Realistic Money Saving Tips: Leave Your Card at Home

There are some crazy money-saving schemes out there. I’m not going to suggest that you steal ketchup packets from McDonald’s instead of buying a bottle or that you sneak toilet paper from the bathroom at work. These are some of the things we actually do (or are trying to do) to cut back, and hopefully they will be practical and helpful for you too.

If you’re just tuning in, check out the previous posts in this series:

#3 Leave your card at home

Consider making a habit of carrying cash instead of your card. The best thing about a credit card is also the worst thing. It allows you to spend all kinds of money you don’t have in an instant. Not only can you spend money you don’t have, you can build up interest that you’ll have to pay back as well. Debit cards, while not as dangerous, also allow you to spend large (maybe) amounts of money instantly, depending on how much you have in your account.

We’ve found that as a young (rather impulsive) couple, a debit card can be a perilous convenience. We once went to Walmart for groceries and returned with a 55” TV. Really.

You may carry a credit card for emergencies. Carry cash instead. There aren’t going to be many emergencies that require hundreds of dollarscreditcard with no opportunity for you to go home and grab your card or run to the bank (unless you’re traveling). There is a chance that you may be in an emergency where you need cash instead of a card (power outages, internet failure at the gas station).

Cash is also better for small businesses. Have you noticed that many small businesses charge you more to use your card? This is because credit card companies like Visa charge around 75 cents per transaction. At the coffee shop where I used to work, this took a large cut out of our profit. If you only spend $1.50, and 75 cents go to Visa, it barely pays for our materials and labor. So, many small businesses have to pass on the fee to you. Avoid this by paying with cash!

I’m not suggesting that you don’t own a credit card. There are some pretty sweet rewards programs out there. And if you plan carefully and pay your bill every month, it will also improve your credit. But consider leaving it at home unless you have a purchase planned in advance. 

Take it from the proud (not really) owner of a 55” impulse TV.

How do you cut down on impulse purchases?

Check out the next post in this series: Netflix Instead of Cable

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Money Saving Strategy for Spring Textbooks

This is the process I go through for each of my text books. It is labor intensive, but it’s worthwhile because it allows me to find least expensive option for each book.

This semester I’m taking a media ethics class (among others). I’m using the textbook to show how I find the cheapest option.

Here is my process:

If you know anyone who might still have the textbook, check with them first – they would probably be happy to help you out! I haven’t been able to find anyone who has this one. So here it goes:

First I check out my options on Amazon:

This is the offending textbook

This is the offending textbook

  • $63.03 new, eligible for free shipping
  • $43.25 used, plus $3.99 shipping ($47.24)
  • $22.72 hard copy rental, plus shipping
  • $43.79 Kindle edition
  • $25.52 Kindle rental

Then I check BookRenter:

  • $54.43 rental, free shipping

Then Garfield Bookstore (Lots of universities have their own bookstore, this is PLU’s):

  • $64.95 new, plus shipping unless you buy it in person

Renting vs. Buying

Renting typically has the lowest up-front cost.

Buying an eBook has the next lowest up-front cost. Pro: it allows you to search for keywords on your laptop or Kindle, which helps you skim readings and find answers to questions. Con: it has no resale value. Note: you can read kindle eBooks on your laptop even if you don’t have a kindle.

Buying a hard copy gives you the option to re-sell (you can usually get back about half your money).

My general rule: I get the rental or eBook if it is half the price of the hard copy.

In this Case

It’s cheapest to rent a hard copy from Amazon ($22.72)

If I buy the used copy from Amazon ($47.24) I will be able to get around $20 back when I re-sell it (figure in Amazon’s fees). That leaves me with total out of pocket cost of $27.24. In this case it’s better to rent!

Unfortunately, after all that, I still had to spend around $200 on textbooks for spring – Yikes!

How do (did/would) you handle the ridiculous expense of textbooks?

Easy Pizza Lasagna for Picky Eaters

Picky eaters are a challenge in any household. Riel is a recovering picky eater, but this recipe predates our relationship. I adapted it from the Better Homes and Gardens’ Junior Cookbook that my mom gave me for my 8th birthday. My brother, the king of picky eaters, wouldn’t touch regular lasagna (with all that cottage cheese and heaven forbid – onions).

Ingredients

The finished product

The finished product

12 Ounces ground beef

½ Cup chopped pepperoni

2 ½ Cups spaghetti sauce

6 Lasagna noodles

3 Cups mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook ground beef and chopped peperoni in skillet on medium high heat. Drain excess fat.

Spoon 1 cup of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of the 2 quart baking dish. Stir the rest of the sauce into the meat mixture.

Place 2 uncooked noodles on sauce in bottom of dish. Spread 1/3 of the meat mixture on top of noodles. Then layer 1 cup of mozzarella, 2 more uncooked noodles, 1/3 of the meat mixture, 1 cup of cheese. Then the remaining 2 noodles, rest of the meat mixture, and last of the cheese.

Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 1 hour.

Let cool for 15 minutes before removing tin foil and serving.

1 lb ground beef, add pepperoni (and onions and garlic, in this case), add sauce, and layer everything together

1 lb ground beef, add pepperoni (and onions and garlic, in this case), add sauce, and layer everything together

Realistic Money Saving Tips: Eat Before You Shop

There are some crazy money-saving schemes out there. I’m not going to suggest that you steal ketchup packets from McDonald’s instead of buying a bottle or that you sneak toilet paper from the bathroom at work. These are some of the things we actually do (or are trying to do) to cut back, and hopefully they will be practical and helpful for you too.

If you’re just tuning in, check out the previous post in this series: Don’t Coupon

#2 Eat before you go grocery shopping

According to Dr. Lisa Young, studies have shown that people buy higher calorie foods when they’re hungry:

Subjects went food shopping when they were more likely to be hungry (during the higher hunger hours between 4 and 7 p.m.) and when they were less likely to be hungry, (during the lower-hungry, after lunch hours, between 1 and 4 p.m.). Those who went food shopping during the higher hunger hours purchased fewer low-calorie foods relative to high-calorie foods compared with those who shopped in the earlier period.

This means that you may make impulse purchases that you wouldn’t normally choose. Extra chips and pizza pockets are not only hard on your health – they’re hard on your wallet!

Young suggests a few healthy snacks you can eat before you go shopping (here). I tend to go shopping right after breakfast or lunch on my days off. That way I’m not hungry and the grocery store won’t be a zoo like it is around dinner time.

What grocery shopping habits help you save money?

Check out the next posts in this series:

5 Ways to Thrive in an Apartment

If you’ve ever done some time in an apartment, you know that space can be an issue (check out our first apartment). Here are some tips to make your apartment experience a pleasant one:

1. Get rid of stuff.

You will not thrive in your apartment if you are a hoarder. Resign yourself to saying goodbye to some unnecessary items. Will you really read that novel again? Have you ever liked a recipe out of that old cookbook? Do you actually wear that shirt? Have an ongoing “To-Donate” pile and drop it off at your local thrift shop frequently. If you haven’t touched an item in a few months, then you better have a good reason for keeping it!

Once you’ve whittled down your possessions to a reasonable amount, make sure you don’t buy more things to fill up the space you’ve freed. Carefully consider whether you need an item and how much space it will take before buying it. When you do buy something new, consider getting rid of something else to free more space. When you buy a new pair of shoes, get rid of the old ones you never wear any more.

2. Get organized.

Installing an Ikea pot rack is one of the many ways we've gone vertical with our storage.

Installing an Ikea pot rack is one of the many ways we’ve gone vertical with our storage.

Make it easy on yourself by finding a system that works for you. If you are not much of a folder, don’t have a closet system that requires you to fold your jeans! Have a big drawer devoted to a pile of unfolded pants. You will be much more likely to actually put them away.

Riel’s shoes get tossed in a big wicker basket in the bedroom. His gaming stuff (headset, Skuf Controller, and various games) go in a decorative basket on top of the entertainment center. Our keys hang by the front door. These things make it even easier for us to put stuff away then it is to get it out.

Think vertically when it comes to storage. Do you have space above your cupboards for extra kitchen items? Can you increase closet space by stacking bins? You can use bookshelves for more than books and put up shelves almost anywhere.

3. Make it your own.

Sophie makes our apartment our home

Sophie makes our apartment our home

You’ll be miserable in your apartment if you are constantly reminded that it’s borrowed space. So move yourself in. Decorate. You can either throw a few posters up, or go all out with curtains, rugs, art, etc. If you can paint a wall – do it!

We lived in our current apartment for around 6 months before it started to feel like our home. The major turning point for us was getting our Christmas puppy, Sophie. Nothing says home like a puppy that can’t wait to see you when you return from work. I highly recommend getting a pet if your apartment allows it.

4. Create usable spaces.

This compact office space is actually in the corner of our bedroom

This compact office space is actually in the corner of our bedroom

What do you spend your time doing at home? Make space for it. If you watch a lot of movies then you need a good entertainment set-up with comfortable seating. If you spend a lot of time writing or drawing you need an office space. If you want to have dinner parties, make sure you have a dining table that accommodates enough people.

Much of the time you can divide one room into multiple spaces (Ikea has lots of great inspiration). Maybe you don’t have a dining room, but you can create a living room/dining room combo. We definitely don’t have an office, but we turned one end of the bedroom into a workspace. If you can do the things you love in your apartment it won’t seem like the walls are closing in.

5. Make friends.

Get to know your neighbors. In an apartment complex you and your neighbors are bound to irritate each other. Sometimes even  routine noises such as the neighbor’s television or dishwasher can seem like a huge issue. It will be easier on everyone if you are on a first-name basis and can casually mention these things to one another. And, if you are on a first-name basis the noises probably won’t annoy you as much (and vice versa, hopefully).

Get to know your apartment manager. Inevitably, problems will arise at your apartment. The toilet may not be flush, or your dog may damage the carpet or drywall (like ours did). In such an event, you’ll be grateful that you already have a good relationship with your apartment manager. Just like the relationship between you and your neighbor, the apartment manager is more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt in a situation if you have already made a good impression.

I spent my childhood in a house and had a hard time adjusting to apartment life. These are some of the things that have helped us to make our apartment a home. 

For more apartment solutions check out my Apartment Life board on Pinterest!

What have you done to fit into a small apartment?

Realistic Money Saving Tips: Don’t Coupon

There are some crazy money-saving schemes out there. I’m not going to suggest that you steal ketchup packets from McDonald’s instead of buying a bottle or that you sneak toilet paper from the bathroom at work. These are some of the things we actually do (or are trying to do) to cut back, and hopefully they will be practical and helpful for you too.

#1  Don’t Coupon

This may seem counter-intuitive to the current trend, but unless you are a superb couponer (like ThriftyNorthwestMom), you are likely to lose money. Coupons were created to get you to purchase new products. Maybe you will try a new cleaner for 25 cents off – but you’re actually buying a product you wouldn’t normally buy thus spending more money. Unless you’re into extreme couponing and you can manage to get stuff for free or you only clip coupons for products you already buy, cutting coupons is not likely to pay off. On top of that, it is extremely stressful. You may find yourself at the checkout stand with a coupon that expired yesterday or the wrong item. Or the store may be out of the item in question. It’s easier and often cheaper to buy the store brand of the product you need.

Have you had any luck with couponing? Do you find it to be worth the effort? What are your best money-saving strategies? Let me know!

Check out the next posts in this series:

5 Most Appalling Misconceptions about Northwest Native Americans

Here, for your edification, are 5 most common ways people can (and do) embarrass themselves in front of a Northwest Native American (as witnessed by Riel):

tonto1. Don’t you get money from the government?

No. Some tribes have casinos or fishing income and distribute money to tribal members, but not all tribes have that.

2. Go back to Mexico. (Yes, people actually say this)

You shouldn’t be saying this to anyone, much less a Native American who didn’t cross any borders to get here (neither did their great-great-great-great-great grandparents – and that’s more than you can say).

3. Do you speak Native American?

No. Native American is not a language. Each tribe has its own language, though some tribes speak similar dialects.

4.  Any comment related to tipis.

Northwest tribes never had tipis. They have longhouses. It rains here.

5. Do you know how to do a rain dance?

Why in the world, would tribes need to do a rain dance in Western Washington? If anything, they would do a stop-the-rain dance.

My husband frequently endures many of these comments. The Native Americans pictured in films are often inaccurate portrayals of plains tribes, which have an entirely different way of life than coastal tribes. Too many people have learned all they know about Native Americans through movies. If you would like to learn more, you can watch the documentary Reel Injun, which is available on Netflix.

You Can Roast an Entire Chicken!

You might be thinking: Why bother with roasting a chicken? Well…

photo 2 (2)

My roast chicken, fresh out of the oven

  • It’s budget-friendly. It’s hard to beat 6 pounds of meat for 5-8 dollars.
  • It’s absolutely delectable. But don’t take my word for it – try it!
  • You will feel like the best chef in the universe (for goodness sakes, you roasted an entire bird!)
  • You will have leftovers! You can use your left-over chicken in fried rice, chicken noodle soup, BBQ chicken sandwiches, and anything else you can think of.

Roast chicken is easier than it seems!

This recipe is almost exactly Ina Garten’s Perfect Roast Chicken. I chose to try this recipe because there was a video to show me how to do it.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (5 or 6 lbs)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise (you need a sharp knife for this!)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
  • 4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 bulb of fennel (I am vastly unfamiliar with fennel, so I left this out)
  • Around 6 red potatoes, quartered (I added these, so that we could have chicken and potatoes)
  • Olive oil

Directions (from Ina’s recipe)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the chicken giblets [save the neck for chicken stock]. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string [I used wooden shish-kabob skewers, which I soaked in water for an hour, because I couldn’t find kitchen string – it worked perfectly] and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel [I did red potatoes instead of fennel] in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.

Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.

All stuffed, tucked, and ready to cook

All stuffed, tucked, and ready to cook

About Riel (and his Video Games)

Riel at the beach

Riel at the beach

Though he spent the first few years of his life on the Hoh Reservation, Riel is also part Quileute, Quinault, Chippewa, and Songhees.

His family lived in Vancouver, BC for several years before settling in the Tacoma area. He spent his adolescent years playing Pokémon and Legend of Zelda on his Nintendo 64.

Less than a year after graduating high school, Riel married Katelynn, his high school sweetheart. Riel is currently considering pursuing a career in physical therapy.

Riel loves basketball and is anxiously awaiting the return of the Seattle SuperSonics. In his free time, Riel plays copious amounts of Call of Duty.

Simple, Scrumptious Fried Rice

When we first got married, I had a handful of meals that I knew how to cook. But Riel didn’t like any of them! Not homemade chicken noodle soup, scalloped potatoes, or even spaghetti. I’ve since realized that my execution may not have been as impeccable as I once thought. And Riel was more than willing to cook dinner – if we wanted to order pizza or have a freezer dinner. This fried rice was one of the recipes that eased the tension when dinnertime came around.

It’s based on Rachael Ray’s Special Fried Rice, though we have made several changes (like adding meat!)

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • 1 ½ Cups white rice
  • 3 Tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Cloves garlic
  • 1/3 Cup chopped onion (or green onion)
  • Shredded carrots, bell pepper, and any other veggies you like
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce (Be careful! It is easy to ruin the whole dish with too much soy sauce)

Rachael Ray’s Special Fried Rice

 Directions:

  1. Cook rice in rice cooker (or on stove-top, if you must) and let cool.
  2. Heat up a couple tablespoons of oil on the stove-top.
  3. Scramble an egg or two in the oil.
  4. Stir in your veggies – whichever you prefer. We do carrots, onions, garlic, sometimes bell peppers or green onions.
  5. Cook your meat. We like chicken or shrimp best. Pork would probably be good as well.
  6. Add the rice and fry everything together for a few minutes.
  7. Add any frozen veggies (we skip these because Riel can’t stand peas or corn!) and soy sauce.