Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Frugal Dieter

Maybe your health or the thought of swimsuit season demands you make a change in your eating habits. The number one issue is people don’t like change or expending too much effort. The second issue is money. Diets or weight loss is expensive.
They can be. My sister lost a great of weight using a commercial method they delivered a week’s supply of food every week. The dehydrated food wasn’t exactly tasty and ran about thirty dollars a day. Since that was over twenty years ago, the price has probably gone up.
How can you lose weight while maintaining your budget? It is do-able. First, think of it as a lifestyle change as opposed to dieting. There will be many side benefits including more energy, ease of movement, improved skin tone and hair texture and self-confidence.
1.                   Decide on the approach you’ll take either counting carbs or calories. Don’t switch back and forth.

2.                    An average woman must walk for at least thirty minutes a day to MAINTAIN her current weight.

3.                   Dump anything with high fructose corn syrup in it. Check your jelly, soda, ketchup and salad dressings. Not only is it bad for you, but it plumps up your fat cells preventing weight loss.

4.                   Drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Water helps moves the fat out of your body. It also helps you eat less because your stomach feels fuller.

5.                   Avoid alcohol because it slows down your metabolism up to 80% especially when consumed while eating. There is a reason they call it a beer belly. Although, some mixed drinks can pack as much as 800 calories a cocktail. Unfortunately, many people usually do not stop at one cocktail, either.

If you feel you can’t avoid it, then limit yourself to one beer or a glass of wine on the weekends. Think you can’t do this, then, face it you don’t really want to get in shape.

6.                   No fast food. Healthy & fast food don’t go together.  There are sit-down restaurants that offer healthy options including TGIF, Denny’s and Applebee’s. The simple strategy is to avoid fried and breaded food, sugary sodas, and pasta and potatoes. A nice steak, chicken breast, even a burger without the bun, works. Throw in a salad or vegetables and you have a meal.

7.                   Portion control. I remember episode of The Biggest Loser television show where Bob the trainer made a visit to a mother and daughter who were eating healthy, even using Biggest Losers approved recipes, but were not losing weight. They were eating about five servings of everything per meal. Know what a portion is. Measure it. You’ll be surprised that the plate spaghetti is more like four servings.

8.                   Prepare your snacks ahead of time. It is easy to make small packages of nuts, berries, carrots, or dried fruit to grab when you’re in a hurry. A lite string cheese stick works well too.

9.                   Diet food can be convenient too since it is pre-measured, but often it is expensive. I stock up on diet deals when I see them at Big Lots, Deals, or even The Dollar Tree.

10.               Raise you own veggies. The prices of spaghetti squash made it a luxury. I decided to grow this simple veggie in my backyard.

11.               Your freezer can be your best diet friend. Stock up whenever there is a sale on diet entrees to lean meat. It is also useful to make healthy meals in bulk and freeze part of it.

12.               Look for  no calorie alternative treats. Instead of a trip to the all you can eat buffet, how about a pedicure instead.

13.               Step up your activity level by taking the stairs, not parking near the store, dancing while you do simple home chores, even lifting weights while watching television.

14.               It also helps to have a friend or family member making a life style change with you. Often the ones we love seem the most determined to throw obstacles in our way.

15.       Write down your starting weight and measurements. It won't melt off overnight, but it is great to see positive change.

You will be saving money without eating out as much, by consuming less alcohol and convenience food. The money you save might go toward a new wardrobe, just saying.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Art of Thrifting, Part Two

Deciding to Buy Clothing
·         The first thing you do in deciding to buy clothes is to look for stains, tears or underarms stains.
·         Washing will eliminate the smoke smell.
·         Ugly buttons can be replaced, but are you the type to replace buttons.
·         Broken zippers will add on another $15 to repair.
·         Try on the clothes if possible.  Even if it is pulling it, over what you already have on.
·         Will go with anything else?
·         Basic pieces are the best
·         Look at the cuffs, do they show signs of fraying?
·         Is it a current style? This doesn’t matter to some people
·         The quality and brand. You want to get the best items for your money.
·         Is it missing a belt?   Can you accessorize with one you already have.
·         Do you have any possible use for it? Sometimes it is okay to pick up a formal dress for a couple of bucks even when you aren’t intending to go anywhere.
·         Be very careful when buying for resale. The bottom has fallen out of the resale clothing market on Ebay. Most people have discovered they can thrift on their own and save money too. On higher end clothes and large sizes, it is still good, but the items have to be perfect.
·         Large clothing can be altered to fit. Keep the cost in mind, unless you are doing it yourself
·         Avoid any dry cleaning only items, unless you are willing to dry-clean them.
·         The same with items that need ironing, unless you are willing to iron
·         Some stains can be removed.  It all depends on what it is and if the item has been dried. Ink, marker and crayon are often removable. It is better if there is a pattern in case your removal attempt proves unsuccessful.
·         Avoid sweaters with holes or unraveling. This is not an easy fix problem. Undone seams can usually be repaired.
Other Items
·         Don’t buy cookware with scratched Teflon.

·         Try out all electronic items. If they don’t work, don’t buy them thinking you'll fix them. 

·         Do pay attention to prices.  Goodwill marks items individually. A glass might be a dollar, which makes six of them six dollars. You could have bought a new set of matched glasses from Wal-Mart for the same price.

·         Love an item, don’t just like it. The okay items merely  vacation at your house before making a return trip.

·         Before buying something for someone else, call them. They may not want the items as much as you think

·         Tarnished items can be cleaned, but you’ll also have to clear them regularly. Many will have already developed pitting or spots due to neglect.

·         Can you refresh the item?  Furniture can be painted. Lampshades can be changed on a lamp base, buttons changed on clothing.

·         Items can be recycled too. A large skirt can become a small tablecloth or a throw pillow. A friend buys oversized clothing for the fabric and uses it for costumes. It is much cheaper than buying material at a fabric store.

The one thing you don’t want to do is to buy something you have no use for.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Art of Thrifting, Part One

In a weak economy, more people are turning to thrift stores and yard sales to snatch bargains. They are discovering that you can get items for less than half the price new.

What Should You Buy Secondhand
·         Clothing, especially children’s or babies. Formal dresses that were worn only worn once often go for less than ten bucks.
            Dishes, tableware, pots and pans, small appliances
·         Furniture
·         Books
·         Gardening equipment
·         Lawn furniture
·         Games & toys
·         Pictures, mirrors, and other d├ęcor items.
·         Purses, shoes, jewelry
·         Pet items
·         Sporting equipment
·         Coins/collectibles (be aware of current prices. Smart phones are a big help to check this.)

Probably shouldn’t Buy Second Hand
·         Anything electronic you can’t test
·         Aquariums (Improperly cleaned aquariums or those used for reptiles can harbor toxins that will kill future fish. Cleaning an aquarium with any type of cleaner will also result in dead fish.)
·         Clothes that don’t fit, but you plan to lose weight.
·         Underwear
·         Mattresses
·         Food (even though it is in a sealed package, you can’t determine what conditions it was stored under.)
·         Toiletries (often used or old cosmetics carry bacteria, which causes infections)
·         Fire arms or fireworks (It is illegal to sell these in a store not licensed for this.)
·         Any broken item you think you can fix. ( I’ll explain more later)
·         Items that you don’t need and have no use for even if it is a good buy.
·         Personalized items. If it isn’t your name, why do you want it?
·         Open puzzles

The Art of Thrifting
·         People toss things because they no longer want them, never wanted them, they’re broken, or a reminder of a relationship.

·         Before you go thrifting, make a list of what you hope to find. This will reduce some impulse buying.
·         Research where you want to go. It will take a series of stores or yard sales to find your desired items.
·         Know your stores too. Goodwill often has .99 Sundays and half-priced holidays.
·         Leave your coat in the car and your money in your pocket. You need your hands free to handle the merchandise
·         Be prepared to spend a while looking. Think of it has a treasure hunt.
·         Don’t overlook stores like the DAV, Hospice Thrift, Salvation Army or Mission stores.

·         After Christmas and Mondays during the May through October are great times to visit thrift stores. People often bring their items they didn’t sell at their yard sale on Saturday and the items are on the floor by Monday.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Inexpensive Valentine Ideas

This year’s Valentine’s Day reminds me of another similar one several years ago. Nature provided sleeting rain for the occasion, slowing rush hour traffic to a crawl. As I waited for my light, I was able to observe heavy traffic at the local Walgreens and florist where people hurried through the cold rain carrying balloons, roses, and bags containing candy and red or pink plush animals.

On the other side of the street was an elderly woman with a walker. Her equally elderly spouse held an umbrella over her as she walked. Icicles hung from his beard. There was no question which was the greater gift. An unselfish sacrifice or a red stuffed animal from the local drug store. With that in mind, maybe this could be a more personal V-day.

1.       You can make your own card or love letter.
2.       Write a poem or song.
3.       Make a collage from tickets, photos of things you’ve done together.
4.       Put together a scrapbook.
5.       Send a smile box e-card.
6.       Make heart shaped cookies, pancakes, or anything else you can press in a heart shape mold.
7.       Is your Valentine far away? Create a special box filled with dozen of messages, candy or other treats that can be read one at a time.
8.       Recreate a romantic dinner at home with candle light. It will be cheaper and easier than heading out to a crowded restaurant.
9.       Make it personal. Get her a book she’s been talking about or a model of the ‘57 Chevy he’s always wanted.  
10.   Recreate your first date.
11.   Make it a romantic movie night at home with plenty of snacks and tissues. If you can’t think of any movies, check out this link
12.   Reuse the same Valentine’s card every year and pen in different messages. Before you think ultimate cheapskate, keep in mind it reminds you of how your love has grown and changed with the years.
13.   Is your sweetie a gardener? Instead of roses, a live plant or seeds would be more welcome, or maybe a certificate for a rose bush since they aren’t in stores in most areas.
14.   Plan a fondue party at home.
15.   Do something totally different. It could be anything from indoor rock climbing to taking a cooking class together. You may not be able to schedule it on the day so a certificate can serve too.

Don’t be shy about your plans being on a day other than Valentine’s either. Business and restaurants raise the prices on roses, chocolates and a romantic night out. If you can wait until the next day after or even before to go out, you’ll experience less crowds and expense.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Scoop on Grocery Delivery Services

Maybe you’ve seen a few grocery delivery trucks. Ever wonder how expensive this is and what is involved? Grocery delivery used to be a regular service rather than a luxury. My great grandparents ran a grocery and my grandmother was the delivery ‘boy’ when her brother joined the service.
Research required I Google delivery groceries and found eleven near my home. Some are independents ran by enterprising couples who shop for you and others are chains. I will focus on Peapod and Greenbean Delivery.
Delivery is beneficial for those without transportation, busy, mothers with several young children, elderly and housebound.
Here’s how it works. You go online develop an account. Pick out your groceries. Specify a delivering time and pay with a debit or credit card.
Peapod has sales, accepts manufacturer’s coupons and doubles them up to .99. They have all the major brands and carry their own store brand, which is cheaper. Currently, they have a clearance sale on all things holiday.
My first thought was it must be very expensive. It is a little higher. It runs a nickel or a dime higher per items, some more. You can use coupons, and, you can buy the Peapod brand, which is cheaper. They also have weekly sales just like a brick and mortar store.  There is a delivery fee of $6.95 on a $100 or more order.  Your first order is $15 off and no delivery fees for the first sixty days.
 If you want to be more in harmony with nature, consider Greenbean Delivery, which brings you local organic produce along with your other staples. This is only available currently in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Missouri.  This works a little bit more like food co-ops in that you can get a basket of organic produce. Here’s an example.
A small produce bin is for 2- people and costs $28.
Each Oranges, Navel
Each Pears, Red D'anjou
16 oz. LocalHusk Corn, Sweet
Each Peppers, Green
Bunch Broccoli -
Each Avocado
Each Apples, Braeburn-
15-17 oz. Zucchini, Green
Bunch Greens, Lacinato Kale
10 oz. Peas, Snow
They have other things including canned goods, dairy, meat, snacks, sweets and condiments. Greenbean delivery offers free delivery.  Items go on sale too. Since I wasn’t familiar with the brands, I took Kettle potato chips and compared them to buying them from the Kettle Chip store in bulk. Greenbean Delivery was cheaper at $2.45 per 5oz bag.
Have people in your family with food allergies, they offer gluten and lactose free products.
I haven’t used either service, but I did use one in North Carolina. It didn’t offer as many benefits, but went along with my vacation rental. It was nice rolling in at night and not having to shop. The only down part to that experience so many years ago was bruised apples. The delivery service was the only one on the peninsula.  Now, with so many people competing for your service, I imagine most will try to avoid the bruised fruit, especially Greenbean delivery, which has several glowing reviews.
Does this sound like a service you’d like? Check it out on your own.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Target Hacked: Are You Safe?

 The better question to ask is your debit card safe?

Perhaps you’ve heard about shoppers who used debit and credit cards at Target for their holiday shopping having their data hacked. To learn more here is the full article. People who suspect they could be victims are to call credit card agencies and change their ATM numbers. This is a consumer’s worst nightmare especially so close to the holidays.

Trust me; I know the feeling. My debit card number was hacked at a routine refill at a Meijers' pharmacy. I heard about it on television before I found out I was a victim.  Foolishly, I thought those card readers at the register were so much safer than the old fashion carbon paper slide device for credit cards.

I stood transfixed watching the reporter explain that a ring of Meijers' employees downloaded the credit card numbers from the machine each night. This was standard procedure. Then eight employees would charge gift cards for either $25 or $50. Most people could accept they spent that much at Meijers and didn’t question the charge.

Of course, once they had the number and the pin number. They would go back and charge more gift certificates. That was their downfall.  Apparently, some people wondered about the mysterious charges and contacted Meijers. My phone rung as the news story continued only to find out I was a victim.

I quit using my debit card with the numbers. If I use it, I run it as credit.  My credit card company protects me more. Often refusing to run a charge when I am out of state, I have to call and verify it’s me. Of course, that wouldn’t have helped at the local Target or Meijers, which are both in my town.

The message I received from this retail disaster is that cash is your best option. You don’t spend as much. Some gas station and groceries have started adding a surcharge for using a debit card. All these little charges add up. Right now, I am glad I didn’t go to Target. However, online Target purchases were safe because of the encryption used.

Think about everyone who handles your credit information. This process happens at gas stations, groceries, retail stores, even credit card agencies. I had a friend who had her identity stolen by a credit card employee. Another lost her identity to a travel agent who planned her honeymoon. 

Knowing all this, check out who gives out your information easily. It could be you! Discover card never ever uses your entire number. It isn't on you card or even in your account. You are identified by your last four numbers. 

Many credit cards uses your entire number on your statement. This is important because felons are shopping your mailbox for this information. Some companies try to make your statement look less like a statement. Still, the greatest culprit is the consumer who throws the stub into the garbage can. People do search your trash and dumps for this type of information. This is the reason for paper shredders. As bad as someone getting your credit card number is, getting your debit card is worse.

If someone gets your ATM number your bank won’t reimburse you for the money shifted out of your account. Not knowing what happened immediately adds on overdrawn fees, which makes the situation even more dire. 

Remember the bank telling you never to give your pin number to anyone? A close friend lost her entire savings due to using an ATM in front of an alleged friend. While she didn't give him the number, he paid attention, then lifted her card later and cleaned out her account. Be paranoid about your ATM number.

Another thing about the dangers of debit cards is charges don’t show up immediately. Some businesses will take up to a week to post. That money you think you have as available balance might not be so available at all.

It’s something to consider.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Black Friday Vs. Cyber Monday

Bagged any bargains on Black Friday?  A cartoon circulating on Pinterest has a woman touting Black Friday is for amateurs. Real professionals shop year around. It’s good for a laugh, but how true is it?

Secrets Behind Black Friday Sales
1.       Prices started going up in October, so they could be slashed on Black Friday.
2.       Some of those great prices offered included a rebate. Over 60% of the people never even do the paperwork to fill out the rebate form. Another 8-12% do it wrong and do not get the rebate. This is a pretty sweet deal for the manufacturer. They offer a sale that few cash in on.
3.       Limited quantities. Ask my parents about that who stood in the cold at 4am to get a computer, that the story only had four to sell. Unfortunately, they were number five in line.
4.       Knock off brands. The amazing price is on a cheap version of the original manufactured exclusive for Christmas. Quits working shortly after, surprise, you cannot get it fixed or replaced.
5.       This was no great sale. It was the price that the manufacturer set to make a profit.
6.        Refurbished items often masquerade as new items. The ad may not mention it, except in six font buried somewhere in the description. It depends on how you feel about refurbished items.  My stepfather prefers them because he insists they went back to be refurbished because of an issue. The refurbished item has the issue worked out. This is especially good if it comes with a warranty. (I bought a refurbished camera that lasted for years until I lost it in a move.)
7.       The store may intend to slash prices even more it you can wait.

Cyber Monday: What's Good about It?

1.       No taxes if you should a store that is exclusively online.
2.       Free shipping. (If you aren’t getting it today, shop elsewhere)
3.       Home delivery
4.       Flash sales. Some people might not think these are great, but you have the option of low discounts for a couple of hours. (Amazon at least lets you know what is going to be on sale and when.)
5.       Shopping from your home or office
6.       Low prices—last year I bought popular blue-ray movies for $3 each.
7.       Safety-no fears of being trampled or involved in a shoving match

Shopping online today, check out Ebates and Retailmenot for additional discounts. It always helps to get a little extra off.

Reflecting back on my first Black Friday, I was barely nineteen shopping at the Fashion store and I had my hands on a pair of purple jeans for my sister.  The jeans would be perfect for my stylish sister and the price met my meager budget too.  As I admired the jeans, a small elderly woman grabbed onto them. She shouted at me that she had them first and she was a great grandmother.  Shocked at the woman’s behavior and determination, I gave up the jeans.  Technically, I knew I had my hands on the jeans first, but refused to get in a tug of war with an elderly woman. I can’t remember what I bought my sister that year. Whatever it was it wasn’t worth getting into knockdown fights over it. Maybe this is one of the reasons I am embracing Cyber Monday.