Yard Sale Rules

I originally posted this last spring but the tips are still great! Spring is around the corner and soon the yard sale signs will start blooming. You can find some great bargains but some things should be avoided. Follow a few simple yard sale rules and you’ll save money and find some wonderful items.

Yard Sale Rules

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15 Ways to Save on Groceries

We all have to eat. There’s just no way around it. But people don’t take advantage of ways to save on groceries so they’re wasting a lot of money! It’s possible to eat pretty darned well for a lot less money by following some guidelines on purchasing groceries. Using these 15 ways to save on groceries can net you a lot of money over a year!

15 Ways to Save on Groceries

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Save on Cleaning Supplies

I posted this very early on in The Comfortable Coop’s life but with the holidays coming up I thought it was a good time to re-post it. We all want our homes clean for Christmas but we have better things to spend our money on than detergents and equipment. These ways to save on cleaning supplies may really help!

Save Money on Cleaning Supplies with this list!

We all want to have clean homes and these tips will help you save on cleaning supplies. Don’t waste money when a cheap alternative is available. Save that money for something you really want

  • Soft, white socks are great for dusting and can be washed and reused unlike paper towels or those dusting cloths that require a handle.
  • Use a pillowcase to clean ceiling fan blades. Slip the pillowcase over the blade and slide along the length of the blade. When you get near the end of the blade be sure to hold the pillowcase carefully. You can take it outside, turn it inside out and shake the dust and dirt off. Finish by laundering the pillowcase as usual. You’ll save money by not buying those fancy wands and dusters made just for fans.
  • Save money on garbage bags by breaking down boxes and crushing bottles and jugs before throwing them away. They’ll take less space and you’ll use fewer bags. *Rinse milk jugs before crushing and cap them after crushing to eliminate that spoiled milk smell in your kitchen bin.
  • Don’t buy products meant to remove hard water build up from faucets and shower heads. Slip a rubber band over the plumbing you want to clean. Pour white vinegar in a plastic bag and slip it over the faucet or showerhead. Tighten the rubber band so the bag doesn’t slip off. Let the fixture soak for several hours or overnight. Don’t bother adding baking soda in spite of what you may have read online. Combined the two make a dramatic show of foaming and bubbling but the reality is that you’ll end up with mostly water. It’s because baking soda is a “basic” and the vinegar is acidic.
  • Paper napkins are generally cheaper than paper towels. Don’t waste money using paper towels to wipe your mouth. Use napkins for meals and paper towels for clean-up.
  • Get rid of musty smells in closets with white vinegar. Cut slits or punch a few holes in the lids of plastic containers (like the ones from the deli) and fill the container with white vinegar. Place the container inside the closet and leave for a day. Keep closets smelling fresh afterward by partially filling another container with holes in the lids with baking soda.
  • Vacuum the back and the space beneath the refrigerator at least once a month. Dust clings to the condenser coils and can cause your refrigerator to overheat. Sometimes a quick vacuuming can get it working again but sometimes it means the refrigerator must be replaced.
  • When you use your electric hand mixer and other small, motorized appliances be sure to clean the vents afterward. It’s the same principle as the refrigerator. If the vents of your mixer are clogged with cake batter there’s no airflow and the motor overheats and burns out.
  • Replace spray window cleaners with a little Dawn® dish detergent and a few drops of Rain X® in hot water. Use a soft cloth to apply the mixture and a squeegee to finish. Water and dirt will roll off the exterior of windows and, used on mirrors in the bathroom, condensation will do the same keeping everything clean longer.
  • Clean your stove burners with ammonia. Just place the burners in a bag with ¼ cup of ammonia and leave them overnight. Don’t worry if the burners aren’t covered; the fumes do all the work. Do not mix the ammonia with any other cleaner and thoroughly rinse the burners before putting them back on the stove.
  • Don’t throw that last little bit of dishwashing detergent out. Sure, it’s a pain to get it to pour and turning the bottle upside down can result in a leak that’s a nightmare to clean up but you can use the end of the bottle. Pour a little hot water in the nearly empty bottle and swish it around. Then pour the resulting liquid in an empty pump bottle, the kind in which expensive hand soaps come. The result is a soap you can use when you need a quick hand wash.
  • Before buying vacuums or other cleaning equipment go to the library and read the latest Consumer Report issue covering that appliance. You can also check their Year End Report. You could potentially save hundreds of dollars and get a much better product for less.

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Saving Money on Produce

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Although I have a vegetable garden it’s not really large enough to supply all the vegetables my family uses through the year. I’d love to double the size of my garden but I’m still married and want to stay that way. He says it would take up “all” the dogs’ running space. He’s wrong but, being a diplomatic type, I almost never tell him. Meanwhile, I’ve found some ways for saving money on produce so I’m able to can, dehydrate, and freeze what I can’t grow.

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How to Have a Great Garden for Less Money

I love my vegetable garden. I spend most of my summer out there even when it really doesn’t need my attention. I get a thrill just seeing my vegetables growing. Yet even though I love my garden I’m not going to spend a fortune on it each season. I grow vegetables because home-grown are healthier and cheaper than store bought. Over the years I’ve learned how to have a great garden for less money.

 

  1. I grow almost all my vegetables from seeds rather than buying started plants. My son always gets me some plants for Mother’s Day but starting vegetables from seeds is a lot less expensive.
  1. Seed swapping is another way to save money. Get together with your gardening friends and trade seeds. I always look for heirloom seeds and that way I not only get seeds for this year but I can save the seeds from my harvest for next year.
  1. I make my own soil amendments. We have chickens so I have that manure in bulk. There are also several nearby farms that have cows. They’re always happy to let me go clean up their pastures for the free manure. I just mix the manure I collect with grass clippings and old leaves, add some kitchen trimmings like eggshells and coffee grounds, and let it sit over the winter. The next spring I have great compost.
  1. Re-purposing and reusing items I have on hand saves money, too. Use fallen tree branches as stakes or trellises for tomatoes and vining plants. Old lattice can be turned into a garden gate. Be creative. Try using old cardboard and newspaper for mulch.
  1. Going organic is also a cash (and health) saver. Chemical pesticides can be expensive and they aren’t healthy but attracting beneficial insects to my garden is free. Cover crops and companion planting add nutrients to the garden and give me additional crops.

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  1. Free or discount items like listings on Craigslist or your local newspaper often have free mulch or even live plants. I also go to garage sales and flea markets as they can be great places to find things I can repurpose for my garden.
  1. I design my vegetable and flower gardens myself. There are plenty of design services and software for designing gardens but they can be costly. It’s free and easy to do it yourself. Just research which plants grow well together and the light requirements of plants you want to grow. All you need to do the layout is some paper and a ruler. I use Excel each winter to plan my garden for the following spring. That way I can ensure crop rotation and move things around as my ideas change.
  1. Get creative. I often drive our dirt roads to pick up large rocks I use to decorate my flowerbeds. I have a thing about rocks. You can often find furniture to turn into garden decor and garden decorations free by the side of the road. Look to nature for items you can use to dress up your garden.
  1. Take cuttings and thin bulbs to increase the plants you have in your flower beds. Start your cuttings in a pot with wet perlite and you’ll see roots and leaves in just a few short weeks. Research which plants can be grown from cuttings as some are asexual; genetic clones, and won’t reproduce this way.
  1. Flower trades are another way I’ve found to get free plants. I take bulbs or cuttings of plants and trade them for the new ones I want with friends. It’s a wonderful way to get free perennials

 

Do you have money-saving tips for the garden? Please share them!

 

 

 

 

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Save Money on Entertainment

Summer is a great time to spend time with the family. There are so many entertainment options in the warm weather. But the cost of entertaining your brood may seem too high to really enjoy some events or places. These tips on how to save money on entertainment may help you have more fun this summer for less!

 

  • Matinee and discount theaters offer lower prices on movies. Matinees are priced lower than the more popular evening showings and discount theaters film less-than-new movies at great prices.
  • Check if your local theater offers lower prices as show times draw near. Some theaters discount tickets if you purchase right before the movie begins.

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  • http://drive-ins.com/theaters lets you find drive-ins near you. These venues often offer free admission to kids. You may have to drive a bit (so many drive-ins are now closed) but it can be worth it!
  • Avoid paying online ticket buying surcharges by purchasing tickets on site. Theaters, museums, aquariums and other venues often have lower-priced tickets if you buy them when you arrive.
  • Free concerts are offered in many cities. Just search online for “free concert” and plug in your zip code or city.
  • Throw a game night party. Board games are fun and hosting a party where both kids and adults can play a variety of board games is a great way to save money.
  • Invite friends to a potluck dinner. Have each guest bring a dish to pass and save on the cost of food. Combine the potluck with the game night and you have an evening of food and entertainment for very little money!
  • Go to a park. Parks are great places for families to picnic, play on the playground, and investigate nature. Most are free and even state parks can be affordable.
  • Attend street fairs and art shows. You can spend the day viewing the creations and spend nothing if you don’t buy. Pack a lunch for the family and enjoy people watching while you eat.
  • Camp in the backyard. Kids love camping and you don’t have to go anywhere to sleep out. Make S’mores and catch fireflies. Tell ghost stories and sing songs.
  • Invest in outdoor games. There are a lot of games meant to be played outdoors. Badminton, croquet, and bean bag toss games are fun options.
  • Go fishing. Many lakes and streams are open to the public for fishing and there’s no cost to use them. Just buy the necessary fishing licenses (usually only adults need them) and a couple of dozen worms and you can catch fish all day. Cheaper still, dig up your own worms.
  • Make crafts. There are craft ideas for nearly every age. Most are cheap and many are free. See my upcoming post on crafts for kids for ideas.

Save Cash By Using These Tips

Most people try to save money in little ways but you can save cash by using these tips! Some of them require an upfront investment but they’ll more than pay for themselves.

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  1. Using compact fluorescent bulbs could save you up to 80% on your electric bill. They’re more expensive than traditional light bulbs, it’s true but they last up to 25 times longer. Look for bulbs that have the Energy Star certification. Replacing just the five lights you use most frequently could save $75 a year.
  2. Save from $50 to $500 a month by buying generic brands. You have to decide what name brands are important to you and what you are willing to go generic on. Try toiletries, pet supplies, food, and some clothing items. Going with the lower priced items is well worth it. Most, when compared label to label are exactly the same as the high priced brand names.
  3. Low flow faucets can lower your water bill by up to 60%. Faucet aerators are $10 to $20 and low flow shower heads are about $20. Your water bill will be reduced by 25% to 60%.
  4. Before buying anything online check the Internet for coupon codes. http://freeshipping.org has lots of coupon codes for free shipping online. http://www.coupons.com and http://www.couponsherpa even have apps you can use on your phone and lots of great coupons from grocery to clothing.
  5. Want to save about $2,150 a year on food? Buying a programmable slow cooker for about $50 can save you that much. Most families either order food in or eat out at least once a week. A family of four spends around $50 in a restaurant. By using a slow cooker and eating at home one more night a week you can save over $2,000!
  6. Insulating your hot water heater and the pipes around it can save you nearly 10%. Insulating blankets run about $20 and hold in up to 40% more heat.
  7. Many veterinarians hold free clinics once or twice a year. You can save about $350 by attending one of these clinics. If your vet doesn’t host one the animal-control office for your county and the Humane Society can direct you to one.
  8. Did you know May is the best month to shop for mattresses and refrigerators? Retailers have common sales cycles and you can save on nearly everything if you pick the right month to buy. http://www.businessinsider.com/what-to-buy-every-month-2015-11 gives a month-by-month buying guide on everything.
  9. Bottled water drains your wallet of about $200 a year. If you can’t stand your tap water try buying a basic Brita water pitcher and 12 filters. You can save nearly $200 in a year!
  10. Size matters when it comes to cookware. A six inch pot on an eight inch burner wastes more than 40% of that burner’s heat and nearly $40 a year if you have an electric stove and nearly $20 for a gas range. Use pots and pans with flat bottoms that fit the burners to save.

Failing at Being Frugal

Spending (too much) at the craft store

My (former) daughter-in-law is great at crafts. She has made some things that absolutely amaze me. I really want to be able to duplicate the things she makes but I lack three things; patience, talent, and disposable income. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped me from spending money I don’t have on craft items I’ll never use or totally waste trying to create a masterpiece.

The best way to avoid spending too much at the craft store is to access a few things before heading out. Do you have the talent required to make the item you plan to make? Do you have the time to complete the project…ever? Do you have the money to spend on an item that may never see the light of day?

Sometimes the best way to have a cute item to display is to buy it instead of make it.

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Making a homemade dinner that costs a fortune

I love to cook and I don’t like eating the very same dinners over and over. If there’s a recipe that uses the basic ingredients I know my husband can eat I’ll try it. But I should consider more than just the basic ingredients. A few times I’ve found myself running from store to store looking for some exotic ingredient a recipe requires that, when I finally find it, costs a small fortune. The real Italian balsamic vinegar runs about $200 an ounce. Now I’ve never lost my mind to that extent but I have spent more on an ingredient than I should have and, since my husband can’t taste things, it’s nothing short of insanity.

To keep myself from turning an inexpensive dinner into something that costs as much as our mortgage payment I check all the ingredients before I decide to try a new recipe. If there is something in the ingredient list that I don’t have and isn’t wildly expensive I’ll consider buying it if I can use it in other recipes I’ve wanted to try. It makes me crazy to see some spice sitting in the cupboard for months because I needed only a half a teaspoon for one recipe that I wasn’t crazy about.

It’s the same for the main ingredients for recipes. If a recipe calls for some seafood I love but it’s way out of my price range I won’t make it. Eating at home is supposed to save money, not cost more than dinner out!

Signing up for a store credit card or a rewards card for the “freebies”

I’ve been guilty of this in my wild youth. Thirty years ago my best friend and I both signed up for J.C. Penney credit cards. It wasn’t because we wanted the cards. It was because, if you signed an application, you got a pitcher and six glasses. They were all plastic. The pitcher and glasses lasted a few years. The payments on the credit card lasted longer. I used that darned card when I had cash in my wallet. I bought things I didn’t need because I had that card. Then, when I was old enough to know better, I did the same thing with another department store card. With the interest I paid on those two cards and the cost of the unnecessary purchases themselves, I could have bought a full set of fine china.  

It’s the same with the rewards cards today. The fine print lists the annual fees, exorbitantly high interest rates, and other costs they don’t tout on the commercials. Now I have one credit card that I use for emergencies and for those times I can’t use cash, like checking into a hotel.

Buying things just because there’s a coupon available

I’m all for using coupons. I think it’s a simple, smart thing to do to save money. But using a coupon to purchase an item you don’t use is a waste. Recently I came across a coupon for a canned convenience food and I was tempted to buy it because the coupon was for $2 off! I nearly giggled at the thought of getting $2 off a single item. Then I remembered I don’t like convenience foods. They’re always more expensive. I don’t like any kind of dinner that comes from a can. They’re almost always really high in sodium and taste like aluminum. And, by buying the item, I wouldn’t be saving $2 I’d be wasting whatever it cost me after the discount.

When I was younger there used to be salesmen that came around to sell coupon booklets. They’d point out the fabulous savings contained in the brightly colored books. I bought one once. It was $10 which was kind of a lot in those days and I spent the entire year trying to figure out how to use them. I didn’t need $15 off a gym membership. I had two toddlers. I got more than enough exercise. I also didn’t need a coupon for $10 off a day at a spa. It would have cost me more to hire a babysitter for the day. Now there are online coupon sites like Groupon. It’s a great way to save on things you really will use but it’s tempting to spend on things you’ll never actually use.

Resale shops, yard sales, and clearance racks can be a money pit

A good way to save money is by shopping resale shops, yard sales, and clearance racks but only if you buy things you’re actually going to wear. It’s easy to drop a lot more than you planned because the prices at these three are so low.

I have a dress in my closet that breaks at least two of my cardinal rules for buying clothes. I found the dress at a yard sale and it really is my style. What it was not was my size. Never, ever buy clothes you can’t wear right now. I also was still in my wheelchair and rarely went outside the house except to the hospital or treatment center. I really didn’t need a dress for a fancy night out. But the sale was right next door and the dress was so inexpensive for its kind that I bought it. I’ve never worn it. If you shop these three ways be sure that you can wear it and that you will wear it.

Saving Money Series – More Tips and Tricks to Save Money

I’m always looking for ways to save. This post gives you 10 more tips and tricks to save money.

 

Piggy-Bank

  1. If you find your sliced bread goes stale or moldy before you get through the loaf try putting bread in the freezer. It thaws very quickly so you can take out only the slices you need and keep the rest from going bad.
  1. If you run out of mouthwash and really need fresh breath but can’t run to the store put 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in 8 ounces of water. Swish it around your mouth, spit it out, and rinse with clear water.
  1. You can re-use coffee grounds if you bake them. Spread the grounds on the filter in a baking dish and put them in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes. Only bake the grounds if you’re using the oven anyway, otherwise you’re not really saving any money.
  1. Do you use olive oil on salads or bread? Do you find yourself accidentally pouring too much on your food? Try putting olive oil in an old, clean pepper shaker. You can shake out just the right amount.
  1. Line the produce drawers of your refrigerator with newspapers or paper towels to absorb excess moisture which causes produce to rot. Change the paper as it gets really moist to keep your vegetables fresh longer.
  1. Any vegetables that you haven’t used and may go bad soon can be chopped up, blanched, and frozen. Or just throw compatible vegetables in the blender to make a base for soups and stews.
  1. Refrigerate candles (any kind) for a few hours before burning them. They’ll burn slower and taper candles will drip less. And remember to trim the wicks before burning candles, whether new or old.
  1. Save money on gas by slowing down. If you cut your highway speed from 70 mph to 60 mph you’ll save about 15%.
  1. Another vehicle related tip; buy your antifreeze in the summer. When temperatures are high the price is low but when it starts to get cold the price of antifreeze goes up.
  1. Find free or low cost entertainment. Check if local museums have free days. Find fairs and festivals with no entrance fees. Avoid buying food and drinks there. Go to the movies during matinee hours. You can save half the cost of a ticket. Attend free movies in the park. Your kids can play on the playground until movie time and you can pack a picnic. A town near us offers “Float and Flick” movies in the high school swimming pool. You can float on an inner tube while watching a family-friendly movie after a swim. Although it’s not free, it’s low cost and doubles the entertainment dollar.

Planning For a Month of Dinners

I’m not going to actually give you a list of meals for a month in this post. Every family has its favorite foods and there may be dietary restrictions or allergies to consider for your family. This is more of a how-to planning for the month’s dinners.

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First look at your family’s calendar to determine the number of days you’ll actually be eating dinners at home. Perhaps you eat at home every night but if certain dates mean you won’t be eating at home you can deduct them from the number of meals you plan.

Go over any recipes you’ve found that you wanted to try. I like to change things up so I frequently go online or look at magazines for new ideas. I sprinkle the new recipes throughout the month along with family favorites.

If you like to keep things more reliable you can have certain types of dinners on certain nights; perhaps you have Spaghetti Tuesday every Wednesday or make a big pot of soup every Sunday. There may be specific days of the week you want to reserve for super quick and easy meals. Use whatever method suits your needs best. I like slow cooker meals for Saturdays since we take the boys to play with their friends on Saturday afternoons. By the time we get home I’m really tired and all I have to do is put together a salad and plate dinner. If I’m making something that freezes well I’ll make a double batch and freeze half. I always note if I’m making a double batch of something on my calendar. It’s one more night I don’t have to worry about cooking.

Write out the menu for the month and post it so you’ll know which ingredients you’ll use first. When you finish your shopping you can freeze anything that won’t keep until you’re ready to use it.

Write a list of every dinner you’ll prepare during the month. Check your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer for ingredients you currently have on hand then write the ingredients you’ll need to buy for each dinner on your grocery list. I like to write ingredients for each recipe on a separate sheet of paper then total the amounts I’ll need for all the dinners and add them to my grocery lists.  I mix complicated, labor intensive dishes with easy ones so I don’t burn myself out.

Go through your coupons and put the applicable ones with your list. Take your coupons and list(s) and head to the store. I like to do a lot of shopping at Walmart but I also go to Aldi. I usually make two lists so I know get the best deals on items. I go to Walmart first since it’s in close to our village. The next day I head to Aldi since it’s almost two towns away. I just make sure I don’t need anything from the Aldi list for dinner on my Walmart shopping day.

Prepare any make-head meals if you’re doing them. I like to take a day off after shopping then prepare some meals for the freezer. I’ll note that those meals are frozen on my calendar and when I need to take them out to thaw before cooking.

Sit back and relax knowing your dinners have been planned for the entire month.

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