Thursday, February 27, 2014

Frugal Move of the Day: On-line Banking

Looking to up your "frugal" for the day or week?  Consider the full array of on-line banking options.  Case in point, I want to send a check to the cat sitter who has taken in my mom's cats.  No more looking for my checkbook, wondering if there are checks or do I need to order more.  No more finding an envelope, stamp, and return address sticker.  No trip to the post office (I don't mail from home because of check washing scandals).  Instead I log on to my credit union web site, select the account the money should come from, click on her name in my address book, and hit send.  The credit union will cover the cost of postage, supply an envelope, and I do not need to use any of the free box of checks I get once a year.

May not sound like a huge savings, but day in and day out the little things add up.  I use the approach for more and more of my bill payments both at home and the office.  I have yet to deposit a check with my Smartphone, but give me time.  Any way I can cut out unneeded drives the the bank, I do.

Have a great frugal week, and thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Running a Frugal Office Thanks to Google Docs

It's Saturday afternoon and am in between my third and fourth speaking engagement of the week.  With a voice barely holding up, I am thankful for the respite.  And happy I have time to put up a quick post.  The restaurant offers free wi-fi.  Something that does not surprise us anymore, and something I can't take for granted.

Why?  For my shorter speaking engagements, the ones related to my book, I now use a power point presentation.  I never use them for the longer, two hour community education sessions I give on the basics of estate planning.  The material is dense enough to begin with, why weigh it down with a lecture format.  But now I am speaking more and more for thirty minutes on Middle Class Philanthropist: How anyone can leave a legacy.  A power point format gives a punch to the quotes I highlight and the cover image of the book.  But I am not using "the" power point.  No, I use the free version through Google Docs.

Simple, easy, and free -- what could a business owner wish for beyond that in a software package.  One thing -- access to free wi-fi.  When I first gave this new format a whirl at a presentation to a professional group it hit me at the last minute -- I need wi-fi for this to work, will the building offer it?  Our society has grown to expect wi-fi, but my techie husband who has a masters in the area of digital signal processing (fancy words for wireless transmissions) reminds me that it is not a given that wi-fi will work.  Problems happen because of walls or dropped packets or fussy routers linger in the background.

So, if you decide to embrace the freedom of Google Docs for presentations, have a Plan B.  Mine is to use my phone as a mobile hotspot.  It allows me to connect my computer to the internet via my phone.  Risks of using too much data or breaching security linger, but it is a decent Plan B and avoided the expense of purchasing software that I can now get for free.

Enjoy your weekend, and be frugal.  For regular readers I have to add, as a thank you for speaking this afternoon for Habitat for Humanity I received a free Bucky Book.  Whooo hoooo -- a favorite of mine for free.  The key, not to spend just because I have a coupon.  Thanks for reading, and remember there are lots of ups for those on the frugal path.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Incredible, Edible....and Frugal Egg!

You could say that I have had a challenging week.  Last Tuesday my body continued to due battle with one of the nastiest bugs I have ever landed.  Knocked me out to the point where I missed three work days in a row.  That has never happened before.  As I regained my strength and footing towards the end of the week, my ailing mother began to loose her's.  In just a few days she slipped from weak but "still Sharon" to non-responsive.  Sunday morning I sat with her, sipping tea and reading a book, and she slipped away. Transitioned as hospice might call it.  Her passing was not a shock given her declining health, but still, my mom is gone.  A week ago we spoke on the phone, tonight all I have are memories, photos, and her expressions replicated on my daughter's face.  For many these times might be the night, or night after night, to order in food.  Not here.  Instead, it has been all about the incredible, edible, and frugal egg.

Scrambled, fried sandwich, quiche, frittata, or hard boiled -- it is a simple, healthy, filling and frugal meal to serve for dinner. So the next time life knocks you down and the temptation to order in strikes, open your fridge.  Are there eggs in there?  If yes, pull them out, cook them up, serve with fruit and something starchy. You'll save money, energy, and do wonders for your health if you avoid the less than healthy delivery options.

My parents, who are now both gone from this earthly world.  They gave me life as well as a frugal sensibility.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Frugal Sandwich Bag

The rage in kids lunches these days, and thus adult lunches, are these nifty reusable sandwich bags.  You've seen them on display -- bright colors, fun designs.  They fold up, snap with Velcro, and wash easily.  No more plastic bags to buy and toss (or wash if you are frugal).  When the school year started I bought two for each child.  The cost was about $20 -- but hey, no more plastic baggies to wash out or toss when torn.

Loyal readers know the initial school we started the year with did not go well.  Thirteen days there before we started anew (and the tuition litigation continues, they let their attorney go, hired another and asked for a continuance).  So when this frugal Mama started taking English Muffin sandwiches to work, my frugal overdrive was in full-force.  I was not going to spend another $20 on those reusable bags.  Inspiration hit one morning after reading a Little House on the Prairie book -- Just use a cloth napkin!  And so I do. Purchased used from a thrift store, the cost is less than $1.  But I use the ample supply we already have on hand.  If I were a crafty frugal Mama, which I am not, I'd probably stitch up the sides and add Velcro.  My 1800s approach works just fine.

Step One:

Step Two:

No need to purchase or drive to a store.  No new materials used or shipped.  It's good for the earth, wallet, and body!  Happy frugal living.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

From Yoda to Pie Pops -- Frugal Living It Is!

Yoda -- he is not a character I have learned much about in my forty years of life.  A fact of life that has changed in recent days as our son has fallen in love with a Star Wars movie.  My knowledge of the series so lacking that I cannot even tell you which one, but it is the one with the "Young Annikan".  When pressed by our son to name my favorite character, I went with Yoda.  Selected by the fact I simply felt like how Yoda looked.

A stomach virus made my body its winter home as of Saturday evening, and I spent nearly four days as sick as I had ever been.  Thus the reason I was watching a Star Wars movie mid week with my son.  Toss into the mix my mother is now in out-patient hospice, Yoda really seemed to be a reflection of myself.

And then tonight as we read from our son's Lego Magazines, as we do every night, we stumbled across mention of a set called "Yoda's Hut" and to my amazement I read that Yoda led a frugal life in his hut.  Doubt me?  Here is a quote about the set (there is an entire universe of web sites, YouTube reviews, etc. devoted to Lego Star Wars!):
Yoda led a very frugal existence and the pleasure would be in little details rather than something with too much artistic licence.
Yes, Yoda you are my favorite of the Star Wars characters - find pleasure in the little details.  Less is more. I look forward to learning more about you over the years as our son's love for the series grows.  Gems of frugal advice hidden in all those action scenes!

And for those looking for a homemade Valentine treat here is an idea - Pie Pops.  In my feverish haze today I watched Daytime TV, something that rarely if ever occurs.  Shocked at what constitutes entertainment I was pleasantly surprised by a cooking segment. I am inspired to give these a try, but modified for another holiday when I have my strength back (today I actually ate food -- chicken soup, for breakfast, lunch and dinner).  Here are some basic instructions:

  • make (or buy) a pie crust;
  • use cookie cutters to cut out hearts or other shapes;
  • one one push down a lollipop stick;
  • lather on egg paste (assume internet search will give specifics)
  • brush on jam;
  • layer another pie crust cut out on top;
  • cinch sides, lather and spring with sugar;
  • bake at pie temperature -- probably for about 10 minutes.
They looked fun, tasty and relatively easy.  But then again, I've had a fever for seveal days and cannot stomach coffee, unheard for me, so my judgement may be off.  If you try it out, let me know how it goes.

Life is a bit more calm now, and hopefully my posts will be more regular!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Still Here, Still Frugal

My apologies to regular readers, it has been some time since my last post.  No worries, I am still here, still frugal.  However, my mother is gravely ill and approaching the end of her life.  With only 24 hours in a day and an endless array of tasks to tend to, posting on Frugal has fallen to the bottom.  It is only temporary.  In fact, much of what I am doing for my mother will make for interesting future frugal posts.

For today I wanted to remind you that I am here, and share a photo from the office.  Once it contained salsa that I use to make batches of homemade burritos-- an easy and frugal lunch for my husband (they freeze well).  Now it holds pens and pencils at my office.  Not all lawyers are fancy fancy, some of us watch our pennies and reuse whenever we can.

Hmmmmm, when I went to upload the photo off of my camera, it was not there.  Check the Facebook page tomorrow.  I'll snap another and post it there!  Technology.....

Have a great week, and share your frugal finds or wins by leaving a comment or liking The Frugal Upside on Facebook!