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Making it all come together...

Who's to say you can't get some tremendous deals, on fabulous furniture, on a tight budget? Well no one, I guess. But when you're bouncing from one second-hand store to the next it’s hard to find the needle in the haystack, the grain of sugar in the salt shaker, the bathroom in the mall... I must admit that I have visited the majority of good will stores--also one Salvation Army thrift store and a newly opened thrift store on dyer and rushing--in the last week, desperately looking for anything to fill up the void that will be my new abode. My haul? 3 white dining room chairs in need of a craft-makeover, a small tabletop lamp, a wall picture, memo board, fixings for the bathroom and a bruised wallet.

Over the course of my savings spree this year I haven't shelled out money like I have recently. Biggest ticket items have always been paying off my debt, car, cell phone... erm an unpleasant habit of the “on-fire” nature... but this? This is madness. I buy on sale, in clearance, at thrift/salvage/outlet stores. I plan, I list, I bargain... I come out with still over twenty dollars worth of merchandise in nearly every store, something I haven't done since Christmas. Does it feel good? Well of course I enjoy knowing that my home will feel like my home. Does it really feel good? No. I don't want to look at the $1.50 brown towels hanging in my bathroom and think to myself that in the end it actually cost me $10,000.

So I'm eating my medicine and prioritizing my purchases. Things I need in order to survive on my own vs. things I would like to have... or rather things I desperately would love to have. Washer and Dryer? Well... I'd enjoy it so much if I did, but I just can't justify purchasing something that grandeur now and my budget will be very tight for the months to come. I'll have to stick to stopping by Mom's as she's offered and doing my laundry there and most likely make a Sunday night ritual of it. I'm sure dinner would be involved... two birds with one stone.

To help me sort out my obvious dilemma, I went on a quest. It started with attempting to remember what I had in my old apartment... cookware, tableware, linens, decor... It was all a fleeting memory. What if I moved into my new apartment, had an emergency, reached for the solution to my problem and realized it wasn't there and ended up in a bind? (Good examples: flashlight if the power goes out, basic tool kit if the faucet explodes, toilet plunger for... plungey situations)

Unable to rely on my memory I turned to my second brain, Luckily after a few different search strings I was able to pull something up. My First
Their checklists are fabulous! I am now filled with confidence when I create my lists, knowing what stores I’m going into and what I would like to come out with. Of course, doing research before hand, making sure I’m getting the best deal, helps me make even more confident decisions.

So as I go at this trek, this new quest to my life’s adventure, I am able to say that it’s okay to spend money. No self-help book will direct you to never make a single purchase again in your life. Just make sure you are informed and confident, that you are disciplined, but most of all that you aren’t creating stress where stress isn’t due. I’m getting adjusted to this one, maybe I’ll be able to take off my stress hat here real soon…

Decorate! Part I

If your living room walls are more bare than Mother Hubbard's cupboard, you might need to spice things up a bit. "Yes, I do, Dear Designer," you say. "But my last dollar went to Starbucks for that Triple shot, Skinny Cow, Double Chocolate latte!" As I peel you off the wall from your chocolate caffeine high, I recommend easy and cheap ways to add more interest to your walls. Although I will admit that the sight of you hanging off the wall with a chocolate mustache and twitchy eyes WAS interesting!

1. Lots of Frames. Visit your local dollar store or thrift shop and pick up cheap frames and mirrors of assorted sizes and shapes.

2. Remnants. Edge the frames with fringe, braid or even pompom remnants. Get the remnants from the thrift store, local fabric shop or raid your own rag bag. The lace on that old shirt that had a hole in it would work great around the mirror.

3. Paper. Don't have a painting or photo you want to display? Try framing of piece of remnant wallpaper, or a saved piece of wrapping paper, a fabric remnant that has a striking geometric print or even a colorful place mat cut to size (pick up one for a song at that same thrift store).

4. Chalkboards. Check out your child's room or your local thrift shop (yes, I DO spend all my time there!) for assorted chalkboards and arrange them on your wall. Use them for an ever-changing display of your child's art, messages, or caffeine-powered rants.

5. Just Paint. If you just cannot think of anything to put in those frames, paint in coordinating colors and hang them empty on the wall in groups. And if you have a sense of humor, you might frame that bad patch on the wall and pretend the blemish was intentional!

6. Records. Pick up old vinyl records from the thrift shop - particularly bad or scratchy ones because we don't want to ruin the good ones. For the sake of musical history, I recommend using old Lawrence Welk albums. Spray these in bright colors and attach them to the wall as instant graphic elements.

7. Used Canvases. Pick up old, used canvases from failed art projects at the thrift store (and shed a tear for dashed dreams of artistic grandeur), spray paint the whole thing black or white. Then visit the kitchen corner of the thrift shop and pick up all of the wooden spoons, spray paint in bright colors and glue to the canvas in an arrangement of your choice. Hey, its not Matisse, but it works.

See! With a little imagination and some pocket change, you can add life to your living room walls. Now, I wonder what we could do with all those used Starbucks coffee stirrers you have been saving.

Save money on Electricity...

Listening to the radio this morning they were talking about ways to eliminate high electricity bills. I figured it was a good sign to cover a topic that I hadn't covered before. I'm about to take that great leap (again ((for the fifth time))) and move into a new place. Taking on utilities bills is something I haven't done in quite a long time, rent for that matter. What better time than the month of April, Earth Day is coming up, to re-evaluate managing what we consume and trim costs on that consumption.

Even if you’re not on the green-movement bandwagon, you might want to look into buying energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) just to save money on electricity. True, CFLs cost a bit more than regular bulbs, but they consume a third of the power and last up to 10 times as long; that’s good news for the Earth and your wallet.

If your hot water heater is electric, it could account for up to twenty percent of your monthly electric bill. There are, however, several things you can do to reduce the money spent on electricity for hot water. (And don’t worry; they don’t involve taking cold showers!)

First, make sure your water heater is wrapped in a good hot water jacket, which insulates the tank. They’re only $10-$20, so even if you’re renting, offer to pay for one if your landlord will slap it on the tank for you. Next, wash your clothes with cold water whenever possible. While hot water is good for really dirty loads, it can also shrink and fade clothes; usually cold water does laundry just fine.

Finally, ensure that you do laundry and dishes efficiently. Don’t run half loads in the washer or dishwasher if you can help it, and learn to air dry your clothes. Yes, it’s not as fast, but you’ll learn to love not only the electricity you save, but also the crisp and unwrinkled feel of your clothes.

Heating, cooling, and cooking make up about 50% of household energy use. To save on your electricity, go easy on the AC or use a programmable thermostat to start cooling the air a few hours before you get home from work and to go off as the air cools at night and you go to bed.

Ceiling fans and attic fans are great at circulating the air, which can make your home feel many degrees cooler.

Large appliances like your refrigerator, stove, and microwave are other big consumers of electricity. Your fridge can account for 20% of household electricity use. Replacing old appliances with newer energy efficient models may seem like a big expense, but it can pay for itself in a few years. Set your fridge and freezer to lower (warmer) settings and make sure that the doors seal properly. You can do this by taking a piece of paper, your GECU bank statement would work nicely ;), and closing it in your fridge/freezer door. If you're able to move the paper up, down or pull it out, your doors are not sealing properly.

Note: I’ve been hearing a lot lately about unplugging appliances and electronics while you’re gone because they actually drain power even when they’re off. I was skeptical, so I dug around a bit. I found it to be true: Anything that’s plugged in will drain some juice, even when it’s turned off. Turns out, however, that the amount of power is so low that unplugging everything when you’re not home is unlikely to save you more than a dollar on you next electric bill.

Finally, installing low-flow shower heads, toilets, and faucets can reduce your overall hot water usage. Shower heads start at less that $20.

Save money on Toys

I remember writing my christmas lists when I was younger. I filled pages and pages of cutout pictures of toys from the Toys R' Us catalog. Money never figured into my reasoning, Santa was fully capable of bringing me everything I could ever want or need. As a firm believer in Santa Claus, I was never upset when he didn't bring me EVERYTHING. I looked at it as I was giving him a selection to choose from, I was going to be happy with anything he brought. But if you're not Santa, toys can get pretty expensive. So to help with that I give you the ten ways to save money on toys!

Host a toys party. Kids might play with toys for a little while, and then get bored with them. But they're perfectly good toys. To prevent waste, and to save money on getting new toys, invite some friends, family and neighbors to a toys party, asking everyone to bring good toys that they're willing to exchange. Have some food, play games, think up different ways to exchange the toys, and leave with a whole new set of toys, without spending a dime.

Thrift shops. They often have a bad image, but if you check out the thrift shops in your area, you might find that there are some good toys for very cheap. It's worth a look at least.

Rummage sales. You can get some great toys from people who are cleaning out their house or moving. Spend a Saturday looking at different rummage sales in your area. It can be a lot of fun.

Exchange a box with friends. When you notice your kids not playing with toys, just put it in a box in your closet. Ask your close friends to do the same. When the boxes are full, exchange them.

Make your own. Some of the best toys are made by parents. From kites to blocks to forts, if you get creative, you can make some fantastic toys and only spend a fraction of what it would cost to buy. And the best part: your child could help, especially with the decorating.

Shop after Christmas. It's well known that the best deals are the week after Christmas, when the rush is over and stores are trying to get rid of excess inventory. But there are other good sales as well, when stores are closing out, or trying to get rid of old inventory to make way for the new. Keep your eyes open and you can find some great deals.

Green them up. Getting environmentally friendly toys will not only help Planet Earth (and it's never too early to start teaching your kids about the environment), but they're also safer and cheaper in the long run. Avoid harmful PVC material, and look for wood — the toys will last much longer, and are safer for children. Look for simpler toys that don't require batteries. Look for non-toxic paints, and sturdier toys that will last a long time.

Use their imagination. Kids can be amazingly creative. Sometimes they enjoy playing in or with the box the toy comes in more than the toy itself. Give them some paint or beads or glitter and glue, and they can have a blast. Let them play outdoors, and make toys with sticks or other things they find in nature. Make a fort out of bedsheets or a refrigerator box. Let them use their imagination, and old toys can become new again.

Look for coupons or online sites. Do a search here or elsewhere online for discount coupons, or look on Freecycle or Craigslist for some free stuff.

Reduce your need. The best way to save money on something is to learn to need less of it. Talk to your kids about the cycle of consumerism, about always wanting more and newer toys, about how advertising creates a need in us to buy new stuff, about how it's bad for the environment to keep producing and consuming more and more stuff, about how kids in other parts of the world have to go without toys ... and teach them to spend their time helping others instead of wanting to buy stuff for themselves. It's never too early.



I've been thinking about a few other topics to post about and reviewing previous entries has me scratching my head. Alot of my entries are about food which tells me one of three things.
a.)I blog when I'm hungry--I heard thats dangerous to your health.
b.)I blog about what is my greatest spending weakness.
c.)I blog about my greatest spending weakness when I'm hungry thus making me want to eat more and spend more money.

Either way, its great to analyze and figure out where your head is at. Its not fun to think about money, worry about money, dream about money, but at least you know that you'll make conscious decisions about how your spending your money... even if they aren't always good conscious decisions.

My post today is going to dwell on just relaxing. Taking a day, hour, moment for yourself to fully emerge yourself in the essence of you. And in sticking with tradition, do it for next to nothing!

The Bath
This is your domain for the next 45 minutes to an hour. Gather your supplies, your soothing music, a good book and really just get away from it all. You can pick up some great smelling bubble bath from your local dollar store and some cheap scented candles there too. BUT test both before you enter into your sheltered oasis, because there'd be nothing worse than having your candle smell like feet as you're trying to dulge into the Wonderful World of Oz. Let the bath water get steaming hot, but don't get in just yet, lest you scald your skin. The steam will fill your bathroom and really set the tone.

The key to relaxing in the bathroom is to leave the outside world outside the door. Pick a good time when your husband/wife/kids/boss/creepy next door neighbor/or anyone else is unlikely to bust in. And for sanity's sake leave your cell phone in your purse... in your car... parked two houses down. This is you time. You time. YOU TIME.

The Morning Jog
This great relaxation tool is free and serves three ends. Relax. Get fit. Save money. All you need is a decent pair of running shoes (or a stick depending on where in El Paso you live) and a glass of water waiting for you when you get home. An added accessory is an MP3 player of sorts. While iPods are cool and trendy they aren't the only MP3 player, shop around and get the best bang for your buck. Then get some decent headphones that will actually stay on your ears as you're running amok in your neighborhood. But thats highly unnecessary, you generally just need you and the open road, or if you're jogging early in the morning before the sun is out a reflective vest will be a necessity.

Jogging releases something into your body that reacts with something else causing something to happen and makes you feel relaxed. It doesn't matter what all that mojo-jojo in the middle is just grasp the key concept: Jogging....makes you feel relaxed.

While cleaning is generally unfun, it is necessary, and again serves multiple purposes. Pick a day to clean something by yourself: a closet, a cupboard, a portion of the garage. The goal is to pick a part of your home that doesn't get sorted out as often as other portions so halfway through cleaning you'll discover a few forgotten keepsakes and nostalgia will set in and you'll get carried away looking at everything you've found and want to find more... okay so this is actually the anti-clean method, but you'll have sufficiently relaxed... and created a big enough mess to get you stressed out again.

Get a Hobby
A cheap hobby. Knitting, crocheting, reading, sewing, cooking, running, walking, pickup-sports, walking your pet, coaching/referring, visiting your local library, writing, playing a musical instrument, painting, drawing, yoga, meditation, baking, astronomy, kite flying, origami... you get the picture and doing a quick search on any of these topics will produce how to do it for cheap. Hobbies are fun, they're relaxing and they're great ways of finding out who you are.

How to save money on gas!!! 2!

How to save money on gas!!!

  1. Drive less

    1. Walk, bike, ride the bus or join a carpool.

    2. Reduce your commute by moving closer to work or working closer to home. This will save time as well as money. You may even be able to save even more money by becoming a one-car family.

    3. Combine trips. If you can do several short trips in one longer trip, you will save fuel and time. Make lists to avoid having to go back. Call ahead to avoid wasted trips.

    4. Walk between stops. Once you get into town, some of your stops may be near each other. Park between some or all of them and walk.

    5. Park in the first spot you find. If you wander all over the parking lot looking for that really close parking space, you'll use more gas. Don't be afraid to walk a ways if it comes to that - the walk will do you good!

  2. Find good prices

    1. Don't be brand conscious when buying gas. Buy where you can get the best deal. Regular gas is very much a commodity meaning there isn't any significant difference between any of the brands. In fact, all the brands fill their tanker trucks at whatever refinery is closest and the only difference between "brands" is a few gallons of a proprietary additive package that gets mixed with the fuel loaded to the truck. All additives must meet OEM and EPA performance standards so the only real difference between brands is the audacity of the superior performance claims.

    2. Use a fuel with the lowest required octane. Low-octane "regular" gas is usually all that is required. Octane is only a rating of the fuel's resistance to engine-damaging pre-ignition ("knock") in high-performance engines (that few people have). Low octane gas is less expensive and a better value if that's all your engine requires. Best case scenario you're wasting money by filling up with a higher than recommended grade of gas. Worst case scenario that high octane fuel is building up damaging carbon deposits in your engine because it's not being burned as completely as lower octane fuel would be. Check your owner's manual to be sure. Modern high performance cars will sometimes recommend higher octane fuels because they are engineered to use those fuels. The use of lower than recommended octane will not make your car explode, the ECM (Engine Control Module, aka:computer) will adjust the fuel injectors and spark timing to save the engine and compensate for you cheaping out at the pump. Those adjustments will consist of retarding the spark (reducing power and efficiency) as well as dumping lots of extra fuel into the cylinders to cool them, potentially costing you more than getting mid grade or premium IF that's what your car requires. Also remember that engines need less octane at higher altitudes. If your engine does not "knock" on regular, paying more for a higher octane rating is a waste since the increased octane makes no significant improvement to gas mileage and it is no better for your engine. All available fuels have detergent and additive packages.

    3. Apply for a credit card which offers gas savings when you use the card for purchases. This works in much the same way that some credit card companies allow you to earn frequent flyer miles when you use their card for purchases.

    4. Join a loyalty club. Some gas stations, department stores and grocery stores offer lower prices when you present their membership card. Keep your eyes open and verify that their prices are really lower than other stations in your neighborhood.

    5. Check the web for deals. With the ever increasing gas prices, use the Internet to find the cheapest gas near you. Some of these sites even offer text messaging capabilities, where they will send you the a text message with the location of the cheapest gas in your area. Here are 3 sites that enable you to search for lower price in your town: MapQuest, and now supplies a free gas card valid at most gas stations. But don't drive miles out of your way or wait in excessively long lines (your car gets 0 MPG while stopped and idling.) just for a cheaper station, or you will defeat the purpose.

    6. Mix octanes. In some areas, the lower octane may be too low for your car and the mid-grade or higher octane may be more than what you need. To avoid overpaying and still get the correct octane for your car you can mix the gas. For example, if your car takes 87 octane and the pumps have 85 octane and 89 octane, then when filling your car, fill half the tank with 85 octane and the other half with 89 octane and this will give you an equivalent of 87 octane plus it will save you money because the lower octane gas costs less.

    7. Determine whether gas with ethanol is right for your vehicle

      • If there is a high proportion of ethanol, the lower energy content of the fuel will almost always lower mileage.

      • Fuel with ethanol may be less expensive than standard gas, but consider the reduced fuel economy. You may or may not save money by filling up with cheaper (subsidized) ethanol blended fuel. You first need to know if, and how much your fuel economy suffers on ethanol blended fuel vs. non-ethanol fuel. You then need to calculate your fuel cost per mile (or km) for each fuel.

      • Ethanol is not much better for the environment, because only ethanol made with sugar cane is more fuel efficient from the harvesting and processing than regular gas. Fuels with ethanol additives can corrode fuel lines in vehicles not designed with ethanol fuels in mind, but E10 and E20 do not damage your engine.

    8. Don't refill your tank until the last quarter tank but don't push this any further. Doing this can extend your gas because you are hauling a lighter fuel load. It also gives you the opportunity to buy more gas if you run across a bargain. However, in cold weather, you run an increased risk of condensation in the fuel tank. Running a car with less than a quarter tank can shorten the life of the electric fuel pump and running on empty will often destroy the pump because it is forced to run constantly trying to pressurize fuel since it often has access to only air. The hard-running pump motor then overheats because it needs a bath of liquid fuel to transfer operational heat to and it also loses pressure building ability because its internal seals needs gas to lubricate against friction. Keeping the tank one-quarter full also is a safety issue as you never know when you might experience an emergency and need gasoline in your car!

    9. Fill the tank full. If you need to fill up, fill up all the way. The more money you try to save by adding $10 today and then $20 tomorrow will be wasted since each time you will have to travel to the station and wait for a pump. Instead, do it all at once to save time and money.

    10. Don't top off the tank. It is wasted money and bad for the environment because it invariably forces liquid fuel into the evaporative emissions system where it overwhelms circuits that are supposed to only route fuel tank vapors to the engine while it is running and can be burned.

    11. Buy gas on Wednesday. Gas prices are statistically the cheapest on Wednesdays, but this is only statistically true over a large number of days. It won't be true every week.

    12. Buy gas three days before a holiday. Gas prices almost always go up for holidays.

  3. Take care of your car

    1. Give your car a tune up. Properly maintaining your car will keep your car running as efficiently as possible.

      1. Change the oil regularly. Use a synthetic oil instead of mineral oil. This will cause your engine to run better and give you better mileage.

      2. Upgrade your air filter. More efficient brands of air filters cost a little more but will pay for themselves in most vehicles in fuel savings. Check it every oil change and change it regularly. Clogged air filters cause engines to work overtime which requires more fuel.

      3. Use a fuel injector cleaner or complete fuel system treatment occasionally. Not only will you see a boost in gas mileage, but in your car's overall performance. Fouled injectors vaporize fuel poorly, affecting how completely the fuel is burned.

    2. Upgrade your tires. Low resistance tires, such as Michelin Energy MX 4 Plus claim to increase gas mileage.

    3. Check the air pressure in the tires every week. Buy an inexpensive air pump and an accurate tire gauge. Keep all tires inflated to the pressure as recommended for your car.

    4. Clean out any unnecessary items in your car. If you have heavy objects in your car that you don't need, remove them. If your car is lighter, it will use less fuel to get where you're going.

    5. Remove unneeded racks. If you have a bicycle or ski rack, remove it when you're not using it. It causes drag and lowers mileage.

  4. Buy a different car

    1. Buy a diesel. Diesel cars can often get better mileage than comparable hybrids. Getting a diesel car also allows for use of bio-diesel or even waste vegetable oil (WVO/SVO) fuel.

    2. Buy a hybrid. Not only do hybrids give you immediate savings at the pump, the U.S. government and your local state offer tax breaks for people who use gas-saving cars. Federal deductions for using gas-saving cars can be as high as $2,000, but check before buying to see if they're still in effect. Also, check with your insurance company because Hybrids have higher insurance rates.

    3. Buy a smaller car. Generally speaking, smaller cars are lighter and get better mileage.

    4. Buy a motorcycle or scooter instead of a car. They are cheaper and often get 70 MPG or better. Riding gear is available for most weather conditions. A good example is the Kawasaki EX250, which costs about $3,000, gets 60-70 MPG at highway speeds, and can go 0-60 MPH in under 6 seconds!

  5. Drive smarter

    1. Avoid idling. While idling, your car gets exactly 0 miles per gallon while starting the car uses the same amount as idling for 6 seconds. Park your car and go into the restaurant rather than idling in the drive-through. Idling with the air conditioning on also uses extra fuel. Also, avoid going so fast that you have to brake for someone. Whenever you brake, you waste the gas it took to get going that fast.

    2. Plan a Road Trip">Plan your trips in advance. This can prevent wasting fuel and wasting time. Plan to use alternative routes. Often back roads can prevent you from stopping at traffic lights and more importantly sitting in traffic jams. Try to schedule your trips and errands when traffic is lighter.

    3. Use a global positioning system (GPS) to help you navigate and find the fastest and shortest distance to your destination. Avoiding hills and stops will increase your gas mileage.

    4. Drive at a consistent speed. Avoid quick acceleration and hard braking. Cruise control will keep you at a constant speed, even when going up and down hills.

    5. Avoid stops. If approaching a red light, see if you can slow down enough to avoid having to actually stop (because you reach the light after it is green). Speeding up from 5 or 10 miles per hour will be easier on the gas than starting from full stop.

    6. Anticipate the stop signs and lights. Look far ahead; get to know your usual routes. You can let up on the gas earlier. Coasting to a stop will save the gasoline you would otherwise use maintaining your speed longer. If it just gets you to the end of a line of cars at a red light or a stop sign a few seconds later, it won't add any time to your trip. Ditto for coasting to lose speed before a highway off-ramp: if it means you catch up with that truck halfway around the curve instead of at the beginning, you haven't lost any time. In many cities, if you know the streets well, you can time the lights and maintain the appropriate speed to hit all green lights. Usually this is about 35 to 40 MPH.

    7. Maintain a safe following distance. Don't stick to the bumper of the car directly in front of you. You will brake more and accelerate more to keep that unnecessary and dangerous narrow gap. This also gives you a lot more room to play with when you are timing traffic signals. Likewise, "Handle Tailgaters on the Road">ignore tailgaters. They will tailgate you whether you go the speed limit, or 100MPH over the speed limit. Allow them pass when it's convenient.

    8. Slow down. Air resistance goes up as the square of velocity. The power consumed to overcome that air resistance goes up as the cube of the velocity. Rolling resistance is the dominant force below about 40 mph. Above that, every mph costs you mileage. Go as slow as traffic and your schedule will allow. Drive under 60-65 since air grows exponentially denser, in the aerodynamic sense, the faster we drive. To be precise, the most efficient speed is your car's minimum speed in it's highest gear, since this provides the best "speed per RPM" ratio. This is usually about 45 to 55 miles per hour.

    9. Take off slowly from a full stop. This is one adjustment that will have dramatic effects on your gas mileage; don't tear off from a stoplight or stop sign!

    10. Stay well away from store fronts where you will spend significantly more time idling and waiting for pedestrians and other vehicles.

    11. Use A/C only on the highway. At lower speeds, open the windows. This increased the drag and reduces fuel efficiency, but not as much as the AC at low speeds (35-40 mph). The air con - when used a lot - is known to use up about 8% of the fuel you put into your car.

    12. Shift into neutral if you are not comfortable with downshifting. Standard transmission vehicles may save gas by shifting into neutral when going down hills steep enough to maintain speed (although engine braking is safer on steeper declines). Do not do this in a Hybrid car, they use this "regenerative engine braking" to generate electricity and charge the batteries. NOTE: This strategy will result in more wear and tear on your brakes. Neither of these strategies is recommended for normal automatic cars. Also, if you own a car with fuel injection, it is more efficient to keep the car in a high gear while going down hills. Simply take your foot off the gas.

    13. Park in the shade. Gasoline actually evaporates right out of your tank, and it does so faster when you park directly in the sun - winter or summer. Parking in the shade also keeps it cooler inside, and you will need less A/C to cool off when you get back in. If there is no shade available, park so that your gas tank (the actual tank under the car, not the valve to fill it) is facing away from the direct sun. Also, today's fuel systems are supposed to be airtight. Your gas cap should have a seal in it. Make sure that the seal is keeping the fumes in and outside air out.


A new month, A new revision

So I have been late in welcoming April in and kicking March out. But you know, its all about starting fresh and anew and tackling my budget to make sure I am maximizing my money... well, to the max.

I've reworked and tweaked and added and removed and planned and planned and I think I have settled on a good plan. Settled enough that I have it laminated, color coded and in my purse at all times.

In doing my planning, revising, and budgeting I came to the conclusion that short term goals should be incorporated within longterm goals. My ultimate goal is to do the best that I can in this competition, so I plan and budget for the remainder of the year even though every month I've revised and edited. This is a good guage at what I've accomplished, what I need to work at and where I should be when everything is over.

I'll have to admit though, I'm more stressed about money than I was when I was super in debt. I think about it nonstop, worry that I'm spending too much, fretting over the little things I've yet to curb and bang my head against the roof of my car as I'm filling up. Not knowing how the other competitors are doing is also something that fills me with dread, even though I know that i'm my biggest competitor in this challenge. I will make or break myself regardless of what anyone else is doing.

So take in hand my budget of money and add to it a budget of time, food, gas, luxuries and addictions. Budgeting is for maintenance and wellbeing. If my budget is well established, financially my bank account will be well-maintained. Establishing a budget for the other intricacies of life will boost my monetary budget as well as my efficiency, physical appearance and dependency on outside addictions.

Now if only I can figure out a stable way of putting a life budget into practice... sounds like a rigorous schedule to me... what else do I have to do though?

Healthy Foods for Under $1

One of the best ways to reduce your food bills is to cut back on packaged and processed foods and substitute in more fresh and healthier foods. Packaged and processed foods typically contain more sugar and sodium. They're also quite a bit more expensive. Here's a list of 17 healthy foods that can be had for less than a dollar per serving. I've included the prices from my local supermarket in Portland, Oregon. Actual prices can vary quite a bit based on geography and growing season.

Rice - Rice is the most consumed staple in the world with nearly half of the developing worlds caloric intake coming from rice. The processing of rice removes much of its nutritional value. Brown rice retains the most nutritional value and white rice loses the most. Many rice producers enrich white rice with vitamins to add back in some of the nutritional value lost in the processing of rice. When you go to the supermarket many rice products will say "enriched" on the packaging. Even after enrichment whole brown rice is still more nutritional.

Cost: Rice can be stored up to two years so it makes a good deal of economic sense to buy in bulk. If you buy 20 pounds or more you can find rice for less than 50 cents per pound. It is one of the most economical foods on the planet with a 100 calories of cooked rice costing roughly 3-4 cents.

Oatmeal - My grandma swore by the health benefits of oatmeal. She had a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast every morning and lived well into her nineties. Oatmeal is rich in dietary fiber and has been shown to lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health.

Cost: My local Winco has old fashioned oatmeal for 42 cents a pound. I typically have a cup of oatmeal with some cinnamon mixed in for breakfast costing roughly 20 cents.

Potatoes - As long as potatoes are prepared without loading them up with butter or sour cream they can be an extremely nutritious low calorie staple that's high in fiber and other vitamins.

Cost: There are several types of potatoes but you can typically find most types of potatoes for between 40 and 60 cents per pound.

Eggs - A great source of affordable low calorie protein. One egg contains just over 5 grams of protein.

Cost: 20 cents or less per egg with a typical breakfast containing two eggs.

Popcorn - Popcorn is high in dietary fiber and low in calories and fat as long as you don't load it up with salt and butter. According to Wikipedia popcorn became a popular snack food during the Great Depression. It's easy to see why, popcorn is one of the most inexpensive snack foods around especially if you pop your own popcorn.

Cost: Loose kernels cost around 75 cents per pound. A typically microwave packet contains 2.8 ounces of dry popcorn kernels which comes out to roughly 13 cents if you pop it yourself.

Apples - An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Apples are loaded with dietary fiber and antioxidants. Nearly all apples are under a dollar per apple in the supermarkets produce sections.

Cost: Apples like all fruits are considerably cheaper during peak harvest seasons. Jonagold and Golden Delicious apples run between 70-80 cents per pound, Red Delicious typically run around 90 cents per pound and Fuji apples $1.20 per pound.

Watermelon - Watermelon is a great summertime thirst quencher. It's very filling and low in calories due to the amount of water it holds. It's also packed with a number of antioxidants and vitamins. It also contains amino acids such as citrulline and arginine which promote cardiovascular health.

Cost: You can typically find watermelon for around 40 cents a pound, and cheaper during growing season.

Garbanzo Beans - As with most beans garbanzo beans also known as chickpeas are rich in dietary fiber and are a great source of protein. A cup of garbanzo beans contains more than a quarter of daily recommended protein. Studies have also shown that garbanzo beans lower LDL, the bad cholesterol.

Cost: You can pick up garbanzo beans for a $1 per pound.

Pinto Beans - Like garbanzo beans, pinto beans are packed with dietary fiber that helps reduce the bad cholesterol and is a great source of protein. Pinto beans are among the most affordable beans available.

Cost: 77 cents per pound.

Bananas - Sort of like natures candy bar bananas are a delicious creamy fruit which is rich in potassium and delivers a burst of energy.

Cost: 40-60 cents per pound.

Kiwis –Packed with vitamin C, this sweet tasting low calorie fruit makes an excellent out of the ordinary snack.

Cost: You can often find kiwis on sale three for a dollar.

Cantaloupe – Cantaloupe is rich in Vitamin A and C, and potassium. This sweet, cool fruit is also low in calories. Like most fruit Cantaloupe prices vary greatly throughout the year.

Cost: In-season you can find it for low as 19 cents per pound and out-of-season it can run you up to 60 cents per pound.

Carrots - Have garnered a reputation for improving eyesight because of the beta-carotene they contain. Carrots are low in calories and packed with essential vitamins and minerals. They are easy to pack and make a great healthy snack.

Cost: Carrots typically cost 50 cents per pound for the large variety and $1.25 per pound for baby carrots.

Lentils - Lentils are a protein powerhouse, one cup of cooked lentils contains more than a third of recommended daily value of protein. Lentils like most legumes are also packed with cholesterol lowering dietary fiber.

Cost: 90 cents per pound.

Grapefruit – Is a fruit so low in calories it even has a diet named after it. Grapefruit is packed with Vitamin C and extremely low in calories. It has a tart taste which helps to quench people's hunger.

Cost: 50 cents per pound.

Nuts – Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are packed with monounsaturated fats which are considered healthy fats. Several studies have shown that nut consumption lowers your risk of heart disease. Nuts make a great snack that’s easy to pack up and take anywhere.

Cost: Almonds $2.98 pound, Walnuts $2.88 a pound.

Water - Water is one of the key building blocks of health. Replacing soft drinks and high calorie, sugary drinks is one of the best things you can do for your health. Drinking plenty of water also cuts down on hungar and food consumption.

Cost: Practically free.

12 ways for college students to save money!

Many of us have to maintain a lean lifestyle when we are in college. While you could argue that this is an effective way to build character, that perspective doesn’t make life any easier when you’re sitting down for another bowl of Ramen noodles. If you are a college student who is having trouble making ends meet, try the following 12 simple tips for saving money.

1. Create a household budget. Most importantly, you need to make sure you stick to the budget.
2. Avoid buying new textbooks. If you can’t find what you need at a local used bookstore, try eBay or socialbib. The latter is a free online book swap for college students.
3. Sell your books wisely. If the college bookstore is offering very little, see if your textbooks are going for more on eBay or Amazon.
4. Don’t splurge on fashionable clothes. You will have the rest of your life to be chic. For now, all you need is something comfortable to get you through those boring lectures (and maybe one suit for interviews).
5. Use college discounts. Many restaurants and shops around town probably offer college discounts without your knowledge. Never be afraid to ask.
6. Clip coupons. Effective “couponing” can save a bundle, though it will be a bit time consuming on the weekends. There are many coupon clippers who consistently save hundreds of dollars on groceries each month. Learn how to get started here.
7. Eat at home. While you can’t always eat at home when you’re on the go, you should really reduce those trips to the drive-thru. They will eat through your wallet and wreak havoc on your waistline.
8. Consider a roommate. If you are currently living alone and having trouble paying rent, it could be time for a roommate. There will be plenty of interested (and interesting) people around campus who can split the rent with you.
9. Transfer credit card balances with high interest rates. Many of us can’t wait for our first credit card when we enter college. In fact, the companies often come to us when high school is finished. However, interest rates can skyrocket after an introductory period. Consider transferring high balances to a zero-interest card that offers a reasonable APR when that introductory period is over. (DonĂ¢€™t close the original account, however. It can mess up your credit history.)
10. Avoid partying on the weekends. College doesn’t have to be synonymous with partying. Not only will it make Monday morning classes harder and harder to attend, drinking can be very expensive. Find a more practical way to relax when you aren’t in class or studying.
11. Ride a bike. Do you live close to campus? If so, then you may be needlessly spending money on gas. Ride a bicycle whenever it’s feasible and you will help save money, as well as the environment.
12. Skip paid television. Assuming you are already paying for an Internet connection, you don’t need paid television. Many networks rerun their programs online now (try Besides, you have more important things to do than sit in front of the television, like studying or finding post-college employment!

Although it doesn’t sound very fun to you now, being frugal in college can have positive effects on your future. Every year, more young adults are graduating college with substantial debt. While student loans are sometimes necessary, you shouldn’t have a significant amount of debt when starting out with your career. Some careful planning today will help you for many years to come.

Save money, stay beautiful

Since most of us are forced to be recessionistas at the moment, I thought I would share with you some of my beauty tricks that have been passed down to me by my mom and some of my friends. I didn’t always use them before, however, I’ve been trying to stick to a budget lately and they sure do come in handy. Believe me ladies, being sexy on a budget has never been so easy.

So, here are the five money saving beauty tricks

1. Mascara magic. When your mascara dries out, hold it under hot water for 5 minutes and it will be just like a new one, so you don’t have to buy one as often anymore.


2. Stretch your shampoo and conditioner with water. It’s been proved in many studies that most shampoos and conditioners are too concentrated to begin with. So why not save money by cutting them both down with water.


3. Do not buy any more scrubs. DIY by mixing brown sugar and honey which can then be used as a natural/effective scrub on your face and body.


4. Nail polish revival. Do you have a lot of old, dry nail polishes? Well, you can give them a second life by adding a bit of nail polish remover with acetone.


5. No more makeup removing wipes. Just use baby wipes instead to remove your make up. I’ve done a bit of research on the subject and here is an article proving that it’s absolutely safe to do so, plus it costs 70% less.


I hope you found these helpful and I would love to hear about some of your beauty tricks.