Join me in my journey to live better for less

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

When you can't pay your bills..

No matter how frugal you try to be, there may come a time when you simply can't make ends meet. What do you do when you're faced with termination of a utility because you can't pay the bill? It's happened to me a few times throughout my life and it wasn't in my lack of planning or because I was spending frivelously. The fact was plain and simple, I didn't have enough money. So what can you do?

Prevention is key when it comes to termination notices. You know when you're behind on a bill so it couldn't hurt to call, explain your situation and ask for payment arrangements. A lot of companies are willing to work with you but you need to contact them before their service people are at your door to disconnect.

You might be able to pay the bill off by raising some quick cash. Some great ways to get cash quickly is to sell things you're not using on eBay or Craigslist. If you have enough time, you could have a yard sale. Another idea is to take some things to the pawn shop. Pawn shops take all sorts of items from video game consoles to jewelry so that might be a good way to get some cash and you'll be able to buy your items back later.

If you have no luck with payment arrangements or selling things, perhaps you could borrow a bit from a relative or friend. Now, I know this isn't what you want to do, but in order to keep your gas, electric or water going, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Make sure you have a clear agreement of when the money will be paid back and stick to it. If you pay them back as promised, if the time ever comes in the future (Lord forbid) that you need a loan again, they'll be more likely to help you out.

As a last resort you can always look into getting help from social service agencies. I know the Salvation Army will help people out with their utility bills if they fall short. You can contact your local Department of Health and Human resources to see if they have an emergency assistance program that you may qualify for. There are income guidelines to meet of course but it can't hurt to try.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Frugal Baby Tips

I was looking up how to make homemade baby wipes and found the most amazing frugal baby site that I wanted to pass along. There are fabulous tips including natural bug spray and info on homemade baby toys. If you have a baby or know someone who does, you won't want to miss Frugal Baby Tips!

I've done my shopping for the week and managed to save $100 more than usual. There are a few things that I still need to pick up from Walmart because Save a Lot didn't have them. I'll use coupons though and I'll surely spend less than normal. The problem with Walmart shopping is in my area it's always crowded, I'll have to take the kids with me and I always spend more than I should!

I'm also planning to stop by AC Moore craft store and use the 40% off coupon I printed out from SmartSource. Not sure what I'll be buying yet but I just love to browse that place.

I did my CVS shopping earlier in the week. I bought some bottled water, cereal bars and Coke and got back $16 in ECB. I might go back today for some more water and deodorant which will give me $4 more in ECB that I'll use for the new sale starting tomorrow! I'm really getting into this.

That's all I have for now. I need to do some laundry then I'm off to the storea! Wish me luck, it's Saturday so I know it's a jungle out there!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Flea Market Shopping 101

With money being tight, a flea market can be an excellent place to search for items you need and desire. If you've never been to a flea market, you just don't know what you're missing. There are so many treasures to be found! Don't let those rows and rows of tables intimidate you! You'll surely find some great deals but it does require a little effort and planning before you head out the door in search of treasure.

1) Do your homework. Find the right flea market depending on what you're looking for. Are you wanting to spruce up your living room on the cheap? Looking for kids clothes? Trying to find collectibles to resell? Different flea markets offer different items. Some have collectibles and antiques others offer newer items, clothing, electronics and whatnot, and then there are the ones that have a combination. Do an online search of "flea market and your state", ask friends and family and check local newspapers for flea market listings. If you don't know how to get to a location, be sure to print out driving directions online.

2) Dress properly and be prepared for any kind of weather. Wear comfortable clothes. Jeans or shorts and a t-shirt will do nicely but make sure you have pockets for your cash. Comfortable shoes are a must as you'll be on your feet for long periods of time. If there's a chance of rain bring a raincoat with hood and If it's cooler have a jacket. Leave the purse and umbrella behind because flea marketing is a hands on sport. Sunblock is very important as well. Make sure you apply it and keep some in the car. Having a pair of sunglasses isn't a bad idea either.

3) Eat before going because flea market food is usually expensive, greasy and may give you the runs (sorry, it's true). Porta-potties aren't so great at flea markets either. You might want to pack a lunch because some flea markets have no concessions. Pack your cooler with sandwiches and drinks then leave it in your car. Consider a canteen style drinking container that attaches to your jeans or belt so your hands will be free to dig for treasures.

4) Arrive early if you're worried you'll miss out on the good stuff. It is common sense that being first in line will give you first pick at items. Don't discount arriving later in the day though. Many times you'll get a better deal toward the end of the day. A lot of sellers would rather let something go for cheap than pack it back up and lug it away.

5) Cash is king. Carry plenty of cash in all denominations. Most vendors won't accept personal checks or credit cards. Get a receipt when you buy a high ticket item to help you keep track of money spent.

6) Shop alone if possible. You'll want as little distraction while you're bargain hunting. If you do take someone, make sure they'll leave you alone and let you "snoop".

7) Learn to haggle. Don't be afraid to offer less for an item. Most flea market vendors expect it and usually mark items up just a bit for that reason. Consider buying more than one item from a vendor making them more likely give you a discount. Don't feel bad about walking away if they won't deal with you. It's all part of playing the game.

8) Don't buy something just because it's cheap. Make sure you actually have a use for an item before handing over the cash. It's a shame to waste money on something that will end up in the attic or on a shelf at Goodwill. Ask yourself "Who will use this or where will it go?" If you can't answer, don't purchase.

Know what you're looking for and research it. If you're buying antiques and collectibles, have some idea of the value and condition. Consider making yourself a cheat sheet as a quick reference about the items you seek. I like to carry a running list of things that I want and need so I can keep my eyes open for those items.

If you're shopping to resell, think about carrying a mobile device that will allow you to quickly research and compare prices. I like to text ChaCha (242242) to find the going prices on eBay.

Take a tape measure if you'll be buying clothing or trying to find a piece of furniture. Speaking of furniture, make sure you have a way to transport any larger pieces you may find.

What are your flea market shopping tips? Do you have any awesome finds to share? Tell us! =)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Finding Time for it ALL

As I search around the blogosphere and read blogs of other frugal or work at home moms, I sometimes feel like I'm just not cutting it. What I'm saying is, I seriously lack time management skills and I can't understand how they find time to do it all in one day. I know we're all given the same 24 hours but how we use it makes so much difference in the amount we can accomplish. I have no problem admitting I am terrible at time management. I have poor organizational skills and it's making my quest for frugal living even harder. Cutting coupons, searching sites for the best deals, managing the CVS Extracare buck deals, making a shopping list, creating frugal meals from scratch, housework, taking care of the kids, earning an income at home... Some days I feel like I don't have time to go to the bathroom! It's even difficult for me to find time to blog and read other blogs. Sometimes I feel like I'm spreading myself way too thin but all these things need to be done!

I need to get myself on a schedule and maybe I need a life coach but I can't afford one so I'll have to be my own. I'm reading all the information I can find online about time management and organization. I try to prioritize but I feel like I'm buried under a huge mound of EVERYTHING and I don't know how to start digging my way out.

How do you manage your time and keep your sanity? Any advice is welcomed ( and much needed!)

Updated to add that I found and the tips are awesome. LOVE IT! =)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Frugal Beauty Tips

If you've been reading my blog you know about my dental problems. Now I know you're thinking, what the heck does that have to do with frugal beauty tips? Well, I have been taking a lot (and I mean A LOT) of Aleve for pain and I wanted to make sure I flushed it out of my kidneys so I've been drinking tons of water. Guess what? My skin, which is usually plagued by adult acne, is clearer than it's been in a LONG time. I know it has to be the water. I do normally drink water but probably not enough. My skin looks so much better and I even think the fine lines that I had seem to be reduced. Amazing.

Since we're on the subject of frugal beauty tips, I have a few that I'd like to share with you. Everyone should take time to pamper themselves and make themselves look and feel gorgeous. How can we make taking care of ourselves a priority without unloading hundreds of dollars at the cosmetics counters? There are quite a few ways to save money on looking great.

Use witch hazel as astringent. It's very cheap and can be easily found. Just use it the same way you would any commercial astringent.

Vaseline - I LOVE Vaseline. I use it to soften the skin on my knees and elbows. I put it on my feet then cover them with cotton socks overnight to help with dry, cracked heels. Vaseline is also great to use as a lip gloss. And speaking of lips, add some sugar to your Vaseline covered lips and rub with your finger for a couple minutes. This will exfoliate your lips and keep them smooth and soft.

Get enough sleep - This is completely free and not only will you look better, but you'll feel better too. Sleep is the body's way to recharge so make sure you get at least 6-8 hours a night.

Unscented baby wipes - Baby wipes are great for removing makeup. REALLY. I use them all the time. Why buy prepackaged commercial brand makeup wipes when these work just as well for a fraction of the cost?

Wash your hair every other day - Unless your hair is extremely greasy, too frequent washings can strip hair of essential oils.

Stay soft with a homemade sugar scrub
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/8 cup vegetable oil
Before your shower, rub this all over especially elbows, knees and feet. You probably want to do this while standing in the shower otherwise you'll end up with a sticky mess.

Save money on cosmetics -

Ask for for free samples at department stores and shop drugstores. CVS has a lot of great deals on makeup and you can even earn extracare bucks!

Become a representative for a company like Avon or Mary Kay. Not only can you earn a little extra income, you can also save on your own purchases.

Do your own nails. It takes a little time and practice but it definitely pays off in the end. Search the internet for details on how to do your own manicure. In my area a manicure is between $25 and $40 so the savings can add up fast.

Buy products from a company with a good return policy. I'm not sure if they still do but Rite Aid used to offer a no questions return policy for makeup. I know Cover Girl will refund you if you're not satisfied. Do your homework before you buy.

Read reviews before making a purchase. If there's something specific you're looking for such as a great moisturizer or a new foundation, check out sites like ePinions and read beauty blogs for reviews on the latest cosmetics.

Buy cheaper makeup. A lot of the high price brands have you paying extra just for the name. When you compare ingredients, you'll see that many of the lower priced items are basically the same as the pricier ones. Aziza, Cover Girl, Bonnie Bell and Wet n Wild are a few brands that have some really good products that aren't expensive.

Beauty Supply Stores - These places are a wonderland for anyone who wants to save money and look great. I could spend hours inside Sally's Beauty. I can buy anything from products to highlight my hair to makeup sponges for really great prices. There's even a Clearance Center to help you save even more.

What are your frugal beauty tips and ideas?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Free Build and Grow Class at Lowes

Free fun for kids at Lowes, tomorrow, April 25th! If you have one near you, check it out =)

Frugal, Fun Ideas for Bored Kids

With summer right around the corner, I'll have a house full of bored kids. I'm trying to come up with some interesting things we can do that are fun and frugal. Aside from sending a couple of them off to summer camp (not really cheap but they need the break) we don't have much planned this year. Here are my ideas so far..

Going on picnics - Even if it's just on our own patio, it should break up the monotony of things a bit.

Visit any local museums. There are a few that I know of that we've never been to. I'm pretty sure they're free too.

Free concerts - They hold concerts every week throughout the summer at area parks. I need to find a list and choose which ones they'll enjoy most.

Library - We'll visit the local library to rent movies and check out some great books. Our library even has a story time and special activities for kids.

Computers - There are lots of fun sites that are child friendly and geared toward kids.

Draw pictures or color in coloring books - Coloring has always been one of my favorite things to do. Fingerpainting is another fun thing we'll have to try.

Cook together - This will teach them skills they'll need in the future and also be fun. I'll be seeking some easy, kid friendly recipes that we can all make together.

Boardgames - This is an old standby but it can be lots of fun. We can also play charades, hangman or a card game like go fish.

Go to the mall- You don't have to spend money to have a good time at the mall. People watching is fun, and we can enjoy the air conditioning and hit the sales racks for bargains. One local mall has a pet store, and we won't miss out on that!

Read books to each other- It's really fun to start reading and then take turns making up your own endings. I love some of the things the kids come up with. They have great imaginations.

Treasure hunts - I give each child a dollar or two and head out to the thrift stores and yard sales to see what cool things they can find for their money.

Water battles - use old, rinsed out shampoo bottles or dish soap bottles, squirt guns and pails.

What activities do you do during the summer to occupy the kids?