25 Great Ways To Save Money

25 Great Ways To Save Money

25 Great Ways To Save Money

D. S. Mitchell

AARP Tips

For at least the last decade AARP Bulletin Magazine has been highlighting clever money saving ideas and sharing them with members once a year in their “99 Ways To Save” issue. Some of them are a bit over the top and others sensible and worth passing on. So here are a few tips they have offered over the last several years.

1.) Sell To Amazon: Amazon buys used items, including video games, books, Kindle e-readers for trade-in, in exchange for a gift card. Go to the Amazon Trade-in Store and if an item you have is listed there, print our a free shipping label and send it off.

2.) Pass On Dryer Sheets: Easy trick to save about $8 on 80 loads. Instead, cut a sponge in half and soak the pieces in a container with 1 cup fabric softener and two cups of water. Wring and toss one sponge into each dryer load. You will need to replace the liquid every 3 months.

3.) Get Free E-books: There are nearly 60,000 public domain e-books available on gutenberg.org. You will find favorites and classics and easily save $3 to $10.

4.) 401(k) Know How: Sadly 1/4 of American workers employed at companies offering 401 (k) plans fail to take advantage of the full company match, this means you are missing out on an average of $1,336 in free money each year.

5.) Free Streaming Movies: Check out kanopy.com. If you belong to one of the more than 4,000 participating public libraries or campus facilities, you can stream over 30,000 movies for free.

6.) Fancy Dancy Lunch: When you want to try out a glamorous restaurant, do it at lunch. The menu is usually similar to what you would have at dinner but is usually 25% cheaper and a more relaxed atmosphere.

7.) Individual Development Accounts: IDA’s are designed to help people of modest means buy a house or start a business. Go to ProsperityNow.org/map to find community organizations that administer the programs. There are some programs that provide up to $4 for every $1 you save.

8.) Car Rental Discounts: If you are an AARP member just show your card to lock in big savings. With Avis you could sew up a 30% savings. That would mean $90 off a $300 rental charge.

9.) Start Using Your Cruise Control: Studies confirm you can reduce fuel consumption by about 7% using your cruise control device. The average U.S. household spends about $2,000 annually on gasoline. I could suggest switching to an electric vehicle but, I will not. Use your cruise control and save about a $100 annually.

10.) Check Engine Belts: Broken belts are a major reason for automobile breakdowns. Be sure to have a tech check on yours before you head out on that next long trip. Avoiding a single breakdown could save you at least $100 in towing charges and keep your vacation frown free.

11.) Small Carts Win Out: When you go to the grocery store don’t grab the biggest cart, here’s where you are advised to go small. Research shows when the size of your grocery cart is doubled, you buy 40% more! Downsize your cart and save up to $230 per month for two people.

12.) Forget The Bark Dust: When you are ready to spread bark this spring call your local tree service and ask for a pile of their free wood chips. Depending on the size of your yard you could easily save several hundred dollars.

13.) Cross The Border For Gasoline: I live in Washington state, I buy my gas in Oregon. Two reasons; in Oregon they have attendants that pump the gas, which is great when I’m in my heels and mini, plus there is no sales tax in Oregon which means gas and other items are at least 6.5% cheaper. In Washington many localities add on their own tax, so you might save even more buying across the river.  You  can improve your chances of getting the best price on gas by using the GasGuru and GasBuddy apps which will show you prices at all area gas stations.

14.) Raising Your Deductible: Raising the deductible on a homeowner’s policy from $500 to $1000 will likely save you 25%, according to the Insurance Institute. That’s about a $300 savings on a $1200 policy.

15.) Fifteen Year Mortgage: In November 2021 the interest rate on a thirty year mortgage was 3.5%-3.7%. The rate on a 15 year mortgage was 2.6%-2.7%. On a $200,000 mortgage you will probably pay about $400 a month more for the fifteen year mortgage. Cutting that mortgage by fifteen years will save you over $100,000 in interest.

16.) Skip The Coffee Kiosk: Imagine you spend $4 at Starbucks on a couple tall coffees, that’s $1,000 a year, just on workdays. Most businesses have breakrooms with free coffee. A pound of $7.99 coffee from Kroger’s will make 25 (12 oz,) cups. Big savings.

17.) Donate Stock, Not Cash: You could save big by donating stock instead of cash. by donating the stock versus the cash you aren’t liable for capital gains tax. An example, say you give $5,000 worth shares of stock to your favorite charity. You originally paid $1,000 for the stock. If you sold the shares and then donated the cash you’d owe $1,000 in capital gains taxes if you’re in the 25% tax bracket. The choice is easy, give the charity the stock. They will be able to use their tax exempt status to sell the stock without tax consequences.

18.) Stop Smoking: There’s a million good reasons to quit smoking. One of them being non-smokers, exercisers and people who maintain a healthy weight can get as much as a 50 percent savings on life insurance.

19. Prescription Savings: You might find a prescription medicine is cheaper than one you commonly buy over the counter. The heartburn remedy Prilosec, as an example, costs about $10 for a dozen tabs. With a prescription for Omeprazole you can get 90 tabs with a $10 co-pay. That is about a $60 a month savings.

20.) Stop Rinsing The Dirty Dishes: It is no longer necessary to prewash dishes. Just scrape thoroughly and load. You can expect to save about 55,000 gallons of water over the lifetime of the dishwasher.  That is about a $280 in dollar savings, plus using less water is good for the environment, in addition you will spare yourself a lots of unnecessary work.

21.) Help For Veteran Caregivers: The Department of Veteran Affairs offers caregivers a temporary break by paying all or at least a large portion of  the costs of an in-home health aide or for the veteran to attend an adult day center. Find details about the program by going to caregiver.va.gov, or call 855-260-3274.

22.) Apply For Free Medicine: You may be able to find help to pay for your prescriptions from The Partnership for Prescription Assistance, pparx.org. If you qualify you could potentially save hundreds of dollars a year on needed medications.

23.) Unclaimed Property: If you haven’t done it recently, go to unclaimed.org, find your state (or any other states you may have lived in) and enter your name. You may find the state is holding money from a savings account you forgot about, or an undelivered refund check.  I recently found $79 at the State of Oregon unclaimed property site. When I was there I also found $219 for my son and another $110 for my daughter. Yipee skipee! It took a total of 15 minutes and three Forever stamps to recover over $400 of the big green ones.

24.) Property Tax Breaks: States across the country offer property tax breaks for homeowners over 65 years of age. Since losing federal write offs on property taxes many homeowners on fixed budgets are endangered of being taxed out of their homes. States offer many types of tax programs, depending on the homeowner circumstances. I am not talking about tax deferments that defer taxes until the homeowner dies or sells the property, but are rather exemptions. That means it will not be collected later. Huge difference. Exemptions include caps on assessed value, tax rates and assessment freezes.  Each state, and many counties in those different states, have various programs and requirements. Programs like these can save senior homeowners thousands and thousands of dollars.

25.) Upgrade your refrigerator: A new model fridge may reduce your electric bill by about $350 over the first five years of use. Before buying go to your electric provider and check on rebate offers that are offered for buying an energy efficient appliance.

I decided I wanted to give readers a bonus, so here are two more great money saving tips.

26.) Reduce Your Lawn: The grass in your yard is one of the most expensive and labor intensive parts of your property maintenance. Statistics indicate Americans spend over $30 billion each year keeping up their lawns. Think arid. Think creative. Patios, decks, plant native species. Grass is not environmentally friendly nor is it pocketbook friendly, go natural.

27.) Buy Wine By The Case: Check with the retailer, but stores usually discount cases of by anywhere from 10% to 25%. Watch for sales and pick up a case of (12) bottles of wine for a great price and you’ll always have a handy house warming gift right at your finger tips.

Again I want to thank several issues of the AARP Bulletin magazine for the various money saving tips. Hurry out there and start saving.

Ivanka Mismanaged Food Program

Ivanka Mismanaged Food Program

Lines at food banks were long during the height of the COVID pandemic

Did Ivanka Mismanage Food Program?

“Of course,” she did, says investigative congressional committee

Ivanka is at the center of  another scandal involving fraud, incompetence, and mismanagement

By D. S. Mitchell

Numb To Outrage

I thought I was numb to the outrageous behavior of the Trump family, and those in their orbit, but I am not. Yesterday, I was perusing the internet, instead of doing what needed to be done. Anyway. . . I came across an article on ProPublica about the mishandling of the Food to Families Program from last spring and then the same story with updates popped up again in a Palmer Report article last week.

Pulling Back The Veil

Ivanka Trump, unveiled the program in May 2020.  According to congressional investigators, Ivanka spearheaded the idea to include the letter from her father in each of the boxes.  Private contractors were told by the USDA that the letter was mandatory. Food bank operators told congressional investigators the letter concerned them because it was politically biased.

The Dig Continues

I continued digging. I discovered that last week The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis,  published their report on the debacle. Sadly, the conclusion was that that former President Donald Trump’s administration, under the leadership of his daughter Ivanka, failed miserably at delivering food to families as promised.

Furthermore, the year long congressional investigation identified problems with the deliveries themselves; including food safety issues, spoiled food, failed deliveries, and uneven food distribution. Recipient organizations complained some contractors forced them to accept more food than they could distribute or store. That’s why, under the Trump administration, the Food to Families program was created. This program was supposed to get food into the hands and mouths of needy families. “Supposed to” are the keywords. It turns out, like, with everything else Trump & Associates touched, this program fell apart.

Whistle While You Work

ProPublica reports that the Farmers to Families Food Box program gave contracts to companies that had no relevant experience, and in many cases companies that lacked the necessary licenses for the contracts they applied for. Contractor applications were not adequately screened or vetted; nor did officials follow up on red flags in bid proposals. Money was foolishly wasted, grievously mishandled, probably stolen, and most assuredly misappropriated for political campaigning.

Conclusion

Why is that? To start with Ivanka was involved. According to new reporting  millions of dollars were misused and squandered. And much of the money went to bogus contracts being given to unqualified and inexperienced companies. There was little screening of said applications, according to the investigators. Some of the funds were also used to promote President Trump in various ways. Who would have guessed that? Remember that letter Ivanka Trump insisted be included in the food packages? The now infamous letter bragged about what a good job Daddy Trump was doing with the pandemic response. Democrats point out that the letter appears to violate the Hatch Act. No surprise there. I’d laugh if it wasn’t so predictable and so corruptly Trump.

OPINION: Halloween Identities


OPINION: Halloween Identities

Halloween is all about candy and ghosts.

OPINION: Halloween Identities

By Megan Wallin

The Unspoken

In the United States, there are five (unspoken) varying brands of Halloween, celebrated by distinctly different groups. These celebratory traditions exist in order to satisfy the holiday-savoring appetites of the average American, who—sadly relies on holidays and social media clicks for their happiness rather than access to affordable healthcare, parental leave, clean air and water, pothole free roads, safe bridges, tuition free college, and a whole array of policies that could change their real world.

Type One: The Family with Children

You know this type. They’re the  ones you buy candy for, leave on a porchlight, and decorate your house (just a little) in the hopes to see little witches and Disney characters bound up to your door with their hapless, usually sleep-deprived parents, as all the adults spend a night being tricked into treating their little ones. There’s a sort of child-centric quality to most holidays, undeniably, but Halloween ranks quite highly on the list, with dress-up and make-believe already being prominent tenets of their young lives.

Escapism

The motivation behind most families going out to celebrate Halloween is to make memories that give their children something to talk about with their friends at school or daycare, and to give the parents some time away from the responsibilities inherent in staying home. Trick or treating, especially with kids, allows an escape from both your usual surroundings and the identity you wear day in and day out as you about work, school, and house chores.

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DON’T THROW AWAY THAT OLD CELL PHONE

DON’T THROW AWAY THAT OLD CELL PHONE

Protect Your Home And Other Cool Things

D. S. Mitchell

More Uses Than You imagined

Today home automation and security are of growing importance. But between high start up fees, monthly costs, and the constant speed at which technology outpaces itself such technological upgrades can be expensive. Instead of buying something you will need to upgrade in a couple years, look to your old smart phone. Recent developments enable your old device to do a myriad of tasks. I have discovered a way to automate and protect my home with my old cell phone, an app, and a bit of ingenuity.

Step One: Choose An App

Choose an app that’s features are most important to your homes safety and find an app that’s going to best suit your needs. Once chosen download the app onto your current phone and your new one. Walk through the setup on your new phone, then log into the app on the old phone. Be sure to select “camera” rather than “viewer,” if that is an option.

Step Two: Mount the phone

Point your old phone’s camera toward whatever you want to watch and protect. The device will have to be connected to a power source since the phone will always be on, and you may want to purchase a cheap wide-angle lens to provide a wider view. Then you simply check the app on your new phone to periodically check in on your home.

More Things To Do With Your Old Phone 

Home security isn’t the only thing your old smart phone can do. Create a baby monitor. Much like a security system, you can turn your old phone into an affordable baby monitor. Set up the old phone in the baby’s room and use your new phone to Skype into their room. You can find apps to make this process easier.

Add More Storage

Cloud platforms are not your only photo storage option. You can delete all the apps on your old phone and use it for photo storage, freeing up space on your new phone. This is a great option for anyone looking to limit their online presence.

Set Up A Universal Remote

Your old phone can serve as the universal remote for all your home’s smart devices, like a central hub that controls everything. Specialty apps like iRule an link all your platforms together. All you need is the app, Wi-Fi, and an old phone that can connect to the Wi-Fi.

 

Saving Money At The Supermarket

Saving Money At The Supermarket

By D. S. Mitchell

Old Magazines

I have a cabinet crammed full of old magazines. Every so often I pull out a handful of them and review them at my leisure. In a March 2018, “Reader’s Digest” I found an article entitled “40 Supermarket Secrets,” by Jody L.  Rohlena.  Jody offered some great advice to help get control of high grocery bills.

Facts And Figures

Over the last couple years my weekly grocery bills has skyrocketed.  Jody’s article reassured me I am not alone. According to the Reader’s Digest article, over the past 30 years grocery expenditures have risen more than any other cost in the American budget. 25% of the increased costs can be tied to easy prep items. But, it isn’t just quick and easy that is costing us big money, there are waste factors and other issues at play. In 2018, Americans spent over $700 billion dollars on groceries. Every thing from shopping the right aisles to shopping on specific days can help reduce grocery expenses. Hopefully the ideas I have included here will help your family reduce your grocery expenses.

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Sustainable Seafood Choices

Making sustainable seafood choices is important

Sustainable Seafood Choices

By D. S. Mitchell

Introduction

While I am confined to my home, due to the coronavirus threat, I have worked, every day on my blog. For the last several weeks many articles I have posted are related, in one fashion of another, to the pandemic. But, today I want to temporarily shift gears. I want to share some information on how to support sustainable U.S. seafood.

James Beard Foundation

The James Beard Foundation is an organization at the center of the nation’s culinary culture. The Beard Foundation has been, for over 30 years, on a mission to promote, through education, a food culture that encourages delicious, diverse, and sustainable. The Trump administration is working to roll back conservation provisions that had helped rebuild depleted fish stocks and cut over-fishing. The Beard Foundation is encouraging the chefs of America to become the voice of sustainability in their communities.  ‘Smart Catch’  is a Beard Foundation project created to help chefs serve seafood, fished or farmed, in environmentally responsible ways.

Fish on Friday

When I was a kid, we had fish for dinner on Friday. We were not Catholic, but we followed what seemed a national tradition, or at least a neighborhood tradition. From childhood, eating seafood has been part of my culinary experience. Today, 80% of the seafood consumed by Americans is imported. Forty-five per cent of that total comes from traditional options, such as shrimp, salmon, and tuna. Expanding your seafood palate is a good strategy for eating healthier, saving money and helping protect the oceans.  By small changes in your eating habits you can reduce over-fishing and contribute to ocean resiliency.

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Jalapeno Cheese Rolls

Jalapeno Cheese Rolls

By D. S. Mitchell 

 

Life Lesson #2

Recently I posted a recipe for Apple Quake (Cake). That recipe and the “life lesson” shared with that recipe is part of a cookbook-biography I have played around with. I didn’t really have a formalized plan for what I was going to do with the material when I started writing down my mom’s recipes and accompanying life lessons. Not atypical for many writers. The working title; “41 Life Lessons From My Mother’s Kitchen”. Now that I am close to my target 41 Life Lessons I decided I would begin sharing these fabulous recipes and common sense life lessons with Calamity News and Politics readers. Here is recipe 2 from my cookbook project.

Book Excerpt:

While I was growing up my Mom owned a busy café style restaurant in NW Portland, Oregon. The “Fifth Wheel” was located on St. Helen’s Rd.  A lunch time favorite were hot deli style sandwiches served, not on bread, but on mouth-watering, scrumptious, homemade Jalapeno Cheese Rolls. The rolls are actually more like hamburger buns when baked. Her’s were famous. Mom’s original version is Top Secret, but a good option is the one I am sharing here. Once you’ve made a sandwich with one of these rolls you will never want a plain bread sandwich again.

JALAPENO CHEESE ROLLS

Ingredients:

1 bag of Self-Rising Hot Roll Mix (use the 48 rolls recipe)

5 Jalapeno peppers (unseeded)

1 Medium Sweet Onion

5 Cloves Garlic

½ Stick Butter

Salt and Pepper to Taste

24 Slices American Cheese

48 oz, Shredded Mexican Cheese

Directions:

*FYI: Handling Jalapeno peppers can be irritating. I suggest wearing gloves. Be sure to keep hands away for eyes, nose and mouth after handling the peppers. Dispose of gloves and immediately wash your hands thoroughly.

1.) Prepare hot roll mix and allow to rise. (Proof at 120 degrees)

2.) Chop jalapeno, onion and garlic in food processor until smooth but slightly chunky.

3.) Sauté processed veggies in butter until soft and season with salt and pepper.

4.) Combine cooked veggies with hot roll mix.

5.) Divide dough into 2 equal portions, setting one aside.

6.) Roll out one of the divided portions of dough on a clean lightly flour dusted counter top. (A large island is perfect.) Be sure to roll dough out until you have got 12 individual 4” wide x 12” long strips. Repeat with the second half of dough. You will have 24 strips of dough.

7.) Warning! DON’T MIX CHEESE INTO DOUGH, LAY IT ON TOP of the dough!! Cheese prohibits dough from rising.

8.) Visualize each strip of dough as 3 sections. Place ½ slice American Cheese in middle of the strip, fold right section of dough over cheese piece. This will make a section of dough on top of the American Cheese.  On this section place another ½ slice American Cheese and top with 1 oz. Shredded Mexican Cheese. Fold remaining dough over the cheese.  Sprinkle remaining Mexican Cheese on top of dough.

9.) Allow dough to rise a second time in the proofer.

10.) Bake using directions on dinner roll package, but allow an extra 5 minutes to compensate for larger roll size.

Life Lesson:

Short cuts.  Shortcuts can be a great thing. They can get you where you want to go more quickly, or they can get you lost.

Simple Life Lessons From My Mom’s Kitchen

Life Lessons From My Mom’s Kitchen 

By D. S. Mitchell

Life Lessons and Distant Memories

At the time of this writing, my mother has been dead for 32 years. But, every time I go into the kitchen she is there waiting for me, or more truthfully, she comes with me. She is not there in a bodily form of course, but from my heart and distant memories she emerges and pats me on the shoulder, and kiss’ my cheek.

The Chemistry of Memories

I don’t understand the chemistry of memories, but I am sure that every time I bring out her hand-typed recipe book, she hums her little work song and reminds me that she is always with me. As I remember the times I spent cooking with her; whether it was making dinners, prepping picnics, devising scrumptious desserts, or savory breads, I learned a great deal more than cooking tips. I now realize it was in my mother’s kitchen that I grew into the woman I am, where I learned the things that are most important in life.

Apples Everywhere

The Apple Quake is my all-time favorite cake, topped with my most favorite frosting. In the 1950’s everybody knew somebody that had fruit trees. It seems most people in today’s busy world forego fruit trees when they plan their landscaping. Without the fruit trees busy people don’t need to feel guilty because they have left the fruit rotting on the ground unwanted and unused.

Buy Local

I am so glad to see a slow but growing movement in this country to bring fresh unprocessed foods back to the American table. God bless each person that rises up and demands safe, local food sources. Read about it. Get concerned. Get involved. Demand, Fresh & Local.

 APPLE  QUAKE

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 to 3 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 to 2 Tb. vanilla
  • 5 green apples, washed but unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Directions:

In a large bowl combine eggs, sugar, olive oil and vanilla with a mixer.

In a separate bowl combine flour, cinnamon, soda, and salt; when well blended add to the egg mixture. Lastly, add walnuts to the cake mix and blend together gently. Spread the thinly sliced apples over the bottom of the greased glass baking dish.  Pour batter over the apples.  Batter will be very thick. Place the batter into the sides and corners first, and then into the center. Let the batter sit for about five minutes to make sure that the batter is evenly distributed before placing it in the pre-heated oven. Bake: in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool thoroughly. Frost: generously with cream cheese frosting. Refrigerate: left overs.

MOM’S  CREAM  CHEESE  FROSTING

  • 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened salted butter
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. (or more) lemon juice to taste

In a medium bowl cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Mix in lemon juice, gradually stir in powdered sugar, beat until smooth. Frost cake.

Somewhat Vague

The measurements for cinnamon, vanilla, and even the lemon juice for the frosting are somewhat vague, I admit, but there is a lesson here. LIFE LESSON: As my mother would say, “be generous”,  especially if you like a particular flavor.  I think that is wise.  If you like something-always be generous in its use.  When you believe in a cause, give generously of your time. If you love someone, give generously of your kindness and respect. If you are dedicated to a project then generously donate your money. What you love and believe in deserves your generous contribution of time, energy, and yes, even money.

**The name Apple Quake came from my young pronunciation of cake. Cake, quake–get it?