An Economic Challenge and Another Giveaway

It seems these days all everyone in this country and really, all over the world, is talking about is the economy.  October saw the US unemployment rate sore to 6.5 percent.  Every day, more and more jobs are being outsourced to other countries in an effort to save money.  Maybe I need a little education here, but, how can a country support itself if its citizens cannot support themselves?   The holidays are right around the corner.  Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.  Are you feeling it?  Abundance is everywhere, if you’re willing to look for it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be a little smarter about our finances.   I am interested in hearing about everyone’s money-saving tips, or if it’s even an issue for you.  They can involve how you’re adjusting your holiday shopping, ways to recycle/reuse items you already have, or just general everyday strategies.  I’m sure there are some great, “outside the box” ideas out there, and since we’re all friends 😉 , let’s share!

In the spirit of my Potluck post, I’ll pose the same challenge.  Leave a comment with your strategies for keeping more of the cold hard stuff in your pocket (that’s what she said), and you’ll be entered to win a prize.  Once I have confirmed my last recipient has gotten her prize, I will post what you are playing for this time (yes, I was late in sending it out, but I assure you, that won’t happen again!).

Also,  I would like to modify the rules a little to be fair.  Each comment you leave will be worth one entry.  You may leave more than one comment, but you will only be entered again if you leave another tip.  Also, if you have a blog and link to/mention this blog and post, that will get you another 5 entries.  If you link my Etsy Shop, yet still another 5 entries.  The prize will again be something handmade, like I said, I will get more specific once I have confirmed my last recipient has received hers. Contest will close at 8pm EST on Friday, November 21, 2008.

So, without further ado, I will get started.   First, let me say that when I talk about & share the things I make, I’m not trying to make anyone feel inadequate, nor I am looking for accolades (don’t get me wrong, I  *love* hearing your feedback, it’s just not why I do it).  I simply love what I do, and I like to share. I feel blessed for that.  I feel dually blessed that, although I wouldn’t say I am at the point of making a living at it, there are wonderful people out there that are willing to appreciate and support my passion.  For this reason, I do appreciate the fact that I am able to make a lot of holiday and other gifts and (arguably) save money at the same time.  I’m not sure if you can call this a tip, but it’s one thing I do…

Ok,here we go.  I despise credit cards.  That’s not to say there isn’t a hefty balance on mine right now, but I will do everything I can NOT to use it.  I also know enough about myself that if there’s cash in my pocket, that spells trouble, so very rarely do I carry cash.  I try to pay for everything with my debit/bank card.  This keeps my spending in check, because basically, if the money is not in my checking account, I won’t spend it.  We use direct deposit, and take advantage of the fact that they will split the deposit into separate accounts.  This might sound backwards, but since I use the debit card for everything, it allows me to make sure I’m not spending the money that should be going toward monthly bills.  Once or twice a month, when I’m paying bills, I transfer the money that I need from the savings to the checking, and it’s all taken care of.  Ah, the beauty of online banking!  I also pay everything I can online to save paper/stamps/time.

Speaking of credit cards, there are some great point- earning programs out there.  I know a friend of a friend who bought a car on her credit card, (which she paid off the following month) because she knew it would earn her enough points to take her European vacation!  So smart!  That’s like, free money.  I love free money.  Like I said, I’m not a fan of credit cards, but I there are two other programs that I use:  Upromise and MyPoints.    Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Upromise and how it works.  If you haven’t, basically it allows you to register your credit cards, bank cards, grocery cards, etc. and certain restaurants, stores, and manufacturers in turn give you a small percentage of what you spend on their products/services, which can then be converted into a 529 plan for anyone’s college tuition.  I have to admit, I pretty much let this run on auto pilot & don’t actively seek out as much savings as I could. There are a lot of online shopping resources that I could/should be using that would contribute a lot more than my grocery purchases, but hey, it’s still free money. 

MyPoints works in a similar way, but you don’t have to wait quite as long for the rewards.  You basically sign up for their emails, and get sent various opportunities to earn points by visiting websites and taking surveys, if you want.  It’s totally free, but it does take longer to earn enough points for rewards this way.  If you want to earn points faster, you can shop through their website at various online merchants to earn a greater percentage of points.  You’re also entitled to special member discounts, etc.  I figure, if it’s something I need to buy anyway, why not earn the points?  I’ve done a lot of Christmas shopping this way in the past, as well as for myself at Amazon.com, drugstore.com, and Overstock.com.  And I’m always looking for who’s willing to throw in free shipping, especially now that the holidays are approaching.  Anyway, so far with the MyPoints program, I have earned enough to purchase myself a $100.00 MP3 player from Circuit City, and various gift cards for restaurants and retailers like Old Navy, Regal Cinemas, and Bath & Body Works…. all for free.  Do I sound like an infomercial?

On the homefront, since we can’t afford new windows, this year we bought the plastic coating that fuses onto the windows with a hair dryer to keep the drafts out– not sure how/if it will affect our energy bill, but it’s worth a try.  I’m also finally, after over a year, getting around to hanging curtains around the house, which will hopefully help as well.  We also are in the process of insulating our attic and outside doors.   

I would share more, but I feel like I’ve already written a novel- so let’s hear from you!  I will try to update later this weekend with more info on the prizes- Good luck, and have a great weekend!

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20 Responses

  1. When I make meals that freeze well such as soups, meatloaf, lasagna, chili, etc. I always make enough for at least 2 meals. Then I keep one to eat now and one to freeze for another day. Now instead of stopping by a fast food place for a quick dinner when I do not feel like cooking or don’t have time to cook, I just pull out a freezer meal.

  2. My two youngest children are were born one year and 3 weeks apart. This means 2 birthdays within 3 weeks time right after Christmas at our house. RIght now while they are young and not in school yet I combine their parties. This means that we have the same guests that we would have at both parties but only have to entertain them once. This cuts the total cost of food and party supplies in half, and it works great for the guests who do not have to dedicate two days so close togehter to birthday parties..

  3. Shopping at Aldi’s and planning my meals has saved me lots of money. When meals are planned, I shop better and we eat out less because we have a plan.
    I am also making almost all of our gifts for Christmas this year.
    Another idea, when there are lots of adults in a family, it’s wise these days to do a gift exchange. Put everyone’s name in a hat and each draws one name. Set the dollar amount and then shop or make for only one person. This cuts out a lot of unwanted and unneeded clutter and you get and give the best presents this way.
    We are also paring down our holiday meal menus. Why do we need to overeat just because the calendar says so? I am not making a ton of cookies or desserts this year. I would rather spend the time teaching my kids to sew or craft their gifts than making cookies no one needs or eats, due to their diets.
    BTW, I will be posting on my blog in a bit, linking your blog and shop.

  4. […] up on the miniature pincushions pretty fast. I love her applique work as well. So jump on over to Gigglepotamus for a great contest. And while you are there click on her Etsy shop and take a look around. […]

  5. so my hubby and i are still poor newly weds, and we didn’t have hardly ANY Christmas decorations last year( our first one together) i went to the dollar tree!! yes where everything is a dollar and made my own Christmas wreath, Christmas lights got cute ribbon to top the tree with, and some fake snow to use as a Christmas tree skirt around our old hand-me-down used Christmas tree. Basically faking the good decorations for the first year. then i took great atvantage of the Target after Christmas sales, i bought stocking hangers, tree toppers, a tree skirt and table runner, ornaments, Christmas Cards for this year, even wrapping paper and ribbon, and storage containers. I probably only spent around 1 hundred bucks for about three times that amount of decorations and stuff. and the great news is that in a few weeks i get to pull out all this brand new fun stuff and it’s like Christmas comes early! This year’s after Christmas buy will be a new Christmas tree.

    Also i’m going to try and link to you on my blog, we’ll see if that works.

  6. Gonna write and link!

    Now the good stuff…
    1. I clip and use coupons and use the grocery discount cards. I shop at the less pricey grocery store. Last shopping trip, out of a $300 grocery purchase, I saved $14 with the savings card and $27 with coupons. Not too shabby for the $1.50 I spend on the Sunday paper. Ya just have to be diligent about using the coupons only for items you need, not just because you have a coupon.
    2. I use online bill-pay. Saves a stamp, funds automatically leave my account (so I’m not tempting to spend money in the account while waiting for checks to clear) and the payee gets certified funds.
    3. Use credit cards as a last resort and try to pay more than the min. pymt. It may be only $5 or $10 more, but it saves a lot on interest.
    4. I am a light police officer. I turn every light off my crazy fam leaves on.
    5. I use my ceiling fans. Sound crazy? Using your ceiling fans can LOWER your heating/cooling bills! Circulating the air helps eliminate cold air settling and hot air rising. I have read this can save 20-40% on your a/c and heating bills.
    6. Even though gas prices are falling, I still try to do as many errands as I can in one trip out. It does help some.
    7. I rewear clothes. I know that sounds icky, but if I can wear jeans twice instead of once, that’s a heck of a lot of laundry water saved. (And, no, that doesn’t mean underwear! lol!) Plus it doesn’t wear out the clothes as fast and saves money on replacements.
    8. I use the economical cycle on the dishwasher. Saves a bit on water use for that too.

  7. I double or triple my meatloaf recipe, then I cook it in muffin tins. These are easy to freeze then thaw and reheat. I aslo vary how I serve them. With potatoes and a veggie- or maybe with pasta, adding salsa and cheese to the meatloaf when serving. The kids love them that way. Thanks!
    hondaray6 at hotmail dot com

  8. I clean the change out of my wallet every night and put it in a jar. By years end I usually have several hundred dollars saved up.

  9. I try to line dry all of my clothes. Either outside or inside on a huge collapsible drying rack. But I’m thinking about saving money by declaring that my family is really a bank and just getting a big ole fistful of bailout money.

  10. We just heard about that window sealer stuff and I need to go out to grab some. I’m too tired right now to think of any tips. I’ll get back to you on that!

  11. Right now I’m squandering my money on racing and firearms . . . proof that I am useless in this discussion.

    I concur on the online bill pay.

    There are only two budget tips of my own that I can offer.

    1. I work out my budget of monthly bills and then allot the money from my two paychecks each month for those bills.* Then I deduct the regular amount that I want to save. This leaves me with a number that I know is for all my discretionary stuff like gas, food, clothes, bullets, etc. I set things up so that I withdraw a weekly allowance from the ATM and that cash is ALL that I can spend for the week. It helps me discipline my spending.

    2. I never carry a credit card balance. Any purchase made counts against my discretionary cash allowance.

    3. For people with kids this is not really possible, but for people like me, I keep myself as busy with free/cheap entertainment as possible. If I’m working or busy, then I don’t have time to spend real money in bars, etc. Freetime let’s me make decisions like getting into racing or buying another gun. Dangerous.

    * When I do my budget, I only look at 2 paychecks a month but I actually get paid bi-weekly, so for the 2 months a year when I get 3 paychecks, it’s like bonus cash that I can use for Christmas gifts, a vacation, etc.

  12. 1. I am not much of a “couponer” but I did recently get the sunday paper to check and see if there were coupons for any of the normal holiday/thanksgiving food I buy. Sure enough, there are lots! That is one way to save over the holidays.

    2. What about opening a checking account where the amount you purchase is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the extra cents automatically go into a savings account.

    3. Here in Pittsburgh you can sign up for a budget payment plan for your gas and electricity bills. It spaces your bills out over the course of a year so your monthly payments are basically the same every month. It keeps you from having a surprisingly high bill–doesn’t necessarily save you money but it does help you from not going over your budget during a particular month when a heating/cooling bill would be high.

    4. To save money on kids clothes, The Children’s Place, Carters, and Kohl’s have AWESOME sales after the season ends. You can buy ahead for the next year. Last year I got sweaters for $2, pants for $4, and a few shirts for .99! If you have outlet stores near you, that is the best place to scout out deals at The Children’s Place and Carters.

    5. Or, to save even MORE $$ and help with the environment there is always thrift stores, good will, and freecycle for clothes. Freecycle is a great place to get some free goods while contributing to making the earth a greener place.

    I know I have some more, but the oldest wants some play time. I’ll post some more later 🙂

  13. I want to make some pretty cushions for my close girlfriends. I plan to go buy some secondhand sweaters at the charity shops and will make some ‘couture’ woolly cushions. Even a knarly old cashmere sweater can work for this. A nice cushion here retails about 30 to 60 pounds, but I reckon I can make a gorgeous one for 7 pounds.

    Now this may gross you out a bit. The charity shops have trouble selling Men’s woolen trousers (I guess because they can be stinky!). But I can buy them cheap, wash them, and then cut them into strips for making braided rugs. They are perfect for this.

    I also buy scraps from a ladies ‘posh’ dressmaker shop. They sell their silk and velvet scraps for a bargain price per bagful. They make up into beautiful Victorian scrap quilted
    cushions or a quilt, if you have the time.
    I have lots of fabric I have collected over the years and I plan to make my sisters a useful apron…of course I can make it special to them.
    I plan to make some nice cookies to give to neighbor friends. A small amount of nicely decorated speculaas cookies, look beautiful and special. When I am out looking at junk shops and spot some cheap pretty plates I buy those for using as the gift plate.
    My daughter is showing some interest in sewing. I plan to make a sewing kit up for her. This isn’t such a cheap option but is a ‘unique’ present from me.
    My husband is going to make a tool kit bag up for her. I think that is a lovely present. I would have liked to have my own hammer, screwdriver, level…etc.

    I don’t think I have any big money saver tips. A fun one, when my daughter was little was just going to the library and checking out books for free. They also had lots of organized reading sessions and art days especially for young children. My daughter loved going to the library!

    We had a local toy library too. Some clever mothers got together and managed this. It was fun to go check out a toy and then to bring it back for something else the next week. When my daughter got older, we knew where to donate her unwanted, but still good, toys!

    Only one more thing to add. When I have looked over my expensive buys, it always seems to be cleaning products that really add loads of money to the final shopping total.
    I have cut out loads of unnecessary cleaning products. I find I can clean almost everything with dish soap, bicarb of soda, vinegar, bleach and an all purpose floor cleaner.
    I don’t need all the chemicals to get things clean and I like the naturally clean smell of no chemicals. (bar the bleach…but I still need that for some stubborn cleaning and a peace of mind clean toilet!)

  14. I go to the county library book sales. The proceeds support the library and I can buy lots of children’s books for my kids as well as for presents for their friends and our nieces and nephews. I can also get books for presents for adults. Book costs are $0.25 to $1 each.

    I have a garden that provides lots of vegetables (organically) for our family. I buy about $100 of seeds in the winter and that will just about feed our family all our vegetables from spring to fall.

  15. Make sure when you are shopping that the items you purchase at a sale price are actually rang up that way. It may seem like a no-brainer, but the other night a shelf was being stocked with canned goods for a sale price of 50 cents per can. They were normally 88 cents. Of course since it was a new sale, the items had not been price coded properly and I had to visit customer service afterwards to get my refund. Verifying this at the check out counter will save you time and money.

  16. Instead of spending money on gifts, my friend and I give each other the gift of our time. Time to spend together is by far the most precious commodity I have in life. It sounds totally corny, but in the end, we have shared a fun day together that we’ll always remember.

  17. I linked to your blog and shop!

    Here is another tip or two:

    I have used cheapcooking.com for ideas on how to stretch meals or use leftovers into a creative second meal. We started making pork fried rice with leftover pork chops or pork loin.

    I use the tide cold water for washing to save on hot water bills. (Except on cloth diapers–we still have to use hot washes for those)

    Also, have you thought about cloth diapers? If you are planning on having more kids, then it definitely pays off in the long run (short run too) + it is good for the environment. You are such a gifted sewer that you could probably even make your own for a great price! There are SOOOOO many colors and cute kinds of cloth diapers now.

  18. Every year we travel to the beach with friends for the week between Christmas and New Years. We go to Gulf Shores, AL. It is within driving distance and still warm enough to swim and this time together is our ‘gift’ to each other. Since there are about 15 people in our ‘group’ we rent a large house for about a fourth of the price it costs in the summer. Everyone just takes time during the day to do their own thing then we get together at night or in the afternoon to play cards or go out to eat. Many of the older kids consider this to be a great gift as well.

  19. My favorite is definitely to make leftovers into the next day’s lunch. I mean, tonight I made rice and used it for a late night snack, inari-zushi for tomorrow’s lunch and onigiri for my flight to New York!

  20. I can’t remember which tips I left the last time. A lot of them are also money saving.

    This might be an obvious one, but I will give it a go.

    Buy frequently used items when they are on sale and not only when you need them. You can’t do this with everything, but it works well for things with long shelf lives.

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