Jan 30, 2011

Birthday Savings!

This is my birthday week and I thought I would share a secret with you all: the BEST mail comes right around your birthday! Yes, there are the wonderful cards from friends and family but there are also other fun surprises. So without further ado, here are the frugal birthday surprises I have received thus far in honor of my birth:
  1. $10 of of Purchase from Victoria's Secret- no minimum purchase required
  2. 20% off of purchase at Halmark
  3. $15 off of purchase from Banana Republic- no minimum purchase required
  4. Buy one get one free fillet Mignon from Land and Sea Market
  5. Free Brownie Sundae from Cantina Laredo
I will update this as my mailbox and inbox continue to fill up this week :) In the meantime, where else can you get freebies or discounts for your birthday? Leave a comment!

  • Free shipping from Macy's
  • free sub at Firehouse Subs (show ID)- Thanks Melissa!
Jan 28, 2011


     EcoSharing is an intriguing concept. Rather than buy certain tools you seldom use thus wasting money and resources you can use to share with your facebook friends. I feel like most of us have been doing this for years. The website just allows you to do it in a more organized way. It also gives you a wider net to see what your friends have that they are willing to lend. You decide what items you are willing to share and with which friends you are willing to share them with. The service is free. I also think it's a nice way to reconnect with people you don't get to see as much. I'm really looking forward to reading your comments to see what everyone thinks of this idea.
Jan 21, 2011

Sharing Frugality

    One of my favorite things is when I can inspire others to live frugally. This past weekend I visited my best friend in Northern Virgina. We sat down together with the newspaper and I explained how to combine coupons with loss leaders to purchase products for free or for pennies. I don't know why, but sharing frugality makes me happy. I love helping other people save money. I think that in some ways society has made talking about saving money a sort of taboo. I don't understand why people are embarrassed to share their adventures in couponing. I think we need a cultural shift where we embrace sharing our knowledge on how to save money. With much of the world experiencing an economic recession I feel we need to stop being embarrassed about wanting to save money. I joyously share coupons with strangers in the grocery store. My husband thinks I am crazy. Friends bring me coupons they think I will use and I am thrilled. We share so many aspects of our lives with our friends. I think it is high time we share frugality as well. Who knows, maybe others will embrace sharing coupons with strangers in the grocery store as well. We can call it coupon philanthropy :)
Jan 12, 2011

Green vs. Gross--- Where do YOU draw the line?

        Today's post was inspired by my younger brother. When Rob and I were home for Thanksgiving my brother had an interesting reaction to one of our "habits." In order to use less water and save a little money we don't flush the toilet every time we use it. When we visiting it completely did not occur to me that this might bother my brother with whom we shared a bathroom. Bother it did. We quickly rectified our etiquette faux pas.
         This situation got me thinking about what different people are comfortable with when it comes to being green and frugal. What seems second nature to some is disgusting to others. I will fully admit that there are certain things I do that are potentially gross to others. There are also things I know that others do that I would not be willing to do.
          So what are some of the more "questionable" things I do?
    • "Rescue" coupons from the trashcan by our mail box
    • Limit toilet flushing to solid waste
    • Reuse dish towels
    • Use natural cleaners like vinegar and baking soda for a lot of my home cleaning
    • Freeze leftovers for another meal-- this seems normal to me but I know some people who refuse to eat leftovers
    • Stretch meat dishes with beans
    • Shop in thrift stores
    • When we have kids we will use cloth diapers
             And what do I refuse to do?
    • Dumpster dive for food products
    • Allow solid waste to sit in the toilet
    • Eat expired food
    • Shop at day old bakeries-- I don't know why this weirds me out
    • Use "reusable" toilet paper-- eww

So where do you draw the line? What do you do that others won't and what grosses you out?
Jan 10, 2011

Why do we choose a frugal, green lifestyle?

    I was talking to my mom on the phone the other day and she said something that really made me think. I was explaining to her how we had saved $50 last month by using a space heater instead of central heat. I was super proud of this accomplishment. I thought my excitement was apparent but after a few seconds of silence my mom asked, "Are you and Rob having money troubles?" I was really surprised by her question. "Of course we aren't having money troubles," I thought. "We just saved $50!" To my mom this seemed extreme but to us it was merely another notch in our proverbial frugal bedpost. For me, the decision to lead a frugal lifestyle is a choice. For many people the decision comes out of necessity. I feel fortunate that Rob and I are in a position to choose and not forced to do so in order to survive. To some people, however, our choice seems odd.
      For me the choice to lead a frugal lifestyle isn't about sacrifice but about opportunities. Rob and I are both teachers. We love what we do and feel that we really make a difference in the world. Money wasn't (and isn't) the most important deciding factor for us. I feel lucky that I was able to discover my purpose in life early on and find my soul mate who is like minded. For us, a frugal lifestyle makes it possible for us to live well on teachers' salaries.
      Everyone needs to decide what your own personal "remarkable life" looks like. To us, it is a life surrounded by children broken up by long vacations that we get to spend together. Having expensive "stuff" is not what brings us joy. In fact, I have found that being surrounded by loads of stuff makes me really anxious. For others, their remarkable life may be totally different. I don't see it as a one-size-fits-all sort of philosophy. This is just what works for us.
        I really enjoy living a more simple life. I find peace hand drying my dishes with dish towels and clipping coupons. I also love the opportunities it provides us. I am thankful that I can pay for graduate school with cash and not go into debt. I am thankful that we are able to travel if we want to. I am so thankful that couponing allows me to help others by donating food to Metropolitan Ministries and other charitable organizations. These are things that make me far happier than more clothes or the latest gadget ever could.  Ultimately, it comes down to knowing what makes you most happy.
       I feel that our society has become so bogged down in consumerism that we take simple pleasures for granted. I really feel my life has changed for the better since we began our frugal journey. I appreciate things like a homegrown tomato or a walk with my dog. I love not feeling like I need to keep up with the Joneses. I like feeling that we are doing our part to help the planet and saving money in the process.
        Choosing to live more simply has brought me peace. I am happier and more in touch with myself than I have ever been in my life. While it began as an endeavor to save money and minimize our human footprint, I feel our journey has evolved into so much more. By deciding so carefully what we are and are not willing to spend our money on I have gained a greater understanding of what I value. And for me at least, this understanding is priceless.

"Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants." - Epictetus
Jan 5, 2011

A green funeral?


I know funerals are not a particularly happy topic and most people don't like discussing their "final arrangements" but I came across this article on  a message board and was intrigued. The article discusses the concept of "green funerals." I have never liked the idea of being pumped full of chemicals and put in an air tight box for all eternity. Cremation is not an option because of  my religious beliefs. I also think the amount of money spent to prepare a body for a funeral and on a casket is ridiculous. This article in Audubon Magazine provides an alternative. In my opinion, a really beautiful alternative.
       The article first explains some of the problems with the funeral industry: 
"we go into the ground pumped full of formaldehyde-based embalming fluids, which cause elevated rates of cancer in workers who handle them every day and which don’t actually halt our tissues’ decay. (Our blood, other bodily fluids, and waste are pumped out and simply washed down the drain.) Our remains are often sealed inside “decay-proof” metal caskets, and entombed in concrete vaults to prevent the subsidence that occurs when the casket inevitably collapses. The grave is dug by backhoe, not human hands. 
        A barrage of pesticides and herbicides, along with fossil-fuel-guzzling, pollution-emitting machines, keep our final resting places so tidy—and sterile—that some cemeteries even remove offerings of fresh flowers.
        Choosing cremation, the choice of one-third of the Americans who die each year, may save space in graveyards, but it isn’t particularly green either... cremation releases carbon dioxide: about 350 pounds per cremation, according to an Australian study—soot particles, sulfur dioxide, and trace metals, including mercury from dental fillings. (Other potentially harmful items, such as pacemakers and their batteries and some prostheses, must be removed before cremation.) Then there are the fossil fuels consumed in heating the ovens to 1,400 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit for the two and a half hours required to cremate a body and its casket, adds environmental journalist Mary Woodsen, a board member of New York’s Greensprings Natural Cemetery. “You could take 83 round-trips to the moon on the power used annually for U.S. cremations.”

     All of this runs completely counter to what seems natural to me. I abhor the idea of my family spending thousands of dollars on something that I see as unnecessary and that is harmful to the earth. The alternative presented is called a "conservation funeral." The first company to provide this service is the Ramsey Creek Preserve. The family purchased a 36 acre farm in South Carolina and converted it into a nature preserve. Here, people are laid to rest in their natural state without chemical preservatives (ice or dry ice preserves the body for transportation). The caskets are simple wood and biodegrade. The phrase "ashes to ashes and dust to dust" comes to my mind. The body becomes part of the nature preserve and enhances the beautiful preserve. The graves are dug by hand. Only native species plants are allowed and graves are marked by simply carved stones native to the area. When families visit their loved ones they go to a nature preserve instead of a cemetery which has a more industrial feel to me.
     One of the best parts is that a conservation funeral is actually cheaper than a traditional one. Because bodies cannot be embalmed a considerable cost is eliminated. The average cost of a traditional burial and funeral in the US is $7,300. According to the article, "a burial at a conservation cemetery the whole package, including green funeral home services, eco-coffin, burial, and plot, might average around $4,000.” 
      I do believe that it is important to be good stewards of the beautiful earth God has provided us with. Death is a natural part of life.  Conservation burial seems like a green and frugal way to make our final farewell natural- the way it was intended to be.

"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return."
-Genesis 3:19

***All images are from Ramsey Creek's website.

Jan 4, 2011

Free Books! Save money on Paperback Swap

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.

One of my all time favorite frugal websites is paperback swap. It's a free service where you list books you don't want anymore and request books you do. Each book is worth a credit. You get credits for mailing a book to someone and spend them when you request a book to someone else.

To sign up you register and post ten books you are willing to mail. You automatically are given book credits for signing up so you can request books right away.

A few tips:
  • use media mail from the US Postal Service to send heavier books. It will cost under $3 usually.
  • I use brown paper bags from the grocery store to wrap books in so I don't pay for packaging.
  • If you hate lines like I do you can use the automated postage service (APS) machines at the post office. The only caveat is that they don't do media mail so if the book is heavy it's worth waiting in line.
In the last two years I have saved $198 on Paperback Swap. It's easy to use, the books I have received have been in great condition, and it's always exciting to receive "fun" mail instead of bills.

What are you waiting for? Sign up! Swap Books for Free -
Jan 2, 2011

New Year Tips

      I always feel like the New Year is a stressful time. There's the pressure to come up with resolutions, advertisements telling us to lose weight, and a myriad of chores calling out to us to complete them. Here are a few tips to make the New Year a little more simple and frugal.

  1. Clean out your coupons. The first week of the year is one of the best for coupons. There were five inserts in today's paper! I clip all of these coupons and use this time to throw out expired coupons. If you don't have an organizational system for coupons yet now is a great time to start. I use a binder and plastic sheet protectors but you can buy organizers like this one. I like that it is biodegradable.
  2. Rotate your stock pile. I tend to do this automatically by putting new products in the back but somehow I always end up with things that reach their expiration date before I use them. I use this time to toss/recycle items that are no longer good and donate items that are close to expiring that I won't have a chance to use.
  3. Take a look at your overall financial situation. Look over your investment and retirement accounts to see if you need to make changes. Do you have an emergency fund in place? Do you need to update beneficiaries on your accounts? Remember, this includes not only checking and savings but also retirement accounts, investments, life insurance policies, and other insurance policies.
  4. Organize your important documents. Keep a record of account numbers, insurance policy numbers, driver's license numbers, credit card numbers and 1-800 phone info, passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, deeds/title to cars and home, and any other important documents. The best place to keep this is in a fire proof safe.
A little bit of work now will save you a TON of time and anxiety later, especially in case of an emergency.
Jan 1, 2011

Post - Christmas Frugal Projects

     Christmas is a busy time of year for everyone. I have found the easiest way to ease Christmas stress is to begin preparations December 26th! There are so many ways to save money and the environment after all of the presents have been opened. Here are a few:
  • Buy wrapping supplies for the upcoming year- Target puts all of it's wrapping and Christmas supplies on 50% clearance the day after Christmas. I purchase wrapping paper, bags, curling ribbon, and scotch tape. I fill any "holes" in my Christmas supplies and also make sure to stock up on silver wrapping paper. It can be used for birthdays, baby showers, weddings- any occasion just by changing the color of the ribbon! 
  • Re-purpose your Christmas Cards-  I use my Christmas cards to decorate during the holiday season. Because many Christmas cards cannot be recycled I re-purpose them for next year when it's time to take them down. I use pinking shears and a hole punch to cut them into gift tags for next year's gifts. I also know people who cut off the design (front part) and make Christmas post cards for the next year. These are good for people on a budget since they are cheaper to mail.
  • Hit the sales for gifts for the upcoming year- I take advantage of after Christmas sales not only for next year's Christmas gifts but also birthdays and other holidays like Father's Day. I keep an inventory of what I have purchased for each holiday and who the gift is for. I have a bag that I keep all gifts in so I don't lose what I buy.
  • Wait for CVS and Walgreens to mark greeting cards to at least 70% off- I like to purchase my Christmas cards for next year at CVS because I can use extra bucks when they mark them down so they end up being free.
  • Stock up on baking supplies- after Christmas a lot of the baking supplies go on clearance. I pick up things like sprinkles in different colors and flour that I will use all year long.
I hope this give you some ideas on how to prepare for the upcoming year and save money. I look forward to hearing what other people do post Christmas.