Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy 2009! My Favorite Quotes for the New Year

In honor of the new calendar year. Here are a few of my favorite quotes about money, life and happiness, with an emphasis on dreams. Wishing you a sweet & profitable year! Happy 2009!!!

"If you take responsibility for yourself, you will develop a hunger to accomplish your dreams." Les Brown

"Stop waiting until you make enough money to do something you'd really love."-- Julia Cameron: The Artist's Way. p.7

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." Walt Disney

"Forget yourself." --Henry Miller

"Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing yourself is enlightenment" --Lao Tzu "

"Whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger." --Albert Camus

"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not? -- Robert Kennedy

"Let it go. If it's bothering you, let it go." --Betsy Brown quoted in Wise Women by Joyce Tenneson. p. 64

"Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present."--Albert Camus

"Shut the iron doors on the past and the future. Live in Day-tight Compartments." --Dale Carnegie: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living p.14

"We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort." -- Jesse Owens

"Deferred gratification means training yourself to think, I want it but I don't need it."-- Mike Summey and Roger Dawson in Weekend Millionaire Mindset p.31

"I was very low and I had to achieve something. Without the challenge, I would have gone stark raving mad." --J.K. Rowling

"I cut my hair and let it be natural--nappy. I let my own personality out."--Odetta p. 54 in Wise Women by Joyce Tenneson.

"Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous. That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor." --Paul Hawken

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment."-- Oprah Winfrey.

"You always pass failure on the way to success."-- Mickey Rooney

"Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand."-- Thomas Carlyle

"Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot."-- Ben Zoma as quoted in Ethics of our Fathers Chapter 4-1 (Pirkei Avos)

"Do not hurry the voyage at all. It is better to let it last for long years."--K.P. Kavafy (C.P. Cavafy) in the poem: Ithaca

"You have to start each day again--you can't repeat what you did." Marian Seldes quoted (p, 38) in Wise Women by Joyce Tenneson.

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." Eleanor Roosevelt

Here's how to buy my book:

@ Barnes & Noble
@ Borders

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Myscha's Frugal Moving Tips: Taking the Stress Out of Relocation

Whether you are moving across town or across the country, relocating can be expensive and stressful, according to Myscha Theriault of Wise Bread, one of the top-ranked personal finance blogs. Surrounded by boxes and packing peanuts, Theriault speaks from experience. She and her husband recently moved to Florida.

Based on her experience of setting up households abroad and in the United States, Theriault has assembled tips designed to save time and money.

Pare down. ''Clean, cull and downsize before you even start the process. It'll be easier to set up afterward,'' Theriault said.
Create a system. As you pack, put room labels on each box -- ''kitchen'' on the box of dishes and ''living room'' on the box containing trinkets for the coffee table. This system will save steps whether you use professional movers or friends.
Prepare a kitchen kit. Your cooking routine will be dramatically disrupted before, during and immediately after you move. Minimize culinary challenges by creating a ''start-up box'' for your new kitchen, said Theriault.
You don't need a full set of pots or utensils, just enough to whip up a few simple meals while you unpack and settle in, she said. Her relocation menu includes grilled cheese sandwiches, skillet dinners, frozen pizza and spaghetti. Coffee supplies are essential. This starter kit will eliminate the need for expensive takeout meals when you move.
Start a portable tool kit. Easy-to-reach tools and supplies are useful for emergencies and necessities as you pack, move and re-assemble your possessions. Creating a portable tool kit ''is a great way to hit the ground running in your new location,'' Theriault said.
Dress simply. While moving, you won't be posing for Vogue or GQ magazine. Pack a small bag with a few grunge outfits that will do as you lift, sort and clean during the transition period. Don't forget an emergency dress-up outfit for unexpected job interviews or other professional opportunities.
Pack serenity. Patience -- with others and yourself -- is a valuable asset on moving day. ''Take your time, tackle what you can and get the key systems set up first: meals, laundry, communication and transportation,'' Theriault told me. "There's no pressure to be Martha Stewart the first week.''

Friday, December 26, 2008

Who Cut Open the Conditioner? I Did to Save Money

The bottle of conditioner was turned upside down and tightly squeezed, but still nothing came out. But looking through the plastic, I could see the conditioner within. To toss out the bottle seemed frustrating and wasteful, especially since several applications of hair-softening lubricant were on the bottom, sides and cap.

So I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut the plastic in half. My daughter was puzzled.

"Who cut open the conditioner and why?"

"I did," I responded with a frugal explanation.

That was several days ago, and we're still scooping out conditioner from the bottle.

Coming Soon:
How to get the most out of near-empty containers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Survey: We Fail Holiday Financial Tests

"The Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy released the results of the holiday economic literacy survey, which shows that Americans lack basic math and personal finance skills—especially as those skills relate to being financially responsible over the holidays. The national survey conducted this month shows that an overwhelming number of Americans are unable to answer basic financial literacy questions.

The survey showed:
· 65% answered incorrectly when asked how many reindeer would remain if Santa had to lay off 25% of his 8 reindeer because of the bad economy;

· 75% of people thought that it would take 15 years or less to pay off $5,000 in Christmas presents if making the minimum payment on their credit card. In reality, it would take 46 years to pay off those holiday expenses!

· 1 in 3 people did not know how much money a person would be spending on gifts if they spent 1% of their 50,000 per year salary;

· 16% of respondents admitted that they do not expect to have their holiday debt paid off by March 1st, 2009.

"Santa would be well advised to leave “Personal Finance for Dummies” in stockings across the country," said James Bowers, managing director at the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy. “Many Americans don’t even have the basic math skills required to balance their checkbook, forget about understanding complicated mortgages or credit card statements."

“This holiday season, it is important that all Americans redouble their efforts to ensure that they have the knowledge to make the best financial choices for their families and their budgets.”
Here's the a link to the full survey released earlier this month."

Monday, December 22, 2008

How I Teach My Kids About Money: A News Video

"You hear the bad news every day, the economy in turmoil and people losing their jobs. Parents have to wonder how all the buzz affects their kids and what they should tell them about what's going on. In tonight's Parent to Parent, we've got great financial advice for kids and parents. Seven's Lynn Martinez has the story."

That's the introduction for a television news story (WSVN - 7 in Miami) that featured my family.

Thanks to the folks at WSVN for visiting my home and for hanging out with my family. Thanks to producer Leisa Williams!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My BOGO Shopping Test

As a shopper, I was skeptical about BOGO specials, which are store promotions that offer merchandise at a rate of buy-one-get-one free or half-off. Following the trail of BOGO signs, I have purchased matching sets of accessories, home products and personal care products that I don't really need or want. Those past results have taught me to steer clear of most BOGO sales.

But a recent conversation with a teenage girl prompted me to review my policy. Evelyn Kendall, a high school student, uses BOGO sales to stretch her clothing budget by shopping with another teenager. Together, they look for two-for-one sales.

''We split the cost,'' Kendall said. "She'll get one and I'll get one.''

Based on her example, I've put together my own BOGO policy. Here's how I plan to use promotions offering either free or discounted merchandise.

The Need Test: Do I really need this merchandise? Will I use it or am I just buying stuff that will needlessly fill cabinets, closets and landfills?

The Thrift Test: Am I really saving money or are there cheaper options? Have I compared prices using other promotions or online search engines?

The charity or gift option: Can I use the BOGO item as a gift or as a charitable donation?


Here's how to buy my new book:

@ Barnes & Noble
@ Borders

Monday, December 15, 2008

Carnival of Personal Finance #183: The Pre-Holiday Sales Edition

Welcome to the latest edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance #183: The Pre-Holiday Special. Thanks to everyone who submitted articles. If you are new to this site, please take time to look around and to subscribe to my feeds.

Given the wealth of entries, I had a hard time selecting carnival favorites. The category --Top Holiday Sales -- represents overall top picks with a seasonal bias. What's more, I have picked a few favorites (*) in other categories. Thanks to Flexo for letting me host the carnival. It's an honor.

*Editor's Picks: Top Holiday Sales: Free to Click

From Art of the Coupon: The Twelve Frugal Days of Christmas

A cute list of 12 frugal activites "you can and should do this holiday season to save yourself a little green at what tends to be a time of year when a lot of peoples budgets go into the red."

From Wide Open Wallet: 10 Holiday Budget Busters

Cash Money Life presents Be Careful Which Gift Cards You Buy!, and says, "Some stores are closing some or all locations, which means their gift cards may be worthless to you in the near

From Monogamoney: 26 (relatively painless) ways to save money this holiday season

Mighty Bargain Hunter presents Give gifts that deliver good value, and says, "Make the gifts you give this year count!"

Single Guy Money presents Beware of Hidden Holiday Costs.

Frugal Franco presents The Diary of a Mad Black Fridayee, and says, "A funny story about one of my friend's previous Black Friday experiences. Since the story is about getting a good deal on a TV, it's not necessarily "frugal" by the strictest definition, but it is about
saving money on expenditures."

Prime Time Money presents 5 Gifts That Will Bring Your Family Together This Christmas.


The Career Shop

Empowering Mom presents Overwhelming Workload - YES You Can Do it!.

*Broke In The Suburb presents Money IsDisgusting!!!, and says, "The post is in regards to handling money as a teller. The things one comes across on a daily basis."

Sallie's Niece presents Making the Most Out of My Dental Benefits, and says, "In this post I examined my company's dental benefits plan and how it will affect my decision to get my wisdom teeth removed."

The Economy Boutique

*Counting My Pennies presents Downward Spiral for the Economy and for PF Bloggers?

Free From Broke presents 8 Ways The Economic Crisis Can Be Good For You, and says, "The current economic climate is bad for most but there are some ways it can be good for you!"

LivingAlmostLarge presents Economic Stimulus?

Room Farm presents Lessons From the Depression: The Things My Father Told Me

Fools and Sages presents Kids and Money Stress, and says, "This is a post on how your money stress can be turned into a positive family experience."

Yielding Wealth presents 5 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety Brought on by the Economy.

Insight Writer presents The Complete Newbies Guide to the Economy, and says, "This is a great starter guide for anyone interested in having a good overview of the economy.”

Blueprint for Financial Prosperity presents Obama’s 21st Century New Deal: An Economic Stimulus.

The Finance & Tax-ing Discount Mall

Money Smart Life presents TurboTax Review - 2008 Tax Software Product Review, and says, "Included short video from Intuit about the latest version of TurboTax and my reaction based on my experiences with the software."

Think Your Way To Wealth presents Get an Absolutely Free Copy of Your Credit Report from All 3 Credit Bureaus at

InsureBlog presents Auto Insurance Rates Zoom, and says, "Summary: If you drive a car, InsureBlog's Bob Vineyard has news: your insurance rates may be going up even if you've got a perfect record."

Four Pillars presents Personal Finance According to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and says, "How Buffy relates to PF!"

My Dollar Plan presents How to Take a Loss on an IRA.

Fulfilled Dreams presents The Weirdest Story Ever about Trading and Finance.

Both Sides of the Pond presents Basics of US Income Taxes for Americans Living Overseas, and says, "This article lays out the basics of filing your US income tax returns if you are living overseas."
Frugal Living Thrift Store

*Naturally Frugal presents Top 10 Ways to Save Money In Your Twenties, and says, "This article is helpful for anyone, but is aimed toward twenty-something readers. "

*The Digerati Life presents 21 Deal Sites and Online Tools To Help You Save Money

Passive Family Income presents Car Buying - New, Used, Or Lease?, and says, "My family is looking to get a new car, so I broke down our options."

Green Panda Treehouse presents Planning a Vacation Without Spending a Ton of Money, and says, "Some tips on how we saved money for our vacation this week."

The Money Kings presents When It Costs More To Save More–Huh?! , and says, "The fact of the matter is that it costs you more money to save money at places like Costco and Sam’s Club.
All of the people that think they’re “saving” money by visiting these stores are
about 50% correct. Here’s the problem: Wal-Monster is all these people have

The Smarter Wallet presents Quality Cookware To Help You Save Time and Energy in the Kitchen

Beating Broke presents Are you a Frugaler?, and says, "A bit of a humorous take on the art of Frugality."

Money On My Mind presents Compound Spending - An Obstacle to Wealth Accumulation

Fiscally concerned presents Oil change coupon worth 10$, just cost me 1200$

Dollar Frugal presents Reason #1 Not to Eat Out At Restaurants Often.

Christian Financial Help presents Fun stuff for Gmail junkies, and says, "Gmail unveils a couple more goodies..

Investment Strip Mall

Uncommon Cents presents Show Me the Money.

Personal Finance Blog by MoneyNing presents Seeing the Big Picture in Creating Wealth, and says, "Stop letting yourself get in the way of your own wealth building. Make a plan today!"

Investing School presents Introduction to Short Selling, and says, "Shorting a short might be cool but it's risky. Proceed with caution!"

The Financial Blogger presents Investing With Split Shares, and says, "If you buy the full split shares upon emission, you might have a big surprise when you look at your investment portfolio in a few years… "

Everyday Finance presents 3X Return ETFs are Here! The Long and Short of It , and says, "This article highlights the incredible leverage (and risk!) that can be achieved with novel ETFs
that TRIPLE the return of various indices."

Investing presents Dividends - Cash or Reinvest?, and says, "An explanation of reinvested dividends and cash dividends"

ABCs of Investing presents Dividends - Cash or Reinvest?, and says, "An explanation of reinvested dividends and cash dividends"

Saving to invest presents Where to invest in 2009, and says, "Ideas on where to (and not to) invest in 2009"

The Online Store of Money Management & Related Topics

*Broke In The Suburb presents Money Is Disgusting!!!, and says, "The post is in regards to handling money as a teller. The things one comes across on a daily basis."

*Chief Family Officer from Chief Family Officer presents Managing Your Cash Flow When You're Not Living Paycheck to Paycheck. presents 2008 Budget Reflections.

Saving Advice presents Why I Force My Kids to Contribute to Birthday Party Gifts, and says, "Rather than tell our kids that they could not go to parties, we told them that if they wanted to
go to a party, they would need to pay $10 towards the gift."

FruGal presents Top Payday money-saving tips.

Finance Your Life presents Secondary Income: Shoebox Money is Back , and says, "An
article on my experiences of trying to generate a secondary income stream!"

Stumble Forward presents 10 Bad Money Habits You Should Ditch Immediately, and says, "This post is about the bad money habits we have and how to fix them."

Funny about Money presents Long-term Care Insurance.

American Consumer News presents Finding Ways to Give When Times Are Tough.

Squawkfox presents Do NOT Shred it and Forget it! .

THE STRUMP presents 10 Ways to Tell If You Can Afford It, and says, "If you frequently wonder whether or not you can afford something, here is a quick guide that will let you know if should buy or not."

Money Under 30 presents Give to Charity Without Touching Your Own Money.


Real Estate Flea Market

Budgets are Sexy presents Sure we financed our house 100%, but ya know what? It works, and says, "Crazy" mortgages aren't crazy for everybody - some of them are perfect for certain types of us :)"

Searchlight Crusade presents Multiple Offers: Weak But Increasingly Common, And It's Your Listing Agent's Fault.


Retirement Garage Sale

*Tough Money Love presents SadWorlds Collide: The Unretired vs. the Unemployed, and says, "Some retirees are "unretiring" and competing with the unemployed for scarce jobs."

FIRE Finance presents Retirement- All Is Well If Our HEART Is Well.


my book:

@ Barnes & Noble
@ Borders

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bank Woes? Foreclosures? Credit Crunch? A List of Scams From Kiplinger’s

"Think of a headline about the financial crisis, and criminals have found a way to exploit it. Bad credit? Bank problems? Home foreclosures? Each of these, and many more, comes with a matching scam, helping make today one of the most fertile periods ever for rip-offs.

The January issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance uncovers the most common schemes—and offers tips to help avoid them:

(1) Debt negotiation cons. Some debt-negotiation companies are counseling their clients to ruin—falsely claiming they can help repair credit reports. Others advise clients to stop paying their bills without telling them they could be sued by creditors.

How to Avoid It? Find a legitimate credit-counseling agency at or If you think you’ve been duped, call in a complaint: 877-382-4357.

(2) Mortgage-foreclosure rescue cons. More than half of homeowners who are late on their mortgage payments aren’t aware that lenders have programs to help avoid foreclosure, People who don’t know their options can fall prey to crooks who charge $1,000 or more for fraudulent foreclosure-avoidance services.
How to Avoid It? Find a housing-counseling agency approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (links are listed at

(3) Bank phishing cons. Criminals are preying on fears over recent news of bank mergers and acquisitions. Phishing schemes—e-mails designed to get you to relinquish private security information, including your Social Security number—falsely indicate that your bank has been acquired. The message may tell you, “We recently purchased ABC Bank. Follow the link below to renew your account information.”
How to Avoid It? Forward fraudulent e-mails to the Federal Trade Commission at Send a copy to the company that has been impersonated.

(4) Energy cons. Cold callers pitch energy-related limited partnerships that are often conceived in one state, involve drilling in another, and are sold to investors in still other states. Such a setup makes it tough for investors to check out the proposal, and tough for law enforcement to identify and expose a fraud.
How to Avoid It? If you’re tempted by such a pitch, start by checking the registration of the deal. Ask in which state the offering is registered, then contact that state’s securities agency to confirm that a security is really being offered."
--Source: The “Scams Ripped from Today’s Headlines” article

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Holiday Gift Wrapped With Thought and Thrift

Rather than spend hundreds of dollars on gifts, my friend's family has a money-saving holiday ritual that produces thoughtful presents with minimal cost. My friend selected her sister's name from a hat as part of a Secret Santa gift exchange for the adults in their immediate family.

The sister -- a mother with two young children -- really loves Yoga, but has not been able to find a class near her home. As a holiday gift, my friend tracked down an affordable series of Yoga classes offered by a studio near her sister's home. In addition, to purchasing a gift certificate for a few sessions, she also bought a Yoga mat for her sister.

Next, she created a large poster featuring the gift certificate and rolled the poster into the mat. The entire gift cost $40 to $50.

When she told me about Yoga gift package, I was impressed with the amount of thought and effort used to put together a creative holiday gift. What's more, she picked out a present that will really mean something to her sister. It's a gift that will definitely be used and appreciated.

She could afford to spend the time and attention on a single gift because the Secret Santa gift exchange ritual eliminated the need to buy presents for every family member.

Here's how the system works:

1. Settle on a Price Tag: My friend's family, for example, set a price limit of $40 to $50 per gift. They wanted a price target that was high enough to purchase a substantial gift, but low enough to avoid a financial hardship for the Secret Santa participants.

2. Hold a drawing: Every adult in the family entered their name into a hat and selected a name from the drawing.

3. Shop and exchange: Wrapped gifts are exchanged at a designated time and place. A potluck holiday party provides an ideal time for a gift exchange.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Goals for 2009 & Other Links From the Frugal Blog Network

It's time to write down our financial goals for 2009. Frugal Babe has already started the process. Her post -- from the Frugal Blog Network -- is one of several articles that have caught my eye this week:

Financial Goals For 2009 from Frugal Babe:

This year - for the first time ever - we met all of our financial goals for the year. This makes us all the more motivated to stretch further in 2009 and see what we can do.

Cheap Stocking Stuffers: Inexpensive Gift from Not Made Of Money

Fortunately, finding fun, festive stocking stuffers can be really easy. By keeping your eye open for little extras, you can be sure to have the best stockings on the block.

Never Pay for Books, Music or Movies Again from almost frugal:

I think the best way to get truly free books is by swapping them with friends. I have four or five friends who have similar taste in reading material as me, and we swap books frequently. But there are also more formalized book swapping services, such as Paperback Swap or BookMooch.

Is Frugality Becoming Trendy? from Tight Fisted Miser:
With the economic downturn tightening budgets I have seen several articles discussing how frugality is now becoming cool. They usually support this claim with a few anecdotes from ordinary citizens. Based on my own observations I doubt that frugality is actually becoming cool or even becoming much more socially acceptable.

Gift wars from Frugal Zeitgeist:

They come when you least expect it. One year, someone gives you a little birthday or Christmas gift that you weren't expecting. The next time a holiday rolls around, you feel obliged to reciprocate, only that person gave you something again..


Monday, December 08, 2008

How to Fill Your Shopping Cart & Spend Less

Whether we are browsing for home accessories or clothing for your children, shopping can be expensive. But Kathy Luisi, a Central Florida mother of four boys, has created and tested a frugal shopping system.

Her shopping trips begin with an empty cart. Without much attention to price tags, Luisi fills her basket with anything and everything that catches her eye, including gadgets for the home or clothes.

''I go through the motions of picking it up and looking at it,'' Luisi says. "I walk around the store [with the merchandise] and I feel like I own it.''
But before she hits the checkout line, reality settles in. Luisi seriously considers the items in her cart and usually discovers that essentials account for only 25 percent.

''Then I put the rest back,'' Luisi says.

This system, she says, offers a cure for the fleeting sense of ''I-gotta-have-it'' that typically hits in stores or malls. Pushing around a cart of fanciful garments and gadgets satisfies the craving for new merchandise without the expense of a full-blown shopping trip.

Here are some holiday shopping tips from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast:

Establish a budget. Find and stick to your financial boundaries for holiday purchases, decorating and travel.

Trim your gift list. Give friends, family and co-workers a reality check by agreeing to cut back on the cost of gifts. Set price limits or find other ways to celebrate, including parties or homemade presents.

Shop at nontraditional stores. Thrift stores, consignment shops and antique stores offer a range of merchandise, including one-of-a-kind items that may be perfect for a friend or relative.

Look for the best deals. Coupons, promotions and rebates are available if you shop online or in stores.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

How to Celebrate Like a Budget Santa: Ideas From Kiplinger's

"Given our current economic woes, some parents may find their holiday budgets tighter than ever this year. So how can you get your kids to cut back their wish lists and expectations? Kiplinger’s Personal Finance deputy editor Janet Bodnar offers these 4 tips:

· Set (or adapt) your own customs. Every family has unique traditions. One idea is to set a rule that the kids get one special gift from Santa and several smaller ones from Mom and Dad. The kids are happy to accept that.
· Ask the kids to make choices. If you have to cut back, use this as a learning experience for your children. Once they've made their holiday wish list, have them pare it down to the top five things they most want. Older kids can even compare prices in catalogs or online.
· Be creative. Encourage the kids to consider alternative holiday gifts. Perhaps one big family present for everyone—say, that new flat-screen TV you're willing to splurge on. Or thoughtful gifts of service or time: taking over little Johnny's dog-walking duties for a month, or a one-on-one movie date with Mom or Dad.
· Get Santa on your side. Tell the children that you and Santa are a team (his investments have no doubt gone south, too). He's not about to go against your wishes by bringing a gift that you'd rather they not have." -- source: Janet Bodnar’s “Putting Santa on a Budget”

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cut Costs & Calories: 5 Tips from

Consider shoveling your own sidewalk or mowing the lawn. A do-it-yourself strategy is one of five money-saving, calorie-cutting tips from

"During the holidays we all have a tendency to go a little overboard. Each year, many of us spend too much money and gain too much weight.

Consider these tips to manage wallets and waistlines:

1. Resist restaurants. During the holidays we all want to treat ourselves to a nice meal. Consider the benefits of preparing that meal at home. In general, people spend more money when they eat out than when they cook for themselves. Additionally, cooking at home allows for greater control of dietary factors such as how much oil and sugar go into the food.

2. Get off the gas. When it’s time to run those seemingly endless holiday errands, consider choosing stores that are close enough to ride a bike or walk to. Both options are great ways to save gas money and get some exercise.

3. Start shoveling. Why pay someone to shovel the front walk? Strong, healthy adults can save some money, and get a great workout, by doing it themselves. Want to spread some holiday cheer? Volunteer to help neighbors by shoveling their walks. Live in a place with no snow? Giving the garden a year-end makeover by replacing plants and flowers with types that require less water is a great way to get some exercise, and reduce future water bills.

4. Lose the latte. The temptation to purchase fancy coffee drinks gets even stronger when shops offer delicious seasonal flavors. But those holiday lattes pack a punch, both in cost and calories. Not ready to give up designer coffee entirely? Consider trading in that latte for a nice hot cup of black coffee.

5. Look for low rates. Consumers may find that a lower monthly rate on their cell phone, insurance, or even their mortgage, could yield substantial monthly savings that could be put toward a gym membership. Sites like can help consumers search across multiple service providers to find low rates on these and other monthly bills."

Monday, December 01, 2008

How to Get Free Books, Music, Movies & Games: Swaptree

It's possible to find free books, CDs, DVDs and video games without leaving your home, according to Adrienne Sylver, a Miami-based book lover and freelance writer. Through Swaptree, (, Sylver has completed about 35 trades for books, video games and other merchandise.

''Where else can you find books, DVDs and CDs and no late fees?'' Sylver said, adding that she's been happy with the quality and speed of the service.

Registration and swaps are free, but consumers are responsible for shipping charges, which is typically about $2.20 for most DVDs and CDS, and about $2.50 for the average book, based on media mail rates through the U.S. Postal Service.

To navigate through the site, consumers register two lists. Sylver maintains a wish list of titles she would like to acquire and a second list of merchandise that she would like to get rid of.
''Most people have a pile of books that they want to trade,'' she said.

Based on your give-away list, Swaptree provides a list of available swaps. To make a trade, select the ''get now'' link on the list of possible trades. That link provides information about the condition of the item and the trader's history, including feedback about past transactions. Books can be traded for games, movies or other books. In addition to her own wish list, Sylver hunts for video games and books suggested by her 12-year-old daughter.

All parties involved in a trade --including complex three-way trades -- receive e-mail alerts with a suggested timeframe for completing the deal. If the deal is accepted, shipping information is exchanged.

You don't have to leave your home to ship out the merchandise. Using a credit card, you can download and print shipping labels and postage. Or of course, you can stand in line at the post office.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

10 Tips for Savvy Online Shopping offers these "10 Commandments" for safe and smart shopping on Cyber Monday. These tips are helpful for the 2008 holiday season and during the rest of the year.

  • "Be thorough in your research: utilize all the resources the internet provides, compare prices and search for online-only bargains to guarantee that you're saving money at this critical economic time.
  • Carefully review every online retailer's terms and conditions as well as their return policies, as they vary industry-wide.
  • Update your home computer's anti-virus software and security tools before you start shopping, and if using a wireless connection, make sure it's encrypted with a password.
  • Order in advance to ensure you don't get hurt by holiday shipping delays and check stock availability for a given product before you place an order.
  • Beware of certain promotional emails requesting personal information or promising a special deal as they could be part of a 'phishing' scam.
  • Create or update new online passwords that are unique and difficult to steal. Avoid pet names, birthdays, etc. and incorporate numbers and characters.
  • Use credit cards instead of debit cards - you'll be better protected from fraud and face less liability in the event of your card number being stolen.
  • Shop only on certifiably secure websites: look for 'https://' URLs that indicate secure connections when placing orders and entering personal information.
  • Be diligent about where you disclose personal information - including phone numbers, addresses and financial information - and avoid unverifiable entities.
  • Look for delivery guarantees from online retailers and always keep hard copies of email confirmations of orders and delivery status."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How to Boost Office & Hotel Room Coffee: More Taste from Free Java

Many offices provide free coffee for employees. Thanks for the coffee; thanks for the job. But that free stuff may not be drinkable for some coffee lovers. But here are a few tips that will improve the office brew.
  • Double bag: For coffee lovers, office java may taste weak, like coffee-flavored water. The solution use two bags or one and a half bags of the pre-measured ground coffee to make a single pot of coffee. The extra bag yields a stronger brew with more flavor and taste.
  • Bring your own cream: Improve the flavor with half-and-half cream instead of powdered milk. You can even heat the milk or cream in the microwave for extra body and warmth.
  • Sprinkle the spices: Vanilla, powdered cinnamon, nutmeg or a dash of chocolate add extra flavor.
  • Bring your own mug: Forget the office-issued Styrofoam or paper cups. Coffee tastes better in a ceramic mug. I know a woman who stashes an elegant teacup and saucer at her desk for coffee breaks.
  • Drink tea: Use the free hot water from the office and supply your own bags of herbal, green or gourmet tea.
  • Say a prayer: Hold your nose, drink the coffee and mumble a prayer of thanksgiving: Thank goodness I have a job. Thank goodness for free coffee.

I enjoyed this article: How to Make Good Hotel Room Coffee. Here's a sample:

You're on the road, and you breathe a sigh of relief when you see that your hotel room has a coffee maker waiting for you. But when you go to brew a cup to enjoy in the privacy of your room, the product is quite...disappointing. Before you speed down to the local coffee shop and squander another fraction of what could be your retirement fund on a latte, try these tips and tricks for better hotel coffee.

--source: How to Make Good Hotel Room Coffee


Here's how to buy my book:

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Hunting for Deep Discounts & Thrifty Gifts at Post-Holiday Sales

From home decorations to costumes, post-holiday sales offer great bargains. For that reason, I prefer to buy costumes and masks in November, Thanksgiving dinner table decorations in December and holiday presents in January.

It's a shopping strategy I learned from my grandmother, who stocked up on Halloween candy long after the last trick-or-treaters had gone home. Post-holiday discounts are compelling. Typically, holiday-themed merchandise is sold at half price days after the holiday, with markdowns falling to 70 percent to 95 percent of the full retail price within two to three weeks after a holiday.

Last November, for instance, we purchased an angel costume for my daughter -- complete with gold wings and a halo -- for about $5 from Target, down from the full price of about $20. She wore the ensemble for a costume party in March. Halloween sales also provide a great opportunity to stock up on orange dessert plates, black napkins and candy, which can be used at parties throughout the year. Likewise, scary merchandise -- skulls, witches and ghost -- can be purchased and saved to create a spooky atmosphere at backyard summer carnivals and birthday parties.

Discounted cloth napkins, centerpieces and holiday-themed serving dishes can be stored for coming years. Every year, for example, my parents set the table with Thanksgiving accessories saved from year to year. What's more, some holiday merchandise -- without symbols or other holiday markings -- can be used year-round. I have post-holiday place mats and cloth napkins in seasonal colors that brighten my table in the summer and spring.

My family, however, has made some post-holiday shopping errors. Based on those mistakes, I offer these tips:

Show restraint. Mesmerized by a 95 percent off post-Halloween sale, last year we purchased a Star Wars Yoda costume for our dog. He hated the getup.
Watch the calendar. As time passes, sale merchandise gets really picked over. It's a balance between getting the best price and purchasing merchandise you really need.
Look for expiration dates. One year, my grandmother purchased Halloween candy that was filled with worms. The candy was returned.


Here's how to buy my new book:

@ Barnes & Noble
@ Borders

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How I Fixed My BCBG Shoes With a Sharpie Pen

Confession: I love shoes and I earn extra mileage from my favorite shoes with a secret weapon: Sharpie markers. Those markers and other permanent felt-tip pens are wonderful tools for making cheap and easy shoe repairs.

For instance, assorted scuff marks recently marred the appearance of my favorite shoes: a pair of black leather, high-heeled BCBG shoes.

The pumps were pummeled, scuffed and nicked on the toe tips, shoe box and tops of the sling-back three-inch heels. But with a few strokes of a black marker, the flaws have now disappeared. (You'd have to be really staring at close range to notice the repairs.) In fact, my shoes seem as good as new. Encouraged, I've been using the black marker on shoes from Tahari and Circa Joan & David. All are excellent labels that I purchased super cheap ($5-$20) at end-of-season clearance sales at Marshalls.

I'm hard on shoes because my daily commute consists of mass transit and a 20-minute walk. Therefore, my shoes take a beating. Markers -- in all colors -- will help me save money and look great.

National Public Radio recently broadcast a fabulous piece about the growing popularity of shoe repairs-- Cobbler's Business Steps Up During Thrifty Times:

As Americans trim their budgets, some businesses are ready for thrifty activity. In St. Louis, a shoe repair shop has seen business skyrocket as the economy prompts more customers to have shoes fixed instead of buying new ones. Jeff Lipson of Cobblestone Shoe Repair is a third-generation cobbler, and he's seeing a new type of customer. --Cobbler's Business Steps Up During Thrifty Times:


Here's how to buy my new book:

@ Barnes & Noble
@ Borders

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cover Your Assets: 4 Ways to Protect Your Job

Feeling insecure on the job? Join the crowd. After watching friends, strangers and associates receive layoff notices, it's easy to feel nervous about the future. Bulletproof Your Job: 4 Ways to Stay Employed, by a writer, provides excellent insights.
Writer Stephen Viscusi asserts that in this atmosphere, "You must understand that your job is your most valuable asset -- and your primary objective is to protect it."
--Bulletproof Your Job: 4 Ways to Stay Employed

Here are the four tips:
  1. Stay visible. Work long hours, dress well, pay attention to details and volunteer for projects.

  2. Be low-maintenance: Don't complain and watch your tongue.

  3. Volunteer: Network, be a mentor for younger employees, develop multiple skill sets.

  4. Have a Plan B: Save money, keep your resume current and join professional organizations.

My own advice: Develop multiple sources of income and revenue. Hobbies, second jobs and freelance projects can provide financial and professional cushions.

Related Posts:

Need a Second Job? Ideas & Strategies For Extra Money

Reformed Spenders Provide 10 Ways to Save in 2008

I Cashed My Check at the Bookstore: The Pits & Perks of Extra Money

Here's how to buy my new book:

@ Barnes & Noble
@ Borders

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How to Winterize Your Home: Tips from Myles of Style Co-star

Here are "simple, environmentally safe" ideas for winterizing your home from Myles of Style co-star Anthony Gilardi.

1. Windows:
"The most common place for homes to lose heat in the winter. Make sure you fill all gaps around your windows to prevent cold air drafts and warm air escaping. Glass is an excellent conductor by which hot and cold air move quickly in and out of homes, meaning your heating and cooling units have to work much harder to keep you comfortable. To help keep that air where you want it, consider using energy efficient blinds on your windows.

2. Icy slick driveways and exterior walkways:
If you live in an area where this can be a problem, you know that de-icers are a common way to eliminate slickness. But too often we don't use de-icers properly. Improper or over use of de-icers is detrimental to plant life and the environment. So, covering key areas with plastic before a storm, and removing it before it has a chance to freeze is a more environmentally sensitive option.

3. Water pipes: Prepare your plumbing for freezing weather
Outside plumbing
· Caulk around pipes where they enter the house.
· Close off foundation vents. Cut wood or Styrofoam blocks to fit vent openings, and then slide them into the vents. Open the vents in the spring to prevent dry rot.
· Protect outside pipes and faucets.
· Wrap outside faucets or hose bibs. Do this if you don't have a separate valve to turn off outside faucets. Use newspaper or rags covered with plastic, fiberglass or molded foam insulating covers to wrap the faucet.
· Drain in-ground sprinkler systems.

Inside plumbing
· Insulate pipes in unheated areas such as the crawl space, attic, garage or basement. Cover all valves, pipe-fittings, etc. with insulating tape or fiberglass.
· Shut off and drain your water system if you are leaving home for several days. Leaving your furnace on a low setting while you're gone helps, but may not prevent freezing.
· Open cupboard doors in the kitchen and bathrooms. Leaving the cupboard doors open when the temperature is below freezing allows pipes behind the cupboards to get more heat.
· Let the water run if the temperature dips below freezing. Faucets farthest from the street should be the ones left running.

4. Insulation:
Check your attic, walls and basement for adequate insulation. Feel around electrical outlets and switch-plates for cold air. Have a professional add insulation if necessary. Use caulking or weather stripping to take care of any problem areas. Be sure to compare natural fiber insulation and fiberglass insulation.

5. Home ventilation:

Indoor pollutants are fairly common in our homes. Potential contributors include second-hand tobacco smoke, pets, fireplaces, stoves/ovens, furnishing/finishes, and moisture/leaks. Good indicators that you may have indoor air quality (IAQ) problems include musty or chemical odors, visible leaks or water damage.
Ways to improve Indoor Air Quality
· Turn on hood fans when cooking. Cooking, especially on a gas stove, releases chemicals that can contaminate the air, such as carbon monoxide.
· Turn on the exhaust fan when showering to limit moisture build up
· Clean regularly to prevent dust, dirt, and pet-hair accumulation.
· Use cleaning products that do not emit chemicals into the air. Many products used to wash floors, countertops, and windows can give off gas toxic or irritating chemicals. Avoid dangerous chemicals by selecting products that are certified for low levels of chemical emissions.
· Open windows to allow fresh air into your space.
· Maintain your HVAC filters as instructed. Check, clean, or replace furnace and air filters regularly, at least every two months. Consider installing a "high efficiency particulate" (HEPA) filter. "

source: Anthony Gilardi.


Here's how to buy my book:

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Second & Third Opinions About Vampire Power

My recent column on vampire energy -- also known as standby power -- generated well-deserved heat. Standby power is the energy wasted when electronic products are turned off, but plugged into an outlet.

Readers sharply disagreed with estimates that the average household wastes about $1,000 a year in standby power, or $4 billion annually. And they were right. Numbers from a news release were misleading.

The Department of Energy estimates that the average home in the United States ''spends $100 per year to power devices while they are off (or in standby mode),'' according to Christina Kielich, a department spokeswoman. Kielich said that nationwide about $10 billion a year is wasted in all forms of energy.

The average household in the United States spends about $1,247.52 a year on electricity, with regional differences.

Vampire power consumes 5 to 15 percent of the average bill, according to the Department of Energy, but there's considerable disagreement about electricity wasted through standby power. Nonprofit consumer groups and electronics industry experts provide standby energy estimates that range from 10 percent to 75 percent of the average electric bill. One international academic report -- ''Global Implications of Standby Power Use'' by Alan Meier of Berkeley Lab, USA -- places standby power at 1 to 25 percent.

''Standby power also appears to be growing rapidly as more appliances are built with features that lead to standby power consumption,'' according to the report.

Differing estimates may be due to a shifting definition of standby power. The category typically includes energy burned by the small lights, clocks, keypads and internal computers programmed into many devices.

Some industry experts broadly include water heaters and refrigerators, which are constantly running. Additionally, I've also seen calculations that include computers that are in the ''sleep mode'' and battery-charging gadgets that are left plugged into a wall after portable devices have been tucked away.

But what does this mean for the consumer? The Department of Energy recommends that we should look for appliances with the Energy Star label. Additionally, the government recommends using power strips that can be easily turned off when appliances are not used. And, of course, you can simply unplug appliances that are not in use.

Consumer beware: That advice also has critics. It can be time-consuming to constantly disconnect unused devices and to reprogram electronic clocks after every use, some argue.
Conceptually, this sounds like a useful tip.

In practice, the actual savings are minuscule and not worth the effort of constantly plugging and unplugging appliances in, said Michael Gibbons, a reader from Bellevue, Wash.


Here's how to buy my new book:

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Online Book Tour: My Dream House Musings at Blogher

Why haven't I purchased my $2.6 million dream home? (See answers below). My dream home is a central theme in my Frugal Duchess book and in the spotlight at Blogher, the latest host of the online book tour. At Blogher, Paula Gregorowicz offers a Frugal Duchess book review. Here's a snippet of the review:

In the book, Sharon weaves her tips through the tale of her own journeys by using her Dream House as the main character of the book. There is a Mediterranean mansion in her neighborhood that she covets.

She first fell in love with it in the mid-1990's when the asking price was $425,000. As of March 2007 it was listed for $2.6 million. Needless to say quite a bit of appreciation given its prime neighborhood in Miami. Sharon knows this house in great detail and shares her musings in a way that would make any Law of Attraction vision board guru proud. As the book wore on I was just dying to know whether she ever achieved her goal of owning the Dream House which had taken on a life of its own. --Frugal Duchess book review

Here are a few reasons why I haven't purchased my Dream Home:

1. I am still saving for a down payment

2. The price continues to drop and I am waiting for real estate to bottom out in my neighborhood.

3. I won't buy a home until I also have a home emergency fund. My siblings and friends have stressed the importance of having a home fund to cover emergencies, repairs and other costs related to home ownership.

Thanks to Paula for hosting the online book tour and thanks for providing the wonderful insights about the bottom-line message of my book. [Read her review for the summary.] Here's a little bit about her:

Paula Gregorowicz, is a life coach for women who can teach you to become comfortable in your own skin and boost your bottom line. Get the free 12 part eCourse "How to Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin" at her website and start taking charge of your own success.

Related Posts:

Online Book Tour: Brady Bunch vs Cosby Family at Chief Family Officer

Online Book Tour: Frugal Uniforms Featured at Fabulous Financials

Online Book Tour: Queercents Delivers a Book Review

Online Book Tour: Paid Twice Hosts Depression Era & The Duchess

Online Book Tour: The Simple Dollar Book Review

Online Tour Stop: Girls Just Want to Have FundsOnline Book Tour: Old Clothes Featured at Get Rich Slowly

Online Book Tour: LA-Story Hosts a Frugal DIY Spa

Online Book Tour Visits Digerati Life with a Silicon Valley Interview

Online Book Tour: Budget Savvy's Payday Strategies

I Can't Afford to Go on a Book Tour, But I'll Travel Online


Here's how to buy my new book:

@ Barnes & Noble
@ Borders

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Online Book Tour: Brady Bunch vs Cosby Family at Chief Family Officer

My family resembles the Cosby Family. But during the 1960s, the Cosby Family was not always welcome in Brady Bunch neighborhoods. That's how my latest guest post begins at Chief Family Officer, which is hosting the Frugal Duchess online book tour.

In addition to an overview of my book, Cathy of CFO is also sponsoring a book giveaway. Here are details about the contest:

You can enter up to three times (one for each type), and you must submit separate entries for each type. I'll select the winner using and announce them here on CFO as well as contact them by email. The winner will have 48 hours to send me their address, otherwise their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be selected. The giveaway ends at 6:00 p.m. PST on Tuesday, November 18. Sorry, this giveaway is open only to residents of the U.S. and Canada.--The Frugal Duchess book giveaway!

Thanks to CFO for hosting the book tour. Hey Cathy, I appreciate the time and attention. Here's a little background about CFO:

My name is Cathy, and I'm an attorney, wife to Marc, and mom to Alex (age 3) and Tyler (age 1). I'm also the CFO of our family. I post often on my favorite topics: family finances, parenting, and cooking. I also post reviews and links to freebies and samples at CFO Reviews ....Read the Best of CFO.

Related Posts:

Online Book Tour: Frugal Uniforms Featured at Fabulous Financials

Online Book Tour: Queercents Delivers a Book Review

Online Book Tour: Paid Twice Hosts Depression Era & The Duchess

Online Book Tour: The Simple Dollar Book Review

Online Tour Stop: Girls Just Want to Have Funds

Online Book Tour: Old Clothes Featured at Get Rich Slowly

Online Book Tour: LA-Story Hosts a Frugal DIY Spa

Online Book Tour Visits Digerati Life with a Silicon Valley Interview

Online Book Tour: Budget Savvy's Payday Strategies

I Can't Afford to Go on a Book Tour, But I'll Travel Online


Here's how to buy my new book:

@ Barnes & Noble
@ Borders

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Midweek Roundup & Frugal Blog Network

Here are a few stories that caught my eye:

From the Frugal Blog Network:

A $500 a Month Retirement Budget from Tight Fisted Miser

When the bell tolls, maybe it tolls for thee (what to do after losing a job) from Frugal Zeitgeist

Open Enrollment Time from Not Made Of Money

How to Look Fabulous, Frugally: Part Three from almost frugal

Frugal Organic Play Doh from Frugal Babe

Other favorite links:

Could You Eat Healthfully on One Dollar a Day? from Get Rich Slowly

12 Million American’s Are STILL Paying Off Last Year’s Christmas! From

Back to Basics: Keep on top of your income streams From Mighty Bargain Hunter

A Plan to Cook at Home for Single People From Mapgirl's Fiscal Challenge


Here's how to buy my new book:

@ Barnes & Noble
@ Borders

An Awful Flight Taught Me Market Lessons

A few weeks ago, I had a rough flight from Miami to New York City. It was the perfect ride for a turbulent era, and I learned a lot about money and the markets during that trip. That's because the flight was almost as volatile as the stock market following a grim unemployment report.

As we rocked and dropped through cloud vapors, I studied my options: 1) Pray, 2)Write notes to friends and family, or 3) Go to sleep.

I decided against sleep. Been there, done that. In fact, I can honestly say that I've slept or sleepwalked through other periods of personal or financial turbulence. But that solution solved very little and instead, when I was finally jolted awake, I rubbed my eyes feeling dumb and dumbfounded. So I nixed the sleep option.

Write letters to friends and family? Not very practical, especially due to the up-and-down motion of the plane. And besides, I was too tense and too lazy to string together a coherent sentence. I can't write when I'm uptight.

Prayers? Hmm. Frankly, I offered up a few whispered bargains, deals and promises. And whatever I said, must have worked because I'm here now in front of my Dell laptop computer, which needs a new battery. (And I'm now praying that my battery will be recalled, so that I can call the company for a free replacement.) And anyway, while praying I stared at the clouds and while meditating on clouds, I had a flight of clarity. I calculated that if that moment in the air was really my last, I could at least enjoy the ride.

I re-considered the turbulence. It was a fun ride. In fact, at Disneyworld and Universal Studios I have paid good money -- lots of money --over the years for such thrill rides. And if this was going to be my last flight, at least, I could relax and enjoy myself.

Okay, so I'm not trying to sound like a Pollyanna, but at that moment, the terror stopped even though the turbulence continued. I had no control over the plane, but I could control my roller coaster of emotions. And I am applying that lesson to my obsessions about politics, world events, job security, regrets, missed opportunities and economic uncertainty.

My new contract: I'm going to do my best, say a few prayers and admire clouds. And yeah, I'm enjoying the ride.


Here's how to buy my new book:

@ Barnes & Noble
@ Borders