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Archive for July, 2010|Monthly archive page

Frugal News

In Our Guest Appearances, Your Home on July 25, 2010 at 11:05 PM

Image Courtesy Carlos Koblischek

 

 A quick post to share snippets from our latest articles at Inexpensively.com and  The Dollar Stretcher (our début).  🙂  You’ll find  smart hints, tips, and tricks at both sites that help keep your finances in the black! 

Energy Efficient Homes Make Cents  – Published at Inexpensively.com 

“Many folks are on board with clipping coupons, shopping sales and living frugal lifestyles; but when it comes to making energy-efficient choices in their homes, few practice the same budget stretching tactics.” 

 Strapped for Cash? Swap and Save!  – Published at The Dollar Stretcher 

 “Millions have found creative ways to “go green” while still acquiring stuff, and all without having to shell out their hard-to-come-by cash. Their secret is old-fashioned bartering, but with an electronic twist!  Truthfully, both on and offline swap and shop sites are seeing tremendous increases in activity as many folks have turned to bartering to help survive this economic crunch.”  

– Enjoy!

What’s Your ‘Milano Moment’?

In Your Product Reviews on July 22, 2010 at 11:43 PM

       

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved Pepperidge Farm cookies.  When we had company, or mom was hosting yet another Tupperware Party, my brother and I could count on Pepperidge Farm cookies making a guest appearance on our “good” dishes.        

While, I’m not the type of gal who likes strawberry filled “stuff”, and will never consider letting it cozy up to my peanut butter sandwich; I do like Pepperidge Farm’s New Milano Strawberry cookies.      

To my surprise and delight, the strawberry filling is not overwhelming, and the cookies are not too sweet.    The mild buttery shell and rich dark chocolate have just the right amount of crispness and  strength.        

Part of my new nightly ritual, my “Milano Moment”, consists of  treating myself to one, (sometimes three –  for the antioxidants of course  🙂 ), while I’m settling down with my best guy.        

What’s Your “Milano Moment”? Share your thoughts here and on Pepperidge Farm’s Milano cookies Facebook Page, where you’ll find a coupon for .55 cents off a bag of Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies.      

4 Out Of 5 Bags

 

        

        

        

        

Disclosure: I received a package of Pepperidge Farm’s New Strawberry Milano cookies for review.  I’m not required to write a positive review; but I did because I really like these cookies and think you will too. 

How To Make A Blog Button

In Your Guest Writers on July 20, 2010 at 9:18 AM

by Apryl of Christian Clippers

If you have a blog, it’s extremely important to have a “button” for your blog. A “button’ can help spread the word about your blog, it’s like free advertising.

I’m going to show you an easy way to make your own button. You don’t have to have any design experience to do this. If you have your blog professionally designed a “button” is usually included.

We will start with a 125 x 125 button. This is the standard size for most blogs and their sidebars.

First you need to decide what background you want for your button. You can use a plain color or even crop a photo. Keep in mind that your background should be fairly light so your font shows up on it. You can get Free scrapbook pages on DigiScrap or Free photo’s online, just “Google” it and make sure it’s not copyrighted.

Once your found your desired background, save it and open Picknik. Picnik is a really easy photo editing program and best of all it’s free. Now upload your background to Picnik.

Now that your background is uploaded, click resize and change the dimensions to 125 x 125. Increase the “zoom” percentage on the bottom right of your screen so you can see your background better. It may look blurry but it’s just because of this size.

You can now select the font and design your “button” with stickers or whatever you’d like.

Picnik

Once you’ve designed your button the way you want it, save it as a .jpg.

Here’s how you get it on your blog:

First, you need to host your “button”. I recommend using the free hosting service Photobucket. Go to Photobucket (register if you don’t have an account) and upload your button. Once your button is uploaded, Photobucket will assign it an html code.

Here is what the coding needs to look like to make the “button” visible on your blog:

Replace the red text below with your information.

<center><a href=”YOUR BLOG URL” target=”_blank”><img border=”0″ alt=”YOUR BLOG NAME” src=”HTML CODE FROM YOUR BUTTON ON PHOTOBUCKET“/></a></center>

This is how my button code looks:

<img border=”0″ alt=”Christian Clippers” src=”http://i847.photobucket.com/albums/ab35/christianclippers/Christian%20Clippers%20-%20Blog%20Stuff/CC-button.jpg”/>

Now that you have the html code, just copy and paste it into a widget on your blog. You now have a button!

If you want to create your button with code underneath, here’s how:

Replace the red text below with your information.

<center><a href=”YOUR BLOG URL“><img border=”0″ alt=”YOUR BLOG NAME” src=”HTML CODE FROM YOUR BUTTON ON PHOTOBUCKET“/><textarea id=”code-source” rows=”4″ cols=”13″ name=”code-source”>YOUR BLOG URL” target=”_blank”><img border=”0″ alt=”YOUR BLOG NAME” src=”HTML CODE FROM YOUR BUTTON ON PHOTOBUCKET“/></a></center></textarea>

Just copy and paste this code into a widget on your blog and you will get this:

Christian Clippers

These are great because people can just copy and paste the code underneath into their own widget.

We love this tutorial and are soooo thankful to Apryl at Christian Clippers for sharing.

If you have Microsoft Publisher or Power Point it’s also super easy to design an image to use for your blog button.  Simply save your creation as a picture (jpg). then upload your image to Picnik for additional editing and resizing.  I found that adding my text in Power Point was a lot easier than using Picnik’s text feature.  Play around with the software, do a bit of experimenting, and then use the techniques that work best for you.

Here’s our “freshly pressed” button

“Grab it”, in the middle column at the bottom of our blog.  🙂

Please feel free to contact Apryl or me (here, in comment section or at livewellforlessblog@gmail.com)  if you have questions. – Enjoy!!!

Additional Resource:

Buttons, Bows and Badges for Your Blog

Gas Crunch

In Your Home on July 17, 2010 at 8:40 AM

by Barbara Carrow

This nation is ignoring an easy way to save a third on gasoline. The way we drive has a big impact on gas mileage and can easily turn a somewhat average 22 mpg into a respectable 30. Here are some recommendations for saving gas:

Coast

See a stop sign ahead? Coast as far as you can, and then brake gently. Traveling down a hill? Again, try coasting. The reasoning is simple. Accelerating uses gas and not accelerating saves gas.

Slow Down

Take your time. Following the 80-mph crowd on the interstate may be tempting. The U.S. Department of Energy says to expect a rapid decrease in mileage at speeds over 60 mph. Use cruise control on the open road to cut down on speed changes and to keep your speedometer from creeping upward.

Around town, driving with a light foot will pay big dividends. One expert suggests driving as if you had a hard-boiled egg under your right foot. Another recommends that you not press your gas pedal down more than an inch unless you have to. Accelerate slowly from green lights. And remember that racing to a red light and letting your car idle while you wait for the light to turn makes no sense.

Avoid hills if possible. If you can’t avoid them, don’t try to climb one at record speed. Maintaining your speed on hills (even dropping down in speed) is perfectly acceptable.

Don’t Idle

Staying in one place is murderous for your mpg. Avoid rush-hour traffic whenever possible. And if you’re waiting for more than two minutes for the kids to get out of school, shut off the engine.

The no-idling rule extends to cold-weather warm-ups. You only need to warm up your car when it’s below freezing. Even then, 30 seconds (or a minute if the weather’s really cold) will do the trick.

It All Adds Up

Experts offer other suggestions that can help stretch a tank of gas.

– Remove cargo racks. They add to wind resistance.

– Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your car. According to the Department of Energy, an extra 100 pounds can reduce your mpg up to two percent. Smaller vehicles are affected more than larger ones due to the ratio of the extra weight to the car’s weight.

– On the highway, opt for air conditioning if you’re traveling over 40 mph. At higher speeds, open windows create aerodynamic drag.

– Maintain your vehicle properly to burn less fuel. That includes keeping your engine tuned, tires inflated properly and oil changed.

– Use overdrive gears when appropriate. Your engine speed will go down, which saves gas.

– Unless your owner’s manual tells you to use premium unleaded gas, don’t waste your money buying it. There’s no need to pay for it if your engine is designed for regular gas.

– Fill up when it’s cool. Pumps dispense gas by volume, but a car’s engine uses it by weight. Gas is denser when it’s colder. The colder the weather, the more gas you get for the same money.

Try these tips, and you’ll be groaning less about the high cost of fuel and saving more on gas. No coupon required.

Barbara Carrow is a contributor to The Dollar Stretcher; a great resource for”Frugal Living Tools”.  The Dollar Stretcher offers articles on a variety of topics ranging from  How to Buy a Used Car  to buying school supplies to working after retirement.

Consignment Shops: The New Black for Back-to-School Shopping

In budget on July 12, 2010 at 10:26 PM

Have you shopped for “Back to School” yet?  My spending frenzy began last Friday, during freshman orientation.    My son is a college student this year, and between tuition, books, room and board, parking fees, non-essentials, essentials, and miscellaneous fees, my budget is on life support!  A $32,000.00 gorilla is on my back and come August 18Th, the ape better be fed.   

Last August, my quest to earn a few extra college bucks (and avoid a future stint in the poor house) led me to an often overlooked source for raising back-to-school revenue – Consignment Shops!

According to NPD, a global market research firm, 2009 saw a dramatic drop-off in back-to-school “spending intentions”.  Moms and dads are holding on to their hard-earned dollars; frugal living is vogue.  But, while traditional retail sales are declining, consignment shops are seeing huge increases in sales.

As we prepare to send our little, and not-so-little ones back to school, consider stimulating your economy by cleaning house.   Instead of giving away electronics, furniture and clothes, try consigning those items; you’ll be surprised at the amount of cash you earn.

Ten Q & As to Get You Started

  1. What is a consignment shop?  Think of a consignment shop like a garage sale, but without the typical headaches of dealing with bad weather, making change, haggling with customers and keeping an eye on shoplifters.  Traditionally, consignment shop owners sell your unwanted stuff with the understanding that the consigned items belong to you  until the items sell.
  2. What types of items can I consign?  Browse through home fashion magazines and think about trends; these are the types of items that sell quickly.  Stay away from trying to sell grandma’s console TV or mom’s disco boots from the 70s. 🙂
  3. Can I consign my daughter’s broken IPod?  In a word, no.  Items should be clean and in good working order.  Ask yourself if the item is worth more than five or ten bucks.  If it is, chances are someone will buy it.
  4. Do items have to be new?  No, gently used items are great.  Make sure that whatever you bring has all its pieces, and that clothes are clean, pressed and free of holes.  If you’re bringing large items like couches or bookcases, they shouldn’t be worn-out or scratched.  It’s also a good idea to test electronics before trying to consign them.
  5. I paid $125.00 for a pair of Cole Hahn shoes and won’t take less than $75.00.  Can I set the consignment price?  It depends on the shop.  Some owners work with you to set a selling price.  Shop owners know market prices, their customers and what types of items sell.  Work with the owner to come up with a price you are both comfortable with.
  6. How much commission does the shop receive?  Again, it depends on the shop.  This is a great question to ask before bringing in your items.  Some owners do a 50/50 split; others receive 25% or more.  If you decide to consign with a shop, make sure you understand all the terms in your contract, to include  payment policies.  Ask for a copy of your contract and a receipt listing all the items you brought in.
  7. How much money will I make?  Don’t expect to get rich; consigning items is an effortless way to make extra cash.  Sit back and enjoy the experience. 
  8. I have a lot of high-end items to sell.  Are there specialty shops that I can work with?  Do a bit of research before venturing out.  Some shops specialize in one or two areas like, baby items and maternity wear, or furniture and household accessories, haute couture, antiques and vintage or electronics and tools.  Find the store that has the niche you’re looking for.
  9. Can I consign anything? No, most shops won’t take food, alcohol, weapons or illegal items.
  10. What happens to my items that don’t sell?  Some shops allow you to take your items back; others may buy the items from you.  Check the terms of your contract.

A few more tips…

  • If you’re the entrepreneurial type try buying quality items for  low prices at thrift stores, garage and estate sales; then sale the items at your favorite consignment shop.  
  • Try shopping consignment shops for back-to-school bargains.  They’re a great budget-stretching resource for everyone.
  • Consignment shops are a great venue to sell and get exposure for your handmade crafts. 

While I haven’t earned enough cash to feed my pet for the year, I’ve managed to pay for Reid’s books and even a few bananas.  🙂     Thank God for scholarships!

Have you shopped at consignment stores?

Vitamin D-fense

In Your Health, Your World on July 5, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Vitamin C’s reign as  MVP may soon be over.  Recent studies show that vitamin D is now the most sought after player.  In fact, this year the guys at the Institute of Medicine are reviewing scientific data to determine if our daily requirements of vitamin D need adjusting. 

The science gurus have surmised that in addition to its dynamic duo role with calcium in warding off osteoporosis, the sunshine vitamin may play  key roles in preventing certain cancers, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, depression, heart disease, birth defects, postmenopausal weight gain and a host of other ailments. Pretty good news – right? 

The bad news is that according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine; worldwide more than 1 billion people are vitamin D deficient.  Scientific American estimates that three-quarters of American teens and adults are vitamin D “challenged”.  

Why We’re Lacking

  • Health care professionals tell us to stay out of the sun, to wear hats and bathe in sun block to protect against skin cancer.  However, we’re also told that we need sun exposure to help our bodies start making vitamin D.  With all the contradictory advice floating around, it’s no wonder we’re D-ficient!
  • It’s also tougher for some people to make enough vitamin D from sun exposure, like those with darker skins, folks that are overweight, and older.
  • It’s next to impossible to eat enough food to satisfy our daily D requirement. Only a handful of foods  naturally contain vitamin D; salmon, tuna, and mackerel are good sources. Egg yolks, cheese, beef and fortified milks and cereals have some D, but really don’t do much to fill the void.

What To Do

  • Prudent pill poppers seek out easy to swallow and metabolize Vitamin D3 supplements.
  • Some folks choose to catch a few rays between the hours of 10 – 4.  Studies suggest that 10 – 15 minutes of UV ray exposure are enough to kick-start vitamin D production – sorry, no sun screen allowed.
  • Those with an iron will and stomach take a daily dose of cod liver oil – one tablespoon seems to do the trick.   

Simple Ways To Boost Your Intake

• Drink at least 2 cups of vitamin D-fortified milk a day.

• Use milk instead of water in making hot chocolate mix, soups and sauces.

• Choose vitamin D-fortified yogurts and cheeses whenever possible.

• Check labels and choose breakfast cereals that are fortified with vitamin D.

• Flake tuna on top of a salad for a hearty lunch … or make tuna salad sandwiches.

• If you drink soy beverage, choose a vitamin D-fortified brand.

• Grill or bake salmon for a vitamin D-rich meal once a week 

Source:  Vitamin D What You Need to Know About the “Sunshine” Vitamin – Dairy Council of California

Recommended Daily Intake of Calcium and Vitamin D From Food and Supplements

Age Calcium Vitamin D
1-3 500mg  400 IU
4-8 800mg  400 IU
9-18 1300mg  400 IU
19-50 1000mg  800 IU
Over 50 1200mg 1200 IU

 Source: Upstate Medical University

The Verdict …

… is still out.  More studies are needed to decide the best way to get our daily fix and to confirm or deny the health benefits of vitamin D.  Until results are in, strike a balance and use common sense.  

It’s also a good idea to get your vitamin D levels measured.  If you’re like most, your level may be too low. My deficiency was discovered during a routine physical and now I take 2000IUs a day.  It’s important to have a chat with your doctor before making any dietary changes.  

What do you think?  How do you get your daily D?    Is it better to meet nutritional requirements through the foods we eat, or are supplements the better choice? 

 Additional Resources

Office of Dietary Supplements – National Institutes of Health offers information about Vitamin D

The Nutrition Source – Harvard School of Public Medicine offers information about boosting your daily multi-vitamin with vitamin D

Free for You and Me!

In Your Freebies on July 1, 2010 at 1:49 PM

Before heading out this holiday weekend, take advantage of these HOT freebies and coupons!

 

  • For a limited time, receive free sample bottles of Erik Prautsch’s Hairtrigger shampoo and conditioner.  These items are from his newest line called SMOOTHSMOOTH.

  • Transform a backsplash, toy box, or office wall into a high-performance dry-erase surface with IdeaPaint!   Click here to receive a free sample.

  • Before you head out this July 4th weekend, print this coupon to receive a free 32oz fountain drink at Pilot Travel Centers.  Click here to find a Pilot Travel Center.