Monday Musings: 2/9/2013 – Make Money on Clutter

Make Money on clutter

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Welcome to another Monday Musings, where we share interesting links about all things preparedness, as well as updates on the blog.

First the blog updates…

A few days ago, I had written about increasing storage space in a small apartment, and this week we are in the decluttering stage.  This time we are looking at every item closely:  If it has not been used in the last year, out it goes.  At the same time, we are also trying to raise some cash.

How to Make Money on Clutter

  • Hold a garage sale.  I think we may have some restrictions on holding garage sales in our building so I will try to sell online as much as possible.
  • Sell DVDs and CDs online – try www.selldvdsonline.com  or http://www.secondspin.com/   I have not sold anything yet as we are still gathering items, but these two seem to be recommended by several money saving sites, so I am going to try one of them soon.
  • Sell books on Amazon.
  • If the book does not sell on Amazon, I am going to take them to a local bargain bookseller for credit, and choose new books to read.
  • List furniture on Facebook pages of community garage sale sites.
  • Any items that do not sell will be donated.

Most of these were bought during my free-spending days.  As I price these items, I realize how little they are worth compared to the initial purchase price.  But at least getting something is better than hanging on to stuff that is no longer used.

As I get extra funds from these efforts, I hope to apply them toward paying off debt.

Now for the links…

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last Monday Musings post – this week I have lots of great links for you.

Deal or No Deal? Comparing Dollar Stores to Walmart & Others

Measles Outbreak 2015: What’s the Big Deal?

Headache prevention: A basic tutorial

5 Steps to Become the Smartest Person in the Woods

6 More Uncommon First Aid Items

How to Develop the Situational Awareness of Jason Bourne

DIY Hobo Stove

4 Ways To Make Essential Oils, Right In Your Home

8 Keys to Self-Sufficiency

Take care and have a great week everyone!
© Apartment Prepper 2015

 

 

Monday Musings: 1/19/2015 The First Steps to Take when Getting Out of Debt

The First Steps to take when getting out of Deb
This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com
Welcome to another Monday Musings, where we share interesting links about all things preparedness, as well as updates on the blog.
First, my updates…
Add your “two cents!”  For our avid readers, our giveaway for A Time to Endure by Kyle Pratt is still going on.  Read the review and sign up for the giveaway here.  All you have to do is enter your answer to the following question:  What threats are you most concerned about this 2015?  What steps are you taking to prepare?   There seems to be a common thread in the answers so far.  Add yours and I will do my best to post articles regarding your most pressing concerns.
When getting out of debt is a goal Like many of you, I too have some credit card debt that I am resolving to pay off.  Although I am frugal and have been careful with spending, I have some old debt from the last downturn that is still hanging around.

Whether you have old debts or new debt incurred from recent Christmas spending, you know that feeling that comes over you when you JUST KNOW you need to do something.  But just like prepping for the first time, planning to get out of debt can be overwhelming.

What first steps can you take to when you want to get out of debt?

1.  The first step is simple but requires self discipline:  Stop using your credit cards!  Do whatever you need to do to get out of the habit of using credit.

  • Don’t keep your credit cards in your wallet within easy reach-leave them at home.
  • Store the cards away in a safe deposit box.
  • Some people freeze their cards in a block of ice, or take the more drastic measure of cutting them up.
  • Even if you cut up your cards, don’t cancel the cards because some creditors will immediately expect you to pay the debt in full, OR, your credit rating will be negatively affected by the loss of credit.

2.  Check the balances for all your debts, interest rate and monthly payments so you know what you are up against.  Knowing this number will stop you from being in denial about how much you really owe.

Once you’ve done the two steps above, you’ll need to track and slash your spending and make a budget.  I am doing various cost cutting measures and will write about it in a future posts.

Please share your favorite money saving tips in the comments! 

Now for the links…


 

Emergency Uses for Old Socks

Emergency Uses for Old SocksThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Some of the most commonly thrown out items of clothing are old socks.  Even if you are careful about keeping them together, invariably, one will get lost.  Don’t throw them out – there are some good emergency uses for old socks.  I keep a bag of clean, mismatched socks for cleaning.

Here are a few more ideas:

Dusting

Instead of using paper towels, save a few tube socks and use them for dusting. Put your hand inside the sock and dust your surfaces.  Even the ones with holes can be salvaged for dusting.

 Warm your hands

Put socks over your hands before putting on gloves to give you an extra layer of warmth.

Prevent Door Drafts

You can also fill up the sock with other materials such as rags and use as a barrier under doors or windows to keep draft from entering your home.

Layer up

Of course, you can wear old socks under other socks as another layer of insulation for when it gets really cold. No one is going to see them nor care if they are mismatched.

Heating pad for aches and pains

Fill up and old cotton sock (must have no holes in it) about 1/2 – 2/3 full with rice and sew the edge shut. You now have an instant warmer.   Microwave the rice sock for one to two minutes and apply it to the affected area.  Or, use it to warm yourself up in the winter.

Ice pack

Similarly, you can use an old sock when you need an ice bag:  Fill a baggie with ice, zip it shut and place inside a sock.  The sock acts like a barrier between the ice and your skin.

Hiding Place

I sometimes hide extra cash inside an old sock and throw them among others. Just make sure the sock does not have any holes and remember where you stashed it.

Weapon

A large handful of coins inside a sock with the open end tied together can be used as a makeshift weapon in an emergency situation if you are being attacked.

Filter for Water

If you are desperate, use a clean sock to strain out solids from water.  You will still need to boil or purify the water, but at least you can remove rocks and other debris.

Scrubber

A single sock can be used instead of a sponge or scrubber.

Shoe Polisher

You can use an old sock to polish old shoes.  See Basic Shoe Care for tips and use your old socks as rags.

Cushion for Packing

I’ve used old socks to pack away fragile items such as Christmas ornaments, porcelain etc.  You can also use them to wrap shoes before placing in your luggage.

Prevent Scuffing

When moving furniture, wrap old socks around chair legs and other furniture parts that may scuff the floor or walls.

With all these multiple uses, you’ll want to give your old socks a second chance before throwing them in the trash.

Please share in the comments your favorite uses for old socks.

© Apartment Prepper 2015

 

 

 

How to Stretch Ground Beef

How to Stretch Ground BeefThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

I have been on a tight budget lately, and one of our staple foods is ground beef.  Lately however, you can hardly call ground beef a bargain food.   The last time I went grocery shopping, I got sticker shock from the ground beef prices-the price has risen to over $4 a pound.  This is an all-time record high, according to this article  These prices used to be for organic or grass fed, but now even regular ground beef is expensive.

How to stretch ground beef for hamburgers:

I called my Dad, who is my source for budget minded menus, and he told me his method of stretching ground beef for hamburgers:

Basic recipe:

To a pound of ground beef, add

  • 1/2 cup add finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs and
  • one egg.

Add salt and pepper to taste

I made hamburgers using this method and it worked well.   The onions add a nice flavor and the bread crumbs did not change the taste or texture of the meat.

This basic recipe can also be used to make meatballs (just shape into 1 inch rounds), for meatball marinara sauce or meatball soup.

Variation:  Bacon Cheddar Jalapeno Burger Patties

Expanding on my Dad’s method, instead of onions, I added to one pound of ground beef:

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped jalapenos (seeds removed)
  • 1 piece of cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg

You can adjust according to the number of burgers you are cooking.  Shape into patties and fry as normal.

The burgers came out really tasty and I was able to stretch the pound of ground beef for a couple of meals.

 Give it a try!  What is your favorite way to stretch ground beef?  Please share in the comments.

 © Apartment Prepper 2014

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So Can’t Afford to Prep, Eh?

So You Can't Afford to PrepThis article first appeared in Preparing with Dave

Article by Dave at preparingwithdave.com

Can you afford not to?

Sadly enough, I feel like most of my time is spent trying to convince even preppers to prep. I hear many times that people cannot afford a necessary prep. A necessary prep means that if you don’t have it, you risk death in a survival situation. How could anyone not afford it? The answer lies in prioritizing one’s life and future. Many people are not fully internally aware enough of the seriousness of needing to be seriously prepared, thus not taking it seriously enough.

We make sacrifices to put money away for retirement, and call it an investment. Preps are investments, too. Water filtration devices are investments on life-saving hydration. Security devices and self-defense tools are investments to protect our lives from harmful people that said they couldn’t afford to prep, or just didn’t see it as important, which is kind of the same in my opinion. Their actions to aggressively acquire what they need will be the same.

Most of every item in my Emergency Survival Pack or Bug-Out Bag, is under or around $20.00 in cost of investment expenditure. Therefore, I will base some examples I offer you around that dollar amount of investment. Here are some examples of sacrifice to secure “Necessary Preps“.

Example one:

Some people drink two sodas per day. That’s around sixty sodas per month. Cost is around $20.00 to $40.00, depending on their favorite brand and flavor. That equals the cost of one to two Sawyer Mini Filters that filter 100,000 gallons of life-saving water each. Just cutting consumption of soda for one-month, and someone can have 100,000 gallons or more of water filtration prepped.

Example two:

The average lunch or dinner in a restaurant is $10.00 to $25.00 per person, depending on whether it is a fast-food or sit-down meal with tip. This could buy a couple of inexpensive packs on sale to start sticking preps in, to grab and go in an emergency situation. Skip these meals and go simple at home, and this prep is taken care of now. Add number one and number two example together, and you’re on your way to some good preparedness.

Example three:

Any service you have someone else do for you, like nails, hair, car wash, taking care of your yard, changing your oil, etc. These services add up to a healthy sum of money in a year’s time, or even just six-months. Actually, having all of these done in one-month adds up to over $100.00. That’s a lot of preps if you do a few simple tasks on your own, instead of paying someone else to do it for you. $100.00 dollars could buy eight fire starters, a family water filtration four-pack, 140 Mylar blankets, ten emergency shelters, ten emergency two-person sleeping bags, five Life Straws, ten containers of waterproof matches (250 matches), five WaterBobs, one high-quality crank emergency radio/flashlight ($30.00 leftover), and more. Get the idea?

Affording To Prep

These are just a few examples of what I call monetary maneuvering to acquire necessary preps. It takes sacrifice to have anything that is important enough. We have made many sacrifices around here to have what we need for our survival investments. We have a very nice “grid-down fund“, or “convenience-lost fund“, that is not monetary. It’s all in preps, since in SHTF, money isn’t worth anything and banks won’t be open to access the worthless notes anyway. You can do this too, if you prioritize your preps versus whatever else you are spending money on.

We have skipped favorite meals here and there, we do most everything ourselves, and we don’t buy frivolous items or services. We also prepare our owns meals that are healthier and actually much tastier, because we don’t use cheap food sources to cut costs and raise profit margins like restaurants do.

Do this or not, because it’s your choice and your life that’s at risk if you don’t…NOT MINE!”

About the AuthorDave writes preparingwithdave.com.  He created this page to share his experience, knowledge, actions, and continuing path with others.  He hopes your tour around the website is informative and you continue to visit for updates and sharing of your comments. Please visit Dave, on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/preparingwithdave

If you have any questions, ideas, or comments, please feel free to message him on Facebook:

 https://www.facebook.com/preparingwithdave

Get out of debt

Christmas Shopping Deals

 
 
 

Use Up that Mushy Watermelon – Watermelon Slushie

Watermelon Slushie 3This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

I haven’t done a Self Sufficiency Saturday post in a while so I thought I’d feature something light and easy today.

Every time I buy a watermelon half of it gets mushy in the refrigerator before it gets eaten.  I end up throwing it away and I hate wasting food.   Learning how to use leftovers is a good self-sufficiency skill and also a wise use of resources.

One day I decided to experiment with the leftover watermelon.  I froze the mushy watermelon (seeds removed) chunks.

After they were frozen, I threw them in the blender (we use a Nutribullet) and made watermelon slushie.  It tasted great!  The whole family enjoyed it  We had a delicious treat and all the watermelon got used up.

Here is the recipe:  Please note these are estimates and you may have to adjust according to your blender capacity and to your taste.

Ingredients:

Watermelon Slushie 12 cups frozen watermelon (you can use fresh watermelon but add ice)

1 cup cold water

juice of 1-2 limes

1/2 cup of sugar

Watermelon Slushie 4Directions:

Add all ingredients into the blender.   Puree or blend at high speed for one to two minutes until well mixed.

That’s it!

Watermelon Slushie 2

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

How to Survive a Personal Economic Collapse

How to Survive a Personal Economic Collapse

This post is originally appeared in The Organic Prepper

by Daisy Luther

With all that is being written about the national economic collapse, people seem to be waiting for some huge event.

However, for many North Americans, the collapse is here. This isn’t relegated to only lower income neighborhoods. As an article from a Cinncinnati new station stated, “Hunger doesn’t know a zipcode.”

How to survive a personal economic collapse

For many people who were formerly financially comfortable, the economic collapse has already happened, in the form of a job loss, hours that have been cut back due to Obamacare requirements for employers, an exorbitant medical bill or other crushing debt, or simply an inflation rate that has outstripped your pay increases. Despite all of the warnings, many people are still going to be absolutely blindsided.
For many families, personal finances have reached a catastrophic level – they are left to make terrible choices:

  • Which utility can I live without?
  • Should I walk away from my mortgage?
  • Should I eat something so I can work harder or should I skip meals so my kids have food?
  • Should I use the grocery money to take my child to the doctor or should I wait and hope he/she improves without medical intervention?
  • Do I risk the IRS-enforced penalties by forgoing enrollment in Obamacare or should I skip that whole grocery shopping thing so I can pay the monthly premiums and enormous deductibles in order to stay in the government’s good graces?

These are the kind of decisions that people across the nation are grappling with every day.

I’m talking about good people, hardworking men and women who have always been employed and paid their bills. A personal financial crisis does not just strike those stereotypical “welfare queens” with the long manicured nails, Gucci knock-off purse, and a grocery cart full of EBT-funded lobster.

I’m talking about the person next door, who seems to have it all together. I’m talking about that quiet family that sits two rows in front of you at church. I’m talking about that two-income family with two children and a car in the driveway that takes them to work and school 5 days a week. I’m talking about people just like you and me.

What is a personal economic collapse?

A personal economic collapse is a little different than the major crises you see all over Europe right now, where huge segments of the population can’t feed their children or stay employed. It is a crisis that just hits your family due to a given set of circumstances. (In actuality North Americans are on the brink of the kind of collapse that is occurring in Europe, but because of easy access to credit and a buy-now, pay-later society, many of us still have the appearance of prosperity.)

Here are some signs that you may be in the midst of a personal economic collapse:
· You can only afford to pay the minimum payment on most of your bills.
· The same dollar amount you used to spend on groceries doesn’t buy enough food to feed your family for the week.
· You can’t afford to go to the doctor when you’re sick.
· You are taking dangerous steps to “stretch” needed medications because you can’t afford the prescriptions.
· Your utility bills are past due and your power is in danger of being cut off.
· You skip meals in order to save money or to have enough food for your kids.
· You’ve lost your job or had your hours cut.
· You have lost property due to foreclosure or repossession (such as your home or your vehicle).

Surviving the crisis

Times are tough but you can survive this.

1)  First you have to see exactly where you are.

It’s time for a brutally honest assessment of your finances. If you use your debit card or credit card for most expenditures, you’ll easily be able to see what you’re spending and bringing in.
Print off your bank account statements for the past 2 months. On a piece of paper, track where your money is going. List the following
· Rent/Mortgage
· Utilities
· Car payments
· Vehicle operating expenses (fuel, repairs)
· Insurances
· Credit card and other debt payments
· Telephone/Cell phone
· Cable/Satellite
· Internet
· Extracurricular activities for the kids
· Extracurricular activities for the adults
· Dining out
· Groceries
· School expenses
· Clothing
· Recreational spending
· Gifts
· Miscellaneous (anything that doesn’t fall into the above categories gets it’s own category or goes here)
Don’t say to yourself, “Well, I usually don’t spend $400 on clothing so that isn’t realistic.” If you spent it, then it’s realistic. You are averaging together two months, which should account for those less common expenses. Brutal honesty isn’t fun, but it’s vital for this exercise.
So….what do you see when you look at your piece of paper with your average monthly expenditures for the past two months? Are there any surprises? Did you actually realize how much you’ve been spending? Most of us will immediately see places that we can trim the budget. Those $1-$5 purchases can really add up. Reining them in may just allow you to take care of an important need that you thought you could not meet.
It can’t continue like this. The economy will not withstand it. Step one is to see where you can cut things out right now from the above expenditures. Can you reduce your grocery bill? Slash meals out? Budget more carefully for gift-giving and school clothes?

2.) Rethink necessities.

If your finances are out of control, the best possible reality check is a stark look at what necessities really are. It is not necessary to life to have an iPhone, a vehicle in both stalls of your two-car garage, or for your children to all have separate bedrooms. People in Southern and Eastern Europe right now will tell you, as they scramble for food, basic over the counter medications like aspirin, and shelter, that necessities are those things essential to life:
· Water
· Food (and the ability to cook it)
· Medicine and medical supplies
· Basic hygiene supplies
· Shelter (including sanitation, lights, heat)
· Simple tools
· Seeds
· Defense Items
Absolutely everything above those basic necessities is a luxury.
So, by this definition, what luxuries do you have?

3.) Reduce your monthly output

Reduce your monthly payments by cutting frivolous expenses. Look at every single monthly payment that comes out of your bank account and slash relentlessly. Consider cutting the following:
· Cable
· Cell phones
· Home phones
· Gym memberships
· Restaurant meals
· Unnecessary driving
· Entertainment such as trips to the movies, the skating rink, or the mall

4.) Waste not, want not.

We live in a disposable society. Food comes in throw-away containers. People replace things instead of repairing them. If you throw out more than a couple of bags of garbage each week, that’s a very good sign that you may be wasting resources.
Before throwing anything away, pause and think about how it might be able to be reused.
· Food: Many times small amounts of leftovers can be recycled into a brand new meal. Meat bones can be used to make broth or stock. Small amounts of veggies or grains can be frozen and added to a future soup or casserole. Leftovers can be frozen in meal-sized portions to take to work for a brown-bag lunch. (Learn more about repurposing leftovers HERE.)
· Clothing: Clothing that is torn or damaged can often be repaired with only rudimentary sewing skills. If it has been outgrown or cannot be repaired, often the fabric or yarn can be reused for other purposes, from cleaning rags to fashionable accessories like scarves and headbands, or home items like throw pillows, potholders or rag rugs. When all else fails, the fabric can be used for cleaning rags or patches to repair other items. Keep jars full of buttons, elastic, and other notions that can easily be removed before you throw a clothing item away or relegate it to the rag bag.
· Electronics: Obviously, initially you should attempt to repair (or have repaired) electronic items that are not working. If this is not feasible, are there components of the item that can be reused, either now or in the future? What about hardware such as screws or fasteners?
· Containers: Most food comes in a container of some sort. Before throwing the container away, consider whether or not it might be useful. Glass jars, plastic tubs, and plastic bags can often be reused to store food in your refrigerator or to contain food in brown bag lunches. Clean aluminum cans can hold all manner of items, from hardware and tools in a workshop to sewing and craft supplies. Use your imagination.

5.) Take control of your food budget.

The price of food is skyrocketing. Who hasn’t been to the grocery store recently and been shocked at the high price of that cart full of groceries or at the mysterious shrinking food packages that are the same price as yesterday’s larger ones?
· Stockpile: Create a stockpile of nutritious, healthy staples at today’s prices to enjoy when the cost goes even higher tomorrow. (Learn how to create a frugal food stockpile HERE.)
· Preserve: Learn to preserve food yourself when you come across a windfall. Pressure canning, waterbath canning, freezing, and dehydrating can allow you to take advantage of great sales or end-of-season scores.
· Eat less: This suggestion isn’t for everyone, but many of us could stand to shed a few pounds. Perhaps now would be a good time to cut back a little and shrink both your waistline and your weekly food bill. Lots of people eat for the sheer entertainment of it or out of habit. Next time you’re watching TV, grab some mending or a crossword puzzle instead of a bag of potato chips. Dish out slightly smaller servings at dinnertime to leave enough to stretch the leftovers for a brown bag meal the next day.
· Drink water: Skip the beverages and drink water instead. At less than $1 per gallon for purchased water you simply can’t beat the price. It’s better for you, also, than sugar-y drinks. If you are lucky enough to have well water or access to spring water, your drinks don’t have to cost you a penny.
· Focus on nutrition instead of convenience: Buy the best quality of food you can, and skip the processed, nutritionless convenience foods.
· Grow your own. In the summer, grow the biggest garden you can. In the winter, or if you are an apartment dweller, put some sprouts and greens in a sunny windowsill to add some fresh produce for pennies.

6.) Reduce your dependence on utilities.

Energy rates are skyrocketing. As the prices begin to rise, more and more people will be unable to pay their bills and eventually their power will be shut off. Check your bill each month and as prices increase, use less power. Try some of these ideas to reduce your reliance and drop your bills.
· Hand wash your clothing
· Hang clothes to dry
· Cook on a woodstove or outdoor grill
· Can foods to preserve them instead of relying on a large chest freezer
· Turn the heat down a few degrees and use non-grid methods to keep warm
· Use rain barrels to collect water
· Direct the gray water from your washing machines to reservoirs
· Turn off the lights and open the blinds
· Use solar lighting whenever possible
How do you intend to weather the storm?
There are bleak days ahead. Have you planned for this? What strategies do you intend to use to weather the financial crisis that is coming for all of us? What suggestions do you have for families who are undergoing their own economic collapses? Please post questions and ideas in the comments section below.

About the Author:

Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor who lives on a small organic farm in the Pacific Northwestern area of the United States. She is the author of The Pantry Primer: How to Build a One Year Food Supply in Three Months. On her website, The Organic Prepper, Daisy writes about healthy prepping, homesteading adventures, and the pursuit of liberty and food freedom. Daisy is also a staff writer at The Daily Sheeple, where she helps to “Wake the Flock Up”. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, and you can email her at daisy@theorganicprepper.ca

 

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Get Rid of Cable = Save Money for Preps

Today we returned the cable boxes and unhooked ourselves from Comcast cable.

It all started out when we moved to a smaller unit a few months ago (part of the plan to downsize).   We weren’t on a contract but we had one of those “bundled” plans that was discounted.  At the same time, we were aggravated by their service issues.  We realized that out of roughly 200 channels, we were really only watching a handful.

Here are a few ideas on getting shows:

20130827_163109 - CopyMohu Leaf TV Antenna - Copy

  1. An indoor HD TV antenna or a regular antenna allows you to get all the free channels.  Cost is around $12 for “rabbit ears” antenna or $36 for an HD antenna, and the monthly cost is $ 0.
  2. Get shows via Hulu and Netflix, at a fraction of the cost.  Cost is around $7.99 for either one if your TV is a newer model and allows the access.
  3. Watch shows directly from the networks via internet.  Cost= free.
  4. The Roku 3 is small box that is connected to the TV that lets you stream shows from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video or Hulu Plus; accessing 1000+ channels and growing.   Initial cost of the Roku 3 is $89, monthly cost depends on what services you subscribe to.

For us, getting rid of cable saves $70 from the monthly bill.  Currently we are on Option 1 but may consider adding services later.  Even adding a small monthly $7.99 bill from Netflix is still only a fraction of what we were spending.

If you are wondering how you might find some savings for the emergency fund or buy some preps, consider cutting out cable TV.    Small steps you can take:

  • Evaluate your family’s viewing habits for a week.
  • Write down the channels you most often watch.  I bet most of those channels are not being used.
  • Do some research on what’s available, talk to the family, then decide.

With all the alternatives available, I am certain we won’t miss it at all.

 

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

 

Downsize Before You Have To

Downsize Before You Have ToThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

I don’t know about you but my finances have been feeling the pinch lately.  I’m not even talking about all the dire economic warnings, but on a personal level, it feels more of a struggle this year than last year.  For one thing my paycheck is smaller:  health insurance premiums as well as taxes increased.  When I go grocery shopping, the same budgeted amount of money buys less food – beef prices have increased due to the drought, and so have fruit and vegetable prices.   On top of that, gas prices are higher too.  The economy does not seem to be getting any better, and we can all feel it.

What’s a person to do, having to cope with these financial difficulties?

Downsize your lifestyle before you are forced to.

Lowering your monthly expenses will ensure you are in a better position than you may have been, in case things get worse.  And if things stay the same you won’t feel as financially stressed.

  1. Consider moving to a smaller house or apartment.   When your lease is up, evaluate whether it’s a good time to move to a smaller, less expensive space.  Your payments will be lower, allowing you to have more money at the end of the month.  At the same time, your electric bill and gas utility bills will be lower as well, since you are not having to cool or heat a large space.
  2. Give up the “hundreds of channels but nothing to watch” cable plan.  Cut out cable, or do it gradually by switching to a lower plan.  If you are on a one or two year contract that charges high penalties for leaving, here’s some good news.  I had one of those contracts too, but I called the company and found out the contract is to stay with them for the specified number of years, not stay on the same plan.  If you switch to a cheaper plan, you will not incur any penalty.  As long as you stick with them until the end of the contract term, even if you downgrade to the lowest plan, you won’t be charged the penalty for early out.  Talk to your cable or satellite provider and see what you can arrange.  Another thing you can do is negotiate a lower rate just by asking.
  3. Shop for a lower cell phone plan.  Once your contract ends, go month to month for a while and shop for a lower rate.
  4. Shop in your own closet before heading to the mall.  We recently went through all our stuff and found so many unused items and duplicates even though we try to be careful about that.
  5. Lower your food budget  Opt for cheaper cuts of meat, and buy produce in season.  Dust off the cookbooks and search for simple recipes that don’t need a lot of unusual ingredients.  Avoid waste in the kitchen.  Quit buying bottled water and use filtered tap water instead.
  6. Review all your insurance policies and find some discounts.  I recently got a renewal statement for our renter’s insurance and it was $200 higher than last year’s.  I called the agent to discuss ways to lower the premiums.  I opted for lowering some of the coverages and also found a few discounts.  The call resulted in a lower premium overall.
  7. Use less of your household and personal care products  I remember my grandfather used to use masking tape and a Sharpie to note the date he started using each item.  I didn’t understand it when I was a kid, but it to keep track of how long the item would last with normal usage, so he could adjust his habits accordingly.
  8. Stop using credit  It might be tempting to use credit to make ends meet, but charging up the cards only compounds the problem.  Your debt obligations will only increase, adding to your stress.  Instead, use cash for all your purchases and start lowering those balances.
  9. Choose free or low cost entertainment   We used to go to the movies at least once a month, but now that DVDs come out just three months or less after the movie originally came out, we just wait.   Now we have movie night, complete with popcorn, candy and snacks (bought on sale)  Read the community bulletin or paper for events such as school plays, events at the park such as Easter Egg hunts, etc. Having fun does not have to cost much, and for even more free fun, check #10.
  10. Get a library card.  I used to buy books all the time, but found they just add to the clutter once I’m done reading them.  Sell your used books and make some money.  The library also carries music and magazines.  Make the most out of your library visit by checking your book’s availability online first.  Most city or county libraries allow you to place a hold on a book, and they email you when the book is ready for pickup.
  11. Take less expensive vacations    Many frugal families splurge on the family vacation.  However, now is not the time to wipe out your savings for short term enjoyment.  It’s good to take a break – don’t forgo your vacation, but try something closer to home.  Consider camping and hiking – you get to experience nature, and learn a few skills at the same time.
  12. Make things last longer  Try to repair before you replace something, and find a way to repurpose your items.
  13. Let go of wasteful habits   Turn off appliances when not in use.  Guilty of this one – I have a bad habit of leaving the light in the closet on.  You don’t need to wash towels and sheets after just a couple of uses.  Unless you sweat heavily, you may not need to wash your hair everyday.  Combine your errands into one trip instead of spreading them out.  Stop eating out for lunch everyday and start bringing lunch from home.  These are only a few ideas to get started.  Don’t just do things because that’s how you’ve always done it.  Evaluate whether your hobbies are costing you way too much, and find more economical ways to get your materials.  Once you really think about your habits, you will find lots of ways to save.
  14. Find ways to lower your tax bill    There is no “one size fits all” advice for lessening the tax bite (legally of course), but we can all use a few tips.  See this article on how one couple manages their taxes
  15. Put the brakes on “lifestyle inflation”  If you are fortunate to get a nice raise this year, don’t increase your expenses in proportion to your income.  Put your new higher earnings to good use – pay off debt, add to your emergency fund or buy emergency supplies.

Do the above tips only if they make sense to you, and if they fit in with your overall lifestyle.  Keep up your prepping efforts, because they also help you in the long run.

 

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

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Don’t Toss them Out: 12 Uses for Fruit Peels

12 Uses for Fruit Peels

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

With the price of food so high these days, one of my goals is to avoid food waste, and have been finding interesting ways to grow vegetables from trash.  With spring comes a huge variety of fruit, which I enjoy, but I always feel bad about throwing out the peels.  So I started using them.  Consider these uses and you may never throw them out again.

 

Dried fruit peels

  1. Potpourri:  Dry or dehydrate orange, lemon, tangerine or grapefruit peels.  You can add them to prepared potpourri or make your own.  To dry them without a food dehydrator, follow these steps.
  2. Temporary seed starter:   This works for peels that are bowl shaped and sturdy such as avocado.  Slice the fruit in half, and after scooping out the inside fruit, fill with garden soil and plant your seeds.
  3. Shoe shiner:  Banana peels are great for this – just use the inside of the banana peels to shine your leather shoes.
  4. Marmalade:  Citrus peels are great for making marmalade.  (Note:  If you are going to use the peels for food, try to use organic fruit if you can.  Either way, always clean the peels thoroughly before using.)
  5. Air freshener:  There are a couple of ways to do this:  Cut up the lemon or orange peel into one inch pieces and run them through the garbage disposal.  I’ve done this for years and it does freshen up the garbage disposal and sink.  Or, take whatever citrus peels you have a boil for a few minutes.  The smell will freshen up your kitchen.
  6. Hand softener:  My dad actually taught me this trick:  After peeling a pineapple, rub the fruit side all over your hands and leave on for a few minutes before washing.   Your hands will feel really soft.  Pineapple has an enzyme called bromelain that has anti-inflammatory and cleansing properties.
  7. Sink scrubber:  After squeezing the juice out, I’ve used lemon and orange peel slices as sink or counter scrubbers.  The leftover juice is great for cleaning, and the pulpy part is great for removing grime.
  8. Insect repellant:  Release the orange oil but rubbing the outer part of the orange skin on your skin.  These oils repel mosquitoes and other flying insects.  (Test on a small area first to avoid irritation.)  Orange peels will also repel ants – just leave in areas infested by ants.
  9. Cat repellant:  To keep cats from digging up your garden, leave orange peels around – they don’t like the scent.
  10. Compost:  Fruit peels are great for compost.  If you don’t have space to have a compost pile, you can also cut up the peels and bury them around your garden.  The peels will decompose and supplement your soil.Lemon-vinegar cleaner
  11. Addition to natural cleaners:  Add lemon or orange peels to a jar and fill with vinegar.  Leave it alone for a week or two, strain and use as grease cutter or all-purpose cleaner.  Here is a good recipe for homemade cleaner.
  12. Tea flavoring:  Even after squeezing the juice out, you can use orange, lemon or grapefruit and a flavoring for teas.

© Apartment Prepper 2014