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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.

 

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Friday Frugal Challenge: Rubber Chicken Edition

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Back in the day, people enjoyed “the rubber chicken”—the way that frugal housewives of the 1950’s stretched a roasted chicken into three meals. The first meal was usually The Sunday Dinner—chicken with stuffing and all the trimmings. The second meal was a casserole of some sort, and the third meal was soup made from the chicken bones and any leftover meat.

Your challenge this week: Revisit the Rubber Chicken.

Start with a whole chicken and prepare it first as a roasted chicken. Enjoy the meat and pick the extra off the bones. A day or so later, use the extra chicken for a second meal: make it into taco meat, eat chicken salad sandwiches, stir in sweet-and-sour sauce, serve it in gravy over rice, whatever. Finally, make chicken soup using the bones and any leftover meat.

Not a big fan of chicken? Pretty much any meat you can roast can become rubber. Make a pot roast then use the leftover meat for enchiladas, ending up with a rich French onion soup made from the bones. Try a pork butt roast and use the leftover meat for pulled pork barbecue. The bones make a hearty broth that goes great with tomatoes or winter root vegetables.

Have you ever done a rubber chicken before? Tell me how your rubber week turns out!

Friday Frugal Challenge: H2O =C.A.S.H.

Nothing in life is free, but tap water is pretty close. This week’s challenge requires nothing more than a twist of the wrist and a second hand to hold the glass underneath the tap.

Your challenge this week? Drink water. Tap water’s fine (unless you live in Flint, Michigan), and if you really want to get fancy about it you can cut up lemons or infuse the water with other fruit. Drink water instead of cola, energy drinks, or juice this week. You’ll save money by drinking water and you’ll also cut down on the weird additives you take into your body. Find the water cooler at work and use it this week instead of feeding your hard-earned coins into the soda machine.

Extend the challenge by using that plain tap water to make your own coffee or tea instead of buying it in a Styrofoam cup or a bottle at the convenience store. Ka-ching! Money in your pocket instead of someone else’s cash register.

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Lose the Flab, Keep Your Cash: Dieting the Frugal Way

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What do you do when the excess weight finds your hips or belly again? You know you need to diet, but you’re also committed to frugality, and so many diet plans require expensive special food, regular fees for weigh-in or counseling, or supplements. Losing weight doesn’t have to mean that you spend a lot of money, though. Here’s how to lose weight without adding fat to your budget.

*Consider a real-food diet. To save money while you lose weight, find a diet plan that lets you use “real food”—vegetables, lean meats, fruits, whole grains—rather than processed, packaged special “diet foods.” You’ll save money by shopping at the grocery store instead of paying high prices for special food. Real-food diet plans include Weight Watchers and Atkins among other choices.

*Watch the treats. When I was on the Atkins Diet, I looked forward to my low-carb candy bar each day as a special reward. Those candy bars were expensive, though! I’d still spend money on the candy bars because they kept my motivation high, but these days I’d avoid the protein shakes, special low-carb energy drinks, low-carb baking mixes, and many of the other specialized low-carb products. I’ve done calorie-counting diets, too, and I can attest that there are many low-fat/low-calorie choices that I’d pass up in favor of real food.

*Exercise. No matter which diet plan you choose, exercise is your ace in the hole. It’s also relatively cheap. You can walk, play with your dog, join a low-fee gym, lift weights in your own home. You don’t need to spend big bucks to get your glow on, and exercising will jump-start your weight loss and keep it coming.

*Be kind to yourself. As the weight comes off, reward yourself frugally by treating yourself to some new clothes (purchased using your best frugal strategies, of course!), tea or coffee with a good friend, a long afternoon to read a good book, or a hike in the cool autumn air.

*Have a strategy for when (not if!) you have a bad day. Let’s face it, changing the way you eat is hard. You feel deprived. You might be hungry. Your body image has taken a hit on the way to admitting that you need to lose weight. You get bored with your diet foods. Maybe (gasp! Probably) you mess up and blow your diet. Don’t beat yourself up. Give yourself the gift of grace and kindness when you mess up, and plan to resume your diet right away.

Losing the excess flab doesn’t mean padding your budget. What low-impact diet strategies have you found that have a high impact on your weight loss?

Frugal Friday Challenge Update: Disaster Planning

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I’m happy to report that the Frugal Friday Challenge worked out well for us! For one thing, everyone I love who was in the path of the storm came through better than expected. Our disaster plan served us well. We lost power for about 36 hours, but we had a generator on tap and didn’t lose our frozen food. All in all, we dodged a bullet—but there was peace of mind knowing that we had a plan and working that plan.

How is your disaster planning coming along?

Friday Frugal Challenge: Disaster Planning

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Today’s challenge depends on where you live. (In fact, the Friday Frugal Challenge is up early because by tomorrow we’re likely to be experiencing hurricane conditions, including power outage.)

If you live on the east coast of Florida, your Friday Frugal Challenge is to be safe—take no chances, keep your family close, and stay safe.

For everyone else, your frugal challenge involves putting together a disaster plan. Take these steps to complete your plan:

*Consider your location and the threats that may affect you. A Chicago resident doesn’t need to prep for hurricanes the way we do in Florida, but needs to consider the danger of powerful tornadoes.

*Review your insurance. Know what your policy covers and what deductible you must meet. If you have questions, contact your insurance company now—while there’s no threat—for answers.

*Make a list of what you would need in the event of a disaster. Consult online sources for more information.

*Buy your supplies and earmark a safe spot for them.

*Secure important paperwork.

*Make a detailed “to-do” list for preparation in the event of an impending disaster. What’s your evacuation plan? How will family members keep in contact?

*Stock up on supplies. Here in Florida, we need flashlights and batteries, propane or charcoal for cooking outside after the storm and before the power returns, a battery-operated radio, canned food, and bottled water. The best time to shop for these items is well in advance of a tropical storm!

*Consider long-term needs. How will you cope with losing electricity for long periods of time? What resources are available to you if you can’t live in your home for an extended period?

*Talk to your nearest-and-dearest about your worries, your fears, your hopes, and your plans.

Are you ready for a disaster? This week is a great time to prepare! (Unless, of course, you’re in eastern Florida, when the time to prepare was yesterday.)

Friday Frugal Challenge: Brown Bag Edition

You know that sucking sound you hear every day around noon? No? I’m talking about spending money to eat out for lunch. If you buy your lunch all the time, or even some of the time, you need today’s Frugal Friday Challenge.

This week, brown-bag your lunch. (Or use a spiffy lunch bag, get all cute and fancy if you wish!) The important thing is to bring something from home to eat at work so you don’t go out to buy lunch. Even a fast-food combo will set you back $5-$7, and eating at a sit-down spot will cost even more. So pack your sandwich or give your coworkers a bad case of envy when you bring a sample of what you ate last night.

What will you pack for lunch?

 

 

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25% Toolbox: Your Local Library

old-books-436498_640Today’s toolbox features a celebrity in your own town: the library.

If you’re frugal, you know what the library offers: free DVDs, endless books, education, and entertainment. But did you know that you can research your family tree and learn a language at the library? I spoke with Catherine McElrath, Publication Specialist for the Broward County Public Library, about some surprising services offered by many libraries.

*Rosetta Stone. Want to use the gold-standard system for learning another language without paying the premium price? Check the library.

*Makerspaces. Does your library have a 3-D printer? Want to learn more about what a 3-D printer can do? Check out this article .

*Free resume coaching. Your library can connect you with resources to help you write, polish, and perfect your resume.

*Free education. Catherine notes that the libraries offer free online classes “In everything from Excel to meditation to anger management to flower arranging.”

*Auto repair resources. Access ChiltonLibrary for information on car care and repair.

*Prepare for your citizenship test. Your local library may have resources to help you ace that test!

*Genealogy research. My local library has Ancestry.com and the LDS Family Search among other resources.

You can access many of these resources online without even going into the brick-and-mortar building…but then you’d miss out on the ink-and-paper books. Check out your library for free resources to make 25% living even richer.