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Frugal Everything

This month we are going to dedicate the issue to everything that is frugal. We will feature articles that will include a ton of new affordable ideas along with some of our frugal favorites.

Some people may be intimidated or even embarrassed by the word frugal. Being frugal doesn't have to label you as being stingy; you should feel proud to be frugal. Being frugal is a great way to use your creativity and find new ways to extend the use of things or finding ways to stretch those important dollars.

Being frugal isn't just for those who are living paycheck-to-paycheck and struggling to pay their bills each month. Frugality is for anyone who values their money and want to see it working for them.

Being frugal is just one of the steps needed to have a healthy financial lifestyle. After you have taken the time to do your budget and find out where all your money is going you may need to find places where you can save. That's where a frugal frame of mind comes in handy.

Some ideas may sound silly, while others may seem like the obvious. Often times it's the things that sound strange or the things that sound too easy that may be the ones where you can save the most money.

You may find some frugal things that are only saving you a penny here and a penny there and might not be worth the effort. But the point is that these savings will continue to pile up and you will start to see some significant savings, even if it is just a little at a time.

Even if your budget doesn't call for some cutbacks, why not practice a few frugal tips to help you save even more. Take the money that you save by being frugal and use it to treat yourself to a vacation or new love seat.

Being frugal can be fun and challenging as you try and out do yourself each month or by discovering new ways to save money that some may not have thought of. While we continuously try and feature articles about frugality, there are still a lot of resources that you can use.

There is a frugal option for most activities that you can think of and we encourage you to take more time to search the web for more frugal ideas. It's up to you to take action and your bank account will thank you for it.

    

 


 

   
 
 

Valentine's Day is a day where lovebirds treat each other with treats and gifts to show their admiration for each other. It's also another holiday where you are expected to show that love with a disregard to your finances. Well here are some ideas dedicated to our frugal couples out there that not only work for the 14th, but all year round.

Dinner at a fancy restaurant is always a popular choice on Valentine’s Day and also one of the more expensive parts of the date. Why not forgo the busy crowds and spend an evening at home and cook a nice candlelit dinner instead. Plan ahead and find a babysitter to take care of the kids for a few hours and put on some nice clothes and music and have a 4-course meal. You will have the ambience of a night out without having to leave a big tip.

If you must get out of the house for a dinner date opt for lunch instead. It won't be as busy and generally lunch menus are less expensive than dinner. You can then spend the rest of the day and evening together doing whatever you please.

Plan ahead and find events or activities that are free or little cost. There may be a band playing or an art show that you can attend together. If you are fortunate enough to have good weather on the 14th then you may want to plan a picnic or a walk through the park. Check out some local coffee shops, which often feature acoustic music or poetry readings.

As far as gifts go you don't need to be intimidated by jewelry commercials that show that the only way to truly show your love is with a diamond. Gifts from the heart count for more and can save you a lot.

Homemade gifts can be fun to make and come right from the heart. You would be surprised what you can do with a little construction paper, scissors, and glue. You can make a collage with pictures from the previous year and make a big Valentine's Day card.

Valentine's Day coupons are also a big hit with couples. Make and decorate coupons that contain special requests that they can redeem. They can be for chores that they don't like to do or a request for them to get to pick the movie one night, or a coupon for their favorite meal. There are really endless ideas that you can put on your own personalized coupons. Put them in an envelope and decorate it. Ladies can put on some dark red lipstick and kiss the envelope and guys can spray their ladies favorite smelling cologne on it.

In the past we have advised that you save all year for the Christmas season. This works equally well with Valentine's Day. If you want to have an extravagant evening then why not save up for it instead of swiping the plastic. If you've had your eye on a stunning gift put a little away each month and buy it with cash. By planning ahead you will be able to really enjoy yourself instead of feeling guilty for spending so much on the gift and dinner.


     

 

 

 

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Frugal Fitness Ideas

We would all like to have a perfect body and get into the best physical shape that we can. Unfortunately it seems that if you want a perfect body you have to shell out for an expensive club membership, higher a personal trainer, or order expensive home gym equipment. Even if you want to work out at home the costs can run up if you go overboard on equipment. There's everything from expensive shoes and workout clothes, heart rate monitors, power bars, supplements and shakes, books, DVDS and many other fitness accessories that can break the bank. There are plenty of ways that you can get in and stay in shape that won't cost you the large amount of money that usually comes with adapting a healthier lifestyle.

Avoid costly gym memberships. Sure they may have a ton of equipment, but you will save time and money opting to work out at home. Many of the exercises that require machines can be substituted with exercises that you can do at home while still working the same muscles. You wont have to worry about overcrowding and you might even save a little gas money, which is important as well.

Now that you've decided to workout at home there might be some equipment needs that you can purchase. You may want to get some barbells to accommodate your workouts. Most sports equipment stores will sell them for no more than a dollar a pound. There are other places where you can find them for considerably cheaper. Look in the classified ads for used weights or visit local pawnshops that have quite a bit of fitness equipment for a quarter of the price. You may also have friends or family that have a set of weights that have been sitting in their basement or garage, untouched for several years. Make them an offer; they may just give them to you.

Another piece of inexpensive equipment that may come in handy for a muscle-building workout is a chin-up bar. This is a bar that you can install in a door frame for the purpose of doing chin-ups and pull-ups. You can find them for as cheap as $10 or can even make your own by researching on the Internet. Resistance bands have become popular and can be purchased for a small price.

There are plenty of cardio activities that you can do that will cost you very little if anything at all. Start with walking and you wont need to buy any fancy shoes or clothes. You just need to find comfortable shoes and clothes that you already own. If you want to start running you may want to buy a shoe that has some better support but you don't need to invest in the best shoe on the market because you probably won't be running in highly competitive races.

Swimming is an excellent exercise but most people don't have the luxury of having a pool in their backyards. Some health clubs or recreational centers may have pools where there is open swim and may be worth a look to explore. Some may offer deals that only involve use of the swimming pool and may be cheaper than an entire membership. During the summer you may buy a swim pass for your children to take advantage of the hot weather during the summer. You may be able to upgrade that into a family pass and then you can use the pool for laps during specified adult or lap swimming time.

Trainers can provide you with valuable information and routines to help you become fit, but in today's information age you can do a lot of research on your own through books and websites. The Internet is loaded with free information that will help you setup a workout routine that fits your abilities and time. You can also check out the library for books or magazines. Many libraries have extensive magazine collections that feature health and wellness magazines. If you find a routine in a magazine take it to the copier and for less than a dollar you have a workout plan. However, you will want to do a lot of research and consult a doctor before you start any type of serious physical workout routine.

Use things that are around your house to help you get in shape. Why spend thousands on a stair-step machine if you live in a house with stairs. You get the same workout at no cost. Chairs can be used for a variety of things; you can use them to do dips or elevated push-ups for example.

Getting yourself into shape will not only help your body but your mind as well and if you can do it for a little cheaper you'll feel even better. Remember these are suggestions for you to save money before you exercise, always ask your doctor if you have any questions or concerns in regards to a workout plan for you.


 

 

 

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Saving Daily

Here are a few of our favorite frugal suggestions that span the different parts of our everyday life.

Pets:
Smaller pets such as mice and hamsters are much less expensive to keep than larger pets like dogs and they also require less attention.

Consider adopting a pet from the local animal shelter rather than buying one from the pet store. They will be much less expensive and you are saving an animal's life in the progress.

Weddings:
Buy flowers that are in season as they will be cheaper. Consider a smaller amount of flowers for bouquets and boutonnieres. A bridesmaid carrying a single flower can look just as good as a full bouquet.

Save money by having groomsmen wear a suit and tie instead of the traditional tuxedo. Ushers and ring bearers will still look nice with just a wedding-colored polo shirt and a pair of khakis.

Gas:
Fill up your tank during the coolest part of the day. Gas expands in the heat of the day, so if you are filling your tank during the hottest part of the day you are getting less gas for the same price.

Drive your car efficiently. Do not quickly accelerate or abruptly stop. Sudden stop-and-go movements burn up more gas than driving more smoothly.

Parking in the shade will prevent loss from evaporation. It also keeps your car cooler, which means your engine will have to work less. Your air conditioner will also work faster if your car isn't already too hot inside.

Energy Bills:
Check for leaks that can also cause a waste of water. Avoid using harsh toilet bowl cleaners or tank tablets. They can damage plastic and rubber parts that could lead to leaks.

Using new appliances with the Energy Star label will save you money on your energy bills.

Don't place lamps or TV sets near your air-conditioning thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.

Weatherize your home-caulk and weather-strip any doors and windows that leak air.

Set your thermostat as low as possible to stay comfortable in the winter and as high as possible in the summer. If you have a programmable thermostat you can save up to 10 percent on your heating bill by turning the heat down from 72 degrees to 65 degrees for eight hours a day. This can be easily done during the hours you are at work or even during the time you sleep and are able to have blankets to keep warm.

Groceries:
Never shop for groceries when you are hungry. Always eat a full meal before heading to the store to prevent yourself from buying food you don't need.

Make more vegetarian meals. Cutting meat out of a couple of meals a week can save you a lot on your grocery bill.

Use coupons for items that are also on sale. Grocery stores have in store specials and you can save even more when you pair those savings up with coupons. Search the Internet for many coupons and deals that are exclusively given online.

Packing your own lunch will save you immensely compared to going out to eat for lunch at fast food restaurants.

Start a garden and grow your own fruit and vegetables in the summer time. This will save on your grocery bill and give you a fun new hobby.

Substitute national name-brand items for their equivalent store-brand counterparts. Many times they share the same ingredients, may be actually healthier, and are a fraction of the price.

Find your own ways to be frugal daily and you find that you won’t have to stretch your money as much.

 

 

 
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I hope you all are enjoying Frugal February. I know that there are quite a few tips that I have used throughout the years that have probably saved me a buck or two.

First things first, we made it through the holidays above water and we didn't even have to juggle any bills around this year. We were able to purchase all our gifts and groceries without using credit or having it affect any of our regular bills.

As far as our New Year's resolution goes, like most resolutions we are on a bit of a delay. We are still guesstimating our budget instead of taking an evening to sit down and construct a solid one. I still stand by the importance of establishing a budget and my wife and I are not flying blind but I know there are a couple of holes that could be filled by establishing our budget.

Hopefully some of your resolutions got off to a better start than mine, and if they haven't, that's ok it's still early.

Being frugal really is key with when it comes to saving money. These articles are hard to write, only because there are so many frugal ideas out there to choose from. I think that the best ones that I find are the ones that are obvious. You know the ones that you read and say “well duh” but then you realize that you might not have ever tried it.

A good example is, if you want to save money on the light bill make sure you turn off the lights that you are not using. That's quite obvious but many times I'm at home either cooking dinner or playing with my daughter and there are probably half a dozen lights on that don't need to be. So basically I'm hoping that when you are reading the obvious suggestions that they help you make a conscious effort when it is presented to you. I can guarantee you that whenever I write about energy conservation I spend a lot of time at home keeping the lights regulated.

Valentine's day is around the corner and yet another holiday to panic and worry about picking the perfect gift. I'm lucky in the fact that Valentine's Day has always been a pretty mild holiday for my wife and I. We started dating over 5 years ago and I think that every Valentine's Day has been spent with one of us cooking a fancy dinner for each other and maybe a nice bottle of wine and dessert. We also will exchange cards and maybe throw in a couple of flowers for good measure.

Now that we have a little toddler running around it's been even harder to find quiet time and I doubt we would get much relaxation by sitting in a crowded waiting area, only to be hurried through an expensive meal and an even more expensive glass of wine. Besides we would much rather spend a nice dinner out on a whim and not because we feel like we have to because of a holiday. I try hard to show love and admiration towards my wife everyday. (This is the part where she reads this and says AHHHH)

One of my other resolutions is also a popular one among many people and that is to get in better physical shape. This of course requires some effort and equipment. I'm lucky enough to have a second hand sports fitness store where you can purchase items for low prices.

I bought a couple of dumbbells as well as a chin-up bar. I already have some other free weights that I can use. The problem is that I became fascinated by a fitness infomercial that featured intense workout DVDs with results guaranteed. Like everything that is guaranteed it had a healthy price tag on it. I know that there are plenty of resources I can use to find a good workout routine, it's just that I am trying to convince myself that this is the structure and motivation I need to stay on a regular workout regiment. I haven't taken the plunge yet as I am still looking for a workout that is similar but won't cost me as much.

Another option is I could do a couple routines from the cache of workout DVDs hidden among the rest of our movie collection. I'm sure those were meant to get me back in shape and I'm sure that I guaranteed that they would be the videos to get me into a regular routine. I guess I will just have to do it the old fashion way with hard work.

Until next month, good luck and have fun.

 

 

 
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Frugal Activites for the Kids

Kids can get bored very quickly and you can't keep buying them a new video game every time they grow tired of the ones they already have. There are plenty of affordable activities that you can do as a family.

Get a hold of your Chamber of Commerce. They may have a list of attractions that are free or little cost and geared towards the family. This way you will have an entire list and you can make a schedule for when you want to visit each attraction.

Go to the park and feed the ducks. Take some old bread that you were going to throw out and take it to the park for all the hungry migrating birds.

Go fishing. It's fairly easy to learn and fun way to spend a day. Adults will need to purchase a fishing license but usually children under the age of 16 will be able to fish for free.

Have a scavenger hunt. Make a list of a bunch of things that kids can find in or out of the house and let the kids explore to mark off all the items on their list. Your kids will have a blast.

Your library is the most frugal place with the most things for children to do. Sign up to receive notifications for the libraries activities. They will often have story time, crafts and activities, and may even show movies or programs. It can also be fun for adults to hear special speakers appear. Even if there are no special events, you and your children can spend hours exploring all the books and materials. You may also want to check with any local bookstores as well for free entertainment.

Build a fort indoors. All you need is a card table and a few blankets. Give your kids a flashlight and you will be surprised by how much time they will spend in there.

Have your kids write a letter to family members that live out of town. These will go a long way with loved ones than the usually email or phone call they usually get. If you have grandparents that live in town have them write a letter then hand deliver it to them.

A great activity and learning tool is to find a way for the entire family to work together by volunteering. It can be as easy as spending some free time at a retirement home or helping to serve food at a homeless shelter. There are jobs that can be delegated to everyone and it's a great way for them to learn about charity at an early age.

An activity that seems to be costing parents more and more each year is to have extravagant birthday parties for children. There are plenty of ways you can have a great party without breaking the bank.

Keep the party at home. Entertainment centers and hotels can be expensive to book and you can save a lot by hosting the party at your own home. If you don't want to have to deal with a big mess that a party can leave, call around to find the best price and don't be afraid to negotiate.

Try and keep the guest list small and budget accordingly. Obviously the smaller the guest list the less you will have to spend on everything else. You don't need to invite every kid in the grade, have your child pick a handful of friends and expect to invite close family members.

You don't need to hire a clown or magician to keep the kids entertained. Just come up with a couple of fun activities, games, or crafts that can keep the kids busy between food and gifts. Prizes and party favors can be bought for a small price at party supply stores or through catalogs like Oriental Trading.

Plan ahead and make your own food for the party. This will save you from having to order out or having to buy expensive bakery cakes. Stick with food that is easy to make in large quantities like sloppy joes or hot dogs. Shop at Costco, Sam's Club or other discount store. Make your list beforehand and estimate the costs. You may find that you can order pizzas for a comparable price, as many pizza places have offers when you buy more than a couple pizzas. I'm sure if the prices are close you may opt for the convenience of the pizza.

Make your own invitations and thank you notes, especially if you have your own home computer. You can add a personal touch and can save money by not buying the store brand invitations and thank you notes.

It's easy to be frugal with kids as it just takes a little imagination and the opportunities are endless. The important part is to spend time with your kids and try and learn a few things along the way.



 
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