Thursday, June 26, 2008

Have a Vision Board

Not that I am advocating Oprah, who in herself is her own religion, but I did get the idea from something I saw on one of her shows. It was talking about that ridiculous concept The Secret where you can get things to come into your life by speaking them into the universe. Although I do not believe in the concept proposed by The Secret I do believe in a Vision Board. On the show a woman was talking about how she had a board that she tacked all the thing she would like to do/have onto and there was a stove that she liked. Anyway she bought another stove and somehow "the universe did not want her to have that stove but the one she had on her board" and she ended up with the original stove. Okay far fetched I know!

I like the idea of a Vision Board. Not because you can somehow magically get these things to appear in your life but because using a vision board narrows your scope so you can focus on your goals. By keeping the things that are important to you in front of you so you can look at them every day it keeps you in forward progression - it helps you know where you want to be. On my visions board I have the house that I want to build, some scripture, a quote about Living my best life, among a few other things. I am working on a PhD so I have something relating to that on there as well. Sorry a stove is not that important to me. I think you can tell a lot about someone by looking at their vision board.

The key to success in any capacity is staying focused.

Friday, May 30, 2008

6th Carnival of Snowflaking at Greener Pastures

A big thanks to them for including my article Free Cash for Snowflaking!

If this is your first time to Debt Non Sequitur - WELCOME! Please look around. There are alot of articles to help you save money, pay of debt, and live a financially independent life.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mesh Onion Bags = Scouring Pads

Frugal Tip:

Save your mesh onion bags, wrap them with a rubber band and use to clean baked on food from pots and pans.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

May Snowflake Report - $1292.15

Not bad for this month so far:

77.15 - Sold textbook on
335.00 - Sold Braille machine on Ebay
11.50 - rolled change from change jar
57.83 - refund from Unclaimed money
800.00 - sold comic book collection
10.67 - reimbursement check

$1292.15 - sent to savings

I decided instead of paying off the orthodontist I would slate most of May's snowflake money to savings and pay only a little to the orthodontist. But all in all a good month for snowflakes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Carnival of Debt Reduction #141: Enemies of the Doctor

Jump on over to Consumerism Commentary for the 141st edition of the Carnival of Debt Reduction! This carnival is a traveling showcase of the best articles about the process of eliminating debt.

The theme for this week is “Enemies of Doctor Who.” The concept of debt would certainly be an enemy worth the Doctor’s attention, if he had any money.

Thank you to Consumerism Commentary for including my article Free Cash for Snowflaking – Snowflake Report – $57.83

If this is your first time here welcome and please take a look around. There are many articles to help you with debt reduction and saving.

Thanks for stopping by!

127th Festival of Frugality at Funny About Money

And the Beat Goes On: 127th Festival of Frugality
My article "Free Cash for Snowflaking" has been included in the 127th Festival of Frugality being hosted at Funny About Money . A big thank you to Funny about Money for inclusion of my article in their carnival. Head over there to check out all the fine blogs and information related to all things frugal.

If this is your first time at Debt Non Sequitur please take a look around! There are many ideas to help you save money and we hope to see you again sometime!
Thanks for stopping by!

Seek Out Opportunities to Snowflake Big

I love Goodwill. We have one that I go to that really gets some great things - they seem more particular about the things that they sell - good quality items and not junk. A few months ago I happened upon a braille machine. Since we were studying Helen Keller at the time I bought it for $15.00 and let the girls play with it for a few month to learn how people type in braille, make Braille books etc. I decided when they had enough of it I would sell it on eBay. Well come to find out this machine retails for $685.00! I ended up selling it for $335.00! Not bad for a $15.00 investment. Guess where the "extra" snowflake money will go? You got it, the orthodontist bill since that is the bill I am concentrating on to eliminate.

This just goes to show that there are opportunities out there to make serious cash for snowflakes. I am not of the mindset that you should be combing Goodwill or yard sales for things to sell. It seems like a lot of work - browsing, driving around, then taking pictures, putting them on eBay, packing, etc. If you can find a really good opportunity like the one I have shared here then it seems worth it. Half an hour of my time equaled $335.00. If I were selling something that ended up at $7.00 would that really be worth the half an hour to find, take pictures, post, and package the item? In my opinion, no. Look for big opportunities to snowflake. You waste your time and your life by spending it needlessly on mini-opportunities that net you $7.00. Yes, every little bit adds up but do you want to spend the rest of your life adding up $7.00 at a time or $335.00 at a time?

Seek out opportunities to snowflake big.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Staying In a 7 Bedroom Beach House is in Your Budget

Each year my husband's sisters (3) and their families and our family rent a beach house in the Outer Banks for our annual week long beach trip. Now some of you might be thinking that might be expensive. It is if you go in the middle of the summer during their peak season. If you schedule your trip right outside those peak times you can save quite a bit of money. So we have 8 adults and 9 kids staying in a 7 bedroom beach house (grandparents sometimes come and go) with a private heated pool and hot tub on the ocean (sometimes on the sound front) for $1360. For a week. Split four ways (4 families) it is only $340.00 per family. You cannot stay in a nice hotel for that amount and have a private pool hot tub and king sized bedroom with a nice master bath. You cannot beat those prices.

Since we have to eat while we are here each family picks a night that they are responsible for. Whatever night they pick out, they make dinner for the entire crew, including dessert, and clean up. They are also responsible to bring a game for the grownups to play. This still is not expensive because you can purchase all the ingredients at home and bring them with you to the beach house to assemble. For example we have the first night and we decided to do a pizza bar. We will make several pizza doughs here at the house and bring them to the beach house. The kids will all have mini-pizzas and we will make five larges for the adults. The toppings will already be cut and separated out into Ziplocs that we can take there and when we get ready to cook the kids can all make their own pizzas. I will make the pizza sauce ahead of time at home and bring it as well. Our dessert will be a sundae bar. Again same concept - lots of choices to build your own sundae. I purchased many of the toppings very inexpensively over the last few months when I saw them on clearance or had triple coupons at Harris Teeter. Again this will not be a huge expense and the rest of the nights we can sit back because other families will be cooking and cleaning up! We always take the first day because we want to get it over with and relax for the rest of the week.

We usually do not spend any money when we go on this trip. The kids basically play in the pool, eat, go to the beach, eat, play in the pool, eat, go to the beach, eat, etc. We really do not go anywhere or do anything special just let the kids have fun. Occasionally we will take them to an ice cream shop on the corner or some of the moms will go to the outlet stores but generally we just hang out since everyone lives in different places. It is a time for us to spend together. But the house is big enough that if you do need a break from your in-laws you can hide in your bedroom.

Since I have an ING account (email me for a referral) I create subaccounts that I can automatically deposit money into for different things. One of the subaccounts is labeled vacation and months ago I started deposited a bit each payday so now I have several hundred dollars in there in case I need it. No worrying about if we have enough money in the account to cover the trip or having to take money out of savings if there isn't a surplus in the checking account. We have been saving for this already. Since ING automatically debits this out for me I don't really even realize it is there until I need it. We have another trip scheduled later in the summer and this money will be used for that.

Things are not out of your reach just because you are in debt or trying to save.

If you learn anything by reading this blog it is that creatively and preplanning are essential for financial security.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cheap Massages

Massages just make life go better. The benefits of massage are numerous and can help you if you are sore, stressed or need to be rejuventated. There are studies out there that say that just by trying to conjure up a previously received massage in your mind it has stress relieving properties.

Instead of paying a whopping $55+ for a massage how about checking out a massage school where people are learning the trade and will practice on you for $15.00?
Not a bad deal and snowflake your savings.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Free Cash for Snowflaking - Snowflake Report - $57.83

I have to say that any time before when I have seen those websites or advertisements on tv about the fact that each state has unclaimed money in the millions to pay taxpayers I did not really believe it. But now I am a believer. A couple of weeks ago I happened on one of those sites and it looked like it was set up by the state that I live in. It was the website for the Department of the State Treasurer's Office and it has a search engine on it where you could input your name and see if there were any funds in your name. Well I typed in my name - nothing. I typed in my husband's name and I got a hit. The site does not tell you who the money was held by pr how much only your name and an address they have on file. If it is you there is a link to a claim form. You fill out this form, include proper forms of identification, including proof of your living at that address and send it in. Well my husband lived at that particular address 13 years ago, before we were married. We did not have anything in the safe with that address on it. But after some searching I found the address on a credit report. We sent in the paperwork and two weeks later we were sent a check in the amount of $57.83! Not bad for 20 minutes worth of work. I will be sending this to that oh so favorite debt of mine - the orthodontist. I am $57.83 closer to paying them off and we did not even know we had this money to begin with!

This goes to show that it is worth it to check out all avenues of passive income - even if it is a long shot.

Stop Shortening Your Life Span - How to be Healthy and Lose Weight by Default

We definitely fall under the holistic category when it comes to health. I have four children, all of which are extremely healthy. In fact, just last year, I discovered at a routine visit to the pediatrician that we were three years behind for my two oldest girls well-checks! I thought the schedule was 5 years old, 7 years old, 10, etc. Because they never go to the doctor it was never caught. Anyway we immediately scheduled them for their well-checks or maintenance checks because these are so important for documenting growth. And checking for eyesight issues, in this case, since we discovered that my oldest daughter might need glasses.

People are always surprised to hear how healthy we are as a family. My husband is 40 and to look at him he looks like he is in his 20's. Don't get me wrong, he works at it, eats all the right things, exercises, it takes commitment, but in his eyes it is worth it to maintain a healthy lifestyle and he has often said his goal is not to be on blood pressure medication or cholesterol lowering meds, or anything like that in later life. Good goal if you ask me. Meds shorten your life span. I still have the same body I had in my 20's - even after 4 kids. We only go to the doctor for check-ups.

I believe it is because of our lifestyle. No, we are not hardcore exercise freaks who mountain-bike trails every weekend. No, we don't workout 7 days a week at a gym or with home equipment for that matter. No, you couldn't describe us as "outdoorsy types". People would not describe us as exercise monsters who think only about being healthy.

But we are healthy.

And you could be too with a few adjustments to your diet and lifestyle. Nothing major, just tweak things a bit.

Get rid of processed food - if it has more than 6 ingredients in it - don't eat it. If it has anything that you cannot pronounce or don't know what it is - don't eat it.

Drink tea - Nothings pains me more that to see these people walking around with bottle Lipton Green tea. They think it is the green tea that all the doctors are talking about. Read the label - it is garbage. The tea they are talking about is hot tea. Of all kinds. Try to drink at least one cup a day. Sweeten it with honey not sugar. Add a bit of no fat milk to it.

Garlic - step up garlic consumption. Not only is it good for your heart but it is a natural anti-coagulant so it thins the blood and prevents clotting and it has the equivalent of antibiotic properties. Good preventative measures for heart attack and stroke. If you love garlic, roast a bulb in the oven for 40 minutes and squeeze it out onto a piece of toasted bread once a day. The act of roasting it cuts the sharpness of the flavor and sweetens it. Cut the top off, drizzle with olive oil, and cover with aluminum foil and throw into the oven. If you hate garlic, too bad, take some in a capsule form or try to add it to whatever you can that can mask it somewhat - turkey meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, etc. You must factor this into your diet somehow, someway.

Ginger - This is still used medicinally by Chinese practitioners. I have used ginger treatment for all sorts of things because of its anti-inflammatory properties. You could use this as a preventative treatment for inflammatory issues like arthritis or even artery inflammation. Mind you this is not for the faint of heart - this tea has a menthol sort of taste to it but you get used to it.

Ginger Tea

Grind up 1 TBSP ginger root into 8 oz. boiling water. Turn off heat and steep 3 minutes. Strain into mug and sweeten with honey and lemon and a bit of milk would be nice.

Drink this once a day to keep inflammation in your arteries down and to prevent clotting which leads to stroke and heart attacks. I am a big believer in ginger tea and have converted many. When people mention that their back back is unbearable or one lady who could not heal from stomach surgery I tell them about this remedy. most will only try it when they have tried everything else and it hasn't worked. Try it because you want to and because it will extend your life.

Sweets - only one per day. Whatever you want that is not processed but only once per day. When I say sweets I am talking about things that are good for you like home-made cookies beefed up with flax seed and bran and some chocolate chips. Eat only unprocessed sweets.

Flax Seed - must have in your diet. Both ground meal and whole. The oil in the flax "greases" up your arteries and cleans them out so to speak as well as cleaning out your bowels. Dump flax into anything you can. Hide it in spaghetti, yogurt, stir fry, anything because once this seed actually elevated your HDL which is your good cholesterol and gives you a preventative measure. My HDL is actually 25 points higher than the normal range so they add that back to my numbers to lower my actual number of my LDL. It is considered a preventative so they give you credit for it.

Grape Juice - solid no additives, no preservatives, straight up grape juice. One cup per day with breakfast. Obviously you have heard about grape juice and its antioxidant properties. It also lowers cholesterol. I put my father on a regimen of 1 cup grape juice, handful of almonds, and flax seed and his cholesterol went down 30 points.

Nuts - specifically walnuts or almonds. Only a handful as these are high in fat, good fat, but fat nonetheless.

Olive Oil - use only this oil for cooking. If you decide to fry something which you should not be doing very often, use canola oil as olive oil is not a high heat oil.

Ditch Fried Food - no explanation here. Eat it in moderation, like once a month.

That's it. I guarantee you will see a change in your health, weight and activity level if you just change these few things. Not a major change, just a minimal one with big payoffs.

The beautiful thing about tweaking your diet in this way is that the weight falls off of you. Once you stop eating garbage your body becomes more efficient and uses what it needs and what you provide it. You are not giving it "extra stuff" that it doesn't know what to do with so it stores it in your arteries or your hips. I have never been on a diet and neither has my husband. We have not cut out sugar nor do we eat everything or even half of our things low-fat. We use real butter. We drink no-fat milk.

I am still in a size 4 a 5'9" at age 37 and my husband is a 33 waist at 6' at age 40. We are lean and have low body fat. Not because we exercise all the time and deprive ourselves of food but because we have utilized the things that come from the earth in raw form since we believe that this is what was created for the body to utilize. Everything that you could need is on the earth naturally. Partially hydrogenated oil is man made and gunks up the machine that is your body. Fruits and vegetables and legumes and nuts make your body run like a well-oiled machine.

It goes without saying that this will save you on health care costs in the future.

Stop shortening you life span.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

5th Carnival of Snowflakes!

My article "Birthday Party Ideas For Cheap" has been included in the 5th Carnival of Snowflakes being hosted at My Small Cents. A big thank you to Snowflake Revolution for inclusion of my article in their carnival. Head over there to check out all the fine blogs and information related to snowflaking, a concept that I embrace.

If this is your first time at Debt Non Sequitur please take a look around! There are many ideas to help you save money and we hope to see you again sometime!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Selective Perfectionism

I am what they call a Selective Perfectionist. There are certain things that I need to have a certain way and I will not be able to rest until it is in order, how I like it. For example, I like to have the amoire doors closed in the great room if no one is watching tv. I don't know why. It really bothers me, I mean reeeaaalllllyyyyy bothers me if the doors are wide open and the tv is not on. I have tried to ignore it before. You know if the kids have left it open and I am working in the kitchen, or helping them with school work, whatever, but every time I walk past it, and I could be 20 feet away, it bothers me to no end. I have to go close it. Right now.

But other things, like my desk, don't really bother me. I can work in that environment. I know where everything is. It is not filed or in a certain place or anything. I don't even notice the clutter or the cat ChouChou for that matter when I am working at my desk. I think I have selective perfectionism when it comes to finances too. Some things I have to have completely under control like savings or paying bills but do I balance my checkbook? Uh no. "The horror!" you say! I know! I really should balance the checkbook. I do not know how many times I have started to balance the checkbook only to loose interest a few weeks later. Same goes for that wretched Quicken to track your expenses and assets. I have entered information for hours into that program only to loose interest a few weeks later. I try but just cannot seem to stay with it.
But it is okay. I can function without them. For me it is fine to mentally know where I am and I do have a rough estimate of where how much is in the bank at a given time. I always know where we are money wise with bills, savings, etc. so I think this method, or lack thereof, works for me.
Find something that works for you. If you hate it don't do it. If you keep trying to do something that you hate, like balance a checkbook in my case, don't do it. Find another way that works. Just make sure that it works.
Why do anything in life that you hate? Seems like a waste of your life energy, don't you think?

Never Buy Another Envelope Again

Make sure that you recycle envelopes that you receive from companies trying to get your business. You know the envelopes you get with "postage paid" on them? The ones without windows. Pull it apart, flip it inside out and glue the edges back down. I have a file folder in my file cabinet that I keep these envelopes in. As I am going through junk mail I toss these envelopes into the file and then maybe once every three or four months, when I have collected a bunch, I will take a half hour and pull them all apart, turn them inside out, and glue them back together again. Do it while you watch tv.

You'll never have to buy another envelope again.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Use an Envelope System to Control Spending

Everytime I go into a store I always have coupons. To make sure that I know what I need to get and to keep the coupons handy I use envelopes. For example, once I have compiled a list of the items I want at a particular store - let's use Target, I will write the items down on the outside of the envelope. I will write the item, the sale price and then in parenthesis what coupon I have for said item. So it might look like this:

Olay Body wash - 3.99- 2.00 (MC) - 1.00 (TC)

I know what item I am looking for, the sale price, that I have a manufacturer's coupon (MC) and a Target coupon (TC) which I can piggyback onto the MC. The coupons are then put into the envelope. I take only this envelope into Target and I only buy only what is on this list. I use this method for grocery stores as well as places like Walgreen's and Rite Aid.

As a side note, recycle the envelopes that you receive in your junk mail. You know the ones you get with credit cards offers that are postage prepaid, etc? Just flip them inside out and glue back together and you have some envelopes - FREE. No need to go out and purchase a box of envelopes if you don't have to. Creative thinking leads to savings.

This method prevents you from needless spending as long as you do not deviate from your list.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Birthday Party Ideas for Cheap

Since I snowflake religiously I have to spend the least amount of money possible on everything to obtain my goals. That includes birthday parties.

My daughter turned nine recently and we needed to throw a party. I am not going to spend a million dollars on a birthday but there are some creative things that you can do to make it unbelievably memorable. Since we had to host 14 little girls and my daughter wanted a spa theme we came up with the idea to do stations where they could get nails done or their feet massaged or a crazy hair up-do, etc.

Here are some of the frugal things we came up with:

I enlisted the moms to man the stations - FREE - each mom had a station that she "worked" at and provided a service such as nails, hair, make-up, etc. For the nail station we all brought nail polish so the girls had many colors to choose from (FREE) We already had cuticle trimmers, nail files, lotion for hands, so I only had to buy jewels to glue onto the nail polish - $.49.

    I made goodybags - I used scrapbook paper 4/$1 from Michael's Arts & Crafts and some hot pink boas to make paper cones rimmed with feathers for the goodies bags. They look like hats in the pictures but since it was a spa party we had no need for hats.

The Sign on her chair - cardboard cut to size, fancy font printed on paper and cut out, lined with feather boa.

The Goody Table - tree with pink booms from the side yard, glass bowls from the kitchen to put goodies in, glass container from bathroom - all free. Tulle - $1/yard at Walmart. White sheet to cover the table. Goodies from Dollar Store - for example pink emery boards were a pack of 8 for $1.00.
Food - I made the cupcakes and searched around for any type of bulk candy that was pink. Pretzels covered in chocolate with pink sprinkles, etc. Anything to match the theme. Glass jars on table to store candy I borrowed from friends. I raided four houses.

Having a party doesn't need to be expensive. Come up with creative, inexpensive ideas and it looks like you paid a million dollars for it. Onward snowflaking!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Started Using a DayTimer

I don't have a job and there is no real reason to have a Day Timer other than for purely selfish reasons and the fact that I love to cross things off a list. Call it OCD or being a control freak but there is something very liberating about having a list then crossing something off of it. Completion. Forward momentum. Working towards a goal.

When I decided that I was going to organize my day in one spot and not sticky notes all over the house I did not run out and buy a Day Timer. I posted on Freecycle that I needed one and lo and behold, the same day I got two replies for people wanting me to pick theirs up to get it out of their hair. I picked it up, stopped off at Target to get some new filler pages and priced the DayTimers there ($12.99 - $24.99) and was proud of myself for saving money.

If you glean anything from this blog know that financial security is really all about preparation and creativity. Try to seek out solutions in a creative manner.

Part of being in debt in the first place is lack of discipline - when you need something you run to the store to buy it. Then it ends up in your yard sale three years later selling for a fraction of what you paid. And don't forget you are still paying for it on your Visa, with interest.

Be in control. When you need something look around first. You might be surprised that you can acquire the item easily and for free.

Back to the Day Timer. I really did not think I was one of those people who could use one of those things and be happy about it. I can imagine that many buy these things with good intentions and then it ends up under some books somewhere never to be used after a month. I was concerned about my being able to write things down in it in a disciplined manner. I have to say after using one for a month that I love this method of controlling my madness. Before I had little post-its everywhere. Now everything is in one spot all nice and neat. The Day Timer sits on my desk and is always open so I can see at a moment's glace what needs to be done and what has been done. I list anything from appointments to what room of the house needs to be cleaned to phone calls that I need to make. After I have finished a task I cross through it with a highlighter. I use highlighters instead of marking through an item so I can still read what the item was and it is easy from afar to see what has been crossed off and what hasn't been. I am not one of those people who cannot rest if there are things left on the list for the day. I merely work on it the following day so I can cross it off. The rule is that is has to be done by the weekend so everything will be highlighted by Saturday. It is wonderful seeing how much I have accomplished. Before all the little lists were thrown away after I finished with them. There wasn't really a sense completion, that I worked hard all week to get a lot done. I knew I had done things through the week but I couldn't tell you everything.

There is something very satisfying and soul satisfying to see your work and what you have accomplished. I love the Day Timer.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Three Daughters = Braces, College, and a Wedding

I have three daughters. All of which will require braces, college, and a wedding. Two of the three are non-negotiable. The weddings, well, they can live at home forever, or so their Daddy says.

Here is a great tip for those who have daughters:

Instead of paying for the wedding like somehow we have been roped into doing (Who decided that?!?) how about, starting when she is very young, putting away money to equal $10,000? Have an amount automatically debited from your payday each time into a separate fund especially for this purpose. ING sub accounts would be wonderful for this. (Email me to get a referral. I get credit for referring people.) When the time comes that she wants to get married (how dare she??) offer the $10,000 to pay for the wedding or she and her new husband can take it and blow it or they can put a down payment on a house. Either way you have done your part and given them a fair start in their new life together. And if you have raised your daughter right, with good financial wits about her since you learned from your mistakes, she will opt to buy a home since he is not in credit card debt because you taught her so well, aaaannnnndddd, she would think blowing it would be financially irresponsible. Whew nice run-on sentence. This will prevent you from getting caught in the "Can't I have it Daddy & Mommy please?????" and you end up paying for a $30,000 wedding, in our case three times over.

Being financially secure is all about planning.

Back in the Game

You know sometimes when it really seems like people are not listening it is hard to stay motivated to keep on writing about stuff? I had a computer issue for a couple of days there and then I began to let those thoughts creep in: "Well no one really reads the blog anyway so why bother?" or "Do I really have time to do this?"

So I check in today and there is a new comment saying that I have good information! Ahhhhhh....all is well in the world again. It is so nice to hear people say nice things or make comments. it keeps those of us who blog a feeling that we are helping in some small way. Sometimes it is hard to carry on a one sided relationship - no feedback sometimes makes you think am I the only one who is giving here??

I thank all of you who have posted in the past. I'm back in the game.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Five Budget Busters Meme

I've Paid For This Twice Already , one of my favorite blogs, tagged me in the Five Budget Busters Meme. I love the idea of putting this down on "paper" so to speak. We all have stuff floating around in our heads but when you write it down, take an honest look at it staring you in the face, it becomes reality and you have to make a choice about it - you can ignore it or do something about it. Love that!

My Five Budget Busters are:

Organic Food
– Since we eat only natural, non processed foods I am so tempted by organic food in the stores. You know organic cookies that appear to be Oreo’s or organic frozen dinners which, since they are a whole food and usually just have a few ingredients would be fine on a night when I am too tired to cook. I shy away from those because of the high sodium content but it sure would be nice to have one of those sitting in the freezer for a night off for me.

Home school and Kid’s Books – Hello. My name is ChouChou and I am addicted to home school & kid’s books. I need a 12 step program. I try to do what I can: buying books a yard sales for .25 or buying off the clearance rack at our local used home school store but what is my problem???? For example I went into said home school store yesterday for a new science book since my 11 year old blew through hers in like three months so I went to get her the next grade up so she can start on it. One book. One science book. I walked out of there with a literature book, a study of the Tudor Dynasty book, a science book, and a history book. What is my problem?????

Travel – Lord knows I am a Travel Junkie! Being a homeschooling family does not help the situation either in that if we are studying Williamsburg why can’t we go experience Williamsburg? If we are studying the coral reefs why can’t we go snorkel in the Bahamas (we did this by the way this past September). I really try, I really do, to find the best possible deals, accommodations, eat in our suite, etc. but there is just something about traveling that goes hand in hand with the shocking realization that you have spent too much. I start off with great intentions but when we return I am almost always surprised at how much we have spent.

Starbucks Caramel Frappiccinos – Again, my name is ChouChou and among my many addictions I am also addicted to this particular coffee at Starbucks. I only go into town once a week and will usually get one, so a once a week addiction is not that bad [rationalization] but you can bet that I break out into a rash every time I fork over $4.43 for that thing. But I like the idea of little treats for myself now and then and if my treat is only 4 bucks then I think I can handle it.

Shoes – I think all women like the idea of shoes. I mean who does not like buying new shoes that go perfect with a certain outfit. New shoes do something for the soul. But is it really necessary to have six pairs of black pumps??? Hello, my name is ChouChou and I am addicted to buying shoes.

Okay after writing all that out I have decided that I have an addictive personality. Seriously though, those are the things that tempt me and even though I have a handle on them somehow they creep in occasionally and disrupt my budget. The good news is that since I have become a frugal zealot who is in control of my money the effects are not terribly devastating and that is the key. Once you get your finances under control a little deviation from the plan, even unplanned, is okay and is not the end of the world.

I am supposed to tag three people, so I will tag:

Frugal Dad

Thrifty Florida Mama

Pinching Copper

These are great blogs. Please visit them and see what they have to say on this subject.

Carnival of Snowflaking 1st Edition!

The first edition of the Carnival of Snowflaking is up over at Snowflake Revoloution and many thanks to Paid Twice for including my post on How To Find Snowflakes! Please go visit all of the great bloggers who post about snowflaking. You'll learn alot about this revolutionary way of attacking debt and saving money. Knowledge is power.

If this is your first time to my blog welcome! I invite you to please take a look around and learn how we live on a fireman's salary with 4 kids in a 21st century world! There are many ideas and helpful hints on how to save money, make money and reduce your debt.

I thank you kindly for stopping by!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Free Birthday Gifts

In the last year have you noticed that in drugstores like CVS or Walgreen's or Rite Aid they have begun to sell giftcards to places like Barnes & Noble, or restaurants like Olive Garden, or even Visa cards? This is a wonderful concept for those who frequent these stores for their free deals.

Sometimes when I shop at Walgreen's they will give you back Register Rewards (RR's) for certain products that you buy. For example the other day I received $10 in RR's for the Aveeno deal. A few days later I went to Walgreen's again and bought gum and a $10.00 Borders Bookstore gift card. Total $11.86 - $10.00 RR = $.86 for gum and a gift card. I buy gift cards with RR's so that I can give them away as birthday gifts throughout the year. For free. If you have a CVS they will give you something similar and they have also begun to carry giftcards.

Not bad since most people prefer gift cards anyway and it doesn't cost me a dime.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How To Find Snowflakes

Snowflaking is a wonderful concept. You can read about it here. I mean I love the idea of the debt snowball where you pay off one debt and then apply the amount you were paying to the original debt to the next debt and so on. But snowflaking gives you the sense of mini-successes which I love. They motivate me to keep working towards the bigger debt. Granted you are moving forward while working on your debt snowball but the successes seem fewer and farther between. Chinking away at debt in $2, $8, or $11 weekly increments makes me feel like I am doing something rather than having my successes a couple of months apart or more.

Where to find snowflakes:

  • Change around the house - Look everywhere. I mean everywhere. In the couch, in the laundry room, all of the drawers in the house, in the car, the garage, everywhere. I found three dollars in change in the playroom. Who knew?

  • Store mistakes - The other day I was at Harris Teeter and they were supposed to take off $3.00 for their store brand organic salsa making it $.29. When they rang me up it did not come off automatically like it as supposed to so they sent me up to customer service to get my money back. the lady at customer service said okay you'll get back $3.14. I asked her if she had to put it back onto my debit card or if she could just give me cash and she said she could give me the cash. I took the money and out it into my orthodontist envelope that I have sitting in my desk. I use any snowflakes to pay down my $1600.00 ortho bill for my son's teeth. But in my mind I had already committed and spent the $53.00 in the original transaction. Getting three dollars back and putting it back into my account seems counterproductive to me [this could just be my bizarre thinking!] but since I know that money has already been spent why not take it and spend it in a snowflake instead? If I had really been on the ball I would have quoted them their store policy which is when an item rings up at the wrong price you get that item free of charge.

  • Refunds - Those of you who shop Walgreen's or CVS know the power of refunding. These stores have free items every month where all you have to do is purchase the items and send in the rebate forms and they send you a check or gift card back. They give away these items hoping that you are going to spend more money while youa re in there but little do they know that we hardcore frugal people will not buy anything but what we have gone in there to get. Instead of getting the rebate amount back in a gift card which means you have to spend it at their store get it in the form of a rebate check which is money free and clear that you can deposit at your bank. Take that money and snowflake it.

  • Sell your stuff - no brainer here. Sell your stuff on Ebay, Craigslist, wherever you can. Yard sales, etc. You have this stuff sitting aorund your house that is worth money. Pretend it is money. Pretend that book on the shelf is $15.00. Pretend that those shoes in your closet are $21.00 laying on the floor. That figurine in the living room is $11.00 sitting on your entertainment center. If that was real money wouldn't you gather it all up and want to pay off your debt with it? What is stopping you?

  • Windfalls - Any money that you were not expecting is considered a windfall. That could be an overpayment to your mortgage company, a rebate stimlus check (hint, hint), a birthday present, whatever.

  • Coupon Savings - If you are a couponer at the bottom of your receipt it says how much you saved in coupons and card specials. Every time you go to the store check this amount and immediately throw that amount towards your debt.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

For Those Who Coupon the Old Fashioned Way

For those of you who coupon the old fashioned way by scanning the sales ads and coming up with shopping lists on your own here are some tips. I told you about the methods I use called the Grocery Game where they track 12 week highs and lows (something I could never have done scanning the sales ads myself) and put out a list that compiles free stuff and the lowest prices possible on any given item. You can read more about the Grocery Game in my post here. This is much easier than scanning the ads yourself and not expensive.

But if you are still scanning the ads yourself there are a few things you can do to make your life easier. Let's hope that you did your monthly menu planning that I spoke about here so you have all of the meals planned, the shopping lists done and now all that you need to do is find the sales.

Sit down with all of your ads at a time when you have no interruptions. You will need to scan each store's ads and write down which items you use and how much they are. Get a notebook for this because you will want to track the prices over a long period of time, say 12 weeks. One thing to remember here is that with the current economy the way it is prices have been steadily creeping upward in the last year so finding a product whose prices will trend downward at certain times will be difficult since everything is trending upward.

Once you have your products selected and your prices written down you need to make a menu based on these items. I actually plan my menu for a month in advance and use the same menu each month since no meal is repeated in the month. You can read about it here. But if you are trying to make your menus from the ads weekly now is the time to do it to see what you need in your pantry because, God forbid, you don't want to come home on a Tuesday night, tired, and discover you do not have baking powder and have to run to the corner store to pay an arm and a leg for it.
Now you need to break out your coupon binder and go through to see how you can get your prices down even more. Use an envelope and write the store's name on the back and list what you will be buying, the price and whether or not you have a coupon. Put your coupons into the envelope so they are handy when you go into the store. Preplanning will save you money. By using this method and not deviating from the items on your list you will get in and out of the store paying exactly how much you thought you would. Go in, buy what is on your envelope and leave. Do not buy anything else.

If you glean anything from reading this blog I hope that it is that planning will save you money. We always get into a situation where we have a need and because we have not planned we have to go out and pay for that need, usually full price.

Plan for your family's needs.

Children's Library Online

For you homeschoolers out there I just discovered a wonderful children's library online unlike any I have ever seen. I has all the books categorized by age and interest and when a child goes to read the book it has the actual book whose pages flip as you are reading it! Amazing and if you have big readers in your family, which I do, who clow through books faster than we can get to the library this is a good in-between visits option. A great resource for your family.

Here is the site. Enjoy!

Monday, April 21, 2008

How Are You So Skinny?

People ask me this all the time. That's good considering I have four kids and I am pushing 40 and I HATE exercising. My husband is also in good shape - has abs a 25 year old would love - but he is not muscular by any body builder's terms. My children are also all thin and lanky, just right for their heights. We are also all very healthy.

I think it is because of our diets and activity levels. We eat no processed food. None. We do eat "junk food" but it is usually the kind that are all natural with only a couple of ingredients and all of which I can pronounce, if we have not made it ourselves. Granted eating no processed foods and whole foods only requires a bit of creativity and planning in that we must make all the food ourselves or eat raw almonds and raw tomatoes or something. But in reality, eating healthfully saves us money.

We have fewer visits to the doctor which means less co-pays.

We do not pay for medicines unless we absolutely need them which is rare.

We have a garden and grow a lot of the food.

We do not eat out very much since there are not a lot of options for whole- foodists out there.

We did not decide to eat healthy to save money. Saving money was just a natural result from our eating healthy. We decided to eat healthy to be good to our bodies. Our bodies are our temples and we get just one. We should honor it. We are killing two birds with one stone here.

As a related side note, we eat all natural foods and some organics. We also use natural remedies for their healing properties rather than running to the store the minute someone has a problem. I think healthy eating and healthy living go hand in hand. I believe God has given us everything that we need to live on the earth - all that he created was good. Even pot, even beer. Everything has a purpose if not abused. We treat aches and pains with real ginger tea. We do not treat our children's sniffles or fevers under 100 degrees. Learn to use what you have and what others have had for hundreds of years. Do you really need Theraflu to get through a sickness? How about good old fashioned rest and tea and just work through it. How about parents that treat their kids colds? Why can't they have a runny nose? Oh so you don't get inconvenienced because your 2 year old wakes up several times a night because he cannot breathe. How about a humidifier and rocking him for a while because those days will be long gone fast and in 20 years you will be wishing that you had a baby to rock for hours on end since your house feels so empty nowadays.
People nowadays don't like inconvenience. They want the easiest and fastest way to relief, to eat, to sleep, to earn money, etc., etc., etc.

Seek out things that were put here for your benefit. Falling into the trap that the newest medicine or foods have to be better is illogical thinking. Tried and true tactics for better living have lasted this long for a reason.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Aren't Student Loans a Way of Life Just Like a Car Payment?

I am in graduate school and I want to get a PhD so I am far away from being finished paying for school. Being obsessed with personal finance does not help when I have to borrow loans to pay for my schooling. Plus I attend a private Christian college so the tuition is slightly more than a regular college. I have 26,000 in school loans already that I am going to need to pay back and it stresses me out thinking that those are just sitting there waiting for me when I finish. I assume I will add another 26,000 when all is said and done. I have been weighing how to handle this for months:

I cannot pay it back yet because sold my company and I am not working right now to pursue school. This is where most people are. They are going to school and postpone paying back their loans until after they graduate and get a job. This seems like impending doom to me. I don't like the idea of having to fork out $800 a month once I am working. Seems like it goes against going back to school to earn a better living. Seems like I went back to school to pay back $800 a month.

I could pay for my education as I go. I did this as an undergrad. Back when I had help from my parents, I was in my early 20's, no husband, no pets, no kids,, no responsibilities. Unlikely I can do that now since we are on a fixed income and don't have a lot of surplus. Sure I am saving a few hundred a month towards personal savings and retirement accounts and I could carve out a little from that but I feel like we are not contributing enough to those outlets so I would be stressed if I had to cut back on them some more. I like adding to savings every month and I like adding to my retirement accounts. They are the safety nets for our future. Planning is the secret of frugality.

Okay you say, well ditch the private Christian college. Go to a less expensive state run school. I could but it isn't my preference. I like the idea of learning about theology while I am learning about my field. It is like hitting two birds with one stone. I am growing spiritually while learning about other things. Seems like a bargain so to speak in terms of getting bang for my buck. I did attend a secular college as an undergrad and it was fine but I feel like attending this school for graduate work has made a tremendous difference in my enjoying my education. I believe it has added to my life. So ditching this school would be a last resort.

Okay well aren't student loans a way of life just like a car payment? No they are not and neither is the car payment. When I say I want to be debt free I mean debt free. There seems to be some sort of slavery associated with owing others and I do not like it. Freedom is having the money to do what you want and I value that so much so that I am willing to not go into debt to keep it.

I visit my student loan accounts on line a lot to look at the impending doom. I am not even starting to pay them back but as I look at the figures going up I just shake my head. There has got to be a way out, or through this.

Here is what I have decided. We purchased our home 6 years ago before the big housing bubble. We were unbelievably fortunate to get a builder's house with all kind of upgrades that is unique (a Victoria reproduction) with all the bells and whistles close to a major metropolitan town but just on the outskirts for cheap. Since it is half an hour outside of this major city it is still considered rural so the housing market had not caught up with the major city yet. We stand to make close to $300,000 profit when we sell this house in two or three years. There is my escape. As badly as I want to use that to build our new home mortgage free and throw the rest into an investment or savings I know I will have to pay back these student loans. I like my freedom so I will do it no matter how much it will hurt. I will be giving away part of my house that I plan to build to pay back a debt that I borrow to go to school. Ouch! But freedom is on the horizon!

Okay you say, that is great for you but I don't have a house I can sell for profit like that so I am stuck paying it back when I graduate. If I did not have the option of selling the house I would start to snowflake immediately, even before I was required to pay back the loan. You can read about snowflaking here. I would get a part time job or bring in some extra income and slate it nly for student loan payback. I would have to do something to get started on it because the idea of that waiting for me might be enough to make me think it just wasn't worth it. At least chinking away at the loans would feel like progress. I would divert some of the funds from the savings and from retirement and put it words to student loans each month. I would also start taking my tax refunds, whatever the amounts and use it for student loans or to pay tuition. I would also start using any windfalls that I received towards the loans or tuition.

Well, gosh ChouChou, wouldn't my life be terrible since I would have to give any extra money over to my education? Yes, for a little while but just think about the fact that you will be able to breathe a sigh of relief one day when you have your education paid in full and can longer be a slave to student loans. Won't it be worth it?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Circumstances That Can Rob Even The Most Savvy Frugal Zealot

Today my husband had dive training with a few other guys from the station. One guy is single. one guy is married, both of them work, no kids. The other guy is divorced, no kids. Then there is my husband - married, four kids. Since my husband is a healthy eater he tends to make his own meals at the fire station. This particular day the training was off site and on a boat for the coast guard. Now that I have set this up let me tell you the host of circumstances that can rob even the most savvy frugal zealot.

There was no warning that training was going to be off-site - This means that my husband was caught off guard and had nothing prepared to grab on the way out the door.

He was on a boat - no refrigeration. Well, you say, he could bring a cooler. Nope, not allowed.

He was hanging out with guys who do not have kids, or are single - these guys decided that hey we are off site, there is a restaurant around the corner - Hey let's go there for lunch! These guys don't really care or watch their finances as closely as someone with children would and were fine with dropping 10-15 bucks on lunch.

Because he was on a boat he couldn't opt out of lunch - Normally he would just skip lunch and wait until they got back to the station to eat but being on a rocking boat and having motion sickness, it is not a good idea to skip lunch since he would be sick the rest of the day.

Alas, he was stuck. He dropped $11.00 for lunch that day. Not a big deal but we don't want to make a habit of it. But my husband was a bit irritated because the guys that he works with do not even think twice about going out to lunch. Husband does not feel as though he is missing out on something by not being of the same mind as those guys but more that he has goals that he wants to achieve and would much rather spend his money on travel or something worthwhile than a fancy salad.

So at the end of the day, be aware of the situations that you could get in, plan for them, so you do not get into a position of being caught off gaurd as my husband did this day. Planning is the secret to frugality and living on less.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What To Do With Your Rebate Stimulus Check

In the blogosphere there is a lot of discussion about what people should be doing with their rebate checks that are starting to come out in May. Most people are talking about paying off debt or putting it into a CD or savings. Here are some other alternatives that you can consider when deciding what to do with your windfall:

  1. Invest in Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) - These are pricier than regular light bulbs but will save the earth and your pocketbook from an untimely demise. Throw a couple hundred dollars towards changing all your light bulbs out and reap the savings in your power bill and longevity of the earth.

  2. Fill your freezer - Your freezer doesn't run as efficiently if all you have is a tub of Chunky Monkey and a Tostinos pizza in there. Consider buying some meats or other items to fill your freezer so a.) you will have a fridge using less electricity and b.) on those weeks where you are short on cash and have little money to spare to buy groceries you can pull that rump roast out of the freezer that you bout 2 months ago and throw it into the crock pot and not have to worry about how you will feed your family this week.

  3. Get an electric programmable thermostat - $100-200 buys you a regulator that you can program to lower the temperature when you are not home and thus save money over the long haul.

  4. Invest in a low flow Shower head - Again no brainer here - save the earth and your water bill at the same time.

  5. Replace all the filters in your house - New filters means the less your systems have to work to clean the air.

  6. Buy energy efficient appliances - Yes your 14 year old Whirpool washer still works but do you think that thing isn't a water/electricity hog? Donate it to a women's shelter and get a highly efficient model to save on water and electricity bills.

Before you make any decision have all the options in front of you so you are well informed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Saving Money Doesn't Need to Be Difficult But It Needs To Be Organized

Remember how I told you about how I use coupons here and here? Just to make my life a little easier when I am going to a particular store I will write the list on an envelope and then put the coupons for that store that I need into the envelope so everything is sorted and I do not have to troll through my binder to find something. This works especially well if you are doing the Walgreen's or CVS or Rite Aid deals. Write what the deals are on the outside of the envelope. Here is an example:

Colgate Total Advanced Toothpaste -2.99 (on sale) - 2.99 (rebate) - 1.50 (MC)

This shows me what the price of the item should be on sale, that I have to rebate, and that I have a 1.50 manufacturer's coupon in the envelope for it. I use all kinds of abbreviations so it doesn't look all written out like this on the envelope.
Saving money does not have to be difficult but it does need to be organized.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Be a Superhero - Beat Pride, Your Financial Arch Nemesis

If you think about it most people could do with so much less than they do. Why do you think that is? Do you think that people WANT to part with their money? Do they want to give it away to the cable company, or the store, or to the guys who manicures their lawn? We all realize that it is possible to live a just a few things as they did 100 years ago. Why do we feel as though we are entitled to have the latest a greatest things?
Do you always try to show your best feathers?

Pride. We like to have nice things. We like getting compliments on our new haircut or our new car. We like to have the nicest lawn on the block or have a new pair of earrings. But who is all that stuff actually for? Is it for you or so your neighbors will think that you are well off? Is it for your wife's parents so they will think that their daughter did not do too bad marrying you? Is it so your best girlfriends will think you are the cutest mom of the group? How about when you go to church? Are you dressing up in your "Sunday best" to glorify God or to look like the most put together family?

Contemplate why you spend money on things. By spending money on things we really do not need it sets us up for financial failure. Before you consider buying that new outfit think about who you are actually buying it for. It is not bad to have a few nice things. But when it becomes a need for you to maintain a certain persona or public image then it encroaches on your financial well being. Do you really need to spend that money or could it serve you better in your savings account?

Be a superhero - beat pride, your financial arch nemesis.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Our Egg Layer Has Died

Roxy "Buck Buck" was killed in her enclosure by a fox. My girls wept for an hour last night. Please be in prayer for these young children that lost a pet. She followed them around the yard and came when they called her. She was not like other chickens but like a real pet for them. Pray that they might understand that it is better to have loved her for a little while than to never have loved her at all.

Coupon Lecture Last Night

Couponing 101

Last night I gave a lecture for a local MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) group in my area about agressive couponing. I showed them everything from how to organize my coupons for maximum efficiency to how to do great "deals" so they can keep more of their money in their pockets. Here are some of the topics we discussed.

I. Types of Coupons - the secret is piggy-backing several coupons for one product
· Manufacturer’s coupons
· Store Coupons
· Catalinas - coupons that print out at register
· Holders to organize your coupons – binder or plastic tub - you can see my organizer here

II. Which Stores Work Best For Couponing
· Harris Teeter
· Kroger
· Walgreen’s - here is a primer on how to maximize savings at Walgreen's
· Rite Aid

III. How To Compile Deals
· Be organized
· Let others do the work for you – Coupon Mom, The Grocery Game, etc.
· Websites that post the deals for you – Money Saving Mom, etc.
· B1G1 Free - use two coupons for two products instead of just one
· Register Rewards (RR’s) - get cash back from Walgreen's

IV. Rebates & Refunds
· Be organized - if you lose you receipts or do not enter them in on time what goood is it?
· Get Rain checks - if other couponers have bought up all the good deals get a rain check so you can make sure you get the item at the same great price
· Roll savings onto Gift cards for no out of pocket expenses or get a check in the mail
· Take your savings and roll onto your next purchase by purchasing iems with your giftcard or put in savings or pay down debt by snowflaking

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chances Are Slim That I Will Win the Lottery

I will occasionally pick up a lottery ticket if the jackpot is huge. Apparently, if you are one of those people who buy lottery tickets regularly you are throwing money out the window. I was listening to NPR recently and they were interviewing a professor that wrote a book called "Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin". The guy, Lauwrence Weinstein, put it all into perspective with regards to lottery tickets for me. You know when it says on the ticket "Your chances of winning are 1 in 12, 048, 2837?" What does that number mean? Professor Weinstein put it into layman's term for the rest of us. He said to imagine taking enough lottery tickets to stack them one on top of another all the way from the ground to where the planes fly, so about 40,000 feet up, and then your job is to pull one ticket, only one ticket and one try to do this, you must pull the winning lottery ticket.

Puts things into perspective for me. Chances are slim that I will win the lottery.
[Jerry posted a comment that got me thinking so I wanted to add something to this post on imagery. I love solid imagery to help me wrap my brain around things. You might like the book I referred to in my post. He even talks about the numbers 1 in one billion. If you line the equator with white golf balls and your job would be to pick out the one red golf ball that would be equal to 1/1 billionth. If you line the equator with grains of white sand and then try to pick out the red grain of sand this would equal 1/1 trillionth. Amazing isn't it? Thank you for your comment!)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Money Saving Ideas

I remember when I was eager to get out of debt and save money. I was so hungry for any tips that would help me and motivate me. Unfortunately there is a lot of stuff out there you have to weed through to get to the real tips that you can actually use.

Money Saving Ideas to Get you Out of Debt or increase your savings:

Make a budget - I know I know, everyone says this but it couldn't be more true. Pay everything in list of priority – pay shelter, utilities, food, transportation (PUFT) and first. Then work your way down the list of who gets paid until you are out of money for that month. Pay people in this order:

· Shelter, utilities, food, transportation
· 2nd mortgages/HELOCs
· credit cards

Increase your income - take a second job, part time job, get a better job. This is only temporarily.

Sell stuff on eBay – Since you have plenty of time on your hands because you won’t be eating out or going to the movies, etc. collect all the stuff in your house that you don’t use that is taking up space, plus you have to dust it. Recoup some of the money you spent on frivolous stuff and throw it towards debt or savings.

Have yard sales.

Loose the cable/satellite

– you know that you are losing brains cells by sitting in front of the tv for hours at a time don’t you?

Cut back on extras – No Starbucks Caramel Frappicinos. No new red shoes. No filet mignon. Remember this is only temporary until you can get your bearings. That stuff will always be there.

Ditch anything that is not in PUFT – Blockbuster/Netflicks movie rental – you can borrow movies for free from the library, piano lessons, etc.

Freecycle for what you need – Sign up for your area’s Freecycle and post what you need and someone will have it and email you to come pick it up. You can read about my recent success story here. Stuff that you think you cannot sell on Ebay post onto Freecycle so it does not end up in a landfill.

Collect all of your bills and call each company to get a better rate – again you have time on your hands since you are in lock down from yourself and your bad spending habits. Spend this time calling each company and get them to lower your rates to the very best rate they can offer – this includes your cell phone, insurance (life & car), credit cards, power company (see my post here about how to do this). Every company you deal with wants to keep you as their customer and not loose your business. Use this to your advantage.

With a few major and minor adjustments you can get yourself out of debt or increase your savings. Sure it will be difficult. Sure it might not be much fun.

But just as you teach your children that they must suffer the consequences when they make a bad choice the shouldn't the same be for you?