Save Money By Stocking Your Pantry

Having a pantry to work from is such a time saver and money saver. I’ve utilized this approach and it’s helped me create “something” on those nights that I had no idea what to make. Open the cupboard and the fridge/freezer to see all the options before me and it’s easy to start tossing some items together. This is definitely helped with eating healthier and not reverting to ordering some take out or delivery. There is one thing that can try and put a wrench in your plans – having a teenager with a voracious appetite. SO again, plan ahead and stock up what you know for sure gets used up fast to always have an option.  The article below, from stretcher.com has some great tips for getting started.

How a Full Pantry Saves Money

by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

Call it obsession or maybe just a legacy from my Depression-era grandparents, who kept their larders full, but I have a well-stocked, full to brimming over pantry. I have always shopped ahead and stocked up, but after moving to a larger home last year with incredible storage space in the basement, I have fulfilled my dream of having a full pantry.

With today’s unstable economy, having a full pantry is protection against high prices and provisions for tomorrow. My full pantry allows me to avoid unnecessary trips to the supermarket, saving time, money and gas.

It is easy to start stocking a pantry. There are just a few rules that make it simple and even inexpensive.

Rule #1: Buy only what the family will use. Filling a pantry with items that family members may not like or things that may never be used defeats the purpose of building a stockpile of food.

Rule#2: Stock up with sale items. Don’t rush out to buy six cans of spaghetti sauce or four boxes of macaroni and cheese. Wait for a sale. Most supermarkets put out a weekly sale ad so watch for favorite products and brands to go on sale. In addition, some markets offer in-store savings on select items so be a savvy shopper and search the shelves for bargains. When the spaghetti sauce is at a low sale price, that is the time to stock up with several to store on the shelf.

Rule #3: Use coupons. Many Sunday newspapers offer coupon inserts and other coupons are in many publications. Online sites like Coupon Cabin, Cool Savings.com, and Coupon Craze can also provide coupons that match products. Often, manufacturers put out coupon savings at about the same time as their products go on sale at the supermarket, providing a chance for even greater savings. Better yet, find a supermarket that offers double coupons or even triple coupon events to increase the savings!

Rule #4: Prepare the space for your pantry. Whether it is an empty kitchen cabinet, a freestanding shelf, a hutch, or basement shelves, utilize any open space for food storage. My basement came equipped with many shelves and bonus kitchen cabinets, installed by a former owner. Remember that any space used as a pantry should be cool and dry. Most garages and outside storage buildings get too hot or cold to serve as safe storage space for food.

Rule #5: Once you have a pantry established, remember to rotate. Put the newest items in the back and use the first one in line. This is easier to do if you organize the food on the pantry shelves, like item with like item. I keep condiments like ketchup, mustard, and salad dressings together with each item in a row of its own.

Rule #6: Don’t buy more than you can ever use. Once into the routine of planning and stocking a pantry, it is easy to get carried away, but don’t buy more than can be used within a reasonable amount of time. Keep track of use-by dates on products, plan ahead, and if more than three squeeze bottles of mustard won’t be used by that time, don’t buy more.

With these simple tips and money saving ideas, anyone can stock a pantry, saving money and limiting trips to the market. A plus is that a well-stocked pantry can save the day during weeks when money is short or the weather limits shopping. The key to a well-fed family on a budget is a well-stocked pantry!

More than One in Five Americans Consider Credit Essential

According to the September poll hosted on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) website, 22 percent of more than 1,900 respondents indicated they could not make ends meet without access to credit.

“There are hundreds of millions of credit cards in circulation, making the plastic temptation very real,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “Nonetheless, credit was intended to be a convenience, not a piggy bank to supplement income.”

An additional 24 percent of poll respondents said they would have to make significant lifestyle changes if they did not have access to credit. Taken together, 46 percent of Americans would experience major interruptions to their financial lives if denied the use of credit.

The inability to responsibly manage credit is one of the first financial danger signals. Consider the following data from the NFCC’s 2012 Financial Literacy Survey:

• Thirty-three percent of consumers do not pay all of their bills on time, the highest percentage since the question was first posed in 2008, up five percent over 2011;

• Thirty-nine percent of respondents indicated they carry debt over from month-to-month, a sure sign that a person is living beyond what his or her income can support; and

• Sixteen percent have experienced an overdraft related to a checking account.

No one ever intends to dig a deep financial hole. Life’s unexpected events often throw a curve to even the most stable financial plans, making credit the choice of last resort to meet monthly obligations. Many well-meaning people think living off of credit will be a short-term solution; the new job is just around the corner; the medical event won’t be serious; the divorce decree will read differently. Others have not experienced a financially back-breaking life event, but have built a lifestyle that their income simply will not support.

The solution for either group is a three-step process: stop charging, increase income, decrease expenses. Facing the financial facts can be hard. Changing ingrained habits is never easy, but it is not only worth the effort, it is essential to a person’s current and future financial stability.

“Although the 22 percent of people indicating they could not make ends meet without credit is a minority among those polled, it is a significant minority,” continued Cunningham. “People are masters at deceiving themselves and justifying spending. Don’t be one of them.”

To determine if your finances are on the brink of disaster, try living without credit for one month. If successful, it is likely that credit is being managed responsibly.  If you are not successful, consider getting some advice from the experts at The Village Financial Resource Center at 800-450-4019.

Bargains Every Month

Once again Mary Hunt reminds us of those great deals we can get if we just have the patience to wait for the ideal time to lighten the dent in our pocketbook while we stock up.

My husband is a hunter – and loves the snack size candy bars (Snickers, etc.) items loaded with peanuts for a quick energy boost. So this is a perfect time to load up on a few bags before Halloween…and try real hard not to open them until their intended use. A watchful eye and planning can get you a great deal.

Bargains by the Month

Okay, I’ll say a word and you respond with the first thing that pops into your head:

Me: January

You: White Sales!

Excellent response—the very one I was hoping for to set the tone for this column. It’s important to note that times have changed with these monthly sale guides. In recent years, some of the best sales often take place immediately before the related holiday or season.

Here’s a month-by-month guide for the best times to purchase all sorts of consumer goods:

October. This is the big candy month. Stock up for all your holidays. And it may be a good time to buy a new car, if you must. In October, salespeople are getting nervous about meeting or beating year-end quotas. 

November. Turkeys are priced dirt cheap from now through Christmas. So are cranberries and baking supplies. Stock the freezer because a turkey that remains frozen is good for at least a year.

December. Everything you can imagine from toys to computers, shoes to perfume, crystal to party foods, cell phones and baby furniture are on sale in hopes of boosting holiday retail sales.

January. Besides everything Christmas, as well as other “white sale” items like towels and blankets, this is the time to stock up. TVs are priced lowest during the two weeks prior to the Super Bowl.

February. President’s Day is the cue for furniture retailers to offer blow-out bargains, especially on upholstered furniture.

March. Even though it still feels like winter, home improvement centers haul out air conditioners in March and put them on sale. And March is National Frozen Food month, so plan to fill your freezer.

April. Home improvement items like flooring, house paint and gardening supplies are good buys now. And eggs—both chocolate and fowl. Think: Easter.

May. Mattresses and box springs are highly promoted from late May to early fall. This is when retailers get support from the mattress manufacturers in the form of advertising and special offers. Memorial Day weekend is the signal for big-ticket items like major appliances to go on sale.

June. If you’re not too picky, this is a great month to buy a wedding dress. What hasn’t sold gets highly discounted in anticipation of a new season of bridal wear. Home tools and hardware, dairy foods (yep, it’s National Dairy Month) and menswear are the hot items for June, too.

July. Electronics, including air conditioners (what’s left by this time in the season) and ceiling fans; craft supplies, summer clothes, shoes, swim wear and barbecues are bargains this month.

August. Outdoor furniture, now marked down, is taking its last breath as the season winds down. Fresh produce is cheap this month as are school supplies and pre-season fall fashions. And white sale items are now offered routinely in August. My grandmother would be happy.

September. Golf clubs are a bargain this month along with canned goods, scooters, bikes and … houses. Home sellers who were unsuccessful in selling during the summer are anxious to move before Christmas. Now they may listen to your ridiculously low offer.

 

 

Clothes Shopping with Teens: The Perfect Teachable Moment

I have two boys – and for all the years of buying their clothes they were never into “latest fashions or trends.” I never realized how lucky I was at the time. Our dollars went towards car repairs versus clothes.

In the following article, Mary Hunt, from everyday cheapskate, is again turning a parent’s nightmare of clothes school shopping into an educational moment for the kids – putting the control into the kids hands and giving them the start of basic budgeting skills and learning what values and goals they have with their funds.

Kids’ Expenses Don’t Have to Break the Budget

Dear Mary,

Now that school has started, I dread the thought of clothes shopping for the kids. We don’t have unlimited funds and I won’t go into debt for new clothes. But my teenage daughters have very high expectations. They have certain brands they insist on and I just don’t know how to handle this. Any ideas you could offer would be greatly appreciated. Belinda, Illinois

Dear Belinda,

I have just the idea. Go to the bank and withdraw the cash you have earmarked for school clothes. Get two envelopes and put half of the money in each. Now tell your girls you’re taking them out to lunch. Really build this up, but don’t give away your secret. Act excited. They’ll be so curious to know what’s up with mom!

At lunch, explain to them that you are so proud of the way they are growing into young ladies, and that you trust them more than they might believe. In fact, you trust them so much you are going to allow them to do their own clothes shopping for school. Next, reveal to them your short list of rules. These should include any dress codes their school enforces, as well as your own. Make sure they understand these rules completely. You will have to be very specific and very detailed because kids always look for loopholes. For example, if you have a length requirement for skirts, state that in “inches from the floor” rather than saying “not too short.” Hand them their envelopes and tell them this is their money to spend on clothes. When it’s gone, that’s it until next spring (or next fall … whatever you decide).

Your girls will be in shock. Should they ask for guidance, be there. But don’t take over and for goodness sake don’t comment on their choices, provided they have not broken the rules. And if they do buy things that are not allowed, in the trash or back to the store they go. You will be surprised just how well they will do.

Identity Theft Protection Tips

We often hear tips about ways to protect our identity and fraudulent access to our accounts. One of the biggest threats to having your identity stolen is someone obtaining your birth date, social security number and i.d. information such as your driver’s license number. If they obtain all of these pieces of information they have a free pass to create havoc on your finances. Here are a few tips to minimize the possibility of this happening:

1. Do not carry your social security number with you. Unfortunately there are a few identification pieces that still use social security numbers such as Medicare cards. You may need to present that Medicare card to a new medical provider the first time you meet. But as a rule, it is sufficient to take a photo-copy of the card, block out the social security number and you should be able to use that for most purposes when your Medicare card is requested.

2. College students should be especially aware of protecting their personal identification information when living in dormitories or other roommate living situations. Bank account information, social security numbers, credit card or debit card numbers and their PIN and password information should be kept as inaccessible as possible.

3. In your home, also keep this personal information out of sight. It is unfortunate that identity theft is often a result of people you know who are in your home visiting or providing service. Lock away information and be careful what you have on your computer that may be accessible to others.

4. Don’t enter personal information, especially bank or credit card account numbers or social security numbers on unprotected internet sites. The same applies for giving this information over the phone especially if you did not initiate the call yourself. Scam artists often send out letters that include a phone number that is not connected with the major company or financial institution they list in the written material. Make sure you are calling a legitimate number when conducting any business over the phone.

These are just a few easy things to keep in mind to protect yourself.

Roasting Tomatoes Today Can Save You Money Tomorrow

I love trying new recipes – and “just” as I was feeling down about the tomatoes coming to an end and the farmers markets that would eventually be gone as the crisp air moves in – I’ve found a new way to keep it going a little longer.

Save your money at the grocery store during the off-season by holding onto that fresh tomato taste right in your own home. I am definitely trying this. I have a few tomatoes, but not enough to make a big batch of salsa. And, with this process it won’t take a lot of your valuable fridge/freezer space.

Roasted Tomatoes

Marvelous things happen when tomatoes meet high heat and olive oil.

 Roasting concentrates tomatoes’ natural sugars and flavors and gives them a buttery rich texture. Toss in pasta, top pizza or bruschetta, or serve alongside chicken or beef.

Ingredients

12 Roma tomatoes or round red tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Coarse ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, sliced

Prep Time – 15

Cook Time – 30

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400F.

Slice and core tomatoes. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with coarse salt, pepper and sliced garlic. Bake 30 to 60 minutes, until juices have evaporated. Store in a plastic zip-top bag in refrigerator or freezer. You can also slow roast tomatoes in a 250F oven 3 to 4 hours.

Nutritional Info (per serving)

Calories 45
Fat 2.5g
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.5g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 200mg
Potassium 300mg
Carbohydrates 5g
Fiber 2g
Sugars 3g
Protein 1g

Read more: http://www.relish.com/recipes/roasted-tomatoes/#ixzz25hFurLJ2

Credit Myth of the Day

Closing the credit cards that you don’t use will help boost your score…False!

It is a common myth that closing unused credit card accounts will be good for your credit score. In fact, it will actually hurt your credit score. It can negatively affect your credit score in two ways.

1. A large chunk of your credit score is determined by your utilization ratio. This ratio is created by comparing your credit in use to your available credit. Simply put, if you had only 1 credit card with a $1000 limit and you had a balance on the card of $900, your would be using 90% of your available credit. The closer you get to maxing out your cards and using a large percentage of your available credit, your credit score would be negatively impacted. For the sake of the credit score, it is best to keep your balances as low as possible.

When you close unused credit cards, you eliminate available credit. By eliminating available credit, you would likely increase your utilization ratio and negatively affect your credit score.

2. Another factor in determining your credit score is the history of your accounts. 3 years of history on a credit card gives a better idea of how you pay your bills than 3 months will. Because of this, the longer your history the better your score will be. When you close credit card accounts, you will eliminate this history. If you really are uncomfortable keeping unused credit card accounts open, close the accounts you have had for the least amount of time keep open the accounts you have had for a number of years.

Credit Myth of the Day

 

Bad Credit is Better than No Credit…False!

This is a common myth. If you have bad credit, you may have a lot of work to do cleaning up past due accounts and collections before you can start to rebuild. Depending on just how bad your credit is, you will likely be turned down for loans and other credit products.

If you have no credit, there are ways to establish it. Some lenders can even create a credit report for you. They can create a non-traditional credit history by using the payment history of things that aren’t typically reported on a credit report like rent, utility, phone bills, etc. This can be pretty useful when applying for a home or car loan if you have no credit history. A non-traditional credit report is not an option for someone with bad credit.

Do you have questions on how to rebuild from bad credit or how to establish credit when you have none? Just ask below in the comment box!

BACK TO SCHOOL MONEY LESSONS

The ads are hitting hard regarding all the things you can buy to send your children back to school. Whether you are finding that first school backpack for your kindergartner or picking up the necessities for your college freshman’s dorm room, some money will be spent. This is the perfect time to teach some financial lessons no matter what age you are dealing with.

Grade school kids can be a part of the planning. Use cash and show them you have put aside a certain amount of money for school supplies and they can participate in the process. They can see that obtaining these things requires an exchange of money for goods and you have choices to make.

Middle school and high school kids can gradually take more responsibility. Give them a certain amount of cash to purchase what they need. The clothes budget can be limited to a specific amount and they may need to earn their own money for all or a portion of that. As kids get older, it is only fair to be honest with them as to what you will cover. Give them more control over their choices within the limits that are set.

It is extremely important to have an open discussion with your college-bound students as to the expectations for covering tuition and living costs. Be absolutely clear what you, as parents, will pay for and what they are expected to cover from their summer or other part-time employment or savings. If receiving financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants or student loans, go over that information carefully together. All students and parents should know how much college is going to cost, how it will be paid for and how much debt they may be building up. The unknown may be the amount needed for spending money and incidentals.

Encourage college students to track their costs for eating out, entertainment, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses so you can discuss and plan accordingly. Parents sometimes also underestimate the cost of these incidentals during the college school year. You can also have a conversation how to control or limit spending to stretch their money farther. How to responsibly manage a bank account they may be using is also essential knowledge. Not giving your kids a clear picture of the financial status is depriving them of valuable information and knowledge they need to survive on their own.

Back to school time can be an important money lesson opportunity so take advantage of it.

Birthday Parties Shouldn’t Melt Your Debit Card

I remember the year our son turned six. We had a joint birthday party for him and his cousin who was turning three. Since it was twice the birthday, for some reason, I thought we needed to hire entertainment. Why on earth – I have no idea – but I hired a woman who was quite entertaining for the children and adults. She juggled, did magic and balloon figures. We could have gotten by with the typical cake and balloons – but somehow I justified the expense.

Fast forward eighteen years – with all the birthday parties a distant memory. Thank goodness for pictures. I LOVE taking pictures and I have some great ones from that day. But, it wasn’t the hired entertainment that made it worthwhile; it was the close up shots of our son with grandparents, aunts and uncles, that’s what made it special.

Seriously – a birthday party doesn’t need to melt your debit card.

Happy Birthdays on a Budget

by Miriam Reed

________________________________________

There are certain times of year when living on a budget is harder than usual, and my children’s birthdays used to rank right at the top of the list. Birthdays are supposed to be special, and for much of my life, special has meant expensive. When my oldest daughter had her first birthday, my husband and I spared no expense to make her birthday party special, right down to the matching cups, plates, and birthday hats! Of course, she was sleepy, irritable, and more than a little overwhelmed by it all. When my second daughter’s first birthday rolled around, we were a one-income family struggling to feed ourselves everyday, let alone everyone we knew. But this was our baby’s first birthday, so we pulled out the credit cards and had our usual blast!

Well a lot has changed since those first birthday parties. Our financial IQ has gone up and the size of the birthday bashes has gone down. Surprisingly, scaling back our birthday celebrations has made them more enjoyable by putting the focus back where it was supposed to be all along and that is on our children. Now my husband and I can actually enjoy our kids’ birthdays instead of frantically running around trying to buy food and decorations for fifty of our “closest” friends and family members. (And we also enjoy not getting those dreaded “party charges” on the following month’s credit card statement!) Here are some ideas to make your child’s birthday more special, not just more expensive.

1. Have a cake cutting. Our family first tried this on my oldest daughter’s second birthday. It was a big hit! Invite everyone over for cake and ice cream, and have only cake and ice cream. If your guests know what you are serving, they can eat before they come. The party goes by much quicker (no waiting forever to cut the cake), and the cake and ice cream are all most kids want anyway.

2. Have a private party. Private as in only the people who live in your house. This has become our personal favorite. We buy a small, decorated one layer cake from the grocery store for less than $10. We buy party hats and blowers. We sing happy birthday, blow out the candles, and open the presents! Of course, you could make it even more affordable and fun by baking your own cake.

3. Have a slumber party. Another variation on the private party idea is a slumber party. How often does your entire family get together in one room, and stay up all night eating, laughing, and talking? Kids love to stay up late, so pop in a movie, pop up some popcorn, and party into the wee hours of the morning!

4. Plan a family field trip. If your child has a favorite place like the zoo or skating rink, plan a trip for their birthday. If you really want to go all out, plan a trip to a nearby theme park. You could even invite one of your child’s friends to tag along.

5. Send birthday announcements. Many friends and relatives don’t remember your child’s birthday until they get a party invitation in the mail. Make cute cards announcing your child’s birthday and include a recent photo of them. Keep one for yourself as a special memento of your child’s birthday. This is also a great way to distribute those school day pictures that you keep forgetting to give out!

6. Give the gift of time. Nothing will make your child feel more special than your undivided attention. From sunrise to sundown, spend an entire day with your child doing the things they like to do. Eat their favorite breakfast, play with their favorite toys, watch their favorite video, and even take a nap with them!

7. There’s no place like – hotel! Now this is certainly not the most affordable option, but for older kids, this can be a blast! Go to a nice, local hotel (preferably with a pool) and spend a mini-vacation enjoying your child’s birthday. Depending on the day of the week and time of year, you may find a pretty good rate. And lots of places include breakfast in their room rate.And if all else fails…

8. Have a birthday party! Sometimes there is nothing like a good old-fashioned birthday party. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be so expensive. If you are smart, you can cut back on the decorations (no matching cups and plates), shrink the menu (hot dogs and chips anyone?), and have a great time! Check out Boardman’s Birthday Party Ideas at boardmanweb.com/party/ for lots of great (and inexpensive) party themes, decoration ideas, and games.

Birthdays are special because they are a celebration of the greatest gift you will ever receive, which is your child. Remember, birthdays are supposed to be fun, not stressful. If your child is old enough, ask them what they would like to do for their birthday. The answer may pleasantly surprise you! Whatever you do to celebrate, you can’t go wrong if you keep the focus on spending time with your child instead of spending money on decorations. So relax and put the “happy” back in your child’s birthday. You’ll be glad you did!

________________________________________

Copyright 1996 – 2009 “The Dollar Stretcher, Inc.”.