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Holy Ice Storm!

Written by Brett McKay

I apologize for the lack of posting this week. Oklahoma was hit hard with an ice storm on Sunday night and I’ve been without power since Monday. So blogging and checking my email have been a challenge. The only chance I have to do so is at school. Unfortunately, when I’m at school I’m busy studying for exams.

I’m not sure when my power or internet connection will be available again, so it might be a while before I can start posting regularly again. Please be patient during this time. For now, here’s a list of great holiday gift giving guides for those on a student budget brought to you by Jamie from Surviving College Life. Enjoy!

Holiday Gift Giving On a College Budget
Inexpensive DIY Gift Roundup #1: For the Ladies On Your List!
Inexpensive DIY Gift Roundup #2: Gifts for Guys
Inexpensive DIY Gift Roundup #3: Gifts for Kids

Ideas for Homemade Father’s Day Cards and Beyond

Written by Mrs. FLS

Father’s Day is Sunday. Have you bought a card for your dad yet? Well I hope not….because you should make one instead! I have always been really into making homemade cards. Not just because it is frugal-which it is-but because they are so much better than store bought cards. Why buy someone a card with a canned sentiment that doesn’t really express how you feel? “Dear Dad, my heart swells with love and gratitude as deep as a rolling river on this Father’s Day.” Ick. Most people, both those who buy the card and those who receive it, barely even read the inscription because they know someone they have never met, toiling away in Hallmark’s offices, wrote it. A homemade card allows you to write your own message and most importantly it tells the recipient that you cared enough to take the time to make something yourself with the person in mind. People seriously love homemade cards. No joke.

I think I have a knack for homemade cards. But I know that some people struggle to come up with good/funny ideas. So I thought I would share some ideas I have used in the past. Some of them are good for Father’s Day, and some are for other occasions or any old time. These cards are so easy, you will be finished making it in the time it would have taken to drive to Walgreen’s and back.

The easiest way to come up with a homemade card idea is to think of a funny pun. Don’t worry if it is cheesy or silly, the cheesier and sillier the better. Then you just build the card around that pun.

For example: Cut out a gray circle from construction paper. Glue a little string to the “top” (inasmuch as a circle has a top). Then draw a little flame, cut it out, and glue it to the top of the string. On the back of the circle, write “I hope your Father’s Day/Birthday is the BOMB!” Or, since bomb is rather “out” these days, write “I hope your ____is a BLAST!” Cheesy and delicious.

The easiest source of puns is food for some reason. I have this non-realistic dream of manufacturing a line of greeting cards called “Comfort Foods.” Since this is never going to happen, here are some of my ideas you can make at home. Note: for all these ideas, you can either cut the actual card into the shape or object mentioned, draw it, or what is even easier for the non-art inclined, simply find the picture online, print it, cut it out, and paste it on the front of card.

1. For example cut the card into the shape of a pickle or draw or paste a picture of a pickle unto the front of folded paper. On the inside write “You’ve always been there to help me out of a pickle. Happy Father’s Day!”

2. Cut/Paste/Draw a picture of a bunch of grapes. Then inside write “Hope you have a GRAPE Father’s Day/Birthday/Ect.

3. Cut out a white circle. Color a yellow circle in the middle. On the back write “Hope you have an Egg-cellent Father’s Day/Birthday/Ect.

4. Cut/Paste/Draw a slice of pizza. On the back write “You’re the best slice of life! Have a good……”

5. Cut/Copy/Draw a wedge of cheese. Write on front “I know this may sounds cheesy…” and then on the back write “but you’re the best dad/husband/friend in the world!”

Or for a more complicated variation on this theme: Draw a cob of corn on yellow construction paper. Cut it out. Cut out some green paper husk leaves. Attach them to the bottom of cob so they cover the bottom and the corn cob sprouts out. Write on the outside of the leaves “I know this may sound corny….” And then they bend back the husk leaves, and on the inside of the leaves or on the part of cob that was covered you have written “But you are the best __________ in the world!”

Current Events and Pop Culture are also fertile sources of ideas for puns for your card. For example for a love interest:

1. Find a picture of Kim Jong Il, dictator of N. Korea, print it, cut it out, and paste it on the front of folded paper. Draw a red heart around him. On the inside write “I just wanted to tell you that I’m CRAZY about you!”

2. Or print and cut out a picture of Mr. Peanut. Paste it, and on the inside of the card write, “I’m NUTS about you.” This would also work with a picture of a squirrel.

3. When the “The Secret” had just hit it big in the news and on Oprah, Brett made me a card in which he drew The Secret’s symbol on the front and wrote inside “It’s no secret I love you a lot.” Or when I was into watching the Bachelor reality show (it was a guilty pleasure, so sue me!), he made a card with a rose on the front, and inside it, it said “Kate, will you accept this rose?” Funny, ironic, sweet. What more can you ask for?

If you want to do something more involved, here are a couple of ideas:

1. A good Father’s Day “card” for kids to make is as follows. Draw a very little picture of your dad and cut it out. Stuff it inside a blue balloon. Blow up balloon and tie it off. Tape some green construction paper continents to the outside. Present the balloon to dad to pop. When he does, the little picture of himself will fall out and you will have written on it before insertion, “You are the best dad in the world!” Classic.

2. Here is a good one for a love interest. Cut/Draw/Paste a picture of a fisherman. Attach a string to his “pole.” At the end place a construction paper fish. On the fish write: “You are such a catch! I love you!”

For a Thank You card to someone for sending you money:

1. Cut/Draw/Paste a picture of a cow. On the back or inside write “Thank you for the Moooooola.”

2. Cut/Draw/Paste a picture of someone spreading butter on a slice of bread. Inside or on the back write “Thank you for spreading the love.”

So here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Give dad something funny, personalized, memorable, and from the heart this Sunday. And save a couple bucks in the process!

180 Money Saving Tips to Turn Your Financial Life Around 180 Degrees

Written by Brett McKay

Here’s a list of 180 money saving tips that can turn your financial life around 180 degrees. These are things that I have learned while reading blogs or other books. I’ve tried to provide links to blog posts and other articles that elaborate more on the tip. This was a fun exercise. While I personally don’t practice every single tip listed, it was a good way to find out how I can do better on saving money.

Automobile/Transportation

  1. Wash and vacuum your car at home.
  2. Buy a used car. New cars drop significantly in value as soon as you drive off the lot.
  3. Get rid of your car. If you’re married, just have one.
  4. Keep your tires inflated at the correct pressure.
  5. Do not carry unneeded weight in your vehicle. Excess weight puts a heavier load on the engine.
  6. Accelerate slowly and smoothly. Avoid jackrabbit starts. Get into high gear as quickly as possible.
  7. Use your air conditioner only when absolutely necessary.
  8. Avoid unnecessary stopping and braking. Maintain a steady pace.
  9. Do not rest your foot on the clutch or brake pedal. This causes needless wear and poor fuel economy.
  10. Keep the front wheels in proper alignment. Improper alignment not only causes faster tire wear, but also puts an extra load on the engine.
  11. Rotate your tires regularly. Rotating tires slows down tire wear.
  12. Wash your car regularly. A dirty car can damage paint.
  13. Avoid heavy traffic. You’ll save on gas by not idling as much.
  14. Change your own motor oil.
  15. Observe speed limits. You’ll save money on gas and avoid costly speeding tickets and the resulting increase in insurance rates.
  16. Pay your auto insurance premiums annually instead of every six months. You’ll get a lower rate.
  17. Use the bus to get to school or work.
  18. If possible, ride your bike or walk to your destinations.
  19. Carpool with co-workers.

Clothing

  1. Find an image consultant in your town and ask if you can have the clothes their clients get rid of.
  2. Don’t buy into trends. Keep a wardrobe of classic pieces, so you don’t have to update your clothes every year.
  3. Buy clothes at a thrift store.
  4. Wear clothes more than once before washing them. You’ll reduce wear on your clothes and save energy by not washing so often.
  5. Shop at outlet stores.
  6. Avoid buying clothes that require drying cleaning.
  7. Cut dryer sheets in half to double the value of each box.
  8. Buy your winter clothes at the end of winter/beginning of spring. Buy summer clothing at the end of summer/beginning of fall.
  9. Shop at discount stores like TjMax and Ross.

Food

  1. Forage for food. Check out a book on local edible plants and start stocking up on them.
  2. Buy a water filter and make your own bottled water.
  3. Buy bread at the bread outlet store and freeze excess loaves.
  4. Make meals that are left over friendly, like soups and casseroles.
  5. Join a food co-op.
  6. Make dinners in a crock pot
  7. Buy in bulk.
  8. If you buy soda, buy 2 liter bottles instead of cans. It’s much cheaper per unit price.
  9. Have potluck dinners.
  10. When you eat out, share meals. Most restaurant meals are big enough for two people.
  11. If you don’t have someone to share it with, split the meal and half and put when half in a to-go box for next day’s lunch.
  12. Skip the soda when you go out to eat, and drink water.
  13. Quit smoking.
  14. Make your own coffee. Better yet, stop drinking coffee.
  15. Quit drinking alcohol.
  16. Quit drinking soda.
  17. Find cheaper café’s and restaurants to go to.
  18. Cook your own meals.
  19. Take a list when you go shopping and stick to it.
  20. Buy generic brand products at the supermarket.
  21. Bring your lunch to school or work instead of buying it.
  22. Grow your own vegetables.
  23. Use coupons and loyalty cards at grocery stores.
  24. Reduce meat consumption.
  25. Eat cereal instead of fast food. It’s cheaper and usually healthier.
  26. Have a late lunch/early dinner when going out to eat. You can save on lunch menu items.
  27. Buy cheap food coupons on eBay.
  28. Join clubs at school and take advantage of free food at meetings.
  29. Don’t buy prepackaged cheese or meat. Go to the deli and have them slice it for you. You can get more for you money.
  30. Collect vegetable scraps in a bag in the freezer. As soon as it’s full, make a soup out of them.
  31. Buy whole roasted chickens. When you have used all the meat, throw the bones into a soup.

Housing

  1. House sit. Older affluent couples often leave their house for months at a time for vacations and need someone to watch it while they’re gone. Not only can you get free rent, you might get some extra cash.
  2. Become live in help. Some older people need help around the house, someone to cook meals for them, or just someone to talk to. You can live rent free this way.
  3. Relocate to an area with a cheaper cost of living.
  4. Share an apartment. Better yet, move in with your in-laws.
  5. Make an extra mortgage payment each year. You can save money on interest.

Household

  1. Buy furniture at a consignment store.
  2. If you need a tool, see if you can borrow it from someone before you go out and buy it.
  3. Don’t throw away “dead” batteries. Remove them from your radio and use them in quartz clocks. These clocks take such a small amount of power that batteries too weak to run anything else may have enough power to run a clock for a while.
  4. Wash and reuse plastic bags.
  5. Clean your own carpets. You can rent carpet cleaning machines for about $10.

Health Care

  1. If you take a prescription medication on a regular basis, ask your doctor to write a three month prescription. Instead of paying three co-pays, you only pay one.
  2. Go to the dentist at your local dental school. Students need people to practice on. You can get all your dental needs fulfilled at a reduced cost.
  3. If your doctor gives you a prescription, ask if he has samples that he could give you.
  4. Use your local park’s playground as a workout station. Monkey bars can be used for pull-ups and leg lifts. The park will also have a trail where you can run.
  5. If you go to school, use the school’s gym. It’s free.
  6. Brush and floss your teeth. You’ll save on dental expenses.
  7. Eat right and exercise daily. You’ll reduce health costs.
  8. If you join a gym, find one that offers a month to month contract. That way if for some reason you stop going, you won’t be stuck with a 1 year contract that you have to pay for.

Beauty and Hygiene

  1. Use baking soda for toothpaste.
  2. Use baby shampoo for a makeup remover.
  3. Buy makeup online.
  4. Use makeup samples.
  5. Don’t throw out small pieces of bar soap. Wet the small piece and the new bar and stick them together.
  6. Add water to your shampoo to get more uses.
  7. Stop using shaving cream. Shaving cream’s purpose is just to keep your beard wet. You can maintain a wet beard in the shower.
  8. Cut your own hair.
  9. Simplify your beauty products. Do you really need 5 different types of body lotions?

Travel

  1. Pack your travel meals in advance.
  2. Buy snacks at the grocery store, not at roadside convenience stores.
  3. Plan trips where you have friends and family. You might be able to score free room and board.
  4. Go camping.
  5. Stay at a college dorm room when traveling. Many universities rent out dorm rooms at a decent price during the summer.
  6. Book your flights and cruises way in advance. You can get lower prices.
  7. Always negotiate hotel room prices. Hotel rooms are like highly perishable food: if they’re not used that day, they’re wasted. You can almost always get a better deal just by asking, but do it with a nice smile face-to-face when you check in, or with friendly calls direct to the hotels you’re considering. It won’t work if you just call national 800 numbers, because they can’t negotiate. If your flight is overbooked and the airline offers a voucher if you take a later flight, take it.
  8. When flying, bring your own snacks. Airport food is expensive.
  9. Avoid renting a car at the airport. You’ll find more competitive rates, plus avoid extra surcharges at car rental agencies away from the convenience of the airport.
  10. Time your stay for best hotel deals. Plan the timing of your stay according to the type of place you visit. Hotels in cities are usually cheaper on the weekends, when business travelers aren’t staying there, but hotels in resort areas or other places that are popular with leisure travelers are often cheaper during the week
  11. Tourist spots sell everything from film — to capture those special moments — to sunscreen, bottled water and aspirin for prolonging your fun, at a higher cost. Purchase these items before and save.
  12. Travel after peak season. This might not be an option if you have school-age children. But families with infants and toddlers can take advantage of discounted rates by traveling in the fall.
  13. Bring an empty water bottle with you to the airport. Bottled water at airports is expensive. While you can’t bring any liquids past security, you can bring an empty bottle. Put it in your carry on and fill it up as soon as you get past security.
  14. Stay in hostels when traveling overseas. While you do have to share a bathroom and a room, you can stay for as little as $5.
  15. If you need a quick get away with your significant other, spend a night in your local bed and breakfast.

Entertainment

  1. Buy an Entertainment book. The initial investment is about $20, but there’s hundreds of dollars in entertainment savings in it.
  2. Join Gamefly for cheap video game renting.
  3. Trade video games, DVD’s and books with your friends.
  4. Start a book or film club. After reading the book or watching the film, discuss it.
  5. Have a game night with friends.
  6. Attend movies at dollar theaters.
  7. Take advantage of your local university. Colleges often have free entertainment events.
  8. Join the library.
  9. Read magazines for free at bookstores.
  10. Check out DVD’s from the library, rather than renting them from the video store.
  11. Find cheaper hobbies like blogging or jogging.
  12. Go on a hike, take a walk in the park, or go to the beach. Some of the nicest things to do in life are totally free.
  13. See if your local zoos, museums, entertainment parks and water parks have annual passes. Often the annual passes may not cost more than the price of a couple of visits.
  14. Save money on movies by going to the matinée.
  15. Watch amateur sports. High school athletic competitions are cheap and can be just as exciting as the pros.

Banking and Investing

  1. Start an automatic savings plan with your bank.
  2. Use your credit card to make all purchases, but pay it off each month. That you’ll earn cash back or travel points.
  3. Invest in index funds. There are hardly any costs in purchasing and owning index funds.
  4. Open an online savings account. Most online accounts offer a 4% interest rate. That’s much better than the 1% you get at your current bank. E-mail me for an ING referral.
  5. Avoid ATM fees. Only withdraw money from machines approved by your bank. 7-11 doesn’t have a surcharge.
  6. Pay bills by direct debit. You save on postage and avoid the risk of paying late fees.
  7. If you use checks, don’t buy them from the bank. You can get a better deal with other printing companies.
  8. Don’t overdraft on your account. You’ll save yourself money on penalties.
  9. Invest with a cheap online brokerage company like Sharebuilder.

Children

  1. Buy gender neutral baby clothing so you can use them again with the next baby.
  2. Make your kids Halloween costumes. It’s cheaper and more fun.
  3. Buy your baby toys from the thrift store. Toys suck these days. Give your child the gift of old school toys that actually requires an imagination.
  4. Buy your baby’s and tot’s clothes from the thrift store. Your kid isn’t going to notice the difference between a thrift store onezy and a Gap onezy.

Utilities

  1. Use a clothes liner to dry clothes. You’ll save on your energy bill.
  2. Replace old appliances with ones that have Energy Star approval.
  3. Regularly clean the coils on the back of your refrigerator. A clean coil uses less energy.
  4. Make sure your freezer is full. An empty freezer requires more energy to keep cold.
  5. Use washable coffee mug instead of Styrofoam. You’ll save money and help the environment.
  6. Replace all your incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent lighting.
  7. Turn off the lights when not using a room.
  8. Turn off your appliances when not using them.
  9. Don’t use a cell phone.
  10. If you have a cell phone, don’t buy the extra features like text messaging and web access.
  11. If you have a cell phone, get rid of your land line.
  12. Get rid of cable. Who needs 100 channels of crap?
  13. Use the internet at school or the library. Not only will you save money, you’ll save time.
  14. During the winter, leave the oven open after you cook to heat the house.
  15. Sign up for Skype for long distant phone calls.
  16. Turn your heater thermostat down 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in the summer.

Miscellaneous

  1. Get a digital camera. You save money on film.
  2. Don’t own a pet. You’ll save money on food and shots.

Shopping

  1. Avoid impulse buying. Practice tantric shopping.
  2. Buy as much as you can online.
  3. Negotiate the price on big ticket items like cars, electronics, and large appliances.
  4. Use cash as a negotiating tool. Nothing makes a seller’s mouth water than cold hard cash in their hand.
  5. Before you buy something, ask if the item will be put on sale in the near future.
  6. Don’t buy extended warranties. Eighty percent are never used, and they’re a major profit item for the vendor. That’s why they push you so hard to buy them!
  7. Keep receipts and send in rebate slips. Very few consumers actually return rebate coupons. Which is, of course, exactly what the manufacturers are hoping for.

Low cost ways of making extra money

  1. Sell your old stuff, like CD’s and books on eBay and Amazon.
  2. Turn your hobby into a business. Pretty much anything you do can be turned into a business of some sort.
  3. Sign up with an online survey company like Survey Spot.
  4. Become a mystery shopper. Not only can you make some extra money, you might get some free stuff as well.
  5. Have a yard sell.
  6. Start a blog and put Adsense on it. You might only earn 4 cents a week, but it’s something.
  7. Become a consultant. Do you know a lot about a particular skill? Put that knowledge to work by helping others.
  8. Do freelance work on the side. If you’re a good writer, photographer, artist, or programmer you can make some extra money by selling your talent to companies.
  9. Start an errand Service. Offer to pick up groceries or dry cleaning for others.
  10. Waiting service. People these days don’t have time to wait on the plumber of cable guy. Charge by the hour to do the waiting for other people.

School

  1. Check out study supplements from the library. Don’t buy them.
  2. Buy used text books.
  3. Take advantage of free pens and pencils at business conferences.
  4. Keep track of your pens and pencils. You’ll spend less on them if you don’t lose them all the time.
  5. Buy back packs that your kids can use for years. While they might think the Sponge Bob Square pants one is cool in 2nd grade, they probably won’t think it’s cool in 4th.

Computers

  1. Use open source software like OpenOffice for your computing needs. Here’s a huge list of all the open source software you’ll ever need.
  2. Refill ink cartridges instead of buying new ones.
  3. Print off your documents in draft mode. It’s faster and saves ink.
  4. Use free online storage for all your digital storage needs.
  5. When you buy new computers or printers, keep the old cables. You never know when they’ll come in handy.

Gifts

  1. Make your own greeting cards.
  2. Make your own wrapping paper.
  3. Agree with family and friends to NOT buy each other Christmas presents this year.
  1. Offer to give a service, like a night of free babysitting as a gift, instead of buying stuff.
  2. Give baked goods. Everyone loves cookies!
  3. Learn the art of the re-gift. If you get something that you don’t like, keep it and give it to someone else later. However be careful to keep track of who gave you what. You don’t want to give a gift back to somebody.

Can you think of any more? Add to the conversation!
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Featured Resources

A great way to avoid spending extra Money is by avoiding Credit Card Offers that have a high Interest Rate. When you signup with a new Credit company be sure to check their APR rates and find out if a free Balance Transfer option can help you save money.
[tags]saving, frugality, personal finance, clothing, food, cars, beauty, health care [/tags]

Free Christmas Wrapping Paper

Written by Brett McKay


Christmas is only a few days away. If you’ve done shopping already, your next step will be to wrap those gifts. Instead of forking over more money for paper that will torn to shreds in a matter of seconds, save some money by making your own wrapping paper. Lifehacker has several ideas on how you can.