My grandmother was a very frugal woman who often told me “if you will mind your pennies your dollars will mind themselves.” I hope to share here some of her wisdom and the wisdom of others I have learned over the years

Saturday, October 19, 2013

FALL INTO HEATING UP FOR WINTER

Maybe my household could be considered a little backward, and perhaps we are, but we don’t do a major spring cleaning around here we do a fall/winter deep clean instead. 

I know tradition says to get a clean start in the spring, but think about your life in the spring.  The garden needs put in, the flower beds tended, kids have baseball, soccer, graduation, lots of spring babies both four legged and two legged to tend to and the list goes on and on.  Who has time to spring clean?  Who wants to spring clean when the weather is so warm and inviting? Not my family for certain. Speaking of warm, cleaning is a lot of HOT work and who wants to heat up the house cleaning it when it’s already 80 degrees and climbing outside.

So we deep clean in the fall and winter months instead, I also do a lot of my canning, freezer filling, food drying and such during those months as well.  Not only because I generally have more time, but for the HEAT!

So as the cooler days and nights are starting to show up more and more here in OK I am finding myself more and more in a deep cleaning mood.  First thing we did was shut off the air conditioner and throw open all the windows any time it was warm enough outside to do so.  This helps pump fresh air into the house and remove the musty smells before winter sets in.  It’s free, and unless you are super allergic to fresh air it’s a good remedy for what ails your house. Definitely cheaper than purchasing a “smells like fresh air” room deodorizer.

Next my husband switched the dryer vent from outside to inside the house.  Why blow all that wonderful hot air outside when we need it inside for the winter?  It won’t “heat” the house, but it will add some warm moisture to what can sometimes be a very dry heat in our wood heated home.   It also adds that “freshly laundered linen scent” again without the cost of a room deodorizer.

Then we start on one room/area of the house and work our way through.  Vacuuming, dusting and culling out unneeded items as we go. 

The culling of unneeded items is a great way to save money on heating and cooling as well as helping you keep the home tidier during your busier seasons.

One book I read (It may have been one of Amy Dacycyzn’s Tightwad Gazette books) referred as the objects in our homes as other living beings that needed to be attended to.

The author of the book pointed out that everything in your home must be heated, cooled, cleaned, moved around at one point or another, insured and just generally be tended to.  By removing the excess from your home you eliminate all these actions.

While I’m not suggesting you be like Jeff “Professor Dumpster” Wilson and get rid of everything you own except what will fit in a backpack and live in a dumpster for a year  to cut down your cost of living I am suggesting that you do not need 50 t-shirts and 30 pairs of jeans—especially the ones that don’t fit in your life per person in your household. 

All those things take a lot of work, and money to maintain.  This is the theory we’ve been working on with the Princess Plan and we are finding that less is truly more as a result. More time in our lives, more cleanliness in our home, more money in our pocket—hey cleaning is expensive if you aren’t careful!

While I do not have my home completely culled yet—will I or anyone ever have it completely done?  My family has made huge progress in doing so and more importantly because we have culled so much during the cooler months of the last few years we’ve found we are able to maintain those areas much easier in the hot months and it takes far less to cool the house as a result.

But cleaning and culling are not the only changes we make this time of year to help cut our heating bills during the cold months.  As I’ve already mentioned we turn the dryer heat inside.

Because we mainly use wood heat we also generally have at least one pan of spices simmering on the wood stove top to help keep moisture and a wonderful fragrance in the air.

Our combination is usually a citrus peel of some sort, whole cloves, and cinnamon sticks.  I purchase the spices in bulk off of amazon, at big box stores and sometimes through co-ops and generally only have to add more to the pan about every 2-3 weeks or when we notice the scent has started to fade.  Far cheaper than running some fake over powering air freshener in the months ahead.

I also take advantage of the winter months to do a lot of bulk cooking to can and freeze.  My dehydrator runs a lot more during the winter months too.  I know that sounds strange to those of you who are just now finishing off a food preserving season, but who wants to do all those things when the weather is 100+ degrees? 

While I do preserve food year round I do the majority of it in the winter months.  I have more time and the heat is a welcome addition to our home.  It cuts down the need for firewood for us (or a power source for you) to heat, and the availability of many items we wouldn’t normally have is outstanding. 

While things like tomatoes aren’t in season citrus fruits, apples, nuts, fall potatoes, cabbage, squash and their brother the pumpkins are coming full on now.  These are the things I’m looking at preserving. 

The beauty of these items also is they are not short term store items either.  You can buy them on sale now (or bring them in from your garden) and store them in a cool dark place—be careful what you put apples and onions near as they put off a gas that can cause some foods to ripen faster, and then come January you can freeze, can and dehydrate like crazy while heating your home with the heat such work generates. Far better than heating the house up in the summer and making your air conditioner work double time to keep you comfortable. 

You don’t have a root cellar you say.  You don’t need one.  There are a lot of ways to “root cellar” foods without having a basement.

An excellent book for this is “Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables” by Mike and Nancy Bubel. If you click on the hyperlink you can read more about this wonderful book on Outside a Dog, my media review blog.

Anyway, I purchase these items on sale now, store them in the root cellar until I have time for them and then make jams, jellies, preserves, dried fruits and vegetables, can and freeze to have all these great items in the summer months.  Trust me, lemonade made from home dried lemons in August is divine.

This is also the time of year I pull the tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables I didn’t have the time or inclination to deal with in the heat of the summer out of the freezer and can or dry them.

Bulk cooking becomes a big part of my winter months as well. I tend to have my crockpots going daily or a pan of something simmering on the big Ashley stove in the sunroom.  Because of our limited freezer space I tend to can up jars of slow simmered applesauce, pasta sauce, stew, chili, beans, cooked meats and fill my food storage as I go.

 

Websites that include new to me recipes for beans and similar other low cost foods are haunted heavily by me in the winter months.  One I just became familiar with is http://www.pulsecanada.com/food-health/what-is-a-pulse

Not only does it cut down on my grocery bill year round to do this, but many of the needed ingredients are going on sale during the fall months as fall butchering and harvesting begins.  Come spring the cost of meats will be up and we will go back to living off our food storage until the meat sales begin again.  

In another week or so turkeys will be on sale.  While only two in my household eat turkey I will be purchasing several large ones while they are on sale.  These will be roasted or smoked and then either dried or canned so I don’t have to heat the kitchen up come summer for turkey for the two of us.  I will also be making a lot of turkey jerky as a treat for our dogs. Which is far healthier and cheaper for them than anything commercially available.  We all benefit from the heat now of the cooking and the ease of just quickly heating it or turning it into cold salads come summer.

The added heat from the preserving of these foods is a welcome addition to any household in the cooler fall and winter months.  Not to mention the wonderful smells it produces.  Again why buy pumpkin pie spice air freshners when you could be making pumpkin pie filling?

If home food preserving is not your cuppa then consider using your crockpots on a daily basis.  Yes it can be done and done so cheaply.  In fact Stephanie O Dea made a New Year’s Resolution back in 2008 to do just that.  She used her crockpots every day for a full year, guess what she’s still doing it now five years later.  You can read about her and get her recipes at: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2009/01/2008-flashback-entire-year-in-order.html or check out her feedburner feed at: http://feeds.feedburner.com/AYearOfCrockpotting

Crockpot cooking is easy, and generally uses less energy than traditional cooking.  Not to mention it requires so little attention being paid to it than every day cooking.  Who couldn't use less work in the kitchen in their daily schedule?

I do a lot more bread making in the fall and winter for all the same reasons.  Sourdough starter, Amish Friendship Bread Starter, Refrigerator Potato Bread Dough and Artisan bread starters reappear on my cabinet top and in my spare refrigerator.  

Which leads to another way we add “free heat” to the home.  As soon as I am finished with the oven, dishwasher or other similar appliance I prop the door/lid open and let that heat escape into the room around it.  While it is just a little extra heat, why waste it?

Drag out your sweaters and snug sacks Add draft dodgers to the bottoms of doors, window quilts to your windows, especially the north ones.  Don’t forget to caulk all your leaky windows and similar things are all best done this time of year. 

I also tend to burn more candles during the winter months, but with six cats we do stay very close to the candles while they are lit.  It’s not money savings if the house burns down.

So while most folks are looking forward to the slowing down of the summer months with a slight pick up in things to do around the holidays I am headed into my busy time of the year to save on energy.

Jan who says she may be a little backward, but then it works for her in OK

Thursday, October 17, 2013

DODGING DRAFTS AND QUILTING WINDOWS


Baby it’s getting cold outside, but there is no reason to be cold inside when you can recycle items you already have to really make a difference in how much heat escapes your home or stop cold from seeping in.

Two simple old fashioned ideas will go a long way to helping cut down drafts in your home.  You can use either new materials to make them or recycle things you have on hand. 

Those two items are Draft Dodgers and Window Quilts. 

On one group I’m on I recently did the informational post on a simple way to make a draft dodger for little to no money. 

Basically it read that to make a Draft Dodger all you needed was a tube of fabric the length of the bottom of the door you want to stop the draft from coming through.  You want the tube to be large enough that it will go from the floor up over the gap at the bottom of the door.  An old blue jean leg will work fine, or a tube made out of an old t-shirt, new fabric whatever works best for your budget.

When you make the tube seal one end of it.  I then generally line the tube with a recycled plastic bag I can seal, this helps to keep moisture out, just in case.

You fill that bag with bulk purchased, beans, rice, peas, sand, aquarium gravel or something similar with weight and density to it. Use whatever is cheapest or you have on hand.

You then seal the other end of the tube and you have a basic Draft Dodger to place against the bottom of all doors that leak cold air. 

You can have more fun with the project decorating it to a theme.  I’ve seen them done to look like dachshund, a ballerina doing the splits, a lanky cat and many other cute ideas. 

One thing I do when I make them is to make them where the bag of beans, rice, or other materials used can be removed and then the outer shell can be thrown into the washing machine periodically. 

I’ve given these as gifts over the years to folks too, think about the holidays coming up.

Equally as easy to make is a window quilt.  All you need is a blanket, quilt or fabric big enough to cover the desired window.

Basically you measure your window, then add a little all the way around to allow the window quilt overlap the edges enough to seal the draft out.  Also allow enough space to make a rod pocket at the top to put a hanging rod through.

Then either by machine, hand or heck even a stapler if you are desperate  you connect a minimum of two layers of fabric of that size together.  Ideally you would like an outer layer, a liner and a back layer for optimal warmth. 

The easiest way is to yarn tack the layers together.  We’ve all seen the old quilts where the layers are hooked together by yarn being poked through them to be have both ends of the piece of yarn tied together on the front of the quilt top.  It’s fast and easy to do. 

Ideally you would actually make a quilt, but many people do not have the time or expertise to do this.  The simplest way is of course just throw a spare blanket over the window, but if you want a little classier look make a quilt to co-ordinate with your room d├ęcor.

The final steps require you to have a folded over area at the top of the quilt that a hanging rod can go through. It, of course, will need to be stitched or safety pinned down so that the weight of the quilt will not pull the quilt off the rod. If you have regular curtain rods on that window then you can use those to hang the quilt.  No rod?  In the past we’ve used a dowel rod supported by two J hooks that have been screwed into the wall stud to hang quilts. 

Again this project can be as plain or as elegant as you want to make it.  You can use new or recycled materials.  The choice is yours.  

Jan who is wishing you a warm and comfortable winter in OK

           

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

READING PRICES AND LABELS IS NOT JUST FOR GROCERY SHOPPING


On one facebook group I am on I have been asked to post a money saving tip each day.  I usually try to keep it fairly short, which as my followers know is really hard for me.  The original tip I thought of for posting today started out a small thought but the more I thought about it the more I realized it needed to be a longer post than a morning tip of the day.

Anyone who has been around me knows that since I have been following the Dave Ramsey Baby Steps I’ve been squeezing pennies so tight I’ve made Lincoln cry and then used those tears to water my garden.  We are nearing our goal of being debt free at a more rapid pace because of it and I am thrilled, but the constant reading of labels and such sometimes gets to me.

“What do you mean reading labels?” you ask.  Reading labels, price tags and use information can be an essential part of saving money.

Everyone knows the question “When is a sale not a sale?” where certain items are concerned and some “gotcha” sale things are easy to spot.  Like the 5 for $$$ items that if you don’t buy all 5 you have to pay a jacked up price for items 1-4. 

Another is figuring price per ounce/unit.  A prime example of this was a “sale” I found on cream the other day.  Yes, cream is expensive, but I do use it in my day to day cooking because just a small amount of it can make even a cheap potato taste luscious—more on this in a bit. 

Back to buying cream, which I often do.  It was “on sale” for $3.66 a quart.  Big sale sign touting what a good bargain it was.  However, sitting one shelf below it were pint containers for $1.39 each, every day price.  Hmmm, math nerd here.  Two pints equal a quart and 2 x $1.39 = $2.78.  I bought four pints and we had homemade ice cream to celebrate Labor Day weekend. The store was banking on people seeing the “sale” sign and them not doing the math on the every day pint price.

By reading and spending a little time in doing so I essentially saved $1.76 before tax.  Mind your pennies…

However, if I had been pricing a name brand cream and using a coupon, the quart might have worked out cheaper.  These are basic grocery shopping facts that most everyone already knows.

Now granted I could have skipped the cream altogether and gone with a cheaper alternative (this is the get to in a bit part).  However, the taste would have changed considerably.  A great example of that is the ice cream we made.  It is after all ice CREAM.  Yes you can make it with just about any type of milk, including evaporated milk, but the taste is NOT the same.  Neither is the texture. Why go through the steps to make an inferior quality product?  We don’t make it often, so when we do we want it to be a great tasting special treat.

Cookies, and other foods made with real butter have a completely different taste, texture and quality to them than ones made with the cheapest margarine you can find.  Some studies have found that eating “real butter” is better for you, while others say margarine is better for you.  That choice is yours and for you alone to decide.

Around here I absolutely hate food waste, one of the biggest blow to a financial budget can be the waste of anything, especially food.  So I use real products, albeit often the store brand, to cook with I find far less of it goes to waste if I use real butter, real cream, real vanilla, etc.

 If you end up throwing out the leftover mashed potatoes because no one really liked the flat taste of the margarine and skim milk in them how have you saved money over using a dab of cream and some butter?  I know my family will re-heat the mashed potatoes I make to go with a lunch, or I’ll turn them into potato pancakes or potato salad—in fact I plan leftovers for just that purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, in certain recipes, especially the ones for camping, I will use the dehydrated foods from my food storage, but there is always real butter riding along in the camper to add the touch of flavor we want.

But reading labels and prices isn’t just for groceries. You need to apply it to EVERYTHING YOU PURCHASE!!

Here are a few other examples.

Winter is coming on and the thoughts of heating that one room that is always cold comes to mind.  So you head out to Wally World, Lowe’s, Home Depot, online, wherever, to look at space heaters.

Oh my, look at all the different types and prices!  Which one is the best buy for the money.  Time to read the box.

You should know the size of the area you want to heat.  No sense in getting one that will heat Radio City Music Hall if you are only trying to heat a tiny bathroom.  So know your space.

Check what type of power source it requires, while most on the market at the afore mentioned places are for 110 some are at 220.  220 requires special wiring and that means an electrician and permits in some areas.  So those additional costs need to be added in. 

While looking at the power source also look at the power usage.  This is a HUGE thing to consider.  You want the most possible heat for the least amount of electricity usage.  

Will the unit need to sit on a special mat? If so that cost must be included.  How far from the wall and other structures must it sit?  Do you have that much space where you are planning on sitting it?

Automatic turn off if it should be knocked over? You really don’t want to burn your house down, so this is an important feature.  Houses are really expensive.

Cool touch on the outside?  A burn to human or pet is not only painful it can get expensive.

Is it going in an area that there might be moisture?  If so does it, or your wall, have a ground fault protector? If not you could be in for a “shocking” experience.

Once you have read and compared all these items you might find that for safety sake, comfort AND overall money savings the more expensive heater may be the best choice after all.

When looking at fans and air conditioner next spring/summer many of these same factors come into play.

Carrying on with the theme, most people reading this either own or at some point in the future will own a printer for their computer.  Cheaper is quite often definitely NOT better where printers are concerned.  Again read the label, not only the label of the printer, but the label of the ink you will be using with that printer.

Over the years we have owned more printers than your average person, but then I write a lot and so does ds, plus all those mystery shops require a lot of printing. So one of the very first things we check when shopping for a new printer is the ink and/or toner costs.

The cheapest printer we’ve ever owned was also the most expensive to run.  It was free the friend even delivered it to me.  I soon figured out why she was giving it away. 

I first thought it was because it printed and nothing else, no scanning, no copies, just printing and only in black and white.  It was a simple barrel printer and it would meet our needs for printing out mystery shopping paperwork. 

It was also small and fit in a small barrel bag which was perfect since this was at the time we were traveling and doing mystery shops to survive unemployment.  

It also only printed about 50 pages per ink cartridge! That wouldn’t have been bad if the cartridges had been cheap, but it turned out it was some of the most expensive ink on the market at that time. 

It wasn’t long before the math nerd here did the math and realized that by doing a mystery shop for printers, where the company paid for part of the printer purchase—that was a sweet shop, and buying a printer that used much cheaper cartridges that printed multiple more pages ( a whole lot more) per cartridge was going to save us money in the long run.  We purchased the new printer.

A note here, because we do travel a lot and our printer does go with us I do purchase extended warranties on printers, despite what Dave Ramsey says on the subject.  The extended warranties for printers are generally fairly cheap and in the last four years I have had my printer replaced with a brand new printer FOUR times.  Of course I’ve had to purchase a new extended warranty each time, but I save over half the cost of the printer each time above the cost of that warranty.  In fact the printer I am using right now is headed in to be replaced soon because the display screen has ceased to work and it’s not even traveled an inch. 

Reading the electric usage on items around here extends to EVERYTHING we use that is electric.  A cheap crockpot that uses three times the energy over one that is a few dollars more gets by passed for the more expensive one with a good warranty because I use my crockpot all year round and a lot.  The energy costs far out way the small difference in original purchase price.

While my blow dryer is used for drying wet baby birds and not my hair, I still check the power usage.  All those watts can add up to a huge electric bill if you aren’t careful.

Mowers, cars, trucks, chain saws, we look at fuel and oil usage.

Another thing we check is ease to repair and the cost of replacement parts. When a horse kissed our heated outside rear view mirror on our truck we were astounded when we were told the part alone was over $700! For a mirror! We have learned in the future to avoid fiber glass “hips” on dually trucks because they break easily and you are looking at a hefty repair bill to replace that quarter panel, they can’t be glued back together, where with a set of metal hips you can knock the dents out and keep on trucking.  Knocking dents out my guys can do, replacing quarter panels and painting them, well that generally takes a pro where we are concerned.  Anyone priced the hourly labor costs for a quality body and paint shop lately.  It will make you gasp, and the employees aren’t the ones being paid that huge hourly wage generally.

Had we known all of this we would have reconsidered the truck we were buying.  However, otherwise it has been a very good truck that now has nearly 200,000 miles on it and we plan on keeping it for a very long time.

Clothing is another thing to read the label closely on.  We have maybe three things in this house that say “dry clean only”.  That is by choice, those three things are suits for the men. 

We avoid items that are not colorfast.  After all who wants a load of pink underwear?  If it requires ironing, it’s not coming home if I can help it!  Ironing is not only time consuming it uses electricity that I’d prefer to not waste.  I use to do ironing for extra income, but no longer.

Appliances, again read the label for all the previously mentioned things, but also for what type of machine it is.  Is it completely computerized?  If so it dies you are going to be out a repair cast generally bigger than one that isn’t. 

Do you really need a blender with 30 speeds? I am still using a circa 1970’s Oster Kitchen Center that has about 8 speeds and a pulse for all my major cooking days.  I have nearly all the attachments for it and I find those 8 speeds do everything I need.

New dishwasher, washer or dryer in your future?  Think about how you use those machines right now.  How many settings do you truly use?  If you are like me, regular load and an occasional delicate load.  So why do I need a computerized washer that has 8 different types of loads?  If I want to pre-soak I simply fill the load as normal, add my presoak and turn the machine off for awhile. 

Dishwasher, I never use the soak and hold cycle.  Generally when I am sterilizing jars to can with I am only using a few jars so I do those on the stove rather than run a full sanitize load in the dishwasher. 

Now I do use (about once a year) the self cleaning feature on my oven, so I will spring for a little extra for that.  Same for the self defrosting on the refrigerator and freezers when I am purchasing those.  Time is money after all. Plus I’m lazy and those jobs take a lot of time and effort.

So here we are many words later and the message is still simple.  READ YOUR LABELS, BE INFORMED BEFORE YOU BUY! Because if you do, you will save a lot of money in the long run.

Jan who says Lincoln’s tears have to be used sparingly because they are salty in OK

 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

ARE WE MAKING OURSELVES FEEL POOR?


On the Dave Ramsey group I am known as the official dispenser of “Pollyanna Pills.”

This is because like Pollyanna in the Disney film by the same name played by Hayley Mills I try to find the silver lining in everything I can.  When we suddenly became unemployed I stated it was probably the best thing that ever happened to us. Guess what, I was right, it was.

Because of that sudden change in our financial status that lasted for 18 long months we became closer and worked harder as a family unit.  Our lives have improved in all aspects as a result.

However, just like Hayley Mills’ character even I have down periods.  We are so close to being debt free I can taste it, but for a while now it has been so hard to stick to the plan.  I was tired after four long years of “doing without”.  Most folks don’t take near as long as we are taking getting debt free, but most weren’t as far in debt as we were, and most don’t lose their jobs just two months after starting the Total Money Makeover.  We’ve actually done well.  I truthfully and thankful for what all we have accomplished and how close we are to being debt free.

So why was I feeling so down? I pondered this for several days then one morning as I was getting dressed for daily chores I realized it was because I was MAKING myself feel poor.  Yes, MAKING myself.

I looked at the clothes I was dragging out of my seriously overstuffed closet to put on.  A stained and holey t-shirt to go with equally worn out shorts and socks from the bureau across the room.

WHY? Why was I even considering wearing these things?  It definitely wasn’t from a clothing shortage on my part.  Goodness I couldn’t even get my hand in the closet to get the t-shirt it was so tightly packed and we are talking a huge walk in closet with closet organizers!  There were enough clothes in there I could go  a few years without wearing the same outfit twice!  WHY?

It hadn’t been that long since I culled some clothes and “straightened up” but here I was grabbing the same stained t-shirt I had been wearing, washing, repeat once a week for months.  Why?

I didn’t use to EVER wear anything that was stained or had holes in it. Why was I doing so now?  This was a serious question. One so serious I sat down and mulled it over.

Finally I came up with the answer.  Because I had decided on some level I HAD to do without because we were so far in debt, we were “poor”.  How stupid was that?

One of my favorite Dave Ramsey quotes is “Poor is a state of mind. Broke is, 'I'm just passing through.'" So how had I let this sneak up on me?  We weren’t poor, we were broke.  Broke is temporary.  

I looked again at the clothes I had laid out for the day and thought “I can do better than this, I AM better than this!”  Struggling with the tightly packed closet I dug until I found a comfortable unstained, hole free t-shirt that I wouldn’t mind if I did ruin it and put it on instead.  Over at the bureau I dug through the over flowing drawers and pulled out decent clothing from the skin out and then I got dressed and put on decent shoes instead of my worn out Crocs. 

Suddenly I felt so much better.  I looked better and my gloom was lifting.  I realized again that I had been making myself feel down.  I declared out loud to the cats surrounding me wanting breakfast “NO MORE!  I’m through with feeling poor!”

As soon as morning chores were over I started first on the closet, then later my bureau drawers.  EVERYTHING that was stained, had holes, too big, too small, came out.  It was sorted into stacks

1.     Rag bag.  Those 100% cotton items that would make good cleaning rags.

2.     Recyclable fabric.  We have a local charity that will take those items, tear them up and recycle the fabric.

3.     Wearable, but not by me.  These items were for the local charity resale shop.

4.     Non-burn.  Too bad for the other stacks and yes I did find such items.

The volume I pulled out was astounding I could not believe I had kept all those depressing items in my closet. More than once I asked myself again "Why?"

As I sorted things out I also sorted in the closet.  I organized my clothing in the following order:

1.     To wear around the house.  These were unstained hole free items that were comfortable, but that I probably would not wear out in public.  Items like free advertisement t-shirts from all the different seminars and events we’ve gone to.  Perfectly good shirts, but really not the style I want to show out in public.  Shirts I wouldn’t mind if I ruined them while scrubbing out a coop or doing other dirty jobs around the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch.

2.     Go to town clothing.  Pretty self explanatory.

Once the main cull out was done I went back through the remaining two groups and broke the two groups down even further.

1.     Short sleeved

2.     Long sleeved

3.     Sweats

4.     Holiday

Those four groups were also basically color sorted.  It all sounds a little excessive I know, but what that organization did for my over all attitude was HUGE! Suddenly I felt completely back in control.  I was “donating” to charities, I was dressing nicely, instead of like a poor person and I could actually maneuver clothing in my closet easily instead of breaking my finger nails while trying to get something in or out of it.  I could still dress for over a year if we should suddenly find ourselves without electric and water to do laundry. As I stood back and looked at the organized long racks of clothing I felt pleased.  I felt in control again.

This got me to thinking about other ways I had been making myself “feel poor”.  Hmmm, there were the broken or not working properly household appliances I had been doing without.  Next step was to do the required repairs on those.  Repairs that very often turned out to be free to do.  A prime example of those was the clothes dryer that was taking several times through to dry a single load.  I convinced the guys to pull the dryer out and look for a clog in the vent line.  Viola! A quick drying load! Think of the electricity we will save.  Plus the time of going back and forth to the utility room to “re-do” a load. 

The house was starting to look a little ran down, so we started on fixing that.  Example: the front porch had suddenly started coming apart.  We had the lumber leftover from another project on hand to fix it.  It took the guys two days in the heat, but now I have a wonderful safe from porch again, for FREE.

As I continue to look around for other ways we’ve been making ourselves “feel poor.” I thought I should address this issue with others.  Surely we weren’t the only people that had slipped into this mindset.  Upon chatting with others I found many people had fallen into the same trap.  Thus this post and a challenge. 

“How are you making youself feel poor, and what can you do to correct it?”

Jan who will be screaming that she is debt free before too much longer in OK

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

MY BIGGEST MONEY SAVING HINT

No matter what list I’m on sooner or later the subject of finances comes up and someone asks for money saving hints.  Money, unfortunately, is the main driving factor of most of our lives.  People, by nature are always looking for ways to save money so they can spend it elsewhere.

Millions of words have been written on how to save money.  This entire blog is devoted to just that subject.  My Patterson’s Pantry blog is devoted to helping you save grocery dollars by making your own mixes and cooking at home.  See the USA the Mystery Shopping Way blog is about saving money while traveling as well as mystery shopping.  Outside a Dog reviews movies and books to help you decide where to spend your entertainment dollars. In the Princess Plan I give suggestions on organizing your home and your life to not only save you money, but to help you possibly make money.  So I write a lot about saving money.

However, after opening my mail yesterday I realized my biggest money saving hint I could give others is not for making homemade cleaners, or making your own yogurt, but for hard earned words of personal experience and the mistake of ever using a charge card.

I’ll cut to the chase right now to save those of you who aren’t interested in a financial discussion that could save you thousands of dollars the time of reading this.  My post today is about not paying “Stupid Tax”, as Dave Ramsey calls it, interest and fees on buying “on time”.  In other words not using charge cards—ever.

 Yes, it can be done and the money you will save by not using them will astound you.  If your eyes glaze over when faced with math I’ll warn you right now there is going to be some math later on in this post, but I’ll keep it simple and hopefully not too boring.

First let me address a few issues people always bring up when this subject is brought up.  I’ll list them and then go on to dispel them as this post goes on. Please keep these myths in mind.

1.     “I save money because I can buy items I need on sale at a good price by using the charge card.”

2.     “I can purchase items on same as cash and NEVER pay any extra.”

3.     “I pay my charge card off EVERY month, so I’m not spending extra.”

4.     “You MUST have a credit rating to survive in today’s world.”

5.     “You should always use a credit card for purchases for “insurance” that will let you dispute/return and item.”

So let’s get started on how these are truly myths by looking at those words written on the back of your charge card statement, or terms section online. 

My husband and I were slow learners about charge cards and therefore are busy now paying them off as fast as we can and the amount of money we are saving just blows us away.  Yesterday I opened the envelope for what we call the “pet” bill.

This is our current snowball bill, it shall remain nameless here, but those of you who are on the Dave_Ramsey_Debt_Beaters@yahoogroups.com with me already have a good idea what bill it is.  

The quotes from the website and statement are for this particular charge card.  Different charge cards have different statements and terms, so read your terms either on your paper statement or online. If you can’t find an answer to your questions in either place, contact the creditor.  Do not take for granted that all Visa cards have the same terms, read each accounts terms separately because they do vary.

Because I am a math nerd I am always working the numbers on the fastest way to get rid of a debt.  So I decided to look at how my payments would be applied and if there was any advantage to paying this bill as soon as I have even an extra $5 or if it would work just the same to pay it once a month.

So I flipped the statement over to read the following: how to avoid paying interest (Grace Period): To avoid additional interest charges, pay by the Payment Due Date indicated on the front of your bill statement: 1) the New Balances of your regular and Reduced Rate Credit Plans, plus 2) The new Balance of any Same as Cash Credit Plan with and expiration date within the next three billing cycle Payment Due Dates, plus 3) the New Balance of any waived Interest Charge Credit Plan that is expiring in the current billing cycle plus 4)any Minimum payments Due on other same as Cash or waived Interest Charge Credit Plans

HUH? But, but, but, that’s not what most people think.  Most folks think if they pay off their recent charges in full, and the minimum on their same as cash no interest is being charged, not so.  Because interest is still being charged on your same as cash charges—just in case you don’t pay it off in that same as cash time period.  Notice what number 2) statement says—ones that are expiring in the next three billing cycles.  Most same as cash “deals” are only good for 3-6 months. They gotcha.  Somewhere in all that paperwork you signed for that same as cash deal it said they could do this.

Ok, so you meet all those requirements, you are fine right?  Maybe not.

After looking at the paper statement for several minutes for the answer to the question “How are my payments applied” and not finding the answer on that page I went to the website and finally found it:


The amount of your payment (equal to the Minimum Payment Due) is applied at our discretion, but generally applied to the Minimum Payment Due calculated on each credit plan. Any payment in excess of the Minimum Payment Due on your account is applied to higher APR balances before lower APR balances.

If you have a Same As Cash (SAC) credit plan, payments received during the final two complete billing cycles and up to the date of expiration are automatically applied in the following order:

First: to the required Minimum Payment Due.

Then: to the plan that is expiring ? in the order of expiration. At other times, we will treat your Same As Cash Credit Plan as having a 0% APR for purposes of determining payment application.


Federal Law requires that we apply any payment we receive in excess of the Minimum Payment Due to the credit plan with the highest APR first. However, if you have a Same As Cash Plan that expires within two months of that payment, we will first apply amounts in excess the Minimum Payment Due to that balance. This will give you the opportunity to pay off the Same As Cash Plan before the Same As Cash promotion expiration date


Federal Law requires that any excess payment over and above your Minimum Payment will be applied as stated above. If you have a Same As Cash plan and would like payments made above the Minimum Payment allocated in a different fashion, you must make that request by calling….

Okay, put your waders on we’re going in to decipher all of this.  The very first sentence shows you how tricky they are.  They can apply your extra payment you are including to pay off that same of cash payment that is expiring soon at THEIR discretion-What the? So that means they can put that “extra” you pay basically wherever they want, which might not be the same as cash account you thought you were paying down each month so you don’t have a huge balloon payment at the end of the designated time period.

In fact it goes on to say that they will apply it to the same as cash deals with the highest apr balance.  The highest interest rate/balance.  If your soon to expire plan is lower guess where your payment is NOT going.  They gotcha again.

The only way the nearest expiration date same as cash deal is getting that extra payment is if one of two things happens a) it is expiring within the next two billing cycles or b) you call them. 

And this is legal…I know, I know you purchased that same as cash item because it was a good deal and you had the money, but you thought you would earn a little extra interest in your savings for a few months and if you make the phone call it’s all good right?

Maybe, but maybe not.  Life happens.  Your intentions are good.  You need a washer and dryer, you have the money saved for them, they are on sale and the store is generously offering you the same as cash deal.  You can work this deal and come out ahead.

As you talk to the sales person they point out if you move up to the next better unit it will only cost you a few dollars extra a month and you will have a far better machine.  They suck you in, it’s only a few dollars right, you can handle that.

Then there are delivery and haul off charges, don’t you think you need a maintenance agreement and soon that few dollars extra is more than a few dollars, but it’s same as cash and you will be making monthly payments to go with the money you have saved, so it’s all good.

But life happens.  You have a flat and it’s a week until pay day.  While you could wait on getting that new tire, or getting the flat fixed until then there is that “washer and dryer money” just sitting there.  You would feel more secure on a new tire, or maybe four and you still have six months before that same as cash is due and you are making the minimum payments on it, you have time to replace that money—maybe…

So you go ahead and buy 1-4 tires, thinking you’ll put the money back, only next pay day little Johnny breaks an arm, so the “replacement” money goes to pay your medical co-pay.  You still have time, but….

Or if you don’t have all these Murphy moments you go to pay the debt off in time to save all the interest and discover your mate has been dipping into that saved money.  Before you say “not my mate” know we are all human and life happens.

Either way you suddenly find yourself up against the due date to pay off that same as cash and no money to pay the final payment. So the interest starts then right? 

Nope, go back and read your contract.  It is retro-active to the day you first purchased the item! Also, it is most likely on a variable rate which depending on all number of factors could be as much as 39.99% compounded DAILY.  Suddenly that on sale, same as cash washer and dryer has ballooned in cost well beyond the amount you had originally planned on paying by an enormous amount.

These same life events can easily prevent you from paying off the charges of even one month.  Why take the chance?

Speaking of interest, let’s go back to that paper statement. How are they calculating that interest.  Hang on, grab your barf bag, because you are going to be ill before this is over.

I’m going to use round numbers for this to make the calculations as simple as possible—I am a lazy person after all.  So we are going to work with a balance of $4,500 and an interest rate of 10% apr with a minimum monthly payment of $83 in descending minimums due as you pay on that bill on each due date—how most people pay.  So based on that it would look like you would pay roughly $450 or slightly less in the first year in interest and less each year thereafter until the balance is paid off.  With a max of say six years.  WRONG!  Using those numbers with the way this charge card does interest instead of it taking six years to pay off it will take SIXTEEN years to pay off and you will end up paying an estimated total of $7,483 for that $4,500 or nearly twice as much as you currently owe.  Talk about incentive to not have a charge card.  That washer and dryer are really expensive now aren’t they?  

Even if you pay $148 per month it will still take you 3 years to pay it off for a balance of $5,319, still a pretty big chunk extra.  

These numbers are of course based on paying minimums or a set amount of $148 each month on the due date.  But say you can’t afford that $148 to cut off 13 years of payments you can still cut it down considerably by paying your minimum, plus whatever you can each month as soon as you can. 

In other words if you get paid on the first and the fifteenth and your payment is due on the 28th, pay it on the 15th.  You have a garage sale and make $50 on the 17th, pay that $50 on the 17th. You save $5 in coupons on the first of the month buying groceries, put that $5 on the bill on the first.  Pay all you can as quickly you can the savings could be hundreds to thousands of dollars.  Here’s why.

From the back of that same statement.

Annual Percentage Rate: if your account has a variable rate, your annual percentage rates may vary.  This means those numbers above are for the rate 10% apr, those numbers could go up considerably if you have a variable rate.

Balance Subject to Interest Rate:

(a)  Interest Charges are calculated separately for each Promotional Credit Plan and each Regular Credit Plan (each a “Credit Plan”) Promotional credit plans with different promotional due dates or terms are treated as different credit plans for this purpose.  The Balance subject to Interest Rate on a Credit Plan is the Average Daily Balance.

(b) The “Daily Balance” of a Credit Plan is determined by taking the opening balance of the Credit Plan for that day and adding 1) any new purchases made on the Credit Plan that day 2) the previous day’s Interest Charges. 3) any credit insurance premiums or debt cancellation fees (if applicable) incurred on that day and 4) any late fees, over the credit limit fees, returned check fees or other fees incurred on that day and subtracting any payments or credits applied to the Credit Plan that day.  If your account is subject to a grace period during the billing cycle, payments made during that cycle will be subtracted from all daily balances in the current cycle.  For a same as Cash Credit Plan, credit insurance premiums or debt cancellations fees (if applicable) are not included in the daily Balance of that Credit Plan during the Promotional Period.  If a transaction for a returned payment or a dispute resolved in our favor posts after the beginning of the billing cycle te applicable daily balance and any related Interest Charge calculations will be adjusted retroactively to include the transaction amount as of the date of the original transaction.

(c)  An Average Daily Balance is determined by adding the Daily Balances for a Credit Plan and dividing by the number of days in the applicable billing cycle.  Periodic Interest Charges from a Credit Plan (may be determined by applying the Daily Periodic Rate to an amount equal to the average Daily Balance of the Credit Plan times the number of days in the billing cycle.  You can determine your Daily Periodic Rate by dividing the APR by 365.

WHEW!  Did your eyes glaze over with all that?  Mine Did.  Basically what it all says is they are calculating interest on EVERYTHING daily and compounding it so your average daily balance will be higher.   But they do take off the payments you make when you make them.  Hence the money savings, made by making those small payments in addition to your minimum payments all month long. Even if you only save a few dollars that first month in interest, think about how much that few dollars would be if it was still rolled into the account balance and being compounded daily.

So I’ve covered most of those five myths—let’s hit the last two quickly now. First the one about the protection offered by a charged purchase.  From that same statement under the segment titled: Your Rights if You are Dissatisfied with Your Credit Card Purchases.

#2 You must not yet have fully paid for the purchase.

WHAT? So if you pay the charge off to avoid being charged interest you can’t dispute the charge.  If you don’t pay it off and they deny your dispute you are hit with the compounded daily interest, plus paying for the disputed charge.  Plus if that was your only charge, and you don’t pay at least the minimum on that charge you could be charged late fees and the compounded daily interest. They gotcha again.

Now the biggie—you can’t live without a credit rating or a charge card.  This simply isn’t true.  We’ve not used a charge card in over four years with absolutely no problems.  We either pay cash or we don’t buy the item. We have not felt the least bit deprived by not using charge cards.  In fact we have learned many places will give you a DISCOUNT if you pay cash.  You simply have to ask.   Guess what many places consider a debit card the same as counting out the dollar bills.

In most instances you can use your debit card with the same protections of a credit card for any purchases, deposits or such.  Occasionally you will find a car rental company, or similar establishment that will insist upon a charge card.  Guess what, they might not agree to waive the charge card requirement and take your debit card (don’t offer up you are giving a debit card number and not a charge card number and most times they won’t even question it).  If the company won’t work with a debit card or cash, then tell them thank you very much and go to another company. OR if you are determined to use that particular company then purchase a “pre-paid” card from Wal-Mart or similar locations and use that.  The $6.95 you might have to pay for that card will definitely be cheaper than the “Stupid Tax” on a charge card.

As for having a needed credit rating to purchase a house, there are ways around that too.  For how to do this I’ll refer you to Dave Ramsey’s book “The Total MoneyMake Over” book, which I reviewed here.

If you don’t currently have charge cards, never get them.  If you do I highly recommend following the plan laid out in “The Total Money Make Over” book to rid yourself of the stupid tax called interest.  We’ve been following it for four years now and are thrilled with the results and all the money we’ve saved because of it. 

Jan who will be screaming “We’re debt free” in less than a year in OK