By Julie Norman
Friday, February 28, 2014
We all know eating healthy on a budget can sometimes seem like an oxymoron...organic foods are more expensive, fresh produce is more expensive...what do you do?
Well, buying in season is one of the biggest ways to save on fresh produce. I bought this delicata "winter" squash back in November or December for next to nothing!
This link from the Huffington Post has several other great (and a few not so great) tips for eating healthy on a budget.
If you're looking for something free and fun to do this weekend, Brittany's link from the VCB has quite a few ideas!
If it's sunny out (doubtful, but you never know...) you could head down to the Riverfront Trail:
Or if it's raining maybe take a trip to Palisade for some wine tasting!
Enjoy your weekend either way!
By Brittany Dale
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Happy Thursday friends! It sure feels like spring lately!
With spring comes gardening. I have had a slight interest in gardening but haven't ever had the area to do so or enough know-how to try. As I talked about last week we are in the process of house hunting. One of our wish list items is a large backyard, which would mean room for gardening. I have already decided that I want to garden but my goal is to do so as inexpensively as possible.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves here, I first have to find a home but as I've said before, I'm a planner. I would plan every last bulb if I knew what I was doing. I'm thinking my first step should be to hunt down a Gardening for Dummies book.
There are two challenges to tackle with my garden dreams.
#1 I have never gardened in my life. In fact, my wonderful boyfriend bought me some kind of adorable flower in a pot and it is nearly dead. It sits right in our front window and I forget to water it. Fail.
#2 We don't have a ton of extra money to devote to a garden. When we buy a house, given our meager budget, we will be spending money on fixing and updating where we can.
One website I found by Kitchen Gardeners International discusses how to start a garden for nearly nothing. Based on the recommendations. I'm a teeny tiny bit ahead of bare bones.
-I keep food containers. I use these mostly for leftovers but there are always more that get recycled so I know I have plenty at my disposal.
-We compost at our current home. I am not unaware of the fact that keeping our compost would require moving our rotting pile of veggies and newspaper strips. I think it might be worth it though. Ask me again once I'm elbows deep in gray matter.
Here is an article titled Planning Your First Vegetable Garden. Sounds about right. May factors that must be decided regarding size and sun will have to wait until our excited little fingers get to sign whatever documents you sign at closing. Sometimes I feel like I'm new at... everything. Other things like 10 Best Garden Crops for Beginners should help me get an idea of what I should plan on growing purely for the fact that I'm new to it. 10 Beginner Gardening Mistakes to Avoid should also help.
Regardless of what shape my garden takes I look forward to saving extra money on groceries and having a free activity and project to work on.
Do you have a garden? What tips do you have for a beginning gardener on a budget?
By Julie Norman
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Shell gas stations are once again offering their "Ski Free" deal for ski resorts in California/Nevada, Colorado and Michigan. If you purchase 10 gallons of gas you can get a BOGO (or 2 for 1, same thing) coupon for lots of different Colorado ski resorts! For $32.50 you can ski at Monarch mountain! Click here to learn more.
By Brittany Dale
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
So I'm not claiming to be any kind of expert on all things (or even a few things) technological but I do have extensive experience with the following budget tool and I'm giving my two cents.
Mint.com is an online budgeting tool that uses various gadgets to help keep you on top of your budget. I have used mint.com for years and have used it very consistently since moving to Grand Junction. With most things in life, there are things I really like and others left to be desired.
Mint's got it right:
-I can link any account I have to mint.com and it automatically uploads my purchases. There is no updating or manually entering data.
-Certain bills can be linked and it uploads due dates. Given the whole head-not-attached-would-be-lost idea, any reminder to pay bills on time is helpful.
-The website creates a great little pie chart to see where your money is going. This is a great way to see a realistic picture of where your money goes. You can include multiple months to get an even better visual of your spending.
-When you start a mint.com account you can set up a budget and throughout the month it show color coded bars of your spending within that budget. Green: “Way to go! You are a budgeting genius”. Red: “Ouch”.
-There is a goal section where you determine your financial goals and get updates on your progress.
-I can use it anywhere. I am less likely to use this app than my banking one but it is helpful to have access anywhere I need it.
My wish list:
-I do wish mint was a smidge smarter. When I save a bill to “cell phone” instead of the default “technology” I would like it to remember my choice. So far, it doesn't seem to catch on.
-I wish more of my bills were able to be synched or that they could be added by hand. All of my due dates would be automatically uploaded and I could see our entire budget for the month.
-The pie should include “savings”. For example, we have a system with our bank that saves $1.00 for each time we use our debit cards. That money is deposited to a savings account.
My wish list is significantly smaller than my this tool is awesome list. And the best part of this tool? It's completely free! For free products, I understand their only income is upgrades and advertising. I genuinely appreciate the way mint.com includes their advertisers.
We don't spend much money on gas and the advertiser pays to encourage us to buy their car insurance because of it. There are other services like credit cards with lower interest than what we currently have. This advertising is actually helpful instead of annoying.
While many people are uncomfortable with online security and certain companies having information about them, I truly believe if they want my information, they are going to get it. I carefully check my bank account and keep tabs on my credit score to prevent identity theft but beyond that, I just understand the risks of being connected to the internet at all.
I appreciate the service mint.com has to offer and would highly recommend it to anyone looking to keep closer track of their spending.
Do you use an online budgeting tool? Do you use a budgeting tool at all?
By Julie Norman
Monday, February 24, 2014
Last summer I began laying out my case for wanting a chest freezer. We had a small garden producing lots of zucchini, tomatoes, etc. There were lots of good clearance deals on meats and things at the grocery store and "well if I had a freezer..." We did some research and found mixed information on whether or not you could keep a chest freezer in a shed. Some said it would cut off when the outside temperatures dropped too low. Others said, well, even if that happens, the outside temps will be well below freezing and nothing in the freezer will spoil or defrost. We've weathered our first winter with our little freezer out in the shed, and it's worked beautifully!
We purchased a 7 cubic foot freezer from a store in town for less than $250. When you think of all the things you can buy in bulk, meals you can cook ahead of time, clearance items you can buy...you really get your money's worth pretty quickly.
We made space in our carport shed and added shelves above the freezer for extra storage.
You can see we keep all kinds of things in the freezer: I buy extra bread when it's on sale (and also supplement with homemade), we buy lots of chicken on clearance, and I buy lots of "second" peaches and either dry and freeze them or just chop them and freeze them for cobblers. If you're cooking a big bag of dried beans, you don't have to worry about any of them going to waste. Label a freezer bag and freeze half of them. They'll reheat and taste just as good as they did the first time!