Extreme Ways to Save

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by writer Melissa Neiman for a story on frugality.

Well, I’m thrilled to say that her article, 6 Extreme Ways to Go Frugal and Save, is the top story on bankrate.com today.

Please check it out, and learn how you can save $10,000 (or more) each year. If you’re going to save, you may as well save BIG — and this article shows you some fabulous ways to do so!

Many thanks to Melissa for including me in this piece. I hope you enjoying reading it!

Frugal Travel: Five Ways to Cut Food Costs

breadcheeseDining out for every meal can take a big bite out of your travel budget! Use the following five techniques, however, and you can cut your food costs dramatically:

1. Visit the grocery store. Stock your hotel room with snacks and beverages, to avoid raiding the mini-bar when hunger strikes.

2. Pack your own snacks. Whether you’re on a road trip, or sightseeing, bring along your own snacks. It’s much cheaper than hitting a convenience store or vending machine.

3. Picnic. Instead of eating in a restaurant, picnic in a park or other scenic spot. Pick up cheap and healthy fare at a local market.

4. Avoid tourist traps. Restaurants near popular tourist attractions often charge sky-high prices (and serve sub-par food).

5. Rent a short-stay apartment. If you’re staying longer than a week, consider renting an apartment. Having kitchen facilities can save you a fortune over dining out!

Frugal Décor: Make Your Own Duvet Cover

duvetGive your bedroom a designer look on a dime, by making your own duvet cover. Here’s how to do it in five easy steps:

1. Buy two flat sheets the same size as your comforter. For the best prices, try discount stores and white sales. If you’d like, decorate them with fabric paint.

2. Place the right sides of the sheets together, and sew straight lines down three sides

3. Turn inside out.

4. Attach closures—like Velcro, snaps, buttons, or grommets and ribbon—to the fourth side

5. Insert your old comforter, and admire your handiwork

For more inspiration and instruction, see the following websites:

How To Make Your Own Duvet Cover | eHow.com

Sew Your Own Duvet Covers | About.com

DIY Duvet Cover | care2.com

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Frugal Finance: Know Your Net Worth

networthmoneyKnow your net worth—it’s an essential step towards taking control of your finances.

Your net worth is simply your assets (cash, stock, bonds, certificates of deposit, the current value of real estate and vehicles you own) minus your liabilities (mortgages, car loans, student loans, home equity loans, consumer loans and credit card balances).

Do the math, and calculate the figure. Ideally, it should be positive (and the bigger the better!).

Once you know your net worth, keep it in mind as you make financial decisions. Understand that every time you buy something, you’ll have to decrease your assets (by taking money out of savings) or increase your liabilities (by taking on debt) to pay for it.

Ask yourself whether that new handbag or stereo system is really worth sacrificing some of your net worth. Once you think about it, you may decide you’d be happier with a bigger bank account than the item in question!

Frugal Travel: Save on Car Rentals

rentalcarIf you have to rent a car on your next trip, try the following tips for big savings:

* Shop around.
Use travel websites, like Expedia.com and Travelocity.com, to find the best deal.

* Use discounts.
Membership in groups like AAA or AARP may qualify you for discounted rates.

* Use coupons.
Search the internet, or car rental websites, for coupons and special promotions.

* Rent from a non-airport facility.
You’ll usually pay a premium to rent a car at the airport.

* Compare daily and weekly rates.
It may be cheaper to rent a car for the week, even if you only need it a few days.

* Don’t buy unnecessary insurance.
Understand what coverage your personal auto policy (or credit card you’re using) provides before you arrive at the rental counter.

* Fill the tank before you return the car. Rental companies often charge exorbitant prices to refill the car with gas.

Frugal Garden: Ten Ways to Get Free Plants

plantsWant a beautiful backyard on a budget? You don’t have to pay retail prices at the nursery or home improvement store.

Here are ten ways to get free plants:

1. Drive around your neighborhood on trash day. You’ll often find potted plants on the curbside, and healthy greenery amidst the landscaping “debris.”

2. Contact landscapers, and ask if you can have the plants they’re tearing out.

3. Ask local nurseries if you can have their old stock when they clear their shelves for new inventory.

4. Check community resources; some towns offer free trees for residents to plant.

5. Browse through offerings online
at Freecyle.org and Craigslist.com.

6. Save seeds from your flowers and vegetables, and plant them.

7. Plant self-seeders. Your garden will grow fuller each year, with no additional work or expense.

8. Take cuttings from your current plants (or those of friends and neighbors), and grow new ones.

9. Make friends with gardeners. They’ll often give away extra plants when clearing their beds.

10. Invest in perennials. You may have to buy the first batch, but they’ll multiply over time. Individual plants can be divided about every three years.

Frugal Entertainment: Letterboxing

compassLooking for a fun, but frugal, outdoor activity? Try letterboxing! It offers the thrill of a treasure hunt, at little to no cost.

Participants hide waterproof boxes in remote places, then publish clues to their location on the internet. The boxes contain such items as a logbook, rubber stamp, and other optional goodies.

Hunters decipher the clues, and search for the boxes. Depending on their location, a compass and map may be needed to find them.

When hunters uncover a box, they record their discovery by stamping a logbook, or posting an entry on a related letterboxing website.

Searches often involve scenic nature walks, and can be a great way to spend an afternoon with the family. (The treasure hunt aspect is particularly exciting for children!)

For more information, check out the following websites:

Letterboxing North America

Atlas Quest: A Letterboxing Community

Letterboxing.Info

Frugal Décor: Be Your Own Interior Decorator

magazinesDon’t pay for the services of an interior decorator. Instead, get a design education on a dime by browsing home décor magazines and websites.

It’s a wonderful way to learn basic decorating techniques—like how to combine colors, play with texture, lay out furniture, and create interesting visual displays.

In fact, you can even go so far as to copy an entire room. Just instead of buying the expensive designer goods, see how closely you can replicate the look with what you already own (or can acquire on the cheap).

Shelter magazines work with the hottest designers and stylists to create the interiors featured on their pages—giving you access to their expertise and creativity, without their consultation fees.

Better yet, save money (and trees) by skipping the magazines and getting ideas from the internet. Most home décor publications offer much the same content online, at no charge. And there are plenty of other websites devoted exclusively to the subject of interior design.

Try the following for inspiration:

Apartment Therapy

Design Sponge

Elle Décor

Homes and Gardens

Architectural Digest

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Frugal Fashion: Smart Choices that Stretch Your Clothing Budget

closet2Choose your clothing strategically to make the most of a limited budget. Here are seven smart choices that’ll keep you fashionable for less:

1. Buy clothes in colors that mix and match. Neutrals give you the most mileage out of pants, skirts, suits, and shoes.

2. Buy clothes that are versatile, such as pieces you can dress up or down. The more outfits you can make from a few garments, the more money you’ll save!

3. Buy classic clothes. Stick to items that stay in fashion, and you’ll never run the risk of looking outdated.

4. Avoid trendy clothes. Don’t spend your hard-earned money on something that’ll be “out” in a few short months.

5. Buy clothes that fit. Don’t waste money on clothes that need to be tailored—or pieces you can’t wear until you drop those extra pounds.

6. Buy clothes that flatter you. You’ll wear them much more often, and avoid wasting money on wardrobe “mistakes.”

7. Accessorize. Instead of dropping $200 on a new outfit, freshen up an old one with a $20 scarf.

Frugal Home: Five Ways to Lower Laundry Costs

washingmachineSave money by reducing the water and energy you use to do laundry. Here’s five ways to keep your clothes and linens clean, while slashing your utility bills:

1. Do full loads. Partial loads use the same amount of energy as full loads, and can also waste water.

2. Wash towels less often. They really don’t need laundering on a daily basis; let them go 3-4 days (or even a week) between washings.

3. Wash clothes less often. Instead of washing after each wear, air them out, and use the “sniff test” (or presence of stains) to determine when it’s time for a cleaning.

4. Wash clothes in cold water. Heating the water accounts for significant energy use. Use the cold setting instead; it’s sufficient for all but the dirtiest loads of laundry.

5. Air-dry. Hang a clothesline in the backyard (or use a drying rack indoors), and dry your clothes without spending a dime.