Save Water, Go Brown

If you live in an area where water is plentiful, you may not hesitate to water your lawn regularly, even if your area is in a drought. Americans tend to have a fascination with green lawns, and if all of your neighbors have inground sprinkler systems, it’s tempting to install one too, or at least water consistently.

Grass is resilient though, and will go into dormancy if it’s not watered. Even though you may have a brown lawn, and your yard doesn’t look as good as your neighbors’ yards, the grass will come back next year.

Inground sprinkling systems are expensive to install and expensive to repair. A friend of ours recently spent $1200 just to fix his. Added to that is the cost of the water, which is no longer cheap. Even if your community allows you to install a separate meter for the system, just installing the meter and getting a permit for it runs $500 and up. Even if you don’t have a sprinkling system, the cost of regular watering results in a pretty hefty bill.

Last, but not least, is concern for the environment. Water is a valuable resource, and using it just so you can have a great looking lawn may not be in the world’s best interest.

Share Your Magazines and Newspapers

If you’re pinched for money, but still enjoy reading a daily or weekly newspaper or a particular magazine, you could share the cost and subscription with a friend or neighbor. Most people recycle their papers and magazines anyway, and they might as well go one step further and pass them on to someone else before they get recycled. Perhaps a friend has a subscription to a magazine that you would enjoy, and you have one that they would like to read. In this manner, you can get two for the price of one.

Walking is Good for Your Health and Your Pocket

With the price of gas constantly fluctuating, walking has become a more popular activity. Even if you have to drive to the store, you don’t need to drive around the parking lot until you find the closest spot, or idle for ten minutes waiting for someone to leave the spot you want. Park in the first spot you come to and walk to the store. Not only will you save money on gas, but you will get some exercise. And, if you live less than a mile from your destination, walk.

How to Save Money on Gas?

Work on your car, work on your driving, and know how to get there..

Work on your car: Keep it tuned up with special attention to clean air filters. Keep your tires inflated to the maximum and aligned. Remove things that cause air drag such as luggage racks and vinyl covers. Keep your car light weight by removing unnecessary items from the trunk including any seats you don’t use. Knock the snow and ice off your car, it is heavy. Drive a small car, they usually use less gas.

Work on your driving: No need to warm up the engine for more than 30 – 45 seconds. Think about when to start and stop the car. It takes the equivalent of a minute of running time to start the car again. If you are stopping for more than a minute, turn the car off. Don’t rev the engine, it wastes gas and is bad for the engine. Use the cruise control. Watch your speed. Going fast takes a lot more gas to go the same distance. As much as 20 percent more.

Steady driving saves gas. Avoid jack-rabbit starts and sudden stops. Let your car slow down by taking your foot off the gas. It takes more gas to go faster, so go slower when you can.

Try to avoid using the air conditioner which uses energy, and also try to keep the windows closed on the highway, it causes wind resistance. Which uses more gas, running the air conditioner or driving with the window open? It’s a toss up, so make yourself comfortable.

Where are you going: Walk, it’s good for your health. Avoid gravel roads, and curvy roads. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Carpool. Walk your children to school instead of driving. Organize your driving so you are combining several errands in one trip. Avoid rush hour traffic. Take public transportation

How to Save Money on Car Payments?

Your car payment is made up of two components – principal and interest. Principal is how much you are borrowing, and one way to lower the principal is to shop for the best deal on the car of your choice. You can also make a large down payment which lowers the amount you borrow. Can you get a low interest car loan? Shop around to find the lowest rate before getting the car.

It’s possible to even get a zero interest car loan when the car companies need your business bad enough. But be careful, you may have to give up other incentives such as rebates in order to get the zero interest loan. Or you may have to agree to a shorter time period. Add up the total cost of the car including all principal and interest and see if you are really saving anything.

How to Save Money on your Groceries and Food Bill?

The biggest way to save on the cost of food is to eat at home and to cook your own food from scratch. If you eat at a restaurant all the time you are probably paying too much for food. After all, you are paying someone to fix the food, serve it to you, and clean up the mess. And you have to leave a tip. If you are just getting fast food, the up front cost may be low, but you will pay in the long run with higher medical bills as a result of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Fried chicken from the drive-thru may taste good, but it is bad for you – loaded with fat. Healthy is better even if it costs a little more up front.

Don’t buy pre-cooked, pre-packaged, micro-wavable foods. They are convenient, but come at a monetary and health cost. It’s easy now but hard a little later.

Here is what I would suggest: Buy unprocessed foods. What are these? Raw vegetables, raw fruit, raw meat, and packaged cereal. Your grocery store probably has hundreds of such real foods. You will have to cook or prepare the food, but it is fun and the food tastes better. Here are some examples:

Salad – buy a head of lettuce, a cucumber and some radishes. Just clean them with plain water, cut them up into a big bowl and put it on the table with some salad dressing. It tastes good, and is good for you. You can use a little oil, vinegar and a little Italian spices to make the dressing. Or just use a little vegetable oil by itself. Make a big bowl of salad and serve it at every meal. It is low-fat (healthy) and good for you. Once you make it, you are set for several days.

Frozen vegetables – buy a bag (the bigger the cheaper) for frozen peas, peas and carrots or mixed vegetables. They are easy to fix, just boil a little water, pour in the frozen vegetables, and let them cook according to the package – usually 5 – 8 minutes. You don’t need to put butter on them, just a little salt. If you made too much, just eat them tomorrow.

Raw vegetables – Always put some raw vegetables on the table. Always. If the kids are starving and need food now, just put some raw vegetables on the table and let the help themselves. They will eat them and love them. Buy a big bag of carrots (the bigger the cheaper), peal them and cut them up into little strips. Same with celery and radishes. Let’s face it, kids love these and what could be healthier or better? If you keep these in the refrigerator, they will disappear.

Take some potatoes, wash them, peal them and boil them about 30 – 40 minutes. Add a little salt and a little (very little) butter and they are delicious. Do you want to bond with your kids? Just try pealing potatoes together. Kids love to do anything with you, and it’s fun. If you have time, just scrub a big potato and put it in the over at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Serve with salt and a little butter or plain yogurt.

Bread – Serve a few slices of whole wheat bread.

Raw meat – Think about using meat as a flavoring ingredient. Don’t use meat as a big slab or food; no, it’s too fattening and too much animal fat. Think about meat as something you add to other food to make it more flavorful. Take a little hamburger or pork (about as much as a golf ball for each person), fry it up, and add vegetables and/or some cooked pasta. The meat makes everything taste good, but you don’t need a lot.

For breakfast – Just serve cereal and low fat milk. NO SWEET CEREAL. The fewer ingredients the better. What could be better than generic cheerios or corn flakes? The kids may like sweet cereal, but it is not good for them. Buy only .5 percent milk. Buy only whole-grain cereals.

Raw fruits – If you have fruit around the house, the kids will eat it and so will you. Get a big bag of cheap apples and leave them in the refrigerator. People will eat them. Occasionally, just peal them, cut into quarters, cut out the cores, and put them on the table. They will disappear. If they don’t, just put them in the fridge and they will disappear shortly.

If you want to get fancy, clean and cut up a pineapple, strawberries, grapes or other fruit. They are more expensive, but cheaper than a funeral. A big bowl of cut up fruit will disappear from the refrigerator.

Snacks – First of all, no fried snacks such as chips. Try making several bowls of chocolate flavored pudding (made with milk) or jello and keeping them in the fridge. If you have kids coming home from school, give them pudding and a little bread or one cookie. Give them a kiss and ask how their day was. They will love the snack and they will love you.

At night, no chips. For a weekly treat fix some popcorn and sit down together. Avoid the habit of sitting in front of the TV with soda and chips. This will cause you to get fat.

Drinks – Only diet soda. No full calorie soda or pop. It tastes good, but it makes you gain weight. Give kids low fat milk whenever they want it. It helps them grow. Water is best, but kind of boring. Put a little ice in it to improve things a little.

Processed foods – Make it a rare occasion to have things like microwave dinners, TV dinners, frozen pizzas, etc. They are convenient, taste good (because of the high fat and salt), but they are expensive and not healthy. Someone wants you to eat such foods because they are profitable, but what is best for you?

Pizza – Want to have a blast? Make your own pizza. Start with a ready-made crust such as Bob-a -lo. Then add a can of tomato sauce (or canned pizza sauce), put in some spices such as Italian seasonings and garlic, some pepperoni, mushrooms and such fruits and vegetables (pineapple, peppers, onions) as you like; sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and bake until the cheese melts and turns a little brown. It’s not rocket science. Everyone likes to help and it is a lot cheaper than other pizza. Be creative. It’s fun. Save the leftovers for breakfast.

Your kids won’t eat such foods? Let them help. Kids love to do things with their parents. If they have fun fixing the food, they will probably like to eat it. If worst comes to worst, they can eat what is on the table and that’s all. (If it’s really awful, let them fix a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.) Don’t feel you have to serve a bunch of fried, high fat food just because the kids like it. Maybe they will learn to love regular food. You are doing what is best for them by serving home-prepared, low-fat meals. All this will save you money and a lot of grief.

This type of meal may cost a little more up front, but they are cheaper than doctor bills, and really cheaper than a funeral.

How Do Prepaid Phone Cards Work?

Using a prepaid phone card is a way to pay for your long distance calls in advance, possibly at a lower rate than from the phone company. You buy the card and put a certain dollar amount on it. When you have used up this amount, get a new card or put some more money on the old card. Using a phone card is just like making a regular call except there are two extra steps. First you call the access numbers for your card, then you enter your pin number, then you dial the number you want to call. Most cards have an expiration date, so if you don’t use your balance by that date, the balance is lost.

Consumers can get further information here: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/prepaidcards.html

Try saving money by using Skype.com.

Apps

Many smart phones save your credit card details so that you can buy apps, music, books, and movies with just a few clicks. However, these costs can add up quickly. Consider sites like Pandora to listen to music for free. Choose the free app over the paid version. And make sure to understand the cost before buying, since impulse buying is encouraged.

The Real Cost of a Smart Phone

Smart phones cost about $500, but can be discounted with a contract. However, a data plan is required and a monthly phone bill of about $100 is standard. The real cost of owning a smart phone must be factored in before buying.

I recently bought the Motorola Droid for $550. On top of this cost, I had to sign up for a data plan of $35/month. My yearly phone bill just increased $420 by getting a smart phone.