Monday, July 27, 2009

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

I get by with a little help from my friends. So do you. Have you ever thought about how your network of family and friends helps you to stretch your dollars?

Do you ever watch your friend's or sibling's child so that they can have an evening out without hiring a babysitter? I bet they do the same for you. Not that babysitters don't deserve to earn a living, but employing neighborhood teens is not always in the budget.

Have you shared coupons for things you don't use with your best friend, or the lady who sits next to you at work? Great idea! If nobody you know needs them, put them in that "take one, leave one" box at the library or local coffee shop.

How about asking your neighbor who's on her way to the grocery store to pick you up a pound of those grapes that are on sale? Or splitting a Costco-sized bulk pack of something you could never use up on time by yourself, but it's such a great deal you can't pass it up?

Does your employer offer a "friends and family discount"? How many times have you passed the savings on to your circle of pals? I'm sure they've reciprocated.

When was the last time you invited chums over for a game night, or karaoke night? Hosting your friends cheaply at home saves them, and you, a bundle on entertainment.

Do you swap weed eaters and tree pruners, bread makers and chocolate fountains with the neighbors? Sharing seldom-used gadgets benefits all involved. Don't forget about the little stuff, like books and movies. Buying or renting these can add up, especially with late fees!

Summer is in full swing. Are you trading zucchini and tomato surplus over the garden fence? Don't forget seeds and cuttings! That rooster of yours may be keeping your neighbor awake, but I bet he enjoys the eggs from your chickens!

Remember that cruise you took last month? How much did you save on long-term parking when your friend dropped you off at the airport? I bet it was enough to enjoy a special dinner in port.

While you were away, did your neighbor clean out your catbox, or walk your dog? A pet-sitter or kennel wouldn't have been cheap. I hope you brought him or her a souvenir t-shirt!

No man is an island. Since the time of the cavemen, people have known that they fare better if they stick together. What are some of the ways you get by with a little help from your friends?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Trickling Tributaries

One of the best pieces of personal financial advice I ever read was that you should develop different streams of income to supplement your main income source. I wouldn't say I have streams of income - more like trickling tributaries.

My main alternative income stream, not so much now, but in the future, will be my rental condo. Right now the mortgage, association fees, taxes and operating expenses add up to more than the rent I'm collecting. Many years down the road, the balance will tip, and the condo will start bringing in more than it costs me to maintain. At that point, the rental condo will provide a stream of income.

Another tiny trickle comes from my blog ads. It's hardly anything right now, but my blog is fairly new. If I work on providing some great content, my readership should grow, and this will become another stream.

Throughout the year, I work on various craft projects in my spare time. Several times a year, I sell my creations at local craft fairs. This provides another small stream.

My other rivulets of revenue include payments for completing surveys, participating in the Shopper's Hotline (more on this later, I'm still testing this to see if I want to recommend it), selling books and CD's on, mystery shopping, volunteering for focus groups, collecting promotional fees banks offer for opening new accounts, and savings and money market account interest (although it's pretty pathetic this year).

There are many other possible sources of supplementary income. Start a paper route. Purchase and service a vending machine route. Babysit or walk dogs. Collect cans or scrap metal to recycle. Sell some of your produce if you garden, or eggs if you raise chickens. Buy nice clothes or collectibles at yard sales, and resell for a profit on ebay. Sell cosmetics, jewelry, candles, scrapbooking supplies, etc., via home parties. These are just a few ideas.

The more sources of income you have, the more easily you can weather economic downturns such as the one we are experiencing now. What are some of your income streams?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cheap Chills

During the summer months it pays to have a few cool tricks up your sleeve. Read on for some of my favorite cheap ways to beat the heat.

Stash some grapes, blueberries and bananas in the freezer. Eat frozen for a frosty treat. Buy a plastic popsicle tray from the dollar store and use dollops of leftover jam, yogurt, fruit juice, iced tea, etc. to make your own popsicles. If you don't want to buy a popsicle tray, you can use old yogurt or sour cream containers with saved popsicle sticks.

Make up a pitcher of iced tea (or lemonade if you grow lemons) for pennies and keep your refrigerator stocked. Frozen berries make tasty ice cubes to float in the pitcher. Sipping cool liquids helps to keep your body temperature down.

Fill a bathtub partway with tepid water and relax in there with a book. If you don't have a tub, take a brief cool shower. Pat your skin lightly with a towel when you're done, and let the rest air dry. The evaporation will cool your skin. Sitting with your feet in a bucket of cool water to read or watch tv works well too!

Place a mixing bowl full of ice in front of a fan, and position the fan so it blows over the top of the bowl in your direction. The evaporation from the ice cubes will cool you. When the ice melts, make use of the water to water some plants!

Keep the shades down or curtains drawn on the sunny side of the house during the day.

Run dishwashers, clothes dryers, etc. late at night or early in the morning to avoid heating the house up. Better yet, hang the clothes out to dry and let the heat work for you!

Employ your crockpot, toaster oven or microwave oven for cooking during the summer months. Bonus points for using a solar cooker! The house will stay a lot cooler if you don't turn the oven on. On really hot days, cold sandwiches and salads make the best meals.

Soak a cotton hat in cold water, wring it out, and wear it wet. A towel wrung out and worn around the neck works great too.

Let your umbrella do double duty by carrying it to shield you from the sun. You'll feel a lot cooler without the sun's rays beating down on your skin. Bonus: avoiding skin cancer!

Fill a clean tube sock with rice, tie at the top and freeze overnight. Wrapped around your neck or taken into bed with you on hot nights, it has a pleasant cooling effect.

Plan errands that involve visiting air-conditioned places for the hottest times of the day. Avoid having to turn up your AC at home. After all, they have to run it anyway, whether you're there or not.

I hope these tips help you have a cool summer, not a cruel summer! If you can think of any great tips I missed, please share them.