Wednesday, July 09, 2014

From the Vault: 5 Things to Do When You Get Bored With Being Frugal

My frugal hobby: snapping photos with my iPhone. Digital photography can be low-cost activity for those times when I am bored and looking to spend some quality time without spending a lot of money. But sometimes, the frugal path can be boring. Fortunately, I've found some inspiration in a post I wrote a while ago:

5 Things to Do When You Get Bored With Being Frugal

Turn off the lights. Check the receipt. Clip the coupons. And so on....Being frugal can get old and boring after a bit. 
It's like adding 1 + 1. The answer is simple. Frugal living boils down to one principal: Save more than you make, and the rest is just commentary. But boredom is dangerous. When I get bored with being thrifty, it's easier to fall of the thrift wagon. Here's how I keep frugal living real and fresh.

1. Pay Attention. When I'm fully engaged -- really connected to the here-and-now -- I'm constantly learning and acquiring new insights. When I look for frugal lessons and metaphors on bus rides or radio commercials, the creative spark prompts me to save more money.

2. Check Financial Statements: Reviewing bank statement provides a reality check. If the account looks good, I'm encouraged and energized. If the account is anemic, I've scared myself out of a few frivolous shopping trips.

3. Call Frugal Friends: There are certain friends -- online and in-person -- who really inspire me to save. A conversation with them is like a booster shot.

4. Review Goals: A periodic review of financial and personal goals, usually provides fuel for another savings drive. I am instantly reminded of my plans to build an emergency fund, college savings accounts, a retirement nest egg and even an account for vacations.

5. Invest in Small Treats: Well-timed luxuries provide safeguards against binge spending. For example, my almost daily servings of organic blueberries fills me with a sense of wealth and well-being, and those feelings make me less likely to binge spend. Consider this post: Why Organic Blueberries Make Me Feel Rich

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Frugal Mail Escort: Date Night With My Unopened Letters

This is an open letter to the unopened mail in my home.

Dear Mailbox and Letter Piles:

Yes. I am ignoring you. You’re full of it. It being: bills, checks, notices, warning letters and coupons and other junk. I am addressing our relationship because dealing with unopened mail is the fourth item on my list of 14 Declarations of Financial Independence.

Where do I begin? In general, I could talk about the different types of anxieties and avoidance issues that can prompt anyone to avoid dealing with mail. But let’s not go there right now.

Let’s be frugal with our time, and focus on solutions to the alienation that has developed between me and you—my dear unopened mail.

Can this relationship be saved? I think so.  Let’s start with a date night. How about tonight? I’ll meet you at the mailbox. Then we can move to the bar stools in my apartment. I’ll make time and space to deal with my mail problems. Plus, there could be possible bonuses. Every letter could spell financial savings and redemption.

So let’s commit to this:
·         Steady dates with the unopened mail in my life.
·         A concerted effort to locate the problem, get to the bottom of the pile and to sort through the issues.
·         A promise to open up and be accountable.

And let’s be real, and keep our options open. I want to be free to explore other mail options, including additional electronic bill-paying services.


Day 8 Lesson: I can address my anxieties. 

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Monday, July 07, 2014

5 Banking Tips From Ronda Rousey's TKO UCF Victory

Ronda Rousey — a  mixed martial arts boxer (pictured left) — throws a mean punch, and her July 6 bout is a spot-on demonstration of the knockout power of NSF (non-sufficient funds) and overdraft fees.

I am not a mixed martial arts fan, but I learned a lot about frugal living from watching Rousey's recent performance
Here are 5 things I learned about NSFs and other bank fees:

1.  Speed and stealth are powerful weapons. 16 seconds. That's all the time it took, for Rousey to knock out Alexis Davis, her opponent.

The speed of the July 5 UCF battle reminded me about the speed in which fees and finance charges can hit my account if I'm not careful. I also need to be mindful of my own spending. I can be a speed shopper and technically knockout my own financial well-being.

2. Watch the balance. The first few seconds of the MMA fight foretold a long exchange of punches: round after round.

But after about 8 seconds Davis lost her balance — thanks to a strategic maneuver from Rousey — and the fight was cut short and ruled a knockout.

From that martial arts moment, I learned the importance of maintaining a healthy financial balance.

3.  Know your opponent.  Rousey is an Olympic Judo Champion, my oldest son told me. If I faced Rousey in the ring, (heaven forbid), I would be very wary of her ability to pull off a Judo flip.  Constant high alert!

Likewise, I need to know and be mindful of the rules and regulations that govern my financial accounts. 

4. Know when you’re hit and hurt.  After the knockout, Rousey's dazed opponent was not aware of what hit her or the fact that the bout had even started.

Her experience is a cautionary tale about concussions.

And it's also a pointed reminder of the danger of financial pitfalls. It's possible to stumble so hard and so quickly that we may not even realize that overdraft fees and NSF charges have inflicted serious danger on our financial well-being.

5. Be open to lessons from the universe. Boxing is not my sport. But I earned a handsome bonus by keeping an open mind when my oldest son asked me to watch the match with him.

We can find life and finance lessons in unusual classrooms and from unlikely teachers.

Day 7 Lesson: We're all teachers and students. Every moment offers an opportunity for growth and recovery.

That's what I believe...and you?

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Sunday, July 06, 2014

Sweeping the Floor, Sweeping Away Late Fees

Freedom from late fees tops my 14 Declarations of Financial Independence. And I've found one frugal path to financial freedom after sweeping the white tile floors in my apartment. I see money-saving connections between sweeping, bill-paying and late fees.

Daily Sweep

I have to sweep every day or else face increasing tracks of dust and dirt. Likewise, financial management is a daily chore and failure to pay bills on time can leave dirty tracks on my credit record and a trail of expensive late-fee penalties. You can rack up late fees from:

  • Mortgage or  rental payments.
  • Overdue library books.
  • Credit-card payments
  • Utility bills.
  • Cable contracts.
  • Store charges.

Most of us don't plan to create a pile of late fees. But life happens, and any kind of life event or unexpected expense can knock us flat. And it doesn't seem fair that when we're hard-pressed to pay bills, we can also face higher charges in late fees--which makes it still harder to pay. It's a vicious cycle.  But there are money-saving options.

Here's what sweeping taught me about late fees: 

  • Reduce tracks and footprints: One dog owner in my apartment building places red outdoor booties on his dog to cut back on the amount of dirt that his pet tracks into the apartment. Other folks keep a welcome mat by the door or have a ban on shoes in the home. These steps cut the amount of dirt that enters the home from outside. The same principle applies to fees. I can reduce late fees by cutting back on how much stuff or services I track into the home.
  • Sweep often: Household chores like clearing clutter and sweeping floors work best with constant discipline, including clean-and-tidy rituals in the morning and evening. Likewise, financial discipline is more than a once-a-month, weekly or even once-a-day ritual. With moment-to-moment vigilance, I can cut back on fees.
  • Find better tools: I should buy a better broom. My sweeping duties are made more difficult by an older broom and an inefficient dust pan. An electric broom or a vacuum cleaner with useful attachments would make it easier for me to clear away dust from the floor and corners of my home. Likewise, there are a variety of financial apps and electronic tools that can help me track my finances and automate savings.

Day 6 Lessons: I can sweep away dirt, dust and costly financial fees.

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Friday, July 04, 2014

My 14 Frugal Declarations of Financial Independence

In honor of the 2014 Fourth of July, I've penned :

14 Frugal Declarations of Financial Independence

I declare myself free from the tyranny of:

  1. Late fees.
  2. Overdraft or NSF penalties.
  3. Disorganization and clutter.
  4. Unopened mail.
  5. Unrealistic expectations about costs, deadlines and income.
  6. Mindless or forgotten automatic monthly charges and subscriptions.
  7. Anxiety.
  8. Thoughtless purchases.
  9. The need to impress others.
  10. Multitasking.

    I declare myself free to:

  1. Open an online savings account.
  2. Establish a Roth IRA with some of my retirement savings.
  3. Carefully invest in a classic wardrobe.
  4. Break free from the tyranny of paycheck-to-paycheck living.

In  my next 14 posts, I will write about a different declaration with insights from experts and others.

Day 5 Lesson: I can create liberty and independence with a financial plan.

What's on your declaration of independence?

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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

No Dixie Cups in My House...Saving Money With Glass Jars

There are no Dixie Cups in my home for political, financial and environmental reasons. I am saving money by using recycled glass jars instead of paper cups.

Here's how it works: After I finish up spaghetti sauce, pickles or whatever, I run the empty container through the dishwasher. Recycled and re-purposed old glass jars become new drinking cups, and I have dozens of them. And that means, I'm saving a small bit of the environment and saving money.

A package of 450 5-ounce cups costs about $22. If each person in my family uses 2 cups a day, here's the math:

  • 2 cups x 4 people = 8 cups a day or 56 cups a week.
  • 56 cups x 4 weeks = 224 cups a month.
  • 224 cups a month x 12 months = 2,688 cups a year.
  • 2,688 divided by 450 cups in a package = 5.97 packages.
  • 6 packages x $22 = $132 

So I am saving $132 a year by avoiding paper cups of any brand, especially Dixie Cups--which are affiliated with the Koch Brothers. (I can stand my economic and environmental ground by shopping carefully.) We can all vote with our dollars and good sense. And I vote to save money and save the environment.

Lesson 4 from my frugal recovery: Do the math. Small savings can make a big difference.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Saving Money With Recycled Glass

When it comes to saving money, I should give myself more credit. That's the clear-cut frugal message from more than 50 recycled glass jars in my kitchen. Those containers once held: spaghetti sauce, pickles, olives, mayonnaise and other stuff.

I started saving glass jars because the ocean-front place where I used to live did not have recycling bins. After emptying and washing the jars, I started storing the glass with a plan to find a nearby recycling collection bin. Ha! I did this once or twice, but let me tell you: carting around large bags of glass jars is very hard work.

But in the meantime, I discovered that glass jars have many money-saving uses that are also eco-friendly. Here are a few:

  • Measuring cups: My favorite glass jars come from the Farmer's Garden brand by Vlasic Pickles. The pickles are tasty, and the glass container has measurement markings, which come in handy when I am cooking. The same type of 26-fl. oz jar sells for $2.95 each at some specialty stores. And that's without the pickles. 
  • Trendy drinking jars: There's a popular bar in South Beach that serves drinks in old jars. I also set a festive table with an assorted variety of recycled jars.
  • Pen and marker holders: We store school supplies in empty jars. (Please see photo to the left.)
  • Emergency cash bank:  We toss loose change in to jars. This type of bank is always open for deposits and withdrawals.
  • Random uses:  Storage of seedlings, flowers, toys and buttons. 
How much have I saved with the recycled jars? Stay tuned tomorrow for calculations.

Day 3 Frugal Lesson:  With clarity, examine and celebrate your frugal successes. My recycled jars remind me that despite the setback in my frugal lifestyle, I have had some financial victories. 

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