Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mortgage Calculator

This calculator from Dave Ramsey's website is awesome! If you want to accelerate paying off your mortgage play with the numbers and see the amount of money that you can save by paying a little extra each month. Happy computing.

Online Savings Account

Recently, I decided I needed a savings account that was not so easily accessible. And after reading about online accounts with rates above 5% I thought it would be worth checking out. Bankrate does a wonderful job of comparing the different online banks interest rates, minimums to open, and service fees.

After reviewing all the options I finally chose iGObanking. Their current rate is 5.17% APY. It is very easy to set up an account, as I had my brick and mortar bank linked to this account and when I want to add money to my savings account it is drafted from that account. It takes about three days for the transaction a complete, but that is what I was looking for with this account. I did not want easy access to the money. This account is for long term savings for things like cars and appliances.

Another feature that was appealing to me was PayPeople. This option allows money to be sent or received to or from family or friend. A shared secret code allows the recipient to obtain the money that is being sent.

Overall, I like iGObanking because of the great interest rate, ease of use, and free transfer fees. The account can be opened with only $1 and there are no monthly service fees. Also, if you know that you want to save a certain amount every week or two weeks a recurring transfer can easily be set up.

Don't delay start saving today!! Works for me!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Creative Veggie Steamer

We have all been told that steaming vegetables is the best way to retain all the nutrients and vitamins in the vegetables we eat. I want to start feeding my family more vegetables this way, but I do not have a steamer basket or an electric steamer. I have seen them at yard sales and thrift stores and will pick one up when I come across one again. Until the, do I not make steamed veggies? No, I found a frugal alternative. How, you ask? Bring a small amount of water to a boil in a saucepan and add loosely rolled balls of aluminum foil to the pan. Lay the cut up vegetables on the foil and cover the pan. Steam 2-5 minutes until desired softness and your healthy steamed vegetables are ready to serve! Works for me!
For other great ideas check out Rocks in my Dryer.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

CVS deals this week

6 bottles Herbal Essence

2 4pk Energizer C batteries

2 Family size bottles Garnier Fructis

2 Alka Seltzer Cold Medicines

2 125 Count ES Tylenol

1 100 Count ES Tylenol Rapid Release

Original Retail $94.25

After Sales and Coupons $44.07-I had coupons for everything except Alka Seltzer Cold

After EC Bucks $10.07!

As the receipt printed the clerk said "I don't think I've ever seen so many coupons print off. You sure know what to buy!" I really could have done better but even the best laid plans have to change when you get in the store. For instance, the Tylenol deal was "buy $20 of product get $10 in ECB back". Well, the ad was for 100 count bottles and they are 8.99 or 9.99. I had 2 $5 off coupons for Tylenol and wanted to buy only 2 bottles, but because of the price I had to buy 3 for the deal to work. Point being, you have to be flexible when shopping this way. Another thing that often happens is the item you are expecting to buy is sold out. It is always a good idea to have a plan B to make your deal work in your best interest. All that being said, I love CVS!


Have you ever seen or heard of this? These are so cool!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sweet Iced Tea!

I am a southern gal and southern gals(and guys for that matter) love sweet tea. I make my sweet tea by the gallon because our family drinks about that much daily. I used to boil the water on the stove, but since a friend shared with me that she heats her water in the microwave I've adopted that method. I fill a gallon pitcher half full of water and place it the microwave for five minutes. Drop in three family sized tea bags. My personal favorite is Lipton brand, but I buy what is on sale. Let the tea steep for about 10 minutes then squeeze them and discard. Add 1 to 1/2cups of sugar depending on your taste and stir to dissolve. Fill the pitcher to the brim with water and stir again. Enjoy over ice!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My not so favorite things list:

  • Kenmore Elite front load washer. We all know how expensive the front loaders are. I've only had mine a 1 year and 10 months and I have had nothing but trouble from the thing. No problems out of the dryer so far.
  • Pampered Chef measure all cup. Sounded like a great thing. However, measuring dry foods with it is not that easy. I'll stick with my Tupperware measuring cups.
  • Pampered Chef Ice Cream dipper. Worked well until I put it in the dishwasher.
  • Oreck vacuum. This is a very fine vacuum as far as picking up dirt, but I wish it had attachments. My handle is breaking on it because it falls backwards if you leave it to move furniture or a rug. I wish I had bought a Dyson for about the same amount of money.
  • Land Rover 1998 Discovery. Let's just say I wish I'd bought a Honda.

Banana Cake?

My friend brought this delightful cake to work for us a couple weeks ago and I got the recipe from her last night. I am baking it as I type. I have had banana bread, muffins, cream pie, and pudding, but never cake. One word can only describe this cake:YUMMY!

Banana Cake
*1 Box Yellow Cake Mix
*1 Cup ripe Bananas-mashed
*1 Cup Sour Cream
*3 eggs
*1/4 cup Oil
Blend all sour cream and bananas together well.
Add all other ingredients and blend on medium
speed for 2 minutes. Pour in a 9X13 greased and
floured pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven
for 35 minutes.
*1 stick of Butter
*8 oz Cream Cheese
*1 16oz bag Powdered Sugar
Blend together well and spread over cake.
My friend made her cake in 2 9in. round pans. The actual recipe instructs to cut the 9X13 cake into two squares and frost that way. I personally liked the cake by itself because it is soooooo moist, so I will just sprinkle some powdered sugar on mine. Okay, I just pulled it out of the oven and it smells heavenly!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

We all have favorite things we use everyday. Oprah does a show every season about her favorite things.
So, in that same spirit I would like to list a few of my favorite things.
  • Miracle Thaw-a metal sheet(aluminum, I think) that defrosts meat in a couple hours on the counter. I know there were reports about it not being safe because meats are sitting out at room temperature to defrost, but honestly we've never had any problems thawing meat this way. If I'm shorter on time I use the microwave's defrost option.
  • Pampered Chef classic scraper. Let me first say I am not a big fan of Pampered Chef parties after a consultant stalked me about hosting a party (I still get emails from her 7 years later!) Doesn't stain or get bent out of shape! I've had this one for years and love it.
  • Pampered Chef rice cooker. Microwaved rice comes out perfectly every time. I never cook rice on the stove anymore.
  • Pampered Chef nylon pan scraper. I use one of these everyday. It originally came with a baking stone(broken) used to scrap it clean. However, it works great for removing baked on food from other baking dishes and pans and even dried food spills on counter tops.
  • Swivel sweeper. I bought mine at CVS about a year ago and love the little thing. Gets under tables with ease and picks up everything from salt to dog hair. Because of its design it cleans right up to the base boards! You won't replace your regular vacuum with the Swivel Sweeper, but for the quick jobs it fits the bill.
  • Bare Escentuals Bare Minerals foundation. I love, love, love this makeup. First off, it lasts forever. Secondly, my face never breaks out when I use this foundation. Lastly, it covers so well and yet I don't even look like I'm wearing makeup. I bought it off EBay last time I needed a replacement and it was much cheaper than buying from QVC or ULTA or even the infomercials.
  • Craftsman Tools. Enough said. What else could be said about tools that if broken will be replaced by just taking it to the store for another one. Tools that are guaranteed forever. Wouldn't it be great if everything we bought had a lifetime guarantee!

Next time I will post about some of my not so favorite things that I wish now I had not wasted my money on.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Yesterday, I replaced the summer wreath on front door for a pumpkin plaque. I have one linen closet in which I keep seasonal decorations except for Christmas decor, those are in the attic. I was trying to fit this wreath back into the linen closet and there was really no space for it. After a few minutes of struggling I had the idea of hanging on the inside of the door. There it would not loose its shape and would leave me more space for other items. A couple of other clever storage ideas I use are placing folded sheets between the mattresses. And, all my pot lids are are stacked in a strainer for easy access. Anybody have any good storage tips of there own?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stockpiling and Aldi

I really like shopping at Aldi, but they don't take coupons, have loss leaders or run sales. That being said their prices are consistently lower than other grocery stores and I shop there weekly. If you have never shopped at Aldi you can check their store locator to find a store near you. I used to stockpile items from sales from other grocery stores matching coupons with the sales. I still do if the items are close to being free by doing so. All this got me thinking how could I stockpile using Aldi to fill my cupboards. I came up with a plan to spend an extra $10 a week on stockpiling by picking 2 items and buy extra of them. This week it is peanut butter and rice. Next week will be flour and sugar since baking season is upon us. Obviously, this only works for groceries with a long shelf life and if you have the space to store the goods.

Sidebar: Stockpiling is a great way to fill your pantry now for when times are more lean. However, you have to be careful when you have an abundance of groceries the "there's more where that come from" mentality can lead to using more than is really needed.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Yeah, We made it!

Well, we did it! We made it last week with only $23 in the bank! My husband spent $15 on gas leaving us a grand total of $8 in the bank. I learned this week that I am more disciplined than I thought. I could have pulled out the CC, but I'm tired of working to make them rich! If we don't have the money we can't afford it(whatever it is), period! Some things I did to fill my time were, a lot of extra cooking and baking, working extra hours and doing free and cheap things with my 3 yo. This week is not going to be a non money spending week, however I am buying only necessities this week at Aldi and the bread store. No thrift store (my weakness) for me this week.
On a different note I wanted to share a Coconut Cookie recipe I made last week. These were marvelous.
Tip: Put a piece of bread in the cookie jar to keep homemade cookies moist. I usually use the end piece as we don't eat those anyway!

Small Things Add to Big Savings Over Time

Here's a list of small things I do today to save money:

  • Double a recipe and freeze half. Use the frozen meal instead of fast food for a quick meal when you are short on time.

  • Shut all cabinet and closet doors. Don't pay to cool/heat "dead" space.

  • Try living without one convenience item for a short time. Paper towels or paper plates are a good items to try and avoid. Even a week without them saves money. If you do use paper towels for drying hands don't throw them away. Save it for wiping up a spill. And after a paper towel dries works great to clean windows.

  • When using oven, turn off the oven 5-10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.

  • Use less of everything! A smidgen of toothpaste is enough to clean our teeth. Use 1/2 lb.- 3/4 lb of ground beef in a recipe that calls for a pound and "bulk" it up by adding rolled oats while browning. No one will know it is in there! Use half the recommended amount of laundry detergent.

  • Wash clothes in cold water. They will get clean.

  • Dilute liquids. Things like dish soap, shampoo, and even ketchup can easily be diluted.

  • Write down every meal you cook this week. You just started a meal plan!

  • Unplug appliances that are not being used.

  • Hang laundry to dry on a the line or on small drying racks.

I would love to hear what small things others do to save money.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A $23 Week.

After all bills were paid last Friday there was $44 left in the bank for the week. Normally, we would fall back on the CC to get through the rest of the week. But, we have a pact not to use our CC's anymore and live on what we make! Out of the above balance I spent $11 at Walgreen's for a couple of free after rebate items, and $10 for a trip to the pumpkin patch with the preschool on Thursday. So that left $23 for the rest of the week. Now I don't have a $10 a day Starbucks habit or spend $100 a week on a "just shopping" trip to Target. However, I do usually stop by the Goodwill once a week and run to the grocery store and check out the 50% off meat bin. I also love to stop by a few yard sales on Saturday mornings, but I refrained even though there were a ton around town! I have plenty of groceries in my freezer and pantry so food has not been a problem. I normally cook at home everyday and pack lunches for the family anyway, so there is no big difference there. I have found myself baking more this week. Well, it is midweek and I think we are going to survive our "no spending" fast. It is really a freeing feeling. Maybe I will choose to have a no spending week in the future...maybe.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Boiling Ground Beef?

I found ground beef for .99/lb at the grocery store last week so I bought 10 lbs to fill the freezer. Now, I had never even heard about boiling ground beef until a few weeks ago when I read an article on the subject. Intrigued by the idea I decided to give it a try to make quick work of cooking it all. I placed it in a large stock pot and covered the meat with water. I boiled it until the meat lost its pink color, drained it in a colander over a big bowl, and measured by 3 cups increments into freezer bags. I covered the big bowl and placed in the refrigerator and let it cool. The fat rose to the top after it cooled and I removed it and poured the broth into freezer bags as well. Standing the freezer bag inside a tall container large enough to hold the amount of broth you want to add and draping the sides of the bag over the container makes them easier to fill. Then, just zip the bag and pull it out of the container and lay the bags flat in the freezer. Now I have 11 bags of low fat cooked ground beef crumbles and 2 bags of beef broth ready for to use for quick tacos, spaghetti or whatever other recipe I choose in which to use them!