for 1-2 minutes, until cheese starts to melt and the tortilla starts to turn brown. Flip so each side is golden and crisp.

Spaghetti

Replace ground beef with chopped leftover meatloaf in your favorite meat sauce. Over spaghetti, it is one of the most fantastic dishes from leftovers!

Grilled sandwiches

Add a slice of leftover meatloaf to your next grilled cheese sandwich! Or forget the cheese and make a grilled meatloaf sandwich.

Sliders

Tiny dinner split rolls plus a slice of meatloaf cut to the same size plus your choice of spreads—bacon onion jam, mayonnaise, mustard, you name it and what do you get? Party Food!, no party necessary.

How long to keep leftovers?

In closing, you may be wondering, how long do we have to make these meals from leftovers? How many days can we safely keep leftovers in the refrigerator? That is an excellent question, and one for the professionals.

According to Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.:

Leftovers can be kept for three to four days in the refrigerator. Be sure to eat them within that time. After that, the risk of food poisoning increases. If you don’t think you’ll be able to eat leftovers within four days, freeze them immediately.

Food poisoning—also known as a foodborne illness—is caused by harmful germs, such as bacteria in contaminated food. Because bacteria typically don’t change the taste, smell or look of the food, you can’t tell whether a food is dangerous to eat. So if you’re in doubt about a food’s safety, it’s best to throw it out.

Fortunately, most cases of food poisoning can be prevented with proper cooking and food handling. To practice food safety, quickly refrigerate perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs. Don’t let them sit more than two hours at typical room temperature or more than one hour at temperatures above 90 F (32 C).

Uncooked foods, such as cold salads or sandwiches, also should be eaten or refrigerated promptly. Your goal is to reduce the time a food is in the “danger zone”—between 40 and 140 F (4 and 60 C)— when bacteria can quickly multiply.

When you’re ready to eat leftovers, reheat them on the stove or in a conventional oven or microwave until the internal temperature reaches 165 F (74 C). Slow cookers aren’t recommended for reheating leftovers as these devices may not heat foods hot enough to kill bacteria.

Revised & republished:  3-28-20


Up Next

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Turn Leftovers into Soup

Einstein in the Kitchen or Let Them Eat (Carrot) Cake

 

 

 

 

How to Stay on Track with a Rollercoaster Income

If you are among the millions of people in this country who don’t really know how or when they will see another paycheck, chances are you’re either unemployed or self-employed—which now that I think about it, being self-employed can be a lot like being unemployed except for an unemployment check.

A group of people sitting on a bench

It’s a rollercoaster, baby!

If you are a freelancer, a consultant, work in commission sales, the arts, or some other form of self-employment and don’t know when, how, or how much you’ll get paid from month to month, the word rollercoaster may bring more to mind than something in an amusement park.

Some months you work yourself nearly to death but produce absolutely no income. Then a deal closes or you have a pretty good month, and it takes nearly all of that money to pay last month’s bills.  

You made it … ?!

Then miracle of miracles, you have a $10,000 month and suddenly in your mind, you’re making $120,000 a year. Time to call the travel agent and book a European vacation!

Does any of this sound familiar?

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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.

A person posing for the camera

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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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.

A person sitting at a table

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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An Incredibly Easy Way to Save Money Shopping Online

With the year’s biggest shopping season now coming into clear view, it’s time to gather our wits, sharpen our resolve, and determine to know everything we possibly can about how to save money. Today I want to show you an online shopping hack that will help stretch your holiday dollars until they scream!

I used to love a good shopping mall. But those days are long gone and I don’t miss them one bit since I’ve discovered the joys and convenience of online shopping. In fact, I’ll do just about anything to avoid having to go inside a mall. Or even a grocery store.

I’m going to walk you through the basic steps of an incredibly easy way to save money shopping online, using an actual purchase I made as an example.

A close up of a hand in front of a keyboard

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How to Spend Money without Feeling Guilty

When you give yourself an allowance, it’s more than just cash—you give yourself the freedom to spend without feeling guilty. Early on in my long journey back to financial health, my husband and I agreed that I would have an allowance—my own cash, a regular expense listed in our fledgling household budget. That changed everything for me.

 

A book

 

It used to be that when I felt broke, I’d turn to my bevy of credit cards to chase away the feeling. As long as I could spend money, it felt like I had money. My credit cards were my antidepressants (and my eventual undoing).

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6 Budget-Friendly Ways to Keep the House Cool in Summer

Even if winter is still hanging on, without a doubt things are going to heat up soon. And won’t that be wonderful—provided you’ve figured out ways to keep things cool indoors this summer without sending your utility bills through the stratosphere?

A book sitting on top of a wooden table

If you could use some help in that regard, here are some tips, tricks, and great ideas that will help you stay cool without blowing a hole in the budget.

Whole house fan

A whole house fan (not to be confused with an attic fan) is installed in the attic and designed to ventilate the house whenever the outdoor air is cooler, which is typically after the sun sets—making it possible to turn the air conditioner off at night.

For a seasoned and experienced homeowner, installing a whole house fan is typically a do-it-yourself project. However, for a professional, it’s a quick and easy job. Learn more at the U.S. Department of Energy website.

Related: Best Inexpensive™ Window Air Conditioner

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How to Splurge on a Budget

I got the biggest shock of my life the day I realized that living on a budget wasn’t the straitjacket or rigid “diet” I assumed it would be. It was my life as a credit-card junkie that put me in financial bondage.

 

A person sitting on a bed

 

Living on a budget saved my life because it allowed me to get out of debt. It gave me my freedom. Want to know my secret for staying on a budget for so many years? I splurge. Seriously. And I do not feel guilty. I love nice things and I love to travel.

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How to Live on a Budget and Love It

For many years I wouldn’t have anything to do with a budget because I couldn’t stand the idea of anyone—or anything—telling me how to spend my money. And where did that get me? Into one big financial mess.

 

Income and Budget

 

Every month, when I ran out of money, I would turn to MasterCard and Visa for a bailout. To me, any available credit was the same as income. It was my money to do with as I found necessary. Really bad idea.

What I learned from going through that experience and finding my way back to solvency is that, as much as we may loathe it, a budget is the ticket to financial happiness―not the straitjacket I feared it would be. I’ve come to prefer calling this a “spending plan” rather than a  budget, but honestly, the terms are interchangeable. It’s just a way to pre-spend your income on paper first.

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Let’s Clear Up the Mystery of Ceiling Fan Direction

As a toddler, I must have driven my parents crazy. And I am still doing it, but now to my husband. I can’t help it. I want to know the “Why?!” about everything. Take ceiling fan direction for example. Most ceiling fans have a switch with two options. “Forward” spins one way, “Reverse” the other. But why? What for? Who made that rule?
Ceiling fan

Years ago a reader sent in her handy tip, passed along from her husband, a heating and air conditioning specialist: In the winter, make your ceiling fans spin counterclockwise. Or was that clockwise? To be honest, it totally slipped my mind as soon as I shared it.

A woman posing for a picture

But I do remember the barrage of responses I received. Some thanked me for printing the correct answer to the burning question, while others told me I was wrong and it should spin in the opposite direction. But why?!

Today, I have the answers.

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5 Reasons to Give Kids an Allowance

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.

Money and Saving

 

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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The Best Inexpensive Skin Care Products Recommended by My Doctor

How shocked was I to read it in a popular women’s magazine? Speechless, but somehow I gathered enough strength to respond, “There’s no way!” Even so, I did a quick search only to discover it was no typo at all. 111SKIN Celestial Black Diamond Cream 1.7 oz. — $932.34!

All I can say is at that price, it better contain a miracle. Seriously. It almost makes Lancome’s Hydra Zen Neurocalm Soothing Recharging Night Cream 1.7 oz. look like a bargain!

A person wearing a hat

High-quality and effective skincare should not be considered a luxury available only to the wealthy. You can find high quality, reasonably priced skincare products that are equal, if not superior to their department store cousins—right in your drugstore or discount department store.

Some years ago, as my dermatologist was wrapping up my routine office visit, I asked him what specific products he recommends I use for daily skincare. Without hesitation, he pulled out a note pad and wrote down the following:

Cleanser

Cetaphil makes is an excellent line of affordable skincare products. For example, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. Other cleansers that receive high marks with my dermatologist are Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser Moisturizing Deep Cleanser; Basis Sensitive Skin Bar; Lever 2000, and Dove for Sensitive Skin.

Moisturizer

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream is priced well. Tip: Walmart sells a generic version under its brand name Equate. I’ve had reports from several readers who insist it’s just like the real thing for a lot less.

Anti-Wrinkle

If you are concerned about wrinkles and avoiding skin cancer (tell me who’s not), Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream is a Retinol facial treatment with multi-vitamins—an excellent product you should consider. This is more than a moisturizer. It’s a skin preservation system and much cheaper than a very expensive dermatologist’s pre-cancer procedure.

Eye-Makeup Remover

Johnson’s Tear-Free Baby Shampoo is an excellent eye-makeup remover. I have had a number of ophthalmologists tell me that they prescribe baby shampoo for their patients who wear contact lenses because the product also removes protein build-up that plagues many lens wearers. Can be used full strength. Rinse well.

Toner

Instead of purchasing a name-brand astringent for use in your skin-care regimen, use witch hazel, an old natural stand-by that has been recommended by skin professionals for decades. As a natural astringent, witch hazel has the ability to remove excess oil from the skin and shrink down pores.

A topical application can help reduce the number of contaminants that enter the skin’s pores and can potentially aggravate skin conditions like blemishes, blackheads, and even acne.

Witch hazel is available over the counter at any drug store and any generic brand performs equally well to any brand astringent no matter how expensive.

Exfoliant

Mix 1/2 cup granulated sugar with the juice of one whole lemon to form a paste. While showering invigorate your skin with the paste. Rub heels and elbows with the inside of the lemon rinds. You will swear you’ve just had a spa treatment!

Daily Sunscreen

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen with SPF 45 is what my doctor recommends. It is available online but also in nearly every drug store and Costco. I love this brand because it is ultra sheer and non-greasy.

Updated: 2-8-20

 


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Anticipate Your Way to Freedom

Try this: Add up your monthly expenses and deduct the total from your monthly income. Hey, not bad! You should have plenty of money with some left over. So why is there never enough? The answer is your selective amnesia. Most of us suffer from it.

We conveniently don’t remember expenses that don’t recur every month. It’s easy in March to forget about summer vacation, back-to-school clothes, wedding and shower gifts, new refrigerators, or myriad other inevitable expenses. The solution is to make all of your expenses as predictable as the rent, phone, and cable TV bill.

A man and a woman using a laptop computer

I call my solution a “Freedom Account.” It’s a simple account you set up for yourself an you name it Freedom Account. It forces us to anticipate irregular expenses so we can finance our own emergencies. It will bring freedom to your life like you could never imagine.

If you remember Christmas Club Accounts, you’ll understand my Freedom Account. Basically you determined how much you would need for Christmas shopping. You authorized the bank to transfer 1/52 each week (or 1/12 if you did it monthly) from your checking account to your Christmas Club Account. It was painless because you didn’t miss money you didn’t see and the results were huge. You got a big fat check in the mail for holiday shopping.

Step 1: Determine irregular expenses

Make a list of your non-monthly expenses and an annual amount for each (estimate if you don’t know). Divide by 12. This is the amount you need set aside each month. For example:

Auto Maint $900/yr / 12 = $75/mo.

Auto Ins $540/yr / 12 = $45/mo.

Christmas $800/yr / 12 = $66/mo.

Property Taxes $600/yr / 12 = $50/mo.

Vacation $720/yr / 12 = $60/mo.

Clothing $600/yr / 12 = $50/mo.

Total $346/mo.

Step 2: Open another checking account

You must have two active checking accounts for this to work and you will need personalized checks for it, too. Continue to deposit your paychecks into your regular checking account.

Step 3: Authorize an automatic deposit

Using your bank’s money transfer authorization service, fill out the necessary form to instruct the bank to transfer the monthly total (in this example it is $346) from your regular checking account into your Freedom Account.

Step 4: Get a notebook

Any 3-ring binder will do or you could do this on your computer or mobile device. You want a separate page for each of your categories, to record its specific activity. At the top of the page write the name of that sub-account and the amount to be deposited into it each month. I keep my accounting very simple. I can see at a glance the balance in each of my sub-accounts.

Step 5: Manage your Freedom Account

You have a new monthly expense, in this example it is $346. Like your car payment, your rent or your mortgage you know it’s coming, you know how much it’s going to be and it will become comfortable. It will take you about 5 minutes each month to manage your Freedom Account. You will want to make sure you have a current balance in each sub account that reflects the deposit and any checks you’ve written during the month.

Now as you have an expense like a car repair, your auto insurance bill arrives and so forth, you write its check from your Freedom Account, recording that expenditure in your Freedom Account notebook, which reduces that particular sub account’s balance. Easy. And you’ll be giddy with joy knowing that you are prepared–you’ve already set aside and stipulated funds for something you anticipated.

The secret to breaking your dependence on credit cards is to begin anticipating your irregular expenses. Developing your own Freedom Account is a perfect way to do that.

The Freedom Account is one of the 5 Core Elements of Debt-Proof Living, and a complete chapter in my book Debt-Proof Living.

Question: How do you handle expenses that don’t occur every month, things like vacation, clothing and car repairs? I always read your comments and enjoy them!