Ms. Frugal

Thrifty blog and frugal recipies

Saving Early for Summer Holidays

Even though spring just arrived, it is not too early to think about and plan for summer vacations. Independence Day and Memorial Day are two of the most popular summer holidays in the United States and many choose to celebrate at home by purchasing food and having a barbecue with friends and family members.

Others may want to visit a festival that celebrates the holiday with music, games and the like. All holiday activities require one to have money. Therefore, a consumer will want to get ahead by saving cash before the summer months come. The following are four tips that a person can use to prepare for summer holiday expenses:

Divide Direct Deposit Funds

The best way to save for a summer holiday is to create a separate savings account and assign funds to the account on each payday. Most employers allow their employees to distribute the funds from their paychecks to various accounts. Designating a small amount of money on a weekly or biweekly basis is an effective way to build a vacation fund.

Perform Odd Jobs

Another way that one may want to save money for a summer vacation is by performing odd jobs. Odd jobs include jobs such as grass cutting, housecleaning, babysitting, web design, article writing and more. The person can place the extra funds in the previously mentioned savings account.

Make Advance Purchases

Persons will want to make advance purchases for holiday reservations such as hotel reservations, rental car reservations, restaurant reservations, festival reservations and the like. The savings can be humongous if the person secures the reservations several months in advance.

Use Coupon Codes and Special Memberships

Coupon codes and special memberships can remove some of the expenses associated with airline tickets, train tickets, rental cars, hotel stays and more. Consumers can receive discounts for having AAA membership or college membership. Additionally, a multitude of coupons and promotional codes exist online. One could enjoy double or triple savings by reserving accommodations early and using special privileges. He or she could use a promotional code during a checkout. The person could use the drop-down menu to specify AAA membership, college membership and senior citizen status, as well.

Summer holidays are always better when one takes the time to save enough money for the events. The consumer should do so by relaxing and saving a little bit at a time each week.

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Inexpensive Baby Clothes for Expecting Mothers

The anticipation of having a baby is exciting, but it can produce a high level of anxiety, as well. Expecting mothers often wonder where they will obtain the funds to purchase clothing for themselves and their children. These women are often clueless as to how they can get what they need aside from being blessed with a baby shower. The following are some tips on how an expecting mother can gather baby clothing before the big day comes:

Online and Physical Clearance Racks

The first place that an expecting mother can look for deals on baby clothes is the clearance racks of popular children’s clothing establishments. Some examples of those stores are Carter’s, Old Navy and BabyMallOnline. Online shopping is convenient for women who are in the late stages of their pregnancies. However, most physical locations have a clearance section. Shoppers can find tremendous discounts on clothing items such as onesies, pant sets, bodysuits, pajamas and more. Some clearance items are on sale with discounts that are as high as 50 percent.

Thrift Shops, Flea Markets and Yard Sales

An expecting mother can visit thrift shops, flea markets and yard sales if she does not mind buying used clothing. She can opt to wash the used clothing in high-grade detergent that will purify it. The woman can find the best prices at such places. Yard sale sellers and flea market vendors are often will sell baby clothing for several cents instead of several dollars for each time. Thrift shops and consignment shops are second best in terms of discount potential.

Churches and Other Benefactors

Churches and organization such as the Salvation Army can provide an expecting mother with the clothing she needs to bring her child into to the world. Getting assistance with clothing only requires a phone call and a sincere request.

Online Auctions and Websites

Tech savvy expecting mothers can use online auction sites and website such as eBay,, and more. The benefit of using such sites is that the person can find bundled baby clothing. For example, the expecting mother may be able to find a month’s worth of clothing in a bundle for less than $10. Even the most destitute person can prosper.

Hope is available for the expecting mother. A way is always available for her to gather the things that she needs to provide warmth for her son or daughter. 

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Save Money on a Dream Vacation

Going on vacation is expensive no matter where a person goes. However, some corners of the world are much more expensive than others are. For example, one night at a hotel in Key West, Florida costs about $600 for a four-star or five-star location. Additionally, special events such as boat rides and scooter rentals can end up costing several hundred dollars. The following is some information on saving money on such a trip:

Reserving a Room Early

Early room reservations can save hundreds of dollars. Scheduling a stay for non-weekend nights can save money, as well. The visitor will want to reserve the room approximately three months ahead of time to obtain the best rates. Weekdays are less expensive because many people have to work during the week. Hotels and motels are much less full during those times. The average price difference between a weekday and a weekend night can be as high as $100.

Using Plastic Resources

Credit cards and club memberships can give a person an edge on the pricing in an expensive vacation. Triple A membership can provide a visitor with a discount of approximately 10 percent off a hotel stay. Some credit cards offer points as rewards for normal credit card use. The points can shave some of the dollars off the average hotel stay. Additionally, such memberships and cards may provide the consumer with access to cheap rental cars for the road.

Finding Cheap Things to Do

Finding cheap activities is the key to making one’s funds last as long as possible in the Keys or other expensive areas of the world. All major activities will cost hundreds of dollars. However, a frugal visitor can conduct a variety of activities that cost little to no money. Picture snapping adventures are free, and they can be quite fun. All the person needs is a trusty camera and some fuel to drive around and see the sites. The person can search for monuments, landmarks, botanical gardens, parks and the like. Some botanical gardens cost money, while others only accept donations.

Beach walking is a fun free activity for families, lovers and lonesome people. The beginning of evening is a wonderful time to go outside and watch the moonlight develop. A beach-side sunset is beautiful, as well.

Many money-saving techniques exist. The previously mentioned tips can be a stepping stone or a starting point.

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Saving on the Monthly Grocery Budget

The grocery budget is one of the most important items within a family budget. Shoppers must be able to buy enough food for the entire family while staying within a feasible price range. The price of food keeps rising, which makes staying within a budget increasingly difficult. The following tips can help the average consumer to save on grocery items:

Cutting Down the Restaurant Trips

This first tip can increase the amount of money in the family budget rather than cut down on the actual grocery expenses. Frugal shoppers must stop eating out at restaurants when they can cook delicious meals at home. Lowering the number of restaurant trips can increase the monthly funds so that families can have an abundance of foods at home.

Coupons, Coupons and More Coupons

Shoppers sometimes get annoyed with the person who stands in line and uses a ton of coupons. However, the dreaded coupon user may be the smartest shopper in the store. The reason is that he or she takes advantage of discount opportunities that every shopper has. A consumer can find coupons online and offline. Grocery stores place them in their circulars every week. Additionally, hundreds of websites offer printable coupons that shoppers can print to take to the store. Why miss a money-saving opportunity?

Grocery Store Cards

Most grocery stores offer discount cards to their shoppers at no additional charge. Many shoppers do not take the time to obtain the very cards that can save them money on their grocery store purchases. Why miss a money-saving opportunity? Shoppers with cards have access to all the special sale prices.

Cash Back Credit Cards

Another way that a person can save on the monthly grocery budget is by using cash back credit cards. Certain credit cards offer 1 to 6 percent returns on grocery expenses. The shoppers may not get the money back right away, but most of them can receive their returns within 30 days.

Do Bulk Shopping as Much as Possible

Bulk shopping or wholesale shopping is an amazing way to save money on grocery expenses. Wholesale clubs such as Sam’s Club, BJ’s and Costco offer huge savings to people who buy their monthly groceries in bulk. The clubs do have a membership fee, but the savings they can obtain are well worth the expense.

Modern shoppers have to take every step possible to decrease their expenses while keeping their refrigerators full. The aforementioned tips should help. 

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Avoiding and Stopping Identity Theft

Identity theft is a heinous crime that victimizes more than 11 million people each year. The crime includes stealing a person’s personal information to open new accounts, misusing existing accounts, and using personal information for alternative malicious purposes. Identity theft can ruin a person’s reputation with credit bureaus and other organizations, and it can take that person many years to resolve the mess. The following are some tips for preventing and dealing with identity theft: 

Do Not Share PIN Numbers and Passwords

Many people make the mistake of trusting lovers and friends with the PIN to their debit card. The problem with sharing a PIN is that a person who knows it can change it. That person can try to access other cards and accounts using the same PIN, as well. The consumer should trust no one with such information.

Change Login Information Frequently

Passwords to online bank accounts, email accounts and other important accounts should be changed at least once every three months. Once per month is a safer practice if the person has the patience to do it that frequently.

Obtain an Annual Credit Report

A credit report can speak volumes about identity theft. Every consumer should request one free copy of his or her credit report from the bureaus each year. The report will display all open credit accounts. The consumer should dispute any account that looks unfamiliar. The bureau must respond to the dispute within 30 days.

Sign up for Credit Monitoring Services

A credit monitoring service is an amazing tool for identity theft prevention. Such a tool will send a consumer instant alerts whenever someone opens a new account. It will notify a person if his or her credit score changes, as well. The debtor can then take action based on the information that he or she receives from the monitoring service.

Report Foul Play Immediately

A debtor should report a lost or stolen credit card immediately. Additionally, the person should contact the bureaus to launch investigations on any suspicious activities. Sometimes, the credit bureaus can place blocks on people’s social security numbers. No creditors will issue credit to these persons unless they answer a series of questions to verify their identity.

Finally, account holders should log into their online banking and credit card accounts frequently so they can catch strange activities quickly. Keeping one’s eyes open at all times is crucial. 

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How to Keep up With Household Chores without Hiring a Maid!

Keeping up with household chores can be extremely difficult, especially when you have a busy life. Children love to spread their toys, crayons and miscellaneous papers all over the house. Some husbands like to leave clothing piles and dirty glasses in various places. Keeping the house together can be even more challenging when you have pets running around, and your workload is heavy. The following are some tips for trying to keep everything together and avoid clutter: 

Clean When Everyone Is Asleep

Avoiding messes and clutter can seem as if it is impossible when everyone is awake and moving around. A tactic that may work is setting the alarm clock for an early time such as 5 a.m. You may be tired at that time, but you will have at least a half hour to an hour to clean up while the rest of the household is asleep. Changing the cleaning schedule can be a very effective way to organize your household.

Perform Sweeps in Between Tasks

Another good way to avoid clutter and keep your house neat is to perform several five-minute sweeps throughout the day. Sweeps are little breaks that you take to remove trash from the floor, wipe down tables and counters, take the trash out, and place dirty clothing where it belongs. You can perform sweeps in between your schoolwork or your home office work. Additionally, you can perform sweeps when the commercials come on during your favorite television shows. You will be amazed at the amount of work you can do in two to five minutes, and your house will be almost spotless at the end of the day.

Pay the Family Members for Their Help

Sometimes the other members of the household need some special encouragement. Children love helping when they can receive a shiny quarter or piece of candy for their efforts. Husbands are likely to help if they can receive treats, as well. You can use your imagination to think of the best treat for your husband.

You can try setting a payment schedule for different tasks and see how your family members respond to it. This method will most likely leave your house neater and relieve you of some of the work.

Finally, you can avoid accumulating dirty dishes by rinsing them immediately after you use them. Alternatively, you can purchase Styrofoam and plastic dishes so that you can dispose of them every time you eat or drink. Styrofoam and plastic dishware is inexpensive, and it can keep you from spending too much time doing housework. 

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Banking on it: How to avoid bankruptcy in your near future

When you hear the word “bankruptcy,” most of the time your thoughts turn to large scale companies or retailers that have no choice but to shut the doors and declare to fight (or re open) another day.

But what about bankruptcy as it pertains to an individual, couple or family as far as your financial planning and freedom or lack thereof.

Avoiding bankruptcy is unquestionably paramount, but when that word starts to surface in the household, chances are you’ve missed the warning signs and it’s too late to turn back from a road you ultimately didn’t want to travel.

One huge red flag that you’re headed down the wrong path is taking a moment to calculate your debt to income ratio on a monthly basis or taking into consideration your assets versus how much you owe that isn’t yours.

First, the monthly ratio is simple to figure out and is essentially how you’re judged by creditors and anyone else in line to lend you money. Your debt to income ratio on a monthly basis should be somewhere in the 30% to 70% ratio, respectively, at best. You also want to pay attention to your entire debt, minus the house and the car. This is more about checking into unsecured debt like your credit cards. If you have about $10,000 in your savings account and only a few thousand in your retirement account but are sporting double that in credit card debt, you should start coming up with a game plan to start paying it off and eliminating some expenses from your budget that can get cut.

Bankruptcy also might be chasing you down if you find yourself starting to miss payments one month after another. Missing a payment doesn’t just add a negative to your credit score but also is a huge sign that you are living beyond your means and eventually might not be able to pay your debt consistently.

In addition to missing payments, you might be at the point where creditors are starting to call your home and seeking out a debt consolidation company isn’t exactly going as planned.

Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to end this way when it comes to your finances as it relates to bankruptcy. It just happened this way because you were most likely careless with your spending but didn’t take note of bad habits that eventually grew into having to raise the white flag on your finances. 

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How to Save Money at Yard Sales

Yard sales are events that homeowners and apartment dwellers hold to earn a bit of extra cash. Some people have yard sales to clear their homes before they move, and other people have yard sales to get rid of items after a divorce. Yard sales have a multitude of useful items that a frugal shopper can snag for an outrageously low price. People sell their books, movies, furniture, clothing, electronics, household appliances and collectibles at yard sales. A person can furnish an entire several-bedroom home with only a few hundred dollars just by visiting local yard sales. Additionally, smart re-sellers can find highly discounted treasures that they can flip for a profit. 

How to Find Yard Sales

Many people notify the community of yard sales by placing flyers on light poles. They may also pin up signs at the local laundromats. Daily newspapers contain yard sale listings in the classified sections, as well. Technologically savvy individuals place their yard sale listings online on websites such as Craigslist. A person who wants to visit a yard sale can use the aforementioned means to find out when members of the community will have them. Most yard sales occur on Saturdays and Sundays. A few scattered families may have them on Friday. An ambitious person could wake up on Saturday or Sunday morning and drive around to find random events.

Bargaining at Yard Sales

The prices of yard sale items are already very low, but there is always room for a person to negotiate. The best way for a person to get a massive discount on an item is to leave the yard sale and come back later in the afternoon. Yard sale sellers will be willing to negotiate by the end of the day because their main purpose is to move everything off the tables. However, a person who does not want to risk losing an item to another buyer must act fast. That person should ask the seller the price of the item. Once the seller states the price, the negotiating party could make an offer that is 50 percent less than the stated sale price is. The seller may accept the offer, decline the offer, or come back with a reasonable midrange price. There is certainly no harm in trying.

Yard sales are amazing for furnishing a new home or gathering supplies and equipment for an office. At least one yard sale occurs every weekend. 

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Fees to Avoid When Choosing a Bank Account

Every consumer needs a safe place that he or she can store money for future use. Consumers have several options that include opening bank accounts or credit union accounts. Finding an account that is “easy on the balance” is the best way to get the most out of a banking institution. The following are miscellaneous fees that a person should review and try to avoid when choosing a banking establishment:

Monthly Maintenance Fees

Monthly maintenance fees are random fees that banks charge their customers for the mere “luxury” of having an account. Consumers can avoid these fees by conducting research to find an institution that does not charge them. They are out there, but consumers must conduct research to find them. One example of a bank that has a $0 monthly maintenance fee account is Citizen’s bank. Debtors can avoid the monthly fee by having a paycheck deposited into the account at least once per month.

Overdraft Fees

Banks make a large portion of their proceeds by charging customers for the slightest overdrafts. Some of them have an intricate system by which they slowly process debit card transactions to create overdrafts. A $.05 discrepancy can cause a consumer to lose up to $36. The best way to avoid this from happening is to find a bank that does not have overdraft fees. Alternatively, the consumer can opt for overdraft protection (which has fees) or search for a bank with low overdraft fees. An example of a bank that does not charge overdraft fees is GoBank. GoBank is a subsidiary of Green Dot Bank. The bank is new, and it is still working on its website. Consumers who sign up with this bank will have the opportunity to avoid overdraft fees and nonsufficient funds charges.

ATM Transaction Fees

Consumers who have debit cards associated with their bank accounts are sometimes blindsided by random ATM transaction fees. ATM fees can be as high as $3 to $5 by the time the bank and the ATM owner finishes taking their cuts. The best ways to avoid ATM fees is to read carefully the bank’s terms and agreements. Some consumers can avoid ATM fees by using specific ATM machines for their withdrawals.

The art of choosing the right bank account includes careful research, thorough comparison, and in-depth reading of each bank’s “terms and agreements” section. Credit unions are a healthy alternative because their members own them rather than investors and stockholders.

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How to Handle Credit and Debit Card Fraud

No matter how safe you think you might be with your debit or credit card, you are still susceptible to credit card fraud. Consumers lose more than $500 million each year because of such activities. Credit or debit card fraud is an unfortunate incident that involves the use of your information by an unauthorized person. Such can occur because of online hackers, bogus offers, dishonest restaurant employees, or intricate skimming devices. You should check the balance of your cards every day as an extra security measure. The following contains some tips for handling fraud if it does come your way:

Call the Credit Card Company or Bank Immediately

You must report your loss the moment you find out that someone has made a fraudulent charge. Most credit cards and debit cards have a number on the back that you can call to speak to someone right away. The faster you report the loss, the sooner the card company can shut down your card and begin its investigation. You will most likely have to visit a bank branch and file paperwork about your debit card loss. The bank will then investigate the charges and credit the funds back into your account if it finds the charges are fraudulent.

Press Charges

As a consumer who has many rights, you have the right to press charges against anyone who fraudulently uses your card. The bank will let you know if it finds personal information on the person who illegally used your credit or debit card. If you would like to press charges, then you will visit your local police station and bring with you the proof that the bank gives you. A first offense of credit card fraud or identity theft is punishable by jail time of six months to several years. Making examples out of people who commit these crimes is an excellent way to deter future crimes.

Amp up Your Protective Measures

You will want to protect your cards once you experience the devastation of having someone misuse your personal information. Three tips that can save you from theft in the future are:

• Only use secure sites (https) for online shopping.
• Minimize the use of standalone payboxes (Redbox).
• Check your balances every day.

Shopping with credit and debit cards can still be an enjoyable experience if you take the extra time to protect yourself. Credit and debit card companies have many policies in place for your protection and the protection of other consumers like you.

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