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4 tips for making the most of your money

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life

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piggy.jpgFor years now — decades, really — I’ve challenged myself to make the most of my money. The ability to stretch a dollar or pinch a penny can mean the difference between feeling like we “have” and feeling like we “have not” when it comes to things like groceries and birthday presents for preschoolers’ parties; being the breadwinner makes the process easier in some instances (I know exactly how much money is coming in and going out) and harder in others (I know exactly how much money is coming in and going on).

I’ve found that, for my family, the most straight-forward and simple money-saving tricks work but, at some point, “just spend less money” or “cut out the things you don’t use” isn’t helpful advice. How do you spend less money when you’re spending it on essentials, like childcare when you work full time? What if you can’t cut out cable because you need to have high-speed internet access for your job?
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Thanksgiving leftovers? Here’s what to do with them

Categories: Frugal Living, cooking, do more with less

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It’s 9 p.m. The dishes are done. The kids are eying the extra pie, calling dibs on it for breakfast. The dog is looking longingly at the bones left on the table. And I’ve got about a metric ton of leftovers in the fridge and freezer.

What do you do with your Thanksgiving leftovers?

I think we all pretty much know what to do with what’s left of the turkey — use the carcass for soup, make a congee (a thin rice porridge), chop the meat into salad or stews, etc. (and if you need more inspiration, you can adapt some ideas from these suggestions for what to do with leftover roast chicken). Pies and Cakes equal breakfast the next day. But what about the rest of those Thanksgiving leftovers? The green beans? The mashed potatoes? The stuffing?

The internet is vast, so you can find the recipes that suit your family best. But here are a few great ideas:
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Are you teaching your kids to cook?

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, Parenting, cooking

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With the focus on childhood obesity and the emphasis on healthy eating, it only makes sense to include your kids when it comes to planning out their meals. But, as all busy parents know, working through a recipe with a tiny helper can make the meal take twice as long (or longer) to prepare—that’s a difficult trade-off when you’re dealing with the witching hour.

A recent article in The New York Times suggested that bringing back home economics classes might be the key to controlling our nation’s obesity epidemic. And I think that’s a great idea.
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How to cook a holiday ham (wasn’t there one at the first Thanksgiving?)

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, Uncategorized, cooking

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My youngest brother talked me into making a holiday ham for a recent family brunch, and while I groused about the extra work, it was mostly for effect. I was quite happy to “have” to make one.

(How did he talk me into it? By telling me that his newly minted 1-year-old loves the stuff. I pretty much agreed immediately. I’m a pushover that way.)

This same brother is the only one in my immediate family who actually likes turkey, so we’ve always had a ham on the Thanksgiving table as well as a small, token bird for him. But I’ve been known to make a full-on holiday ham for no particular reason, not just for a celebratory feast, because it is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to feed a crowd — even if the crowd is made up of people who happen to be living at my house at the time.

Cooking a ham may seem intimidating if you haven’t tackled one before. Here’s what to look for at the store, how to cook it, why it works for a busy working mom, and what to do with all those leftovers.
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How office supplies can save the day

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, The Juggle, Uncategorized, do more with less

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A couple of years ago, I hemmed a pair of pants while I was at the office –  while I was wearing them. I am proud to say that did not accidentally sew my cuff to my sock (don’t laugh, I’ve done it before) (oh, fine, go ahead and laugh, it’s funny), and I still think it was an example of one of my finer moments in multitasking.

I happened to have planned ahead that time, and brought a small sewing kit to work with me. But how often do I happen to have a sewing kit when a clothing conundrum strikes at work? Almost never, that’s how often.

So, in general, it’s office supplies to the rescue for me. Here are five ways that the stuff in your desk drawer can save the day – and you don’t have to be MacGyver to make it happen.
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Getting rid of all the candy (without eating it or bringing it to work)

Categories: Frugal Living, Parenting, The Juggle, do more with less

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The costumes have been put away (or, at my house, tossed on the floor because everyone wants to play dress-up later). The pumpkins are still sitting on the front step, faces mostly removed, masquerading as “Harvest Decorations” — in spite of the fact that I don’t decorate (sorry, Martha Stewart). The only trace of Halloween in my house right now, a mere two days after the big night, is the 4,000 or so pounds candy that’s sitting in my kitchen.

My kids, they scored.

My husband has been steadily chipping away at the mountain of Almond Joys, and my 4-year-old has told us in no uncertain terms that the Kit Kats are “the very best treats EVER” and that he will be VERY SAD if they disappear. My 6-year-old is fond of fruity, gummy, chewy things. But everything else? Fair game.

Aside from bringing it all into the office — which I’ve done before, along with everyone else who works there, and it is not a pretty sight — here are five tricks for using up all of those Halloween treats:
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’tis the (cold and flu) season. Here are 5 natural ways to cope

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, Uncategorized, do more with less

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A confession: I snore. Like a lumberjack. So much so that my husband keeps a flat speaker under his pillow, permanently tuned to NPR. And when I am sick, it gets much, much worse.

How bad does a sinus infection have to be for someone who has a fear of getting water up her nose to consider flushing out her sinus cavities with lukewarm saline? And then actually do it?

This bad, apparently.
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Reduce, reuse, recycle — really

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, Making Time, Uncategorized, do more with less

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I had a housework-related epiphany of sorts the other day, and realised two things:

1.) My well-documented tendency to clutter isn’t about hording but about time management. A gut-wrenching first-person story about hoarding, written by my friend and former colleague Mike Rosenwald for the Washington Post Magazine, made this clear to me: It’s not that I can’t bear to part with things, or feel a need to own multiples of things, but that I feel like I don’t have time to sort through it all and so I save it until such time that I do. And, let’s face it: All working moms know that huge chunk of free time isn’t coming soon, no matter what the researchers say. So I might as well get to it.

2.) The biggest thing preventing me from clearing out the clutter was the fact that our storage areas are already full of stuff I probably don’t need to keep anymore. And I need to empty them out before my husband has a cleaning tantrum and does it for me.
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Kids birthday party gifts: What’s your favorite thing to give?

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, Parenting, Uncategorized

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The birthday party cycle is starting up again, and my social-butterfly children are raring to go to each and every celebration to which they are invited. Their birthdays are in the fall, and one thing that struck me after their parties were over was that I had been slacking in the gift department. So now, I’m a little nervous. And, frankly, so is my budget.

When did kids’ gifts get so expensive?
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On mixing money and marriage

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, Uncategorized, do more with less

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My husband and I have never merged our money. It doesn’t make sense for our blended family to also have blended finances, so in order to keep our assets and financial obligations and liabilities separate, we keep our financial accounts separate as well.

According to many marital and financial advisers, this is a recipe for disaster. “If you are keeping two separate accounts, then I seriously want you to reconsider the vows that you took with your spouse,” writes Erik Folgate at Money Crashers. “You stood up at the altar to show that you are dedicated to becoming one cohesive unit that functions together.”

But some financial experts have found that keeping separate accounts is becoming more common: people are marrying (or remarrying) later in life, they point out, and more women are outearning their husbands. And with credit scores having become so important, it makes sense for each spouse to build and maintain a credit record in his or her own name.

All I know is: It works for us.


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