Simple ways to 'find' money

cheloneMarch 8, 2008

The recent "emergency fund" thread has reminded me of how I "got there" with respect to establishing a reserve fund.

I've never experienced overwhelming personal debt. Why? We have a monthly BUDGET. And our budget includes SAVINGS! more importantly;

1.) We live BELOW our means. We always have, and for many years (and even now) we've endured relentless teasing about our "tightwad" tendancies. We've questioned ourselves again and again about our choices, we've cringed at some of the things our friends have said to us. But we've emerged PERFECTLY FINE about it all.

2.) We've worked tirelessly to control the simple, day to day "costs" we all face. We have all regularly used appliances (the computer, the TV, the stereo) on "surge protectors". We switch them on when we want to use them. More importantly, we switch them OFF when we're finished using them. Any appliance that has a light indicating "readiness" or a timer waiting to be "set" is summarily UNplugged when not in use. Our electric bill was pushing $100/mo.. After instituting the above changes it fell to under $50/mo.. Think about the ramifications with respect to global warning if WE ALL did that...

3.) We eat at home. We buy ingredients and we make dinner. We eat "leftovers". We "brownbag" leftovers for lunch. I have never been to Starbucks, and I'm PROUD OF IT, it's a rip-off, you guys! I'm fine with it being a once weekly "treat"... but every day? An honest talley of the money spent there would likely buy 1/2 tank of gasoline for your car. A thermos is a lot cheaper.

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I 'find' more money in our bank account once in a while when I decide not to grocery shop and instead eat from the freezer and pantry. I buy meat and staples up ahead. They will eventually go bad if not used. In the past when we've moved, I've not had to shop for almost a month for food except milk, fresh fruit and veggies, or that extra product like cheese to make a meal complete.

We had an ice storm with major power outage back in December. Many of our neighbors lost $300+ in fresh groceries and freezer items. I'm rethinking using the freezer as long time storage. I may try to get fresh produce from nearby farms and orchards this summer and go back to canning and dehydrating foods for longer term storage.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2008 at 2:10PM
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That's exactly what I did Jan this year. I spent $200 less on groceries that month. I've also learned to substitute - if I don't have exactly the ingredient a recipe calls for, there is almost something else that will work as well. Fewer trips to the grocery store saves both gas and groc $$.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2008 at 2:50PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana

I've also learned to substitute
I've often wonder how chili would be with green beans when I was out of chili beans. I don't care much for chili with no beans.

I too have saved by eating from my freezer and pantry. I didn't go to the grocery for a whole month and just had BF pick up a couple of very needed things once or twice.

I too was a thermos carrier when I worked. For one thing the post was usually dry, or old if bought it at work.

I too took leftovers. People would look at me with envy when I enjoyed my plate lunches made of home cooked foods, while they are 'crap' from machine or fast food.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2008 at 7:20PM
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Substituting is a great thing and not just for food. I'm always amazed that people will go out and buy something new when they have something useful already on hand. I grew up with a 'make do or do without' attitude. I think I'm more creative because of it. Creativity also provides more opportunities to make or save money because other people are looking at the situation in a different respect that I am.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 1:05AM
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"I've often wonder how chili would be with green beans when I was out of chili beans. I don't care much for chili with no beans."

Any kind of beans will work. We made chili with black-eyed peas last night.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 11:56AM
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I have an incredibly good recipe for making chilli with white beans and chicken. If anyone wants it, I'll be glad to post it.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 12:25PM
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Medical bills have eaten away at our emergency fund. So I am bound and determine to build it back up again. I guess that is what an emergency fund is for -- but it still upsets me.

What do I do? I set aside certain money always to be put in the savings account. For example, my husband has an occasional part-time job -- those paychecks go into the emergency fund.... money I make from egg and jam sales go into the savings account.

We do budget savings -- it has been difficult lately. But I've changed many buying habits........ I no longer buy canned black beans or pinto beans or chili beans. I always plan ahead and soak the dry ones. I bake our own bread every day .... you would think it was a lot of work but I love the New York Times No-Knead bread. I make several different variations --average cost is 50 cents to $1.00 per loaf depending on what I do. Its a $5-7 loaf of bread. I do can -- about 500 jars a year and freeze another 300 bags of veggies.

I map out errands. If there are less than 4 errands to do.... I don't go. If I forgot something -- I go without.
We don't buy bottle water -- I paid $10,000 for a well -- I'm going to drink that fine water!! We have plastic water bottles that we keep filled.

I'll think of other ways ..... usually at 2 am.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 8:57PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana

zone gramma,

I've had it b4 and it was good. I'd love to see your recipe.

Do you use a bread machine by any chance. I got a used one, and once I get a booklet for it, I'd be interested in different recipes.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 1:21AM
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Sue -- the New York Times bread recipe is not done in a bread machine. Just a simple bowl -- its amazing how very easy it is. But I do use a bread machine often. I do not bake in them though. I use them to mix, knead and to proof the dough but then I bake it in the oven.

We use the bread for sandwiches -- and I don't like the "hole" thats in the bottom. If I was only using the bread for supper -- I'd go ahead and use it.

The best book I have found so far -- is the Better Homes and Garden Bread Machine book.

It takes a lot of practice to find the best recipes -- I've made some losers! Just write notes as you go along.

Good luck -- you'll enjoy it.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 8:34AM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM


Some of my favorite sources for bread recipes are King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion and Rose Levy Beranbaum's Bread Bible. Both have directions on adapting to the bread machine. I have checked out both from my library and they are excellent (and on my to buy list).

King Arthur Flour's website also has many recipes worth trying (the whole wheat pecan bread is our favorite sandwich bread). Any book of Beranbaum's is definitely worth the full cover price (although I still buy them used). Her flaxseed loaf is excellent for sandwiches and the sweet potato bread makes excellent hamburger buns (it is a yeast bread). Happy baking.

Disclaimer: I gave my bread machine away years ago. All of my bread is kneaded in my Kitchen-Aid.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 4:33PM
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I like the 'make do' attitude.

It's not food related (although we do all of the above as well0 but our dryer needs a couple of new parts and since money is tight for the next few weeks rather then stressing about it I'm just doing what my mother used to do when I was a kid and we didn't have a dryer - I've been hanging the laundry on a small clothesline and rack in the basement to dry.

Probably saving on my gas bill and not adding to my credit card bill with a new dryer.

We did that for awhile with our old fridge - freezer was working but the fridge part conked on us and for a month in the winter we packed the fridge twice a day with pans of snow to keep things cool until we could find good deal on better fridge.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 1:46PM
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We don't have a dryer. I've lived in this house for pushin' 17 yrs. now and we didn't buy one when we purchased the washing machine (were unwilling to "afford" it). We had a clothesline (flouting the ordinance in our neighborhood, lol) and few foldable drying racks. We ADAPTED and learned how to plan our wardrobes. ;)

Now, years later, we don't miss what we've never known. I used my GRANDMOTHER'S clothes rack, positioning it in front of the woodstove in the winter (humidifies, too) or out on the deck in the warmer months. I put shirts, pants on coathangers (good sturdy ones) and hang them from the crown mouldings over every door in our living "area". We've put up poles in the boiler room, too. I hang many items in there, too. In the winter, a pair of jeans will dry in 3 hrs.. In the summer, when it's most humid here it takes about 6 hrs..

I guess we're "old time hippies". But it works for us. ;)

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 6:32PM
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We found "a lot" of money when Trader Joe's came to our town and we stopped shopping at the Taj Mateeter or Whole Paycheck. (Changed the real names, hope you can figure those out). Also, because we love international foods, we have almost completely stopped eating out at restaurants.

I am already retired and my husband wants to retire. So, we put together a budget several years ago and were totally stunned by how much we were spending on food (groceries and restaurants). We needed to cut the food budget significantly. Fortunately, it coincided with TJ's coming to town. They are so much less expensive than any other grocery around here. Also, with the wide variety of choices, we manage to satisfy any cravings. Now, you can go in there and spend a lot of money if you buy a lot of gourmet items, wine, coffee, etc.

While cutting up your own pineapple is certainly cheaper than pre-cut, at Trader Joe's it is $2.49 whereas another store it is $4.89. Fresh blueberries right now are $3.99 at TJ's and a carton half that size is $5.99 at another store. A bag of prewashed salad is $1.89 at TJ's and I think I was paying over $3 before.

A gallon of TJ's fat free milk is $3.69.

For international flavors, TJ's woodfired frozen pizza, imported from Italy is $3.99. A bag of frozen mushroom risotto, imported from Italy is $2.99.

A huge loaf of fresh, sliced Tuscan Pane (bread) is only $1.99. It has no preservatives, but lasts longer than artisan breads from other stores that cost $4.00+.

We can actually pronounce all the ingredients on TJ's products, so we are eating preservative and chemical free foods. Some are certified organic.

The fresh meats are excellent. As a splurge for Valentine's Day, DH and I grilled wonderful filet mignons that were $13.99 per lb instead of $18.99 per lb!

Oh...and because we have stopped going out to restaurants, we've also saved on gasoline as well as freeing up our time. I go to TJ's only once a week. I carry my own paper bags back to reuse as well as having their reusable insulated bag for frozen items.

Also, we find that we have almost no wasted food anymore. In restaurants, I'd eat half of my serving to cut calories and sometimes the leftovers were okay and sometimes not.

To top it off, we're both losing weight and feeling great (and we are also exercising more).

Hope this is helpful to folks with a TJ's nearby who haven't tried it.


    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 2:35PM
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Thanks for the tips, chelone. How wonderful it would be if everyone would take a few seconds to conserve energy. I once calculated that my company (I have saved electricity as you have. Using a power strip with a switch is a big convenience.
I frequently buy store-brand products and find the quality to be very good, and the price if often 25% less, sometimes more.
I also keep track of EVERY penny I spend and categorize my expenditures in Quicken. I was surprised to learn, years ago, that I spent $20-24 per week buying COFFEE!!! Now, I buy 39-oz. can of coffee on sale for $4.99 or $5.99, and that lasts 3-4 weeks. Add the cost of electricity, and I am still saving a bunch!
I've always said, "It's the little expenses you have to watch." They add up in a hurry.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 10:54AM
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We LOVE Trader Joe's!! Unfortunately the nearest one is about 50 miles away (I keep emailing them to open a store near us). When we have several reasons to go to the big city, we do stop at TJ's. We buy their wine by the case (it's perfectly good table wine). I stock up on non-perishables. I can't buy frozen because of the time it takes to get home. But I do take a cooler and get some perishables - love their cheeses.

They have a great variety of organic foods, international foods, and you can't beat their prices.
Love em!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 1:33PM
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zone8 Grandma,

If you have a good cooler and buy a substantial amount of frozen goods, you can haul them 50 miles in all but the hottest weather without causing trouble, I'm sure.

As long as there's a small amount of ice left in the frozen goods, they'll be O.K., I've been told. And it seems to me that refreezing goods that was only short of ice for a short period wouldn't cause it to be risky.

Some years ago in early spring after an ice storm that had knocked out power in a nearby area I was using a borrowed generator to charge up freezers. In one home, they had a freezer in a back porch and had put coats and other partial insulators over the freezer. When we plugged it in, we opened the lid ... and there were blueberries in an open tray that still had ice crystals on them ... and it was slightly over 2 days since the power had gone off. No heat in the home in the meantime.

Good wishes for making your money work harder for you than for the other guys.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 3:27AM
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I stopped buying groceries in bulk from discount stores, to save money. That's right, stopped.

I realized I had at least $200 of "inventory" sitting on the shelves in my house. Several months' worth of paper goods, multiple cans and jars of various foods that took months to use up, extra soap and toothpaste, etc.

I've moved to a "just-in-time" household inventory mindset, and only buy bulk nowadays if the price is much, much better than a smaller purchase. Keeps me from wasting money maintaining a pointless stockpile. Let the stores keep it on their shelves until I need it.

Of course, I make more (but shorter) grocery shopping trips this way, but I'm very careful to combine the trips with my commute or other errands.

PS: That no-knead NYtimes bread recipe is the BEST, I'm so excited to see it mentioned! I love how it only uses 1/4 tsp of yeast. That's a big savings right there.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 8:00PM
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Something that I started doing a few years ago was finding local people who raise and sell hogs and cattle. Grass raised beef has less fat than feed-lot raised cattle that are fed corn. Because the corn diet makes cows sick, THAT is why they give them antibiotics. And the price is SO much better than in the stores. The last beef I bought was $1.99 a pound---steaks so big that they hang over the plate!!

I also found a local person who sells eggs for $1.00 per dozen!!!! Not having to buy meat in stores really saves on the grocery bill. I look at meat prices in the stores and can't believe how high they are!! If only I could find a local farmer to buy milk from!!!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 8:58AM
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We live well. We know where our money is going. Nobody, as far as I *know*, has every said we were 'cheap'. We don't spend on little things that are meaningless to us. We're happy at home. We have nothing to prove to anyone and no huge budget for clothing or entertaining. To elaborate:

We read a lot but probably buy four books a year; our public library is excellent. We watch movies -- on DVD's from the library or recorded on the cable DVD.

I think I astounded a telephone survey person last month. He asked how often we went to the movies and I said, "Never." I asked DH when we last went to a movie. It was six years ago to see something our DS and DIL wanted to see. I don't even know how much tickets are anymore. There's nothing we can't wait to see on a DVD -- hard to find much that we want to see at all! Tea and cookies or popcorn from our kitchen, not a concession stand. (And we can control the volume; pause or replay; even use captioning if we can't understand heavy accents.)

We rarely eat in a restaurant, but when we do it will be a special occasion and a special place. We rarely bring home a pizza and never any other 'fast food'; we don't like it, and I always see the term minus the letter 's'. We have great city water and a filter on the water line in the fridge; easy to draw off some cold water. It makes great coffee and tea.

I tried Starbuck's coffee once. My stomach can't tolerate it. The coffee seems to be a flavoring added to liquid ice cream. People can lie to themselves about consuming it because it's called 'coffee'.

I clip coupons -- only for items we buy anyway. I buy beef at Costco because it's not far away and 'choice' is less expensive 'select' at chain grocers. I buy fruit and vegetables only in season. I can't justify running a large freezer for two people; only thing I freeze are enough blueberries for cereal to get through the winter. I buy store brands for many things. I don't have a huge pantry full of stuff. We also have no stuff in paid storage.

We have one car (one insurance policy). We buy 'last year's model' and keep it 8-10 years. We live three minutes from town and railway -- where we used to have discounted, and now free fares. ('Free' being a goofy gimmick of the current occupant in our governors mansion.)

We only contribute to local charities where we have a very good idea where our dollars end up and where we respect the fund managers.

I said we live well. The above illustrates what we do NOT spend on. However...I've never liked the little quote on the House Forum on GardenWeb -- the one that suggests you should live BELOW your means. I'd prefer it said WITHIN your means.

Our means (after savings and gifts to charity) justify that we have a nice house. Sometimes in the past we were top-heavy on 'savings' and too low on 'housing'. (We were also paying a lot of income tax without enjoyment of the money.)

The 'last year's model car' has been a Jaguar for many years. The home-brewed coffee is Columbian and the tea is loose-leaf Twinings and Fortnum's. Cream is ultra-pasturized real cream, not a powder. Bread is from Breadsmith's. (We might consume one $3 loaf in two weeks.) We hire out our lawn care and window washing now -- these were DIY for many years.

When a rental property here sold we invested in a vacation rental condo on Maui. It performs better than the prior rental. We vacation there once a year. The transportation costs are tax deductible. We live as simply there as we do at home.

Now, we could be socking away the money we spend on choice cuts of meat, Jaguars, trips to Maui. We could chose to live BELOW our means, but...what would be the point? Remember the old saw about nobody ever wishing he'd spent more time at the office? Can't the same concept apply to living below your means? There has to be a medium between the ant and the grasshopper.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 11:45AM
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1. I save $1 bills, a tip I got from Neal Boortz radio program years ago, and it usually adds up to $600-$1,000 each year and is deposited in the Christmas/Emergency savings account once a month. I also budget and pay myself $20/month to cut my own hair, and that is also added to the fund.

It's important to actually SAVE the money. Unspent money isn't necessarily "SAVED". Only when that amount is budgeted and placed in a savings account is it actually SAVED. Otherwise that unspent $20 for that haircut is spent somewhere else....

2. I have a $50/week food budget (2 adults - and that's for FOOD only). That's the easiest way to control spending on groceries - set a cash amount to use. With that amount I have 6-months of general food items in storage, and a years worth of essentials.

Unlike pipersville carol, I think there are many benefits to having a good amount in storage. If you've ever had a job loss or unexpected expenses from a car or medical bills, you can rely on your food storage to get you through while the money normally spent on food can go towards other things. Not to mention, the 10-day power outage in December after an ice storm. We were glad to have plenty of food on hand.

My weekly grocery purchases are primarily sale items and loss leader specials that end up in storage and the menus for the week are based on stored items.

So far this year I've saved enough from the weekly budget to make a large purchase of grain and a year's supply of agave nectar (our sweetener of choice, instead of sugar). I have several things I purchase annually from the saved money in the food budget.

3. I make all our breads and baked goods using freshly-milled flour I mill at home. The cost of freshly-milled flour is only a fraction of the price of commercial flour - not to mention home-milled whole wheat flour has 100% of the nutrition and fiber. I also mill my own cooked cereals (multi-grain cereal blends/cream of wheat and rice/etc.), flakes, cracked wheat & bulgur, corn meal, etc. I never purchase expensive commercial cereals. I make them for pennies. I mill pinto bean flour and make "instant" refried beans in a few minutes with added water. This saves having to do the long cooking session you need to do for beans for refried beans. Milled split peas for "instant" split pea soup. Lots of uses for freshly milled grains/seeds/beans.

4. For much of the year I cook and bake in my solar ovens.

5. Got rid of the free-standing freezer two years ago and now only use the refrigerator/freezer. BIG savings on the electric bill! A free-standing freezer is more of a convenience than a true money saver - although it's usually stuffed with bargains (often LOST or freezer burned bargains that can end up getting tossed in the trash).

If the freezer has to be kept in a hot garage, then it ends up being an energy hog and probably costing more in utilities than the savings total of the items inside it. If it's an older model that is energy inefficient and isn't defrosted as often as necessary, then that is also an energy hog that easily consumes more energy than food savings being stored in it.

6. We have 1/3 our income automatically placed in a savings account and live on the other 2/3. When the savings account gets to a certain level, then we move it to other accounts where it has more earning potential.

7. After installing rain barrels to our downspouts last summer, we now have a 1,000-gallons to use for watering the garden, yard, and landscape plants. The water savings almost paid for them last year, so we'll start saving money this year.

8. As others shared, we have put a halt to as much phantom electricity as possible.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 12:17PM
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We've been talking about finding money and saving money. How much is 'enough'? As you can see by my post, I think one can get into a habit of saving TOO much *money*, although I like the earth- and health-friendly ways of saving.

What plans do you have for your savings?

Also, would you say you have always had 'enough', or have there been hard times for you or your parents/immediate family? I see a difference in some attitudes between me and my DH. He never wanted for essentials (or 'frills') while growing up. My youth was less secure.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 2:48PM
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You and I are definitely on the same page, we just use different terms to describe it. To you, "living within your means" means that you make careful, calculated choices about what's important to you. You feel no restraint because your finances "don't allow" you to pursue and enjoy those things.

In our home, we do exactly the same thing. But we call it living BELOW our "means" because to US "our means" are such that we could spend a good deal more than we do on stuff that isn't important to us. I really think we're talking about the same thing. :)

I've never been to a Starbucks in my life! We make coffee at home in the morning (before we eat breakfast at home and pack our lunches) and on the rare occasion I have an afternoon cup I frequent a locally owned coffee shop... the same place I buy the baguettes we like with "linguine white clam".

And yesindeedydo, we have "a plan" for the money "our means" dictates we could spend on things we don't care that much about. We spend it instead on the supplies that allow us to landscape and plant our yard. Or we buy some more shares of something. Or we pay down the principal on the loan we have taken out. Or we shovel some more into retirement savings. Or we decide to splurge and buy something that is going to make us smile every time we look at... (having the tall case clock cleaned/lubed; buying a custom sideboard in walnut for a specific site; buying another handsome woodstove for the workroom over the garage, etc..).

It's about CHOICE and how one chooses to put one's assets to work for long term benefit. You and I are saying the same thing, but in different languages.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 5:11PM
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What you folks are talking about, while discussing whether you're living "below" or "at" your means, is "financial freedom", or so it seems to me.

I've said on occasion that, being 79 and not having taken a pill in probably at least 30 years, I'm very thankful for the good health that I enjoy.

Having been asked sometimes about my opinion regarding the reasons, I've said that I think they relate to good genes, an optimistic outlook on life (and some good humour that I enjoy), and having taken reasonably good care of my body (with some reservations of which I am aware ... and likely some others). Perhaps having been interested in life and asking questions as I journeyed has helped, as well - let's never kill the kid in us!

While some of my savngs result from that good health, had it been less good, Canadian single-payer health care would have been less costly than for many in other countries, but even so, for most Canadians, there are some extra costs to poor health (which could be reduced income due to non-attendance at work) that aren't covered.

Part of my reason for the savings is to pay for my care in a residential or nursing home as my life winds down. If it's like my Dad (aged 85) and brother (aged 45) ... life stopped in an instant, at the kiss of a large truck.

If such happens to me (and a truck rear-ended me a year and a half ago - with damage only to the car - when I was stopping to offer a couple of walkers a ride) ...

... that'll be a windfall for my kids and my favourite charities.

I've sometimes said that our task here as personal/family financial managers is to arrange to spend the last dollar on the last day of life.

Except for outstanding debts (and liquidation of my tangible assets wouldn't cover too many of them). But ... I don't have any (at the moment) and likely might have some almost entirely for purchase of more assets, interest being deductible.

Except for burial expenses. Reduceable if one is cremated (and has somewhere to store the ashes) ... have you priced cemetery lots, lately?

Or the Income Tax folks - wouldn't be fair to cheat them, would it?

Or the charities that have been important to me for a number of years of my life. And if we think that there are substantial needs locally ... there are huge ones in many areas of the world. Does God love local U.S. or Canadian folks more than them?

Or my offspring ... and though I have no grandkids, I think that life will be much tougher for them, now in their 40s, than we've known it, up till now.

The Russians have huge only slightly-tapped resources, and have shown in Europe that they'll use their resource stick to achieve their political ends, and the Chinese and Indians have huge numbers of workers.

When I was in Korea, they had labour-related agencies ... that were an offshoot of the ruling political party.

But when you have (possibly 35%??? unemployment) in the unlikely possibility that you can organize a real labour union, should they threaten a strike for better wages, working conditions, unlocked factory/dorms, etc. ...

... an employer has but one response, "Go ahead".

Putting the word out tonight that they were hiring would have a replacement work-force in place ... tomorrow morning.

Back to the arrangement to spend the last dollar on the last day of life ...

... it's called "suicide" and, apart from unbearable pain, or huge and permanent restriction of our independence, few of us wish to make use of that option. Even if we were to be able to bring it off, ourselves ... if someone else were to give us aid, it could land them in jail.

Good wishes for skillful use of that income and those assets, everyone. But - it's only money ... you can't take it with you: you leave as you arrived ... with nothing.

Except some wisdom and a character that was moulded while you were here, (plus your friendship with the boss), that your spirit can offer to the Immigrant Review Committee when you arrive at the Great Gate to the Beyond.

Rumour has it that they studied the ancient Chinese, plus recent German, Israeli (and soon, it appears, U.S.) experience when they were building their Exclusionary Wall.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 5:25PM
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A couple of people have mentioned powering off their surge protectors to save $ on electricity. Doesn't that defeat the point of a protector? Doesn't it have to be on to actually protect you from surges?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 10:01PM
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It depends on the design of the surge protector. Leaving it turned off will still provide surge protection, even better protection, then if turned on.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2008 at 3:50PM
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I'm a fellow New Englander & have enjoyed many of your posts on the NE Gardening forum. We live in CT & have the highest electricity rates in the US (except for Hawaii) at $15.81 per killowatt hour.

I read your post above saying that you've saved approximately $50/month by using surge protectors & turning them off when not in use. That sounded like a relatively simple way to save a few bucks so I've given it a try since mid-March.

I'm disappointed to report that our electric bill for March (showing only 1/2 month's change in habits) apparently saved us absolutely nothing. Or, if it has it's going to be miniscule & I suspect any savings comes more from the furnace running less as the weather has warmed than any effort on my part to unplug appliances.

Since it's just me here during the week with DH home only on the weekends I unplugged entirely 2 TVs, the stereo (used my computer for music), all table/floor lamps, 1 clock (unplugging all seemed to rather defeat the purpose of having them?), my Yamaha Clavinova, 1 of our phone sets, & our outside security lights. It did not seem prudent to unplug the remaining phone, refrigerator, freezer, range, washer/dryer, hot water heater, nor the dishwasher. The only appliances left plugged in to connect to surge protectors are my computer & 1 TV. On Friday night before DH arrived for the weekend I ran around plugging stuff back in so he'd have a light coming through the front door!

So, I've basically been sitting here, in a dark house, by the computer because nothing else is working & saved nothing for my efforts. I'll continue through the complete April billing cycle but I don't anticipate doing this beyond that point. I'm handicapped & it's a PITA for me to plug in the Yamaha every time I want to play my piano which is several times/day.

Even when we're both away from this house all week & nobody's opening/closing the frig or freezer doors, using the TV's etc. we don't see much change in our electric bill. The appliances that draw the most useage either can't or shouldn't be turned off.

What am I missing?


    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 7:31AM
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Could it be that already conservative people like Tricia won't see much difference? I think DH and I are the last Americans who turn off lights and don't set the furnace to 75 degrees so we can run around in flip-flops all winter.
(Or crank the A/C so we can snuggle into a featherbed all summer.)

The electric bill for the month we have a dog- and house-sitter is nearly double the usual. She's a young woman with perfect eyesight, but I find the dimmers pushed to 'highest' setting on every light in the house. I find all the outside lights 'on' when we return, including the security lights! (Good Lord, have they been on night and day for a month?) I find that every towel in the house has been used and laundered. Sinks and countertops are scrubbed raw but there's been no vacuuming. I've concluded that she is obsessive/compulsive and is AFRAID of the DARK -- and the vacuum! We won't be using her next time; looking for a boarding home.

Maybe people who normally live like our house sitter will see big changes in their bills if they've just discovered economies, but already-careful people won't?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 11:15AM
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You're probably right 'cause there's just me here all week long & I don't use much power. Mostly, it's the major applicances that I can't do much about. The water heater is set to 122-125, I don't use the A/C except for a few hours a day a couple weeks a year because our temps rarely exceed 80 degrees. For just me, laundry isn't a big issue & neither is the dishwasher.

I am, however, looking forward to having lights working in the house again come May 1! lol


    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 12:02PM
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Where it's difficult to access a wall plug to unplug an appliance, it seems to me helpful to have a short extension cord with a switch on the extended end, usually achieved by one of the low-cost surge protector cords, to plug in to the wall outlet, then plug the appliance in to the surge-protected outlet, and locate the switched outlet where it's easy to access it ... for example, on a piano, sitting atop the piano. Actually, a regular extension cord'd do the job - just pull the plug ... where it's easily accessible (the only difference is that you'd need two hands, as the female end on a cord wants to stick with the male one).

When walking on a busy sidewalk, scan the sidewalk ... sometimes you find a penny, or even a dime or a quarter.

I remember our discussion here a couple of years ago whether people would bother picking up a penny.

Many said, pennies being pretty well useless, that it wasn't worth the effort. Actually, there's some discussion currently in Canada about discontinuing the minting of pennies.

And some said that one of the reasons was that they felt that it'd be pretty dirty.

When someone asked whether they'd pick up a $20.00 bill, it being made of paper, so carrying much larger possibility of absorbing contaminants that a relatively impervious piece of metal currency (and less easily washed) ...

... no one chose to reply!

Visit a summer festival, ribfest or other celebratory gathering, especially where there was a beer garden, just after sun-up on the morning following the gathering ... to sometimes be fortunate enough to find some gleanings on the ground (especially in the beer garden area).

Also - remember - a penny saved (or found) is much better than an extra penny earned ... 'cause it's after-tax money!

ole joyful

P.S. Stick your finger into the "Coin return" slot of (increasingly scarce) pay phones as you pass. Now that a call costs two quarters ... sometimes you get lucky! I can hit the 10 phones in a line at a McD's in less than 30 seconds.

Someone has said that one should be careful, though ... that some druggies find it convenient to dispose of needles in those slots ... unused needles?? Don't be silly!!

o j ... (not juiced, today, appearances possibly to the contrary)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 4:43PM
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We're pretty good at squeezin' a dollar 'til it hollers and we noticed a big decrease in our bills. I don't know what to say to you Triciae, except I tip my hat to you! :)

We have a lot of musical equipment, 2 computers, and rather a lot of "solid state" appliances. I was really quick to yank the cord on the cordless tool rechargers that were continually drawing power even though there was no battery being recharged!!

I am the one who turns off the lights... helpmeet? unhuh. I tease him that he was born before review mirrors were required equipment.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 4:59PM
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All sing:..."light just one little candle..." LOL

Hope I'm not lighting any tonight. Big storms predicted. The Midwest is in its tornado season (April-June).

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 5:55PM
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Chisue, you will get a kick out of this one. We've batted around the idea of declaring one night/wk. "power free". Or pretty much so, any way. One night/wk. that is without electric lights, the stereo, the computer, most electrical appliances.

One night/wk. where we use the oil lamps, sit together and do a puzzle, play a board game, write a letter, make music ourselves, read a book... by lamplight. A simple reminder that we DON'T need electricity nearly as much as we think we do.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 6:54PM
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Hi again chelone,

If you use a pressurized-tank lantern with a mantle, you'll get a lot more light than from a regular wicked lamp and I think won't use much more fuel. I suspect that you'll produce less sooty residue, as well

If it's during cool weather, e.g. in a camping tent, in spring or fall, it'll add to the appreciated warmth, as well.

On the other hand ... if you turn all of the lights off ... you can tell ghost stories!

Enjoy your evening with more family-related, inter-personal activities.

ole joyful

P.S. Now that longer daylight hours are with us, I should go to bed at a decent hour, saving candlepower. Getting up with the sun sure saves electricity.

o j

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 9:50PM
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OJ, way back when there was concern about the Y2K crisis and what it could possibly do to the electricity grid I asked Santa to bring me an oil lamp.

He obliged and the handsome brass Aladdin lamp has graced a side table top ever since. It is outfitted with a mantle, chimney, and a parchment shade. We have lamp oil, extra wickes, and extra mantles for it. It burns very cleanly and provides an astounding amount of light. We have added to the oil lamp collection since Mum's death and the cleaning of her home began; some of them belonged to my great-great grandparents, so I feel a special connection when the power goes out and they are pressed into service.

We have no concerns about losing the power, even in the winter. We have a woodstove, abundant wood, and alternate sources for light. Some of our friends tease us about being "survivalists", but there really IS a level of comfort knowing you can weather a catastrophic loss of power with minimal inconvenience. (Like the ice storm of 1998 in northern New England and easter Canada!).

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 8:34AM
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I was in Dartmouth Hospital, in the neurological critical care unit, when that ice storm hit. The hospital, of course, lost power & my oxygen went off as did the lights, etc. Red/blue blinking emergency lights came on & the nurses were scurring around like crazy. They had me hooked up to the oxygen powered by the hospital's emergency back-up generator power within a couple minutes. It was a weird evening...lots of sirens inside the hospital going off & flashing lights. I was stoned on morphine but can remember a gurney being literally pushed at a run's pace down the hall outside my ward with about 6 nurses/doctors at its side. Later learned it was somebody who'd been hit by a falling tree & they were headed to surgery. (They, unfortunately, didn't make it thru the night.) My husband had been staying at a motel just down the hill from the hospital for about 10 days (since I'd been admitted) & he didn't have power at the motel for the duration of his stay. It was an interesting time in northern New England/eastern Canada. Fortunately, our neighbors had a key to our house & went in & kept our woodstove going just enough to keep things from freezing up since DH was with me a 100 miles away from home.

Yes, it's good to have an oil lamp & a woodstove.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 5:47PM
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Yes, those Alladin lamps with the tall chimney and the cone-shaped mantle put out a great deal of light, as well, and didn't need a prssurized tank, so they worked silently, without the hissing that went with the pressurized lamps' operation.

Turn the wick on 'em just a tiny bit too high and they'd soot up, though - which reduced the light output substantially.

We never had one, but some of the neighbours did.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 7:49PM
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chisue, I have enjoyed reading your posts and agree with so many things you say. Hubby and I have always been responsible with our money (we're the only couple in our social circle without cable TV or a SUV or truck.) Hardly ever eat out or go to the movies. But we've gone to Hawaii more than once and travel to other locals, just for the fun of it at a drop of the hat!

He grew up as one of eight children in a blue-collar family. I was the only daughter (and had one brother) of an upper-class couple that divorced when I was about 12. When dad left us things got really bad. At one point my mom sold almost everything in our house but our clothes and a few dishes. We got a tiny apartment on the wrong side of the tracks and I had to do my own shopping at Goodwill, when I was lucky enough to earn some money babysitting. I knew then that I was never going to have a white wedding or go to college and live in a dorm like my favorite cousin. But I learned the value of a dollar.

Recently I have been to numerous baby showers where I see so much extravagence. These babies are receiving designer wardrobes where they could probably only use one outfit per day before they outgrew them. And the nursery items have to match (blankets, lamps, etc.) I keep remembering how my own children only had a few new items but they still grew up to become quality people. Some of these new parents don't have good financial positions but they appear to put the childs wardrobe before anything else.

As far as I know my riches to rags story has always played a part in how I view money. It is security. I/we do have a stash worth several months income sitting in a money market account. We drive several years old cars but take care to maintain them. Never once have I left a balance on the one credit card we hold. I don't go in for facials and pedicures but I do take care of grooming myself and dress well even though a lot of it is from the clearance rack or on sale.

But I sleep well at night. And I take pride in my family and our home. We are doing some updating in the kitchen as an investment in the home and our lifestyle and planning our next trip. Life is short, but it sure is good!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 8:09PM
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Over a number of years, while dealing with folks learning the rudiments of effective money management, I've suggested, with their permission, that they plan to have 3 to 6 mos. worth of income available quite readily, in case of an emergency need.

For folks with variable or seasonal income, or worrying about the security of their employment, I would more likely recommend their having 9 mos. to a year's worth of money available in case of emergency, or as replacement for income if theirs were to stop, for whatever reason.

Usually personal financial advisors suggest that one keep part of those assets in a savings account and quite likely some in a money market account, which pays a higher rate of interest than a savings account and is readily cashable in case of need.

As clients became more aware of the complexities of managing their money, especially if they had learned the wisdom of not carrying balances of debt on their "credit" cards over the original billing period, thus incurring interest expense, I sometimes told them of some of my own approach to the emergency money issue.

I don't like earning interest.

Money in a savings account or money market fund (also in CDs and GICs, which, being for a specified term, aren't easily available in case of immediate need) carries the banks oft-repeated guarantee that the number of dollars, apart from the rent on the money, won't shrink. The inverse guarantee, never stated, is that, apart from the rent on the money, the number of dollars won't grow, either.

The only return that those dollars of principal will ever produce relative to that period of time is produced right then.

And, in Canada, that kind of income, interest (along with wage/salary, or resultant pension [apart from a certain deductible amount on the latter]) attracts income tax at the top rate. Those being the types of income earned by most citizens.

As I'm older, with no kids to perhaps get sick and keep me home from work, or spouse, the same, and as my pension gets deposited monthly, I don't have to worry if my car needs repairs, including a part that must be sent from wherever, how I'll get to work for the next week ... or so. Or similar improbable problems.

I have a credit card or two and in case of emergency, I can almost always pay for whatever emergency bills develop, as they arise using the credit card.

As I had some certificates for mutual funds that I own (issued without fee) and stocks (issuance fee applies), I used them as collateral to obtain a fully-secured line of credit with a limit higher than several months' pay, which usually sits there unused (and the bank does not charge a fee for inactivity).

Before the credit card bill is due, I arrange for a loan using my Line of Credit of the amount needed to pay the full amount owing on the credit card debt. I deposit the proceeds into my bank account, then transfer the amount due to the credit card issuer to my account with them (with no fee for the transfer, a I'm a senior).

A while ago, the interest rate on the LOC was 6.25%, and back then I calculated that, if the loan were not for an emergency use, but for investment, I could pay the interest at almost nil net cost to me. Then the interest rate was lowered to 5.75%, and a month or so ago to 4.75%. But I keep the Line of Credit available for emergency use, and one to be used for investment, entirely separate, for the interest on the first is not deductible, but that on the second is deductible.

My experience has been that I can usually produce enough savings to pay off that loan for emergency use using the Line of Credit over only a few months.

It has been my experience that the need for such emergency loans is infrequent.

In the meantime, I invested a larger amount into some equity-based mutual funds, or, preferably, into individual stocks that I bought directly, as then I don't pay a substantial annual fee to the manager of the mutual fund for his/her service.

Some mutual funds develop dividend income and capital gain income annually that, though they reinvest, they declare a distribution annually to me, that is then taxable at the time, but at a lower rate than on interest income.

However, there is usually a growth in value of the mutual fund ... but I don't become liable to pay tax on that, until I either sell the fund ... or die. So the tax on that growth was deferred. Then, howerver, I pay tax at only half of the regular rate.

For Canadian stocks that I buy directly, some of them pay me a dividend annually, and that type of income used to be taxed at a rate much below the rate on interest, then last year a change in the rate of calculation meant that the tax rate on them was reduced even more.

Some pay no dividend at all, so I am not liable to pay any tax at all relative to those stocks over the years that I own them.

However, several of the stocks that I own have grown in value over the years ... and there have been some losers, as well. I am not required to answer to the income tax people for those gains during the years that I owned them. One that I owned for 41 years has doubled four times during that period (last year it was four and a half times, but they were involved in some of those stinky mortgages in the U.S. that have gone bad).

When I sell those stocks, or die, I have to answer to the income tax people for the capital gains that have developed and they require that I pay them tax at regular rate on very second dollar of that growth - but I get one half of those growth dollars free of tax.

Over the years, the growth produced by the stock holdings has been higher in most cases than the assets invested earning interest. Then, much of the ongoing dividend income was taxed at low rate as it was earned and paid ... and the tax on the capital gain was deferred till sale, then assessed at half regular rate.

If there were losses on some stocks, those losses were deducted from capital gains on other stocks.

I like that ball game a whole lot better.

I'm willing to pay even non-deductible interest on an emergency fund that I borrow, for it's an infrequent situation, and is usually paid off over a term of a few months ... but the money that I'd invested as outlined above had produced a much better rate of return than had it sat earning interest in a money market or a savings account.

As I said ... I don't like earning interest!

Some ideas about money management that may be of interest.

ole joyful

P.S. Confession time ... a few months ago, I had most of a year's income readily available ... and most of it in a plain old savings account, not even in the money market fund that would have earned at a slightly higher rate!

So much for the difference between theory and practice!

Actually, I'd thought for some time that I'd soon be investing it ... but month by month was dragging my feet, for I didn't like the looks of the market.

In addition ... the general concensus of advice is ...

... don't try to time the market!!

Just invest, on a regular basis, when the money becomes available.

Smart-asses (and preachers) aren't always doing what they say!

Kids (when they get to be teens, especially) will tell you the same about their parents, right?

o j

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 5:04AM
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When I buy something, I pay only with bills, not change. At the end of the day I dump all my coins in a jar. Last year, in December, I counted up all the coins and it was over $76. I took it to the bank and exchanged it for paper money. Gave it to hubby as a Christmas gift. Not bad for something I had "around the house". He was pleased and I got to empty out my change jar. "Found" money for sure!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 9:38AM
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