Penny Pinching Tip – Using Butter Wrappers to Grease Pans

using butter wrappers to grease pans

using butter wrappers to grease pans

When it comes to saving money, it’s not just one thing that adds to huge savings, it’s tons of little tiny actions/methods that add up over time.  I learned this tip from my grandmother, and while I know some of you already use it, I thought I would share, in the off chance it might be life changing for one of you. :)

Next time you finish a stick of butter, instead of tossing the wrapper in the bin or compost pile, place it in a ziploc bag in the fridge.  Then, the next time  you need to grease a pan, take the butter wrapper out of the bag and smear the leftover butter remnants all over the pan.  You don’t have to use any additional butter, AND you get one more use out of the wrapper.  Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm inside?  I thought so.

Now go forth and save, fellow penny pinchers.

~Mavis

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15 Ways to Stop Spending Money

15 Ways to Stop Spending Money

15 Ways to Stop Spending Money

Okay, so now that the holidays are over are you pouring over your credit card statements wondering how you are ever going to catch up?  Honestly, I think it’s the worst to feel stressed out by money problems—it makes everything in life feel overwhelming.

If you are trying to catch up, here are a couple of tips to help you stop spending and get you back in the black.  Think of them as steps toward good health, because let’s face it, stress is a drag.

  1. Stay out of the stores.  Seriously, limit the temptation and just stay out.  I guarantee that if you look hard enough, you will find an amazing deal every time you walk into a store.  Even great deals cost money, though, so if you’re looking to save, it’s best to avoid them all together.
  2. Decide on a recreational activity other than shopping.  I know tons of people who “go shopping” for something to do.  Try coming up with something else to replace the habit with when you get the urge.  Choose a new t.v. series to watch, pick up knitting, exercise…whatever, just do it every time you get the urge until it becomes your new go-to when you are bored.
  3. Be honest with yourself about needs vs. wants.  I know we have all heard of this before, but how often are we honest about it?  Next time something breaks and you are looking to replace it, ask yourself, “Can I live without it?”  The answer might surprise you.
  4. Issue yourself a 30 day challenge.  30 day challenges are all the rage right now, so you will be soooo cutting edge if you try it.  Try to go 30 days spending money on NEEDS only.  Make a list of the wants that you forego—if at the end of 30 days, they still seem important, consider them.
  5. Make a list.  Stick to your shopping list.  Impulse purchases, even at the grocery store, really add up.
  6. Consider simplifying and minimalizing.  I know this one kind of sounds weird, but when you simplify your life by eliminating clutter, it really highlights just how crazy our spending can sometimes get.  Force yourself to sell, trash, or donate unused items.  It will give you something to do and make you really face your purchases head on.
  7. Go cash only for a month.  Ask a friend to hold your credit cards.  Use only cash and see how well you do when you can see the finite amount dwindling.
  8. Ask yourself if you enjoy the thrill of the hunt when it comes to shopping or actually owning and using the item.  If it is the first, you may want to evaluate what need your really fulfilling {not trying to go all therapist on you there}.
  9. Start a spending moratorium with a group of friends.  Meet once a week to go over budgets, etc.  It will help you stay accountable, plus it will give you a social event to look forward to each week.  Several years ago, Oprah showed a group of women doing this—they were each saving money for different reasons—they made it sound actually kind of fun.
  10. If you don’t shop for you, but instead like to give gifts to others to show your love, consider coming up with new ways to show love–offer services and emotional support instead, or even better, offer your uninterrupted time.
  11. Make a spending savings account.  Every time the urge to spend something that  isn’t a “need” strikes, write it down in a little notebook instead of purchasing.  Include EVERYTHING from a coffee to a new shirt.  At the end of the month, you will have a really concrete idea of how much money you are spending on unnecessary items.  The number might shock you.
  12. Use cash and take only the amount of money you need into a  store.   While it isn’t always possible to know exactly how much you will need, you can usually estimate pretty close.  If you aren’t carrying enough cash to cover extras, you simply won’t put them in the cart.
  13. If a spending freeze is impossible, decide how much “extra” money you will get a month.  When that money is gone, the spending for the month is done too.
  14. Consider quitting possible addictions–if you are a junk food junkie, gambler or a smoker, the costs add up.  Quitting will put a major halt on spending.
  15. Become addicted to saving instead of spending.  Spending is a habit, just like saving is a habit.  Repeat the habits long enough, and they will stick.  Make a conscious choice to replace old habits with better ones.

Financial freedom is a really big deal.  While money can’t buy happiness, being responsible with it certainly can.  Stressing over money just isn’t worth the toll it takes on relationships, your mental and physical well-being, and your overall goals.

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Money Saving Tips for Hosting Christmas Dinner on a Budget

Money Saving Tips for Hosting Christmas Dinner on a Budget

Money Saving Tips for Hosting Christmas Dinner on a Budget

Christmas has to be the most expensive time of year.  I don’t think it was meant to be that way, but it has certainly evolved into a real potential financial crisis.  My kids are pretty good about the presents part of the equation, they really don’t ask for that much.

Christmas dinner is where keeping the costs low and still maintaining traditions takes a little bit of effort.  The good news is that with planning, it really is possible to put on a great spread for family and friends without breaking the bank.

Here are couple of tips to get you on the road to a tasty meal for a price you can afford:

  1. Make a menu and STICK WITH IT.  Making a menu allows you to stock up on specialty food items when they go on sale.  The earlier you make the list, the more sales cycles you have to score deals.
  2. Bring the outside in with your table decor. Where we live there are plenty of pine and cedar trees, not to mention pine cones.  If that doesn’t have all the makings for a traditional Christmas centerpiece, I don’t know what does.
  3. Shop seasonally when it comes to fruits and veggies.  Providing a grapes in your fruit salad is going to be a heck of a lot more expensive than oranges.
  4. Have everyone bring a dish.  If you can get away with providing the staples, and your guests provide the sides and appetizers, you can cut the cost SIGNIFICANTLY.
  5. Figure out proportions.  Over-cooking leads to overspending.  There is a delicate balance between having plenty and having an offensive amount of left-overs.
  6. Take advantage of store promotions.  Most stores offer free turkey with minimum purchase.  {If they offer it only at Thanksgiving time, consider buying and freezing your Christmas bird then.}
  7. Now is the time to transfer prescriptions.  I know this sounds crazy, but lots of stores will offer gift cards for transferred prescriptions.  Transfer them now, and put the gift card to good use by buying the groceries.
  8. Cut energy costs by dropping the thermostat if you are having a lot of guests.  The sheer amount of people will raise the temperature in a room, no need to pay for additional heating costs.
  9. Make everything from scratch.  It will taste better and cost significantly less.
  10. Keep it simple.  No need to provide 18 appetizers and 14 desserts.  All those extra ingredients add up.

Do you host Christmas dinner?  How do you keep costs low?

~Mavis

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Safety Tips for Using Your Credit Card Online

Safety Tips for Using Your Credit Card Online

Safety Tips for Using Your Credit Card Online

You probably already know that I am a HUGE fan of online shopping.  I like that I don’t have to battle the crowds, the parking lots, the lines.  Best of all, I don’t drive all the way to the store only to find that they don’t have the size, color, or even item I am looking for.  No thank you.  So, with the holidays fast approaching, I thought I would share a couple of tips for keeping your identity safe and still enjoying all of the perks of online shopping.

  1. Don’t use debit, only credit cards.  Credit cards usually have better consumer protection plans, and even if your debit card does have one, remember, if someone gets into your account, your money isn’t returned right away.  There has to be an investigation by the company–which could mean you have ZERO cash while you are waiting for it to all get sorted out.  If you don’t prescribe to the notion of credit cards, buy yourself a visa gift card to use for online purchases.
  2. When possible, use Paypal.  Paypal is designed to protect you from fraudulent charges and you can pay using your debit card if you want.  Plus, if something does happen, you get your money back almost immediately.
  3. Don’t make online purchases on public computers or public WiFi.  Period.  Do it from the comfort of your home {preferably in fuzzy pajamas and with bed head}.  Public computers are a breeding ground for identity theft.
  4. Make sure you have anti-virus software installed and up-to-date.  It will save you a lot of hassle.
  5. Shop only at reputable sites.  This is a big one.  I try to stick to websites of stores and online retailers like Amazon, otherwise, you just can’t be sure that the product will be guaranteed and that your personal information is safe-guarded.
  6. You can tell if a site is secure via your mobile device if the website has https in the address.
  7. Create a folder for all receipts on your email account and save EVERYTHING there.  You can also print it, but I don’t like the paper clutter.  That way, you will have a spending trail to show your financial institution should someone get a hold of  your information.
  8. Be smart about passwords and make a different one for every site.  It’s also smart to change them up a couple times of year.
  9. Log onto your credit card account DAILY during the shopping season.  That way, you will know RIGHT AWAY if something is awry.  {As an added bonus, it will help you track your personal spending.}
  10. Check with your credit card company, a lot of times, they will allow you to create a disposable one-time credit card number that is linked to your account.  You can use that number to make a single purchase.  Should anyone get a hold of your information from that transaction, it won’t do them any good.

How do YOU keep yourself safe when shopping online?

~Mavis

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10 Money Saving Tips for Hosting a Thanksgiving Day Feast

10 Money Saving Tips for Hosting a Thanksgiving Day Feast

10 Money Saving Tips for Hosting a Thanksgiving Day Feast

Have you ever offered to host something, because you thought the whole tradition of it would be awesome, and then, after you had committed, realized that it was going to require you to take an advance on your retirement in order to afford it?  Thanksgiving can totally be one of those times.  Over the years, though, I have learned quite a few ways to put on a generous spread and still keep the budget in mind.

If you are hosting this year, here are a couple of ideas to keep money in your pocket and food on the table:

  1. Right off the bat, the easiest way to have a nice spread is to go potluck, or at the very least, take people up on it when they offer to bring something.  It totally eases your load in the kitchen too.
  2. It’s never too early to stock up on non-perishables.  If you notice that chicken broth is on sale {and be still your beating heart, there is a coupon too!} in September, swipe it up and store it for the big day.
  3. Make up for upfront costs with creative uses of left-overs.  Make turkey pot pies with leftovers that you can freeze for later, when you aren’t sick to death of the sight of turkey.  Supplementing later meals will help to balance out your budget.
  4. Know common ingredient substitutions.  No need to buy buttermilk if you can make it with the ingredients you already have at home.  It could save you a lot of time and money to just use what you already have.
  5. Keep the meal simple.  Yes, it would be awesome to make every single recipe you pinned on your appetizer board on Pinterest, but that gets time consuming and costly.  Be realistic about how much food you actually need.
  6. Use what you already have for your centerpiece.  Cut some boughs off of your tree, sprinkle in a couple of candles, put fall leaves in mason jars, etc. and you have an instant centerpiece that cost nothing.
  7. If you serve alcohol, keep it simple.  Provide beer and wine.  Anything more gets super expensive.
  8. If you only use sage and thyme {or whatever the spice may be} once a year, consider buying it in the bulk section of your store.  I know the word “bulk” implies that you have to buy a ton, but that’s the beauty, you can literally just get the tablespoon worth you need.  It will save you big bucks–and valuable kitchen storage space.
  9. Hit Farmer’s Markets.  You can usually find a much better deal on produce around this time of year if you have access to a farmer’s market.
  10. Cut out the convenience foods altogether.  For example, a jar of gravy costs waaay more than homemade gravy, which literally cost pennies and extra time.

Do you have any money saving tips for hosting the Big Feast?

~Mavis

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How to Find Free {or Cheap} Firewood

firewood

How to Find Free {or Cheap} Firewood

With winter right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about stock piling wood for all of those long cold days ahead.  While I love the sound of a crackling fire on a cold night, I am not a huge fan of paying for a cord of wood.  I know lots of people head to the mountains, permit in hand, to cut their yearly firewood, but if that’s not for you, there are a couple of ways to score free {or cheap} wood.

First, craigslist is the Mecca for firewood.  You have to be right on top of it, though, and willing to scavenge all year long.  It’s usually someone looking to get rid of a tree that a storm took out, or something like that.  Look under “free” in the listings.  You’ll probably have to do some chopping, but even “free” comes at a price.  On that same token, sites like freecycle also have wood from time to time.  Again, the key is to check it daily.

firewoodCall around to your local tree services.  A lot of times, they have a wood chipper and just send the wood through anyway.  You may be able to negotiate a deal where you pick up the wood and haul it off.

Keep an eye out for new construction sites.  A lot of times, the crew will come in and clear the lot, including trees, before building.  With a little smile and a plate of cupcakes, you might be able to talk them into letting  you haul off the wood.

If you are brave enough, dumpster diving {with permission} at construction sites can yield quite a bit of burnable wood.  Just make sure to watch out for nails and other scraps of metal that could be a potential diving hazard.  Also, don’t burn treated wood–unless your interested in gassing yourself in the months to come.

Contact local sawmills, cabinet makers, etc.  You might be able to arrange to come pick up their end cuts–especially if you are saving them disposal fees.

Word of mouth is pretty powerful too.  Make sure to let friends and family know you are willing to come do a little manual labor to haul off unwanted wood.  People will call when they see or hear of fallen trees.

How do you get your firewood?

~Mavis

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10 Tips for Maintaining Your Front Load Washing Machine

10 Tips for Maintaining Your Front Load Washing Machine

10 Tips for Maintaining Your Front Load Washing Machine

Front loaders are becoming pretty standard these days.  In fact, if you are in the market for a new washer, chances are, you will end up with a front loader.  Top loaders are harder and harder to come by, the choices are few, and the general trend is to steer everyone toward front loaders for their lowered water usage and efficiency ratings.  If you are new to the front-loader game, maintaining them is a bit different than a top-loader {which required almost no maintenance}.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Leave the door open when not in use.  Smelly machines is the biggest complaint when it comes to front load washers.  The key is to allow the drum and the door to dry out completely between washes.  Giving the rubber door seal a quick wipe down aids the process significantly.  Don’t give mold the slightest chance to grow.
  2. Use High Efficiency detergent.  Seriously, these are not just guidelines–regular detergent will have too many suds and confuse the heck out of your machine.  Remember that your front loader is basically a computer–if it senses something is amiss, it goes haywire.  The HE soap is more expensive, no doubt, but it goes a long way. {If you want to save to moolah, consider making your own detergent.}
  3. Rinse the detergent/fabric softener dispenser regularly, and then leave it out to dry.  Mold can build up in your dispenser and then end up swirling around with your clothes.  Rinsing out residue and trapped liquids pretty much stops it from growing altogether.
  4. Inspect the rubber seal on the door regularly.  Socks like to hide in them.  Wet socks left long enough can cause, drumroll please…mold!
  5. If you use bleach, remember to cut waaaaay down on the amount.  Front load washers use so much less water that you can potentially ruin your clothes with too much bleach.
  6. Clean your front loader at least once a month.
  7. Use a hot water wash every so often.  Most detergents can now do the job with cold water–which is awesome, it save money and energy, but residue builds up in your front loader and it can benefit from a regular hot water rinse.
  8. Plan for extra time.  There is no such thing as a “quick load of laundry” when it comes to your front load washer.  They flat out take significantly longer–one of the downsides of them using less water.  For some, this fact requires a shift in how they manage their laundry.  On the plus side, though, drying time will be significantly less.
  9. Make sure the machine is perfectly level.  Again, your machine has a computer on board, so it functions best when it is level.  Take the time during set-up to make sure it is level, and check it regularly to make sure it stays level.  If it gets off, it can throw off the cycle, because the washer will try to recalibrate.
  10. Clean out the drain pump filter regularly.  Your machine {in a different location in every machine, check your manual} can get clogged by bits of lint, hair, etc.  Make sure to clear it so that your machine can drain properly.

Front load washers are definitely a little more work than top-loaders, but the maintenance {once you wrap your mind around the fact that they have to be maintained} is really pretty quick and painless.

~Mavis

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How to Clean a Front Load Washing Machine

How to Clean a Front Load Washing Machine

How to Clean a Front Load Washing Machine

It seems like everyone has a front loader these days.  I’ve heard total horror stores of them stinking and then ruining your clothes. While front loaders are more efficient, they definitely are a little higher maintenance than their top loading parents.  They need regular maintenance to avoid the dreaded smell–and by regular, I mean at least once a month, if not every two weeks.

heinz vinegarYou’ll need:

  • Vinegar
  • Bleach
  • Rags/Cloths

How to Clean a Front Load Washing MachineDirections:

Start by running an empty load on the hottest setting with vinegar instead of detergent.  After the load is complete, repeat the process using bleach.  Then, open the doors {it’s really best to always keep the doors open when the machine isn’t in use anyway} and using the rag or cloth, wipe the rubber door seal down with vinegar and warm water. Dry completely.  Pull out the detergent drawer and rinse it under hot water.  Allow it to soak in vinegar for a bit if it still has detergent build-up.

Overall, the whole process is pretty quick and painless.

How do you clean your front loader?

~Mavis

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