Dollar Stretcher: Leaving the credit cards at home
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I don't carry
I have a number of store credit cards, but I don't carry them with me. I only take them along if I know I'll be shopping at the store or at their online store. I figure that if my wallet is ever stolen or lost, I won't have to notify a whole bunch of credit card companies.
It's spring, and we enjoy our backyard deck. I like to give it a good cleaning each spring. I've found that vinegar is a great cleaning agent. I use an old paint roller to spread it around full-strength. Thirty minutes later, I hose it off. Every other year, I give it a coat of sealer. We've had it for eight years and it still looks like new.
Check your social security record
Your Social Security record will determine how much you get in retirement, and just like any other financial document, it can include errors. I checked mine and found that one year showed a much lower income than I actually had. There's a procedure for correcting errors that I followed. It would have cost me about $20 a month if I hadn't found the error. That adds up year after year.
A teachable moment
When my kids (age 10 and 12) get the gimmies, I ask them to name three things they're thankful to have. I find it helps them to move from thinking about what they don't have to what they do have. If that doesn't eliminate the gimmies, I ask them about something I knew they wanted but disappointed them once they had it. Usually that's enough to weather a gimmie storm.
My wife and I wanted a little extra income but didn't want to be tied down to a part-time job. We found the perfect solution. We spoke with the HR person at our convention center and a few of the big hotels that have conference rooms. Sometimes they need help for a special event or a weekend conference. We've mostly served at banquets. The work isn't hard, and we can always turn an event down if it conflicts with other things on our schedule. Typically we'll each get between $75 and $100 for a shift. It is just enough to make a difference in our monthly bills.
Empty nest cooking
When our kids moved out, we seemed to be wasting a lot of food (and I hate that). There were always more leftovers than we wanted. It took me awhile, but I've learned to use my freezer to cut down the waste. First, I choose recipes for the main course that freeze well. Most recipes are for four people, so I plan on freezing half of what I cook. I keep a list on the freezer door with what's inside. While I love fresh veggies, it's not always practical to cook them fresh each day. Therefore, I freeze some of them as well. I've made a point of learning to package items to prevent freezer burn. I'm still learning, but we're throwing away a lot less food than before.
Furnishing your first apartment
We were setting up our first apartment and didn't have any furniture. We were thinking of going to the store and buying now with no interest for several many months. Then one idea saved us hundreds of dollars instead. I noticed two ads for estate sales that said they had furniture. We waited until near the end of the sale and found that they still had most of the furniture. It was a little dated, but it still looked good. If we didn't buy it, they would have had to give it away, so we got a great price. We'll probably replace it later on when we can afford new stuff, but for now, it's great not eating picnic style on our floor.
The revised social calendar
Before we had kids, we used to go out to dinner with our friends, but that's not possible any more. We've now revised our social calendar. Rather than pay for baby sitters, we take the kids along and do a picnic or BBQ. It's affordable, and we don't have to worry that the kids are too noisy for a restaurant. If we want to go somewhere, we meet at a park. A couple of the parks have great equipment for small kids. We can either bring a picnic lunch or go back to one of our houses after. I thought that I would miss
dinner and wine with friends, but we have just as much fun now as before.
My backup plan
When digitally saving any category of files that threatens to become enormous, purchase a portable hard drive specifically for that category. Back up your file category to that drive and to your regular backup medium(s). If your hand-held device dies, you will still have your files intact.
Thumb drives of 32 GB and under are inexpensive but make sure they have good warranties. For larger files, look for 1TB portable hard drives, often on sale from Thanksgiving to Christmas and during back-to-school sales.
Convert recipes to PDF print files whenever possible and they will take up less digital space.
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