Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cheap Tricks and Home Remedies

Just a quick post with some cool but unexpected home remedies and cheap tricks to improve your state of mind (and body):
  1. Chew gum while you're trying to memorize things; it increases blood flow to the brain and can improve recall up to 40%.

  2. If you spend a lot of time in front of the computer, help save your eyes some strain by doing this exercise every few hours. Look away from the monitor and slowly roll your eyes up and down and then side to side, three times each.

  3. Caffeine is a natural antidepressant and can improve concentration. Get in in it's most potent and natural form: coffee. Just remember, all in moderation. Too much caffeine can have harmful effects on your nerves and body.

  4. Peppermint, green apple, and banana scents have been found to curb appetite. Try taking a few whiffs of one of these essential oils when you crave unhealthy food.

  5. Need to relax? Take deep breaths into your abdomen: place one hand on your stomach and inhale for six counts. Hold for three counts, then exhale slowly. Repeat this six to eight times. This move slows your heart rate and reduces stress hormone levels.

  6. Did you know that owning at least one cat can lower your risk of a fatal heart attact by 40%? It's true. Get over to your nearest shelter ASAP and pick out a new best bud. You'll help your health and save a life! Remember: never buy from pet stores, don't even think about declawing, and always spay or neuter your pet.
Got any home remedies or know a good cheap trick we missed? Leave it in a comment below!

The above tips were taken from the March 2009 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Save Money on Food: Grow Your Own!

Or: Gardening for Fun and Profit or The Glory of Backyard Gardening or Green Your Dinner Table or Forget Victory Gardens; These are Peace Gardens!

Coupons are great and all, but we all know grocery shopping sucks and even with a load of coupons, you're still spending a lot of money on food. Why not grow your own instead? No matter where you live (city, suburbs, country), or in what climate, or how much space you have, you can grown your own vegetables, herbs, and even fruit. This is the inaugural article of TAiMH's new organic gardening series, where we'll walk you through planning, planting, growing, harvesting, preserving, and more. And the best part is we'll do it as cheaply as possible—and because we're poor, that means really cheap. No fancy planters or fertilizers, no $3 seed packs, no expensive (and toxic) pesticides, nada. We'll focus on vegetable and herb gardening, but later in the series we'll branch out into fruits and flowers. As you know, there are entire blogs, books, and magazines devoted to just vegetable gardening. There's a lot of ground to cover, especially since we're starting from the extreme newb level. I'm going to be as informative and comprehensive as I can without completely transforming TAiMH into a gardening blog.

Why grow your own?
The plethora of reasons to start growing your own food include:
  • You know what your getting. When you grow your own food, you know it's safe. You know you didn't spray toxic pesticides on them or bioengineer them or use harsh chemical fertilizers. You know you're getting safe, healthy food for yourself and your family.

  • It's fun. Whether you garden alone or with a friends or family, just the act of gardening—of being outside in the sunshine, of nurturing another living being and watching it grow—is worth it. I find gardening not only enjoyable but therapeutic. It's odd how calming simple outside tasks like weeding, tilling, and planting can be.

  • Home gardens help the environment. When you grow your own food, you're not supporting factory farms that end up harming the planet more than helping it [1], you're helping preserve the ozone by growing plants that process CO2 and produce oxygen, and you're not buying food from a grocery chain that ships their food in from all over the country (and globe), thereby creating pollution.

  • Besides saving you money, gardening can be a supplemental source of income if you plant a surplus. You could have a vegetable or fruit stand in front of your home during the harvest months. Plus, you'll be helping others eat organic and local.

  • Homegrown just tastes better.

But isn't having a garden time-consuming?
Gardening does take time and effort, though probably much less than you think. You can spend as much or as little time gardening as you want. MDT and I planted a garden at our new house a couple of weeks ago, and after the planting and preparation, we only spend a few minutes per day watering and pulling a few weeds. It's easy to tailor a garden to your lifestyle. You can always start small and expand your garden as you learn.

Is it really cost-effective?
Whether growing your own food is cost-effective depends on how you go about it. If you buy your seeds, plants, materials, planters, soil, fertilizers, etc., etc. at normal retail price, you can spend a whole lot of money—probably more than you'll recoup. There are people out there who enjoy gardening so much that they're fine with that, but since this is a blog about money-hacking, we're going to show you how to do it so cheaply it'll save you quite a bit of grocery money. In fact, we're keeping track of everything we spend on the garden and everything we grow, and we'll post the final results after our final harvest this year.

I hope this has been a helpful introduction to home vegetable gardening and that it's inspired some of you to start your own garden and begin growing your own safe, healthy, delicious food. Stay tuned for the rest of our series, which will continue all summer long.

Next time: Planning and starting your first garden.
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Friday, June 19, 2009

Don't Blow it: Tips for Father's Day

Now you’ve done it. You’ve gone and let Father’s Day sneak up on you again. Summer is starting and getting to the beach or spending all afternoon cooking the perfect [insert delicious food here] has really been a distraction the last few weeks, and you totally forgot that you should probably get the old man something. You’ve put it off until the last minute, and you have no money because the ingredients for the perfect coleslaw don’t come cheap. (Yes they do. Who am I kidding? I spent that money on beer.) What’s a TAiMH reader to do?

OK, the facts are these: Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 21, 2009. (That’s right you have two days.) You like the pater familas enough to show him you appreciate all that time he spent with you helping you make the perfect derby car or whatever. You have no money. Your dad/stepdad/grandfather/uncle who took care of you, etc., does not want a tie from the Salvation Army.

Here are your options:

Borrow money from your mother. TAiMH does not endorse lying to your mother or using guilt tactics of any kind to get money. You are an adult. Seriously, do you have no shame?

Reallocate gifts from other family members to indicate that they came from both of you or just you. I have never done this. Neither should you. Ahem.

Do his chores/yard work/an activity he in someway dislikes. Suck it up. You have no money, but we all have sweat equity.

Volunteer for his favorite charity. This won’t work for everyone, but if the old guy has a soft spot for Habitat for Humanity or anything like that, telling him that you’re going to commit to X number of hours might really be touching.

Cook for him. Is there something that your father loves that no one else can stand, or that the significant other in his life refuses to cook for him? I bet he’d love it if you sautéed him up some butter beans.

Write him a letter. Sometimes we forget to tell the people closest to us just what they mean to us and that they have influenced our lives. A lot of guys pretend they don't like the sap factor, but I bet they'll appreciate it (as long as no one's looking).

Happy Father’s Day.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

$200+ Coupon Winner Announced!

Congratulations to xoxokillerqueen, the random winner of more than $200 worth of grocery and personal care coupons. Xoxokillerqueen, please contact me via e-mail with your mailing address so I can send your coupons ASAP!

Thanks to everyone who entered and to all our readers. Check back soon for our next big giveaway!

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Moving? Save time and money with these great tips.

packingImage by Jenny Factory via Flickr

As many of you know, MDT and I just finished graduate school and moved from New England to the Midwest to spend the summer visiting family and traveling before we do the expat thing (me for the second time). We don't have a ton of stuff, but it was enough that we had to rent a moving truck to get it all to St. Louis (plus us and the two cats). Now, I've rented plenty of U-Hauls before, but this is the first time I used one to move long distance. Did you know that they wanted upwards of $800?? For a 10-foot truck?! The reason why it's so much, they say, is that federal law states that you can legally drive only so many hours a day (something ridiculous like 4). So if you need to rent a truck to go 1,163 miles, the rental company figures the miles per hour and makes the rental out for 6 days. Even if it only takes 2 days to do the actual drive—like it did for us—you're stuck paying for 6 days of rental time. We didn't have much choice, so we bit the bullet. But we were able to save a good deal of money, and without further ado, I'll get on with the sharing.

Packing and Prep
Whatever you do, don't buy packing supplies from moving companies—they're a total ripoff. If you need boxes, check with your local convenience or liquor store; they almost always have tons of boxes they'd love to get rid of. Packing tape is harder to come by, so if you must buy it, buy it from a dollar store. Places like Staples and Office Max like to charge outrageous prices for silly things like clear packing tape.

Trucks and Travel
Obviously if you hire movers, you'll be paying an arm and a leg, so go with self-moving rental trucks if possible. If you have lots of stuff or heavy furniture, enlist a couple of friends to help. For discounts on truck rentals, search coupon code sites. We found a 20% off code for Budget Trucks that saved us over $100 on our rental. Change of Address packets from the post office also often have coupons for movers and truck rentals. Pick up a packet long before your move. Also, midweek truck rentals are usually cheaper. We saved nearly$100 by picking up our truck on Wednesday instead of Tuesday.

Better yet, if you've got a friend or relative with a truck that's big enough, maybe they'll help out. Or if you're moving long distance but don't have a ton of stuff, check out rideshare options. Ridester and will let you hook up with other travelers going your way. Gas is expensive, so splitting it is always a big money-saver.

Auto Insurance
When you rent a vehicle, you can choose to take their insurance coverage, called a waiver, use your own (if you have it), or take your chances. I'm a risk-taker normally, but with auto insurance I wouldn't recommend gambling, especially if you're going to be driving a big truck you're not used to for numerous hours. Even if you're a fantastic driver, many other people on the road aren't. And if they smack into your rental truck and don't have insurance to cover it, you're responsible for damages.

A lot of credit cards come with auto insurance benefits when you rent a car but not a moving truck. Call your credit card company to make sure. If your card benefits won't cover you, check with your regular auto insurance company. Often, the price for them to cover you for a few days of driving another vehicle, even a moving truck, will be significantly less than buying the rental company's waiver. State Farm added an "uninsured vehicle" clause to my policy for 6 days; it cost me $7. Budget's waiver would have cost exponentially more.

Route Planning
If you're a AAA member, take advantage of their free maps, triptychs, and regional guide books. The guides list hotels and attractions for each area along your route and include useful information about the hotels listed inside, such as whether they allow pets, offer free wifi, etc. If not, will map your route, let you choose options such as avoiding tolls or taking the scenic route, and can list gas stations, rest stops, national parks, and lodging (by price) on the way.

Food and Snackage
It's easy to spend a ton on food while roadtripping. If you stop to eat at restaurants, you lose valuable time; if you make a quick stop for fast-food or gas station snacks, you save some time but usually spend too much and end up with trans-fats in your belly. My advice is to pack your own meals and snacks. It's not that hard. We brought a small Rubbermaid tub, filled it partway with ice, and threw in some sliced cheese and veggies, a tub of hummus, and a couple of reusable water bottles. Then we packed a canvas bag with apples, bananas, pita bread, and tortilla chips. That gave us enough food for our two days on the road: sandwiches and fruit for meals, chips and veggies with hummus for snacking. I even brought a little tin of powdered tea mix in case we tired of water. And since we bought all our food (with coupons, of course) at the grocery store before we left, we saved time and money on the road.

Staying Overnight
Of course you could sleep in the cab at a truck stop if you're really low on cash, but I wouldn't advise it. For one, most rental moving trucks don't have reclining seats, and for two it can be dangerous. Sleeping in a parked vehicle can be an invitation to car jacking, especially if you're alone. If you don't feel like sleeping in the car or roughing it in a tent, you still have several inexpensive options: hostels, motels, and budget hotels. Hostels are likely your cheapest option, but they're not as plentiful as motels or hotels. Hosteling International's US site lists Hosteling International member hostels by state; lists them by region; and Hostel World by city/town. Once you've found one you want to stay at, it's worth calling them directly; sometimes you can get a better price that way. The same goes for motels and hotels you find via third-party search.

If you have a credit card with rewards, check the benefits—I was able to book two free nights along our route for MDT and I (and the kittens) with points from my AmEx card. Other membership organizations, such as AARP or professional or labor unions, may offer hotel discounts also. Leave no stone unturned.

Moving with Pets
Speaking of kittens . . . if you're traveling with pets, don't forget to bring enough food (and litter if necessary) during the drive and the first few days after you arrive. We brought a few cans of food (normally we feed them mostly dry food, but we worried they'd be too nervous to eat and thought we'd encourage them with wet food), a jug of litter and a small litter pan to set up in the hotel rooms, and their regular food and water dishes. If you'll be on the road most of the day, it's best to stop feeding the night before so they won't have to use the bathroom on the road. They should have access to water all the time, even on the road. If their carriers don't have attached water bowls, just offer them water in their regular dish when you stop for gas, or whenever. Ours cats were never interested in water, but it's important for it to be available to them, especially in warm weather. Also, if your pets don't do well in cars, talk to your vet about calming methods. Our vet recommended a small dose of Benadryl for my cat, who tends to hyperventilate if he's in the car for more than a few minutes, and that worked quite well. Never give your pet any medicine or supplement without first consulting your vet.

Be sure to check with your hotel before you book a room; make sure the hotel accepts pets and see whether they charge fees for lodging them. On the other hand, I'm not advocating breaking any rules, but it's usually pretty easy to sneak small, quiet pets like cats into motels or budget hotels, especially if there are multiple entrances. If you choose to do that, however, make sure you never leave them alone in the room, always keep the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door, don't let them scratch the furniture, and clean up after them thoroughly.

Happy Trails!
Good luck on your move or traveling adventure. Hopefully you'll be as lucky as we were and find a huge bag of coins in the door of your rental truck ($40 worth)! It covered all our tolls and more. LOL.

If you have any money-saving moving tips, please comment below!

Thanks to Go Frugal for including this post in the Festival of Frugality and to Suburban Dollar for including it in the Money Hacks Carnival.
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Friday, June 12, 2009

Guest post: Change Your Mind About Saving Money

Thanks to Trisha Wagner from for this encouraging article:

When it comes to saving money, you probably fall in one of two categories. Most people are either really good at saving or really bad. If you fall in the latter category, you probably either believe you don't make enough money to put extra in savings or you lack a well thought out savings strategy. Here are a few tips that will help you change your mind about savings and get the ball rolling to a more secure financial future.

If you think you don't make enough money to save, think again. With the exception of individuals who are experiencing a severe financial hardship, almost everyone has the means to save some money. The following are tried and true (which makes them worth repeating) techniques to begin saving money today.

Increase your income
One of the most obvious ways to save money, although not necessarily the easiest, is increasing the amount of income you have to work with in the first place. Fortunately, there are many ways to add extra cash to your budget even in the current economic climate. While it is true that many companies are downsizing and letting employees go, unless those companies close their doors, they will need someone to do some work. Consider freelancing on the side, which is a relatively easy way to pick up extra cash for people with skill sets that others are seeking. There are opportunities out there for part-time seasonal work as well, especially as we enter the summer season.

Sell items you are no longer using
If picking up a side job isn't an option, you could de-clutter and make money by selling items that are collecting dust around the house. Yard sales, eBay, Craig's List or even your local newspaper are great ways to unload unused items while pocketing a few bucks.

Reduce expenses
Saving money is not always about making more money. For most people the easiest way to save money is by spending less. If you have never tracked your daily spending, that is a great place to start. Few people really know how much money they spend each day on miscellaneous items that they don't really need. Try writing down how much you spend (and for what) each day for a week or two. You will probably be surprised to see how much money you nickel-and-dime away each day. Once you see where you are wasting money, you can make appropriate changes to begin saving that money. Don't forget to review your monthly bills as well to see if you can reduce costs by changing cell phone or cable/internet plans.

Pay off debt
If you have debt, you will have to tackle that before you can save significant amounts of money. It is not impossible to do both at the same time. However, the longer you continue to lose money each month paying high interest charges, the less money you will have to put away for your future needs.

As you can see, saving money is not really that difficult if you set your mind to the task. In our society we have become so accustomed to easy credit that saving money has not been a priority or necessity for many families. Those times have changed, and if you still think you don't need (or are not able) to save money you are headed for trouble. By following the tips outlined above, you can get started saving money and laying the foundation for a secure financial future.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Safety First: Bike Safety for Commuters

We're back! Thanks for your patience during our move.

We’ve spent a while talking about commuting by bike, and I promised an article on bike safety and advocacy, so here it is.

You all know you need to wear a helmet, protect your eyes with sunglasses, and your skin with sunscreen, but there’s more to bike safety than that when you’re riding among cars.
  1. Signaling: Learn and use hand signals when you’re turning. Yes, they’re dorky, and yes, I hate using them—but sometimes it’s necessary. I’ve never felt the need to use the “stop” signal, however, but I suppose it’s good to know.

  2. Watching out for parked cars: They may be parked, but they’re still dangerous. You’ve probably heard about a cyclist being “doored.” That’s when someone in a parked car opens a door just as a cyclist is approaching, usually causing the cyclist (and sometimes the door) some injury. People can’t seem to understand that they need to look before getting out of a car parked on the street, and for that reason, it’s best to ride at least 3-4 feet away from parked cars. If there’s no bike lane or the shoulder’s small, this means you’ll have to take the nearest lane. And that’s totally fine. Cars can go around you if they want.

  3. Speaking of cars going around you and tight shoulders... If a car gets too close to you, don’t be afraid to give their hood/door, etc. a smack. If a car is driving close enough to you that you can touch it, it’s too close. Let them know.

  4. Watch out for the dreaded right-hook: According to the MassBike website, “A ‘right-hook’ is when a motorist makes an abrupt right turn too close to a bicyclist, causing the cyclist to crash or make an emergency maneuver to avoid crashing.” In Massachusetts, this is illegal, but whether it’s legal or not, cars will still do it. Be especially aware at intersections of cars that may be turning right and keep a safe distance in case they’re not paying attention.

What the New Bicycle Law Means for you: A Practical Guide

NYC Bicycle Safety Coalition

League of American Bicyclists
Loads of information on bike security, safety, and gear, commuting tips, and more.

Mike’s Bikes: Riding Tips
Even more information and tutorials on pretty much anything you could think of involving bikes. Awesome site, and it’s all free. The “Maintenance and Repair” section is especially helpful.

Books I Recommend (PS, If anyone can tell me how to format so that the following books don't appear vertically, please e-mail me or leave a comment.)

Tune in next week for the final article in our commuting by bike series: bike maintenance for beginners.

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Guest Post: Quick Tips for Saving Money on Groceries and Eating Out

I chose to take a few years off after earning my undergraduate degree before I returned to graduate school. I needed time away from school and to decide exactly which field I wanted to pursue. During my time away from school, I grew used to a higher standard of living. As a graduate student, my income is about 50% of what I made a year ago. In order to accommodate this drastic reduction of income I had to made serious changes to spending habits. I have really cut back on the amount of money that I spend eating out and at the grocery store.

In order to save money on eating out, I
• Eat out less often.
• Don’t order a drink.
• Order an appetizer or side.
• Split an entrée with a friend.
• Use coupons from the back of grocery receipts, the Entertainment book, or the internet.

In order to save money at the grocery store, I
• Check out the sale flyer before I go to the store.
• Create a list and stick to it.
• Avoid buying processed foods.
• Buy in season produce.
• Eat a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.

I’m still trying to reduce my food budget, but these are a few things that have helped me decrease my monthly grocery spending to about $200. I’m trying to get it down to $150 in the next few months.

Thanks to Saving Diva @ Saving to Pay Down My Home for this guest post. I'll be back soon. MDT and I just arrived in St. Louis Friday, and we're still unpacking and reorganizing like mad. We just got internet this evening. Whew!

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Win over $200 in grocery and personal care coupons just by reading this blog!

Guess what? I've been busy clipping coupons so you don't have to. Follow the directions below to enter to win over $200 in grocery and personal care coupons, clipped and mailed straight to your door. I'll be selecting a random winner on or before June 15th, so get your entries in soon. Increase your chances of winning with multiple entries; see below!

To Enter:

1. Friend/Follow us on MySpace, Facebook, and/or Twitter (see links on the left side of the blog). (1 entry each) If you're already our friend, leave a comment on this post and let me know.
2. Subscribe to the feed. (1 entry)
3. Vote in the poll at the top of the blog. If you've already voted, less us know. (1 entry)
4. Leave a comment on any post other than this one. (1 entry per comment)
5. RT this giveaway by copying and pasting this message into Twitter: "RT @TiredoBeingPoor Win more than $200 in grocery and personal care coupons-- just for reading our blog! #TAiMH" (2 entries)

Make sure you leave a comment below and let me know when you've done any of the above, so I can be sure to give you all your entries! =)

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