The 25% Solution: Live Better on Less

How would you like to make 25% more? Tax-free and without adding hours to your work-day? Well, I can’t magically make your paycheck bigger, but I can show you how to live on 75% of what you earn, how to live well, and how to save money without compromising your values or even your fun. The 25% you keep in the bank can grow and fund your dreams, help you sleep at night, or support the causes you love when you give it away.

I can show you because I’ve done it and I’m still doing it. At this point, I live on about 65% of my income. In a few years, when I make a radical change in my lifestyle to support a long-time dream, I’ll live on a smaller income and I’ll be ready to follow my dreams.

Join me in the 25% Solution.





Friday Frugal Challenge: Earn $10 Gift Card


So often the Friday Frugal Challenge involves reducing: cutting your spending, trying a tweak to lower your bills, substituting low-cost fun for premium expensive entertainment. This week, your challenge is to add something—a little cash.

Find a way this week to make some extra money. Here are a few suggestions:

*Cash in your coins. Find your local Coinstar machine at Coinstar , find that pile of coins in a cup on your dresser where you toss your loose change. Check the little cubbies in your car where you stash your coins from the drive-through. Comb the cushions. Empty your wallet. Take all your coins to the Coinstar and walk out with cash. Note: Coinstar takes a fairly hefty cut, but you will walk out with cash. (We actually get giftcards for our favorite stores or restaurants because Coinstar does not take out a fee for these giftcards.)

*Sell something. Got books? Need a loving home for them? It’s fairly easy and straightforward to sell them on Amazon. Here’s how.  (Go to the bottom of the page for information on selling just a few items.)  Alternately, find something to sell on Craigslist. You could always consign gently used clothing.

*Work a little harder. Put in some overtime at the 9 to 5, or earn a little extra cash. Check out Amazon Mechanical Turk for micro-projects to earn a little cash.

*Return for refund. The dress made your hips look like Mount Shasta. The shoes you bought your kid for Easter didn’t fit. You bought it but you never opened the box. Return it for a refund or a store credit.

And here’s the best idea of all:

*Earn a $10 Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts (your choice!) gift card by presenting the best idea for earning a little cash this week. Winner will be announced next Thursday, April 27.


Score du Jour: $10 for Life!



You can score admission to every national park for life…and it will only cost you $10! The catch? You must be 62 years old and you need to move quickly.

Check out the website for information on purchasing the pass. Prices will be going up soon, so act quickly! You can purchase the pass in person at any national park or online, but there is an additional $10 fee for processing online purchases.

Happy Savings!

Friday Frugal Challenge: Stop That Leak!

A slow leak will kill your house. It ruins your water bill and it wrecks your walls. It does it so slowly and stealthily that you hardly know what happened…but the damage is done.

I had some slow leaks in my budget, and I bet you do, too. Budget leaks are those small ongoing fees you’ve authorized over the years. Maybe you use them (in which case, they aren’t actually a leak) but more likely you don’t. It’s time to stop the leaking and plug up the budget holes!

My slow leak item was Amazon’s fabulous Kindle Unlimited program. Ten bucks a month, unlimited Kindle reading—such a deal! And it is, unless like me you are a graduate student with no time for fun reading, in which case it’s become a slow leak. Every month, ten bucks went out. Every month I realized I’d never finished the latest batch of borrowed books and cursed the fact that I have no time to do so.

Some other slow leak items? The magazine subscription you signed up to buy at the incredibly low price with the significantly higher renewal rate—time to cancel before you get socked with a bill. The geneology software you love but you aren’t using any more. The gym which is not a bad deal except that you only go once a week to sit in the sauna.

So what’s your budgetary slow leak? Take a few minutes to review and then plug water-pipe-880975_640

Score du Jour Advance Warning Edition: Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day



The only thing better than a Ben & Jerry’s cone is a free Ben & Jerry’s cone, and tomorrow’s the day!

Get a free cone from Ben & Jerry’s between noon and 8 p.m. The offer applies at your Ben & Jerry’s shop and doesn’t apply to ice cream purchased in the store. Plan to spend a little time scoring your free scoop, because this event is hugely popular.

Chill out and enjoy!



Toolbox: Checklists to Save $$ and Time

With at least two million things on my mind, I need to write stuff down. I used to scribble lists on envelopes, sticky notes, or my hand, but pre-printed checklists (saved in the computer and printed up as needed) give me peace of mind and save money.

Here are some pre-printed checklists to prepare and use:

*Pre-printed meal planner. You can download one from the internet or make your own.

*Pre-printed grocery list. There are things you buy every time you go to the store. Make a list of those things and print it when you need it.

*Travel planning worksheet. Mine has a place to list lodging price, airfare cost, and the cost of special activities.

*Travel prep list. I have an extensive packing list and my husband keeps a list of what must be done to prepare our pets, home, and cars for travel.

*Housekeeping lists. You can make a list of deep-cleaning projects you need to do only onc a year or so, a list of weekly cleaning tasks, chore assignment checklist if you’re sharing the chores with others, and checklists for specific rooms.


Where Time Meets Money: The Kitchen Version

I’ve noticed that in most choices in life, there’s a time vs. money component.  Sometimes that cost is in time, sometimes it is in money.

Cooking is that way. It’s more time efficient to swing by a drive-through for fried chicken than to make the chicken at home along with the side dishes. It’s quicker to toss the boxes than to wash dishes. However, you can make the chicken dinner cheaper at home and you will likely have leftovers, which brings the cost down even more. (I’m completely leaving out the health part of the equation here. Cooking at home opens up all kinds of opportunities for avoiding additives, portion control, and using fresh ingredients.)

This is where the time and money balancing act pays off: when you have time to save money. In my own life, I have little time these days. I’m working full-time, commuting roughly two hours a day, and I take classes at night. However, my weekends aren’t so packed in terms of scheduling.

The solution? Cooking on the weekends. This weekend I’m baking a chicken, which, with all the trimmings, will make a nice Sunday dinner. Afterward I’ll cook a chicken pie and my husband will make his delicious chicken salad. Our typical pattern is to “scrounge” during the week, which means to eat whatever we have on hand, because after nine hours at the office and two hours in the car I don’t feel like cooking and his kitchen prowess is limited to baked beans, fruit salad, and the aforementioned chicken salad.

Some other ideas for cooking on the weekend which will save you money while leaving time for relaxation and rest:

*Homemade soup or chili.

*A roast or stew.

*A giant salad, to which you can add meats and cheeses for a chef salad, feta cheese and olives to make it a Greek salad, or leftover steak or grilled chicken. You can also just package up some of the basic salad with a sandwich to make a healthy lunch.

*A casserole of some sort.

These are some things that work nicely to have on hand for those weeks when life is way too busy and the time side of the equation is way too short. By shopping sales you can make sure that the money side of the equation makes sense, too.

Bon appetit!


Friday Frugal Challenge: Dollar Bill Bucket Edition


So maybe you throw all your change into some kind of container and when it’s full, or when you remember, you roll that change to deposit it at the bank or maybe you go to the Coinstar machine. Maybe you use it for vacation money, or movie money, or it’s going toward beefing up your emergency fund while you prepare to unleash holy hell on your debt load.

Good job!

This week, use that principle of saving your leftover change but play with bigger stakes. When you have change in the form of a dollar bill, put it into your jar and save it. At the end of the week, use it for one of the purposes above. You could also put it aside as a starter for investing if you’re so inclined, put it toward your retirement fund or pad your kid’s education fund with it, or treat the cook to a pizza instead of going out to eat. Put it toward a special Saturday adventure. Or leave it there, keep it up next week, and see how it adds up over the course of the month.