Friday Frugal Challenge: Where’s The Beef?

Last week’s Frugal Challenge, which involved eating ourselves out of house and home by not shopping for groceries, went swimmingly.  How did it go for you? Next time I do this, I’ll amend the challenge so that fresh produce and dairy can be included, but overall it went well at the Rusk house. How did it work for you?

This week’s challenge is a simple one (but perhaps not easy? There is a difference.) Meat is a big-ticket item, and some say we eat way too much of it. Your challenge this week: Eat one meatless meal per day.

Ready? Bon appétit!



Entrepreneur Spotlight: Social Media Sales with Rebecca Dixon


Today marks the debut of Entrepreneur Spotlight, where we focus on people who are making it work as a small business owner. They’ll tell us why they got into their line of work, how they got started, how they market their product or service, and provide insight into the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of their life without a boss.

Rebecca Dixon needed to work, but she needed the right kind of work. In the dark days of her mother’s terminal illness, Rebecca considered ways to help her family financially while honoring her commitments to her mom and to her husband and two children. Enter Younique Products, via a friend who was doing well selling cosmetics through the company. Rebecca felt an immediate interest, as she loves makeup and wanted to help others look and feel their best.

Getting started was straightforward: Younique charges $99.00 and provides training using videos. Rebecca found the marketing guidance provided by the company to be extremely helpful. “There are steps along the way to getting promoted,” Rebecca notes, “And there’s a guide that shows you how to promote and the steps you need to take.”  The company designed its system to enable presenters to work from home, and training is available whenever and wherever the new business owner can do it. Rebecca found this open-door approach to be extremely helpful, as she can honor her commitments to family while flexing her entrepreneurial muscles.

At this point, Rebecca does all her marketing using social media. She has a website, , and promotes her products heavily using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. She’s preparing to branch out in her marketing efforts, however. “I’m starting to do a Farmer’s Market, and I could do in-home parties.” Rebecca has had excellent results with her marketing strategy so far and, like all smart business-owners, continues to tinker with the process.

Update: Friday Frugal Challenge: How’re We Doing?


The Friday Frugal Challenge: To eat ourselves out of house and home by making meals only from what we have on hand without any grocery shopping. How’re we doing?

In general, pretty well!

We entered the week with a tail-wind helping us along as we finished up the leftovers of a turkey. Since then, I’ve raided the freezer and done some pantry-grazing. This challenge looks like a very doable challenge for my household. How about yours?

My husband’s anguish over not purchasing snacks was alleviated by a batch of homemade Tollhouse cookies (yep, we had it all on hand!) We did buy milk, which makes me think that this challenge might be best tweaked to include permissable purchases of perishable foods.

How’s your Friday Frugal Challenge going as the week unfolds?



19 Free Things You Can Do Today

It’s Sunday and you’re bored. Or maybe it’s Sunday and you’ve got a million things you should be doing, but it’s Sunday and you’ve got six days a week to do your to-do list. Settle in, relax, and check out these ideas for free Sunday entertainment:

Go for a picnic in the park. Take food, someone special, and a nice big blanket to spread.

Take your dog on an adventure. And if your dog is like my dog, pretty much anything outside the front door is an adventure!

malinois-794408_640Set up a scavenger hunt. You don’t have to do it, just plan it elaborately and in great detail.

Do a puzzle online.

Have friends over for dinner—everyone brings something.

Read a book.

Write a poem.

Sit on the porch and drink lemonade.

Play with your kids. Making forts out of cushions is always fun.

If you don’t have kids, borrow some. See above.

Cook something you never tried before using only ingredients you have on hand. Bonus points if you can eat it afterward.

Take a nap. Everyone needs a nap.

Take a nice hot bath, complete with scented candles if that’s your thing.

Watch a DVD you checked out from the library. If you really want to go to town with this, check out several DVDs in a series or with a common theme and do a movie binge.

Have a cup of tea and some cookies, served on your very nicest tableware.

Do an act of random kindness for someone you have never met.

Call your grandma for no reason at all.

Write an old-fashioned letter to a loved one and mail it, too.

Elaborately and in great detail plan your imaginary fantasy vacation. Imagine no budget limits: where would you go, what would you do? Get really specific, down to the itinerary.

Bonus Free Thing You Can Do Today: Think up some ideas for free things to do that I missed and post them in the comments!

Friday Frugal Challenge 1: Eating Ourselves Out of House and Home

Today is the first Friday Frugal Challenge on 25 Percent Solution. Starting each Friday, I’ll test-drive a frugal habit or practice for a week and report on how it goes as the week proceeds.

Today’s frugal habit: Eating ourselves out of house and home.

We have a lot of food on hand. I bet you do, too. Without meaning to, we’ve accumulated boxes and bags and frozen stuff, so this week we won’t spend any money at the grocery store. We’ll eat only what we have on hand and we won’t buy new food, not even snack food (that long, mournful howl was my husband as he realized that we won’t be buying potato chips or cookies this week.)

Join us for the Friday Frugal Challenge.  I’d love to hear how it goes for you!



25% Tool Box: I’ve Got a Little List…



Your 25% Toolbox consists of tips and tools to help you save money and live gloriously. Today’s tool requires nothing more than your brain and the writing implement of your choice. You can even dictate it and send it to your own email if you want to get all fancy with it.

The humble list is nothing short of powerful. Your list keeps you on track. Your list is expandable and can be checked off to show your progress and motivate you to continue. Your list tells you where you want to be and helps you get there.

Here are some lists that will save you money and make your life better.

Budget. There are many good budget tools out there, or you can make your own. My husband designed a snazzy Excel spreadsheet with color coding and categories that actually describe the way we live. (Yes, “travel expense” is on there!) Our budget is the frontline weapon in terms of living the 25% Solution. We refer to it at least weekly and sometimes more frequently.

Menu List. Deciding what you will eat for the week helps you to make your grocery list, but even more importantly, it helps you to live a more serene life. If I know that Wednesday night will be a busy evening because I have a meeting scheduled at 7 p.m., I also know that’s not the night for serious cooking. Wednesday nights like that are the whole point of having a slow cooker. I feel much calmer knowing I won’t be standing in front of the fridge, blinking at my food and wondering how I can possibly combine mustard, two onions, and an egg into dinner.

Grocery List. This is Menu List’s twin brother. You’ll make your shopping list after you plan your menus for the week (preferably you’ve planned your menus around the store’s loss leaders, but that’s a topic for another day.) This list is also a serenity tool: it keeps you on track, saves you big bucks, prevents you from making impulse buys that cost you, and ensures that you don’t forget that one essential item you can’t do without. Being conscientious with this list means you won’t be cruising the grocery store aimlessly, adding items willy-nilly to your cart in the hopes of somehow constructing 21 freaking meals a week!

Goals List. This one is my favorite. You can have a Goals List for a project, for a deeply held desire, for your dreams. The key: start at the goal. I like to write my goal as though it has already happened: “I have finished a Masters degree in counseling without incurring student loan debt.” What do I have to do to make that happen? Well, realistically, I need to put money aside each pay period to pay for my next semester’s tuition and books. I need to complete the required courses and internships. My goals list includes a list of the courses I must take as well as the financial steps I need to follow to graduate debt-free.

Your goals list will be deeply personal and will ultimately reflect your deeply held beliefs. Not every goals-list will be rich in meaning, but every goal that’s worth committing to writing says something about you and your priorities.

Now go make your own list!

Score du Jour: How Social Media Melt-Down Got Us a Luxury Hotel Room for Cheap


The luxury hotel on Bourbon Street was in the middle of a social media disaster. Remodeling wasn’t going so well, and the rants vastly overwhelmed the raves in the reviews.

At T-minus six months to our New Orleans vacation trip, Favorite Sister and I were scouring the Interwebs for lodging that wouldn’t break the bank. We read the poor reviews and initially decided not to take a chance…until the hotel posted a deal we couldn’t refuse. (No horse’s head under the cover…wrong movie, ace.)

For $125 per night, we could stay in this fine luxury soon-to-be remodeled hotel right smack on Bourbon Street. This was a steep discount from their regular room rate (don’t get me started on the rack rate–I just don’t pay that.)   Amortized between two people, this price allowed us to stay in pampered comfort right in the heart of the action for $63 a night. Deal!

Fast-forward six months. The remodeling is just a bad memory that gives some poor manager the sweats when she has flashbacks to last winter. Rave reviews abound. And we will be landing in New Orleans in four days, economizing with airport shuttles instead of renting a car since, you know, we’re RIGHT ON BOURBON STREET!

Sure, it’s a risk. I wouldn’t stay anywhere with chronically horrible ratings. A luxury hotel with a reputation to risk? That was worth the gamble.

So how have you used social media to score an outrageous deal?