Ms. Frugal

Thrifty blog and frugal recipies

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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How to Get Furniture for Your Home With Bad Credit

Moving into a new home or apartment is an amazing achievement. You now have multiple square feet in which you can create your innermost visual dream, but what if you have bad credit? What will you do for furniture? Bedroom and living furniture items are the most expensive items in a home. If you have a bad score, then you may not be able to obtain furniture items without paying cash for them. The following are some ways that you can furnish your home even if you have bad credit:

Save a Large Down Payment/ Use a Cosigner

One option that you have for obtaining approval on a finance deal is submitting a large down payment. You should choose a small furniture company rather than a large chain. The larger your down payment is, the more likely you are to obtain approval. Alternatively, you can apply with a co-signer that has stellar credit, and you can obtain a prime interest rate.

Rent-to-Own Furniture

You can furnish your home at one of the many rent-to-own furniture locations across the United States. Rent-to-own furniture establishments will not check your credit, and they can deliver furniture to your home within 24 hours of approving your application. You can rent the furniture until you find something more attractive, or you can pay it off in 18 to 24 months. The benefit of rent-to-own furniture deals is that they can provide you with instant gratification. The downside is that the businesses usually charge you two to three times the retail cost of the furniture before you own it. Additionally, almost 95 percent of the furniture is used.

Classifieds

One place that you may get lucky is the classifieds. You can use the classified ads that you see in the paper version of your local newspaper, or you can use online classified ads. This method requires patience and negotiations. Having a friend with a pickup truck is helpful, as well. Many homeowners sell perfectly good furniture because they do not want to carry it with them when they move. Residents who are having a hard time selling something may offer it to you for an extremely cheap price. You might get lucky and find a free curbside item.

No matter how poor your credit score is, you will not be without furniture in your new home. Try any of the aforementioned methods, and you will be able to create your home fantasy.

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Ways to Build a Frugal Wardrobe

The wardrobe is a crucial part of a consumer’s personality that he or she will want to have established. Nowadays, a person can find frugal ways of obtaining fashionable high-quality clothing with which he or she can build an amazing wardrobe. The following provides alternative methods to finding brand name clothing:

Search for Treasures at Thrift Shops

Thrift shops contain various types of clothing including some brand name items. People who have large wardrobes sometimes donate clothing that is in perfectly good condition. No one ever knows what he or she will find in one of these shops, and the hunt can be extremely exciting. A shopper could find brand name clothing for a fraction of the price. For example, a patient shopper could find a pair of low-rise Express jeans for as little as $4. No one but the shopper has to know where he or she purchased the clothing.

Shop the Clearance Racks Online and Offline

The clearance racks consist of items that were difficult for the retailer to sell for one reason or another. The seasons may be changing, and the store may need additional room for in-season items. Some clothing on the clearance racks have blemishes such small tears or missing buttons. A shopper can search the online or offline clearance racks for pieces that would fit nicely into his or her wardrobe. The person could save off-season items for a time that he or she would benefit from wearing them. He or she could also fix small blemishes with small repair items such as thread and new buttons.

Use Coupons and Promotional Codes

Shopping online is a great way to find inexpensive wardrobe additions because of coupons and promotional codes. Online clothing stores and outlets often have dedicated pages that offer discount coupons and codes. A shopper can enter these special codes during the checkout process to receive huge savings on shipping expenses and the purchase items.

Auction Sites and Free Classifieds

Finally, a person who is trying to enhance his or her wardrobe can find bulk clothing sets on auction sites such as eBay and free classified sites such as Craigslist. Sellers offer huge bundles of clothing on these sites for as little as a few dollars. A consumer can take advantage of any of these methods to expand his or her wardrobe into a smorgasbord of high fashion and allure.

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Living on a Budget

Living on a budget may be necessary for a consumer for a wide variety of reasons. A recent job loss may cause a person to have to monitor his or her expenses until the situation improves. A person on a fixed income such as disability or retirement would also need to watch his or her expenses. Other factors such as household changes, separations and newly started schooling can make a person have to start budgeting as well. The good part about living on a budget is that it is easy no matter what the reason for it is. The following are three quick budgeting tips for frugal living:

Calculate DI to See the Big Picture

A consumer cannot budget without calculating his or her disposable income. Therefore, a prospective budgeter needs to see how much money he or she really has. Disposable income is a person’s total income minus his or her total debts. Disposable income is the amount that is left over after the subtractions. Once a person reaches that figure, then he or she will know the max amounts to spend on living expenses and entertainment.

Reduce Household Bills

A consumer can increase the amount of disposable income by decreasing several household bills. The consumer always has the power to manipulate electric bills, cell phone bills and cable bills. Adjusting bills consists of comparing several providers and finding the one that offers the best pricing. Next, the person can remove features that he or she is not using. For example, the consumer can remove a feature such as unlimited data from cell phone plan. A person who has a cable account could remove premium channels and save approximately $20 for each one.

Grocery Shop in Bulk and Use Coupons

A budgeter can save money on food by shopping in bulk. Manufacturers often give discounts for large purchases of their food products. Buying and cooking raw foods rather than prepared foods is another excellent way to budget one’s spending. Additionally, a budgeter will want to use coupons and promotional codes from the circulars and online websites. Finally, several grocery stores offer their customers discount cards. Stopping for a minute to sign up for one would be a smart move.

Budgeting begins with saving money in the most obvious places. A consumer can develop additional creative budgeting strategies by considering other expense areas.

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RENTER’S INSURANCE: For the financially challenged, renting outweighs buying

Most financial gurus and experts will argue incessantly that buying a home makes much more sense than renting, using the old ideology that the latter is like throwing money away or investing in something that isn’t really yours.

That makes sense, and no one is going to argue the overall message behind that point. But buying only should be contemplated and considered if you’re financially able to do so. The last thing an individual or family wants to do is begin paying a mortgage that is hard to afford initially, only to be saddled with other house related expenses like unexpected repair or bills that aren’t included in the mortgage total.

Renting allows you to have a beautiful home at a reasonable price that fits within your budget, minus the worries of replacing that leaking faucet or hole in the roof.

The huge upside of renting is that you’ll undoubtedly pay less rent versus that mortgage payment but the real financial sense comes from everything else that goes with both means of living. Most town homes or apartments come with certain utilities included, like water, gas, sewage or electric. Moreover, landlords are the ones that are responsible if something breaks, not you. That also could include expensive appliances if they were provided by the landlord before you moved in to the place.

Buying a house isn’t just about the flat amount for the home itself but also includes furnishing the place to some degree. Of course, you’ll have to do that with an apartment as well but not having to buy a fridge, stove, washer or dryer will save you at least $2,000 up front. Take that into consideration along with the average home repairs for a calendar year is nearly $1,000 as well.

That’s the thing about purchasing a home that often is forgotten by would be buyers. They look at the sticker price but fail to really understand and consider if they can afford everything else that goes into the entire process, whether that is initial buys like furniture or appliances or bills that you don’t have to factor into the apartment aspect of renting.

But because renting has such a negative stigma to it when it comes to finances and building equity from a credit standpoint, plenty of people skip apartment hunting and go straight for the home buying endeavor. That bravado only works if it truly makes sound financial sense. Otherwise, it’s going to cultivate a situation that leaves you struggling to save money and hardly finding the time to enjoy your home the way you should.

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PASSING THE BUCK: When it comes to money woes, you have no one to blame

Most of you who struggle financially have this enormous burden because you made poor buying decisions, spent more than you make and lived well beyond your means.

And if any of those descriptions fits you, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone because plenty of the population aren’t happy with their financial standing but either do nothing about it or ignore it and buy whatever they want anyway.

Just because you shouldn’t feel bad doesn’t mean you don’t deserve your fair share of blame.

That crash and burn mentality isn’t going to fix anything and is only going to allow you debt and debauchery to continue to the point you’ll be eventually be turned down for credit, hit your current limits and, perhaps, lose everything.

The trick to avoiding your financial issues transforming from problematic to dire is simply admitting fault and begin to work toward fixing it. That revelation hardly sounds groundbreaking, but you’d be surprised to find that most people who don’t follow a budget and struggle with day to day finances are quick to pass the buck to someone or something else aside from placing the onus on their own shoulders.

This isn’t an attempt to downplay some sort of life changing event or illness, for example, which may have put you in a financial predicament. But the Catch 22 of this discussion might eventually return to one simple question: Shouldn’t you have had some emergency cash stashed in the bank? That is called planning ahead and assuming that, at any moment, someone could get sick, lose a job or an unexpected repair could rear its ugly head.

A lot of what ails you could be solved with not only coming clean and admitting you have money problems or a spending habit but also devising a simple budget after assessing where you are financially at this moment. Taking just a second to sit down and simply write out what you pay out versus what you are bringing in as far as income is a remarkably easy first step toward actually building a portfolio or a respectable savings account.

A budget also will curtail your lavish spending and make you think twice about a shopping spree, a second car or taking a vacation that just isn’t in the cards this year. That budget is a constant reminder that you only have so much discretionary income at your disposal, and just that alone is enough to push you in the right direction financially.

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