Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Great Magazine for Toddlers!

Two years ago for Patrick's birthday, Chip's sister asked if he would like a particular magazine subscription about animals for a gift. Since he was quite fond of animals, it seemed to be a great gift. We had no idea how much he would love it! Needless to say, it has been renewed! So now I present it to you as What Works for Patrick!

Wild Animal Baby magazine, published by the National Wildlife Federation is a magazine that arrives at our home for Patrick 10 times a year. Although the price of $19.95 seems a little steep for the number of issues initially, I can attest to the fact that it is a GREAT way to spend $20.00!

Every time a new one arrives, Patrick is so very excited. It hosts a number of vivid photos, talks aobut animals' habitats or habits, is great for animal recognition for little ones, and even educates us as parents on some more unusual creatures. In addition to any new issues, he frequetnly revisits previous issues and is curretnly obsessed with Daisy the Deer and Grady the Grizzly issues.
I would highly recommend this as a gift to any child. It's fun, it's educational, and 10 times a year, it is loads of brand new fun. That's what works for us! Now go over to Rocks in My Dryer and see what works for everyone else!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Kids Birthdays?

I am currently working on putting together my son's birthday party (he'll be three next week!). Since he's a huge Thomas fan, we're going with a train theme (although not necessarily a Thomas theme). I've been searching all over the internet for tips/tricks/hints at having a low-cost birthday party for him, but I'm going to open the comment section for suggestions.

What's the best way to save $$ for child's birthday party?
What are some tips that you have used before to save $$?
Lunch or no lunch, that is the question...

Any ideas you can offer would be much appreciated. When all is said and done, I'll post an update on how we fared.
Photo credit: nazreth

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ooey, Gooey, Chocolatey Goodness

I have never posted recipes, because I am no Julia Child, but I'm having company tonight, and one of my friends requested a particular dessert that is wonderfully good and enough to send you into a diabetic coma (he actually is diabetic and I've requested that he bring insulin just in case!). It has no name that I know of, as it was passed along to me via word of mouth, but I got the ingredients for super cheap and its super yummy, so it's today's Works for Me Wednesday. And I'm naming it after the thoughts I have when I eat it.

don't normally

Ooey, Gooey, Chocolatey Goodness
  • 2 Packages of Family Size Brownie Mix (you know, the 9 x 13 pan size) - Any brand
  • 3 Extra Large Hershey's Symphony Bars (Original with caramel & nuts or just chocolate - your preference)
  • powdered sugar as needed
  • Stuff to make the brownies via package directions (typically eggs, water, oil, etc)
This is really, really simple, so don't think you're missing something when you finish reading...
Preheat oven according to package directions. Spray 9 x 13 casserole dish according to package instructions Mix up two packages of brownies (you can do them together or separately) using box directions (you know, oil, water, egg, etc). Pour one box's worth of mix into the casserole dish and spread evenly. Add three whole Symphony bars across the mix. Top with additional box's worth of mix and spread evenly. Cook longer than box's instructions*. Allow to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar as desired. Cut, serve with a tall glass of milk and melt in its yummy goodness.
That's it.
*As for the cook time, I can't be specific because your brand of brownies may be different than mine, but on average instead of the 30 minutes it tells you on the box, it takes about 45-50. Of course you can't test to see if its done because it WILL be gooey in the middle. Just trust your instinct to tell if the brownies on top and bottom look like brownies typically do coming out of the oven.
Now, here's why it's a bonus this can get the items for SERIOUSLY cheap this week!
I had two coupons for $0.50 off Betty Crocker Supreme Brownies Mix. They are on sale at our Kroger for 2/$4 this week. Since Kroger doubles coupons, this knocked them down to 2/$2 or $1.00/box.
BUT THAT'S NOT ALL (in my best infomercial voice). Shortcuts also has a coupon for $0.60/2 that you can load onto your Kroger card, making them $0.70 each!
BUT THAT'S NOT ALL (in my best infomercial voice again). CVS has a few October monthly ExtraBucks deals that are already working. One of those is Buy 2 Hershey's XL candy bars and get 1 ECB. The Symphony bars are on sale there for $0.99 each. I bought 4 of them (the recipe only requires 3, so we'll take one for the team) and the total rang up to $3.96 (plus tax) with 2 ECBs. That's basically$0.49 each!
The powdered sugar, eggs, oil, and water you should have already.
That makes for a total of $3.00 in items I had to purchase yesterday and chocolate bliss for dessert. Yippee! And even if you don't have the brownie mix coupons, that means that they are still only $5.00 out of pocket. It doesn't just Work for seems to work for a lot of my guests as well! Go check out Rocks in My Dryer to see what works for other people too!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Laundry Frustrations

Okay, so today's installment of Works for Me Wednesday doesn't really work for me because my family is not at a stage to implement this yet. However, it does work for a friend of my mom's, so since it works for SOMEONE (and hopefully me someday), I am recommending it to you.

My mom's friend was constantly frustrated with her three children. The three of them, ages approximately 9-13, were always haphazardly discarding their clothes in the laundry basket (at least they were using the basket). She found that doing laundry for 5 people when half of the items were either completely or partially inside out what causing her heartache and a lot of time. She was always forced to turn them the right way before folding them and was sick of it.

Enter the solution. She informed them that not only would they begin folding their own clothes, but she would no longer change the orientation of these clothes before washing or drying them. Therefore, if a pair of pants went into the pile with one leg inside out and the other right-side-in, it would be washed, dried, and returned to them in the same state. This means more wrinkles (which she would not iron), less evenly washed clothes, and more headache for the kids who were to fold them.

She says that it worked like a charm. No more pockets hanging out. No more mom worrying about getting bubble gum out of the pockets (they had to deal with it themselves), no more endless folding.

It worked for her! To find out what worked for some others, head over to Works for Me Wednesday over at Rocks in My Dryer. You're bound to find some awesome tips from across the web. Come on...I'm heading over there now!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cheap Living for Broke College Students - Part 3

Today we’re wrapping up our Cheap Living for Broke College Students series after talking about transportation and appearances as well as about entertainment. Okay, lets move on to some of the actual school-related costs.

Books are a big deal. Seriously. If you’ve only ever bought books for your reading enjoyment, you’re going to be in for a huge shock when you have to pay for a textbook. Seriously…they aren’t cheap.

The cheapest way to get your textbooks is an awesome site called Textbook Revolt. It is a textbook swapping site for college students across the country. List what you want to give away, list what you want to receive and your only cost is that of the shipping (use Media Mail for the best rate). It’s a growing site, so not everyone can use it yet, but it is certainly worth checking into! Of course, this only really works if you have some to trade, so how do you get them as cheaply as possibly otherwise?

Try Amazon, eBay, or for textbooks. Seriously cheaper prices.

For both of the above methods, make sure you are looking at the correct revision that is called for in your class syllabus.

To get the most back for your books, look at selling them to a friend or even a complete stranger (which I’ve explained how to do before). You’ll get more for it than the bookstore offers and they will get it for cheaper than buying from store. Plus no shipping charges. Win-win, right? If this fails, you can sell it yourself via eBay or

Am I going to tell you how to study cheap? No…I’m telling you that studying can make college cheaper. How, you ask? Well, I will tell you…

Studying will eat up time that you might be tempted to spend money. And with certain classes, studying can eat up a LOT of time. Also, the more you study = less time in college = less tuition. =) And if you get really good at it, you might can apply for scholarships offered throughout the school through the financial aid department or through your department/college. Lastly, getting good grades can often lower your auto insurance rates. Check with your provider to see if getting good grades can help you out in this way. And when you get out of college, some car dealers offer lower financing to college grads with good grades. All around, studying can certainly be a huge money-saver.

Other costs
Many schools now offer free Wi-Fi across campus, so take advantage of free internet access. Even before free Wi-Fi, we had free access to a number of public computer labs across campus…several open 24 hours a day for all of your surfing needs (I didn’t even own a computer during college due to this…and remember, I have been in college during this very decade, so it is doable).

Sign up for a free checking/savings account that has free internet banking attached. Keep track of your spending daily in order to see where your money is going and how to better control your spending.

Phone service can be acquired cheap (VOIP) or free (Skype) in order to keep track of your buddies that are attending other schools as well as home.

If you school offers a university clinic, like many schools do, you can often get your healthcare for free and/or prescriptions filled for a fraction of the cost of a standard pharmacy. Be sure to check them out.

Childcare may come easy as well. My school had free childcare for the employees and students via the early childhood development department. Yep, you can have free daycare while you are in class while future teachers get to practice on your darling. It’s not as scary as it sounds.

So, although you are currently a broke college student, you don’t have to be as broke as some of your friends. These money-saving techniques can be altered to fit most anyone’s college experience. Keep your nose to the grindstone and your cash in your pocket and when you are raking in the “big money” after graduation, you will know how to wisely save it when you invest in that first mortgage!

Photo credit: cpt.spock & tuxthepenguin84

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cheap Living for Broke College Students - Part 2

Welcome travelers arriving from the Money Hacks Carnival #29: Food Heaven over at Living Almost Large. Thanks for stopping by and feel free to peruse about. If you like what you see, you can subscribe via reader or email over in the top portion of the right margin. You are encouraged to comment on anything you find here.

As a continuation of my Cheap Living for Broke College Students series, today I will discuss entertainment on the cheap. Click here to see how to save money on transportation and appearances and tune in tomorrow for tips for saving money on school itself.

Students just want to have fun, right? Well, you can still have fun without putting yourself in a huge red hole and college towns have more opportunities for cheap fun than other cities. Many places such as theaters, bowling alleys, golf courses, state parks, and restaurants have student discount rates, so always have your student ID on hand for such situation.

You can always attend pep rallies or some sporting events for free (baseball was a nice free place to catch some rays and hang out for us…not to mention check out baseball players). Even if you have to pay for the event, the student price should be much cheaper than the standard fan cost.

Take advantages of the various artistic programs that your school offers. You can often check out plays, art showings, or symphonies put on by the school for cheap or free because the participants are not (yet) professionals! You also have opportunities to see professional concerts and such for cheap or free due to the fact that you’re at a university and they often perform at such venues.

And although you might be able to get a student discount at your local cinema, check out student body organizations for things such as free movie nights. We had those and they were always showing some popular movie that was somewhere between theater release and video release (kinda’ in that pay-per-view stage). Free fun. Bring your own popcorn and sodas.

Speaking of entertainment, the word “party” is often synonymous with college. However, there are some ways to keep this cheap as well. For instance, save it for special occasions and celebrate with more than food or booze, such as music you already own, a Wii party, and socialization. If you want to go out for drinks, find a “ladies’ night” or something similar with discounts during certain hours…and then stop drinking once that time frame is over.

College is also an inexpensive way to check out up-and-coming superstar bands or just loving-being-a-college-band groups on the cheap. Many a band have gotten their start as college locals and students were able to enjoy the same talent on the cheap in the early days.

Or…now hang with me here…avoid smoking and drinking altogether. Many people are on-board for avoiding smoking due to health hazards…but it’s terribly expensive as well. However, drinking also can be quite costly as well as detrimental to your health and safety. Be smart and have a good time without drinking. Go to the party, hang out with your friends and then be the designated driver. Everyone gets home safe, you have a good time with friends, and you increase your chances of being invited so you can drive them! =)

There are plenty of ways to feed hobbies (or start new ones!) while in school. Many schools offer free access to student facility game rooms, gyms, and aquatic centers. And if you love athletics (or just being around your friends and having fun), look into intramural sports. I played football in college. Yep, me. I was on a coed team of flag-football-playing engineers. We were (not) awesome, but we had a wonderful time.

There are numerous organizations to join in order to volunteer your time or work for a cause you believe in. Not only does this provide a cheap means to spend time doing something you love, it will likely look good on your resume as volunteer work and bonus points if you can apply it to your desired professional field.

And although it is not free, you could also consider signing up for classes for your interests, such as theater, orchestra, art, golf, tennis, Tae Kwando or a variety of interesting classes like pottery, gardening, or even flower-arranging (yes, I’m serious). Although these are not free, most degrees require a certain number of electives, so you might as well enjoy these classes while you are working toward that degree.

And as far as class credits, why not spend some money for class credit and a chance of a lifetime and study abroad for a summer. It’s not exactly cheap, but it may be your only opportunity to go backpacking in Europe (regardless of your plans for yourself after graduation) or learn about Greek history in Greece--and regardless of the cost, you will not be able to do it for cheaper when you are out of school (plus you have to plan around a schedule that you’ll come to know as WORK).

So that's enough for today. Soak it all in and come back tomorrow to wrap this series up!

Photo credit: tuxthepenguin84 & Carolina Hornig

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cheap Living for Broke College Students - Part 1

If you are visiting via the 142nd Festival of Frugality over at Frugal Babe, I invite you to make yourself comfortable around here and let me know what you think. If you like what you see, you can always subscribe via reader or email in the top right margain. Enjoy your stay!

“Broke College Student,” although cliché, is not all that inaccurate for most people who attend college. Finding themselves for the first time at a place where they are not (fully at least) supported by their parents, students have a huge opportunity to set the pace for the rest of their lives in so many aspects, including their financial decisions. Although some people take college as an opportunity to be free to do as they please and make the big mistakes, it can be the prime time to learn how to live smartly. Here are some ways (aside from the obvious cost of tuition) to save money as a struggling college student, depending not-so-much on mom and dad to bail you out of financial woes.

The best way to save money and fight that dreaded Freshman Fifteen (or Sophomore or whatever) is to walk or bicycle to class. If you live on campus of a school that isn’t too scattered throughout a city, this is an excellent way to save money on car maintenance and gasoline. It has a lot of health incentives as well as gives you a nice breather after a stressful class that you don’t get while fighting traffic jams.

The next best option is public/university transportation. The school I attended had a transit system composed of 30-passenger mini-buses free for use for students. They made a series of stops throughout campus as well as at some of the off-campus apartment complexes that were concentrated with students. Although you aren’t being quite as green as walking or biking here, you are saving as much money for your personal transportation.

All of the above options have two additional benefits. Using these solely, you do not have to pay the university a fee for a parking permit. Although ours weren’t terribly expensive, $40 a year is a lot for money starving students. =) And to accompany those savings, you also don’t get parking tickets on campus by having to park in an zone you aren’t allowed to park in just so you can get to class on time. This was a huge deal where I went to school, as there were approximately 8000 parking spaces that were zoned for 20,000 undergrads. You don’t have to be a math major to see that as a formula for income for the school. In fact, my senior year when I had to drive to campus (due to where I lived and my chaotic schedule) and would opt to park off campus because if I had to park illegally, the city tickets were cheaper than the university ones!

Lastly, if you have to drive, split the cost with a friend or roommate. If you have similar schedules that take you to and from campus relatively at the same time you can split the gas cost, take up one less parking permit, and you have an accountability partner to get you to class and on time. =) And I’m not encouraging you to share a parking permit, which should only be associated to one car, but I’m just saying that the parking police can’t possibly take time to compare all of the permits with their plates (okay, so this only works if you have hang tags instead of stickers but USE IT PEOPLE)….

There are some students that would beg to differ in this area. There are some schools where the social norm is set higher in this area than others. However, let me tell you to throw out any expectations and be realistic. You do not have to wear designer attire to class. You will not (okay, should not, sometime you will) get bonus points for being “pretty” for class and chances are you might be uncomfortable. Get a good pair of comfy sneakers, buy a baseball cap for those bad hair days, throw on comfy pants (however, be decent and don’t wear your pjs to class, please) and get out the door. You might even decide that you’d rather sleep in than put on make-up and save money on cosmetics as well.

If you feel the need to own one of those costly sweatshirts or polos sold at your college bookstore, check out this post at Northern Cheapskate for some awesome ideas on how to save on those items!

Even for comfy attire, there are savings to be had. How many colleges have you even seen that aren’t constantly giving out free t-shirts…especially as fall semester/quarter is kicking off? Avoid signing up for a dozen credit cards to get them, but look for good offers. Many organizations give away t-shirts. You can always get one for donating blood (and save a life or two!) and many campuses have blood drives several times a year. I have been out of college for over 7 years now (ugh…don’t remind me how old that makes me) and I can tell you that 95% of the t-shirts that I currently own came at no cost to me from my school via one of the above methods. And they are STILL my comfy clothes.

Okay, so this started out as one post, but since I’ve been known to be a bit wordy detailed, it has turned into a three part series. By the way...all of the photos in this series are from one school in particular. Anyone want to guess where I graduated from?

Please join me again on Sunday to talk about entertainment and again on Monday to wrap it up when considering the actual cost of schoolwork.

Photo credit: tuxthepenguin84 and VickyvS