Frugal laundry tip – towels

Almost everything you do costs money. But there is almost always a way to save money. Here are ways to save money with your towels.

A while back, I wrote about how to save money, time and the environment by washing pajamas more rationally. You can read the article here.

Today, I am going to save you even more money on laundry through the magic of simple mathematics. I know, you thought that graduating high school meant never having to do math again, but I will walk you though it step by step. [Read more…]

Get fit, not broke

Fitness doesn’t have to cost a lot.  Here are some tips to get fit from free to not-very-expensive.

If you are ready to get your body into shape, but your resources are slim, you’re not alone. Many people think it takes money to get into shape and enjoy living. Not so. While there are ways to spend money getting fit, you can do it yourself on much less money than you might think. [Read more…]

Top tips to eat healthy on a budget

Want to start eating healthier, but don’t have a big food budget? With a little planning and some tweaks to how you think about cooking, you can make it happen.

I work on certain principles for healthy eating:

  • Be a pig with veggies.
  • When in doubt, eat as close to natural as possible.
  • Eat less at a time.  Don’t give your body a chance to gorge.
  • Eat more frequently.  Don’t give your body a reason to store food as fat.
  • If you don’t carefully plan all your nutrients, variety is the spice of health.
  • Make healthy eating a habit, so it’s just what you do, rather than a chore.

[Read more…]

Quirky ways to save money on your car

I am sure you have heard all the “usual” ways to save money on your car.  Lets’ breeze through them quickly to refresh your memory…

  • Shop around before buying.
  • Buy a smaller car.
  • Check insurance costs before deciding what to buy.
  • Shop around for insurance.
  • Pay cash rather than a car loan.
  • Drive slowly to conserve gas.
  • Keep your car well-maintained.
  • Keep the trunk empty to save gas.
  • Keep tires inflated.
  • Don’t idle.
  • Car pool.
  • Combine errands.

Did I miss any?  Probably a few.  All great advice, of course.  But these “usual” ways to save money on your vehicle are fairly > yawn < boring.  How about some fresh, quirky, exciting ways to save big bucks on your vehicle or with your vehicle?

Let’s start with something tame.  Turn the air conditioning on at high speeds.  Why?  Because the wind drag gets more as your speed gets higher.  And wind drag can really eat up fuel.  So on the highway, keep the windows closed and the air conditioning on.

But in the city, roll down the windows and turn off the air conditioning.  Why?  Air conditioning does use up energy, and lowered windows do not use up energy at low speeds.

So you can save money at high speeds one way, and save money at low speeds another way.

OK, ready for something just a little more quirky?

Don’t buy a red car.  Yes, police officers are racist when it comes to cars – even if they don’t think they are.  Research has shown that police are more likely to give a speeding ticket to the driver of a red car than to drivers of other cars going the same speed.  No – wait!  It turns out police like red cars; they hate grey cars.  It’s all psychological of course – all except the ticket you have to pay.

Walk.  Or bike.  Or skateboard.  OK, that’s not too quirky, but keep in mind that if you walk most places or take the bus and you own a car, you should drive it at least once a week.  That keeps all the moving parts under the hood well-lubricated.  Sometimes when you don’t drive a car for a few weeks, things stick.  Sometimes very badly.  Sometimes costing a lot.

But wait!   A car is a costly beast to maintain.  If you typically don’t drive it more than once every two weeks, maybe you could save money by joining a car-sharing program or even just renting a vehicle when you want to travel outside of your usual haunts.

Here is one that is a little off the wall and surely not one that we can recommend.  Call in sick more often.  Every time you stay home instead of driving to work, you save on gas, wear-and-tear and mileage on your vehicle.  If you call in sick an extra five times a year, you could save a few hundred dollars. A job is supposed to earn you money, but in fact you lose money by going in to work when you could stay home with the Activated Recessive Influenza (or whatever disease you invent).

OK, last one.  Live in your car.  This is, of course, pretty extreme.  But what about just temporarily, using your car as a hotel?  Friends of mine actually did this.  They travelled to Costa Rica and instead of having to search for a place to stay each night, they rented an SUV that could accommodate them at night.  They paid less for the car rental than they would have paid for a combined smaller car rental and accommodations, plus they spent more time enjoying the countryside and less time arranging accommodations.

All it takes to save money on your car is some discipline and the willpower to be quirky.  Do you have what it takes?


My best financial tip

Money can’t buy happiness. That’s not my tip – that is just a prelude, and an obvious one at that. Because, although money might not buy happiness, the lack of money has been known to buy misery.  This is Financial Literacy Month, and it appears that Canadians need better financial literacy.  As do our American cousins.

This blog post is part of the Blog for Financial Literacy campaign, where each participant offers up their best financial tip.

My tip today might seem obvious. Indeed, it is obvious – and it has been spoken by wiser and more eloquent people than me. Yet most people – including myself (sigh) – totally ignore it. Not everyone who ignores it is miserable, of course. But most people who are miserable about money are miserable because they have ignored this one simple tip:

Don’t spend more money than you have.

How many people ignore this simple tip?

Everybody who carries a balance on their credit card. Everybody who has taken pout a loan. Everybody who has debt.

I know, I know. Sometimes you get a wallop in the wallet and you just need to borrow some money. And, yes, a mortgage is usually a good investment (if you don’t try to buy as much house as you can “afford” with a mortgage).

But debt should be an exception to the rule. It should not be a way of life. If you are already in debt, that is not the time to decide to buy a cottage or a motor boat. First pay down the debt, then save up for the splurge, then have fun.

READ ALSO: 8 sneaky ways to get free furniture

READ ALSO: Get a $1000 Raise With Your Personal Fast Food Outlet

Yes, you will have to wait. Yes, you will have to defer some pleasure. Yes, some people will say that you have only one life to live, so buy things right away and get the most out of life.

Sorry, that’s a lie. Buy now, pay much more later might bring you some pleasure sooner. But if later on you are spending so much of your money feeding interest payments, that you can’t buy the fun things you want, you don’t gain a thing. You lose; you might even lose big time.

And I know that more than one savvy reader is thinking about the even bigger misery that debt creates. It is no secret that couples fight most about money.  And life sucks when you are fighting with your partner, your comrade-in-arms, your best friend.  And even more so when you have to go through a divorce.

You can accelerate your savings by adopting some frugal habits.  We have had some fun with frugal on this blog, but of course it’s about more than just fun.  It’s about avoiding misery, too.

Am I the only person so unrealistic as to recommend spending only what you make?  No.  Here are a few of the top personal finance bloggers and their thoughts on the subject:

Money can’t buy you happiness, but it sure can help you avoid falling into a pit of misery.  So earn more and spend less, and paint a great big smile on your face.

Get a $1000 Raise With Your Personal Fast Food Outlet

It’s not Wendy’s. It’s not McDonald’s. It’s not the Colonel. It’s…

… your freezer.

Yes, fast food is as close as your freezer. The appeal of fast food is that it is fast. No cooking. No time spent cooking. No cleaning twenty pots and twenty pans. But it does cost a bit – certainly much more than eating in.

Sure, it’s fun to make a Nasi Briani stir fry, and much cheaper than eating out, but fast food is – fast!

But so is your freezer.

What? Your freezer has tubs of ice cream, frozen peas and something that looks like it once was gravy? Or spaghetti? Or something?

Next time you cook Nasi Briani, spaghetti sauce, any casserole or dish, cook lots. Cook enough for five or six meals. Cook two different dishes at the same time (many of the ingredients might be the same, so you need only grate cheese or chop tomatoes once for two dishes (10-12 meals).

Eat one of the dishes – that’s your supper. Yum.

Once the others have cooled enough, separate them into 9-11 containers. Label each with what is in the container – including the date it was frozen, so you can keep track and not leave it too long (ideally, eaten within 6-8 weeks).

Nasi Briani with rice
One portion
April 23, 2012


READ ALSO: The frugal shopper’s guide to protein

FRUGAL: So a traditional fast food meal that might cost something like ten dollars to eat, will cost you more like three dollars at home. Not much of a dent in your budget for one day, but if you can replace 100 meals a year this way, you have saved about $700. When you factor in taxes, that’s like getting close to $1000 raise!

GREEN: Have you ever given a moment to really review how much paper and plastic and foam you throw away after eating at a fast food restaurant? No? I don’t blame you. It’s enough to make anyone who hopes for a future on this planet churl their stomach. Save the planet at your own, personal fast food outlet – your freezer.

HEALTH: It’s no secret that traditional fat food – oops, I mean “fast” food – is not exactly very healthy. Loaded in fats and sugars, and bearing little resemblance to anything Mother Nature has grown for us, fast food has been fingered as to blame for much of America’s obesity epidemic.

PERSONAL: Do you want food prepared just for you, the way you like it. Freezer fast food is 100% customizable. Put in what you want. Nothing more. Nothing less. Like t spicy? Like it mild? Want a big portion? Want a small portion? You decide how you will serve yourself.

Fast food in the comfort of your home, made exactly the way you like it, easy on the planet, easy on your body, easy on your pocket book. Time to check your freezer fast food.

Searching High and Low for a Deal

Which of these three animals pays more for his groceries?

A) The beaver
B) The moose
C) The giraffe

If you guessed the moose, you are right. But do you know why?

Manufacturers fight hard for eye-level space in grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores and other retail outlets. They often pay for the space. Retailers, for their part, want to place those items that earn them the biggest profits (the highest mark-up) at eye level. This is because of: “The Rule of Lazy”. Which states that people will look where it is easiest to look, in other words, at eye level.

READ ALSO: Get a $1000 Raise With Your Personal Fast Food Outlet

What this means is that anything at eye level has the highest mark-up. And guess who pays that markup? Poor Mr. Moose. The can of beans that the giraffe buys from the top shelf and the can of beans that the beaver buys from the bottom shelf will have less of a marketing fee tacked onto the price than the can of beans that the poor moose will end up buying.

You can look high and low and never find the meaning of life. But you will find a cheaper can of beans.

This post was featured at Managing Your Personal Finances List #3.

Five Animals Teach Us Less-wasteful Dining Habits

Feeling frugal?  Wondering how to save some money and time, while still eating healthy and helping the environment?  Here are five animals showing us ways to eat less wastefully, saving time and money, while helping our health and the environment.

The Fox
Saves: money, environment, health
Lesson: Buy direct from the source

By the time you buy a dozen eggs at the grocery store, they have been through several hands…and at least two weeks of handling, often three.  By the time you finish that last egg, it might already be four weeks old.  Not very fresh.

The fox goes straight to the source – the henhouse.  No middlemen adding extra prices.  No back-and-forth-between-between-companies transportation adding extra pollution.  No warehouse lay-overs reducing freshness.  In many cases, no (or less) chemicals and hormones polluting your meal.

Pretty foxy strategy.

The Giraffe
Saves: money
Lesson: Check for cheaper items

Stores always place in front of your face the items that yield the biggest profits.  These are the very things that a frugal-minded person least wants to be coaxed into buying.

The giraffe looks for less-obvious alternatives.  His long neck reaches for higher leaves and items tucked out of sight on the top shelves.

Always stretch your neck a little to see if you can find a less-costly option.

The Bear
Saves: money, time, environment
Lesson: Buy in bulk

Many people buy the same items week after week.  This makes sense for milk and eggs; they would spoil if you buy them months in advance.  But for many things, it makes no sense to make hundreds of trips to buy the same thing.

The bear shops bulk.  He doesn’t flit from flower to flower to collect honey; he waits for the bees to gather the nectar and churn out huge quantity of honey.  This way, the bear needs go only once to collect a huge amount of honey all at once.  When we do this, the item usually costs less, and we save time, money and pollution by reducing transportation.

Yeah – let someone else do the work.

READ ALSO: Three animals search high and low for a deal

READ ALSO: Get a $1000 Raise With Your Personal Fast Food Outlet

The Spider
Saves: money, time, environment, health
Lesson: Eat in

People seem to be eating out more and more.  But restaurant food is usually much more fat-laden, sugar-stuffed and salt-infused than food made at home.  It also costs much more.  And it often takes longer to eat, when you consider transportation time, preparation and the inevitable waiting-for-the-bill ritual.

The spider never eats out.  He waits for food to come to him, prepares it and devours it on the spot.  He saves time, money and the risk of getting squished by a boot.

Eat in and enjoy the privacy and the savings.

The Squirrel
Saves: money, time
Lesson:Buy when there’s a surplus

We buy things all year ’round, even things that could last quite a while. Apples and squashes are plentiful and cheap in the Fall, but keep well in a cool corner of the basement or garage for months.  Some items are overstocked after Christmas.  These are the times to buy.

The squirrel does most of his shopping when the nuts are plentiful, then stores them away to eat over the course of the winter.  This saves a lot of time that otherwise would be spent running around looking for food.

Why run from store to store, when the store can be right at home?