10/31/07

Low-cost, Creative Idea for Last-minute Halloween Costumes!

Frantically trying to figure out what you are going to be for Halloween? Never fear . . . your local thrift store or second-hand shop is here. Take a quick visit to one of these shops, and you'll find a plethora of vintage clothes that will outfit you nicely for Halloween. Ideas to shop for:
  • Mr. Rogers
  • Elvis
  • Hippie
  • Hobo
  • News reporter
  • Church lady
  • SNL characters
  • Cheerleader
There are so many more options, so if you're in a rush, just stop by your local Goodwill, Salvation Army store, or other consigment or thrift store. They're sure to have the right costume for you!

Avoid Scary Mistakes That Cost You Thousands

This advice comes from www.FeedthePig.org:
Something that can be as scary as Halloween's ghosts and goblins is the thought of recovering from a disaster for which you were unprepared. If you have not already, now is the time to learn what steps you can take to prepare yourself. Financial Planning - A Guide to Disaster Preparedness.

If you are recovering from an unexpected crisis, the information in this guide can help you through the steps you need to take to recover, Disaster Recovery: A Guide to Financial Issues.


Have a safe and fun Halloween, everyone!

DEAL ALERT: 20% off clearance items at Sierra Trading Post

For two days only, you can save an extra 20% off clearance items at Sierra Trading Post. To get the discount, click HERE.

10/10/07

Decorating a Home Without Creating Debt

I found this great article by Sandra Walker-Mastin called "Decorating a Home Without Creating Debt—Re-purposing things you already have in your home can look great and save you a bundle in decorating". Click on the article name to read her great ideas!

Save Money & Have Fun by Picking Your Own Fruit!

Taking advantage of area farms that allow you to pick your own produce is a great way to have fun as a family, while saving you a lot of money on fresh fruits and vegetables at the same time.

One of my favorite late summer/early fall activities is going to our local "u-pick" farms and gathering fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and apples. The weather is usually a bit cooler, and the fruit is simply delicious! I've been so spoiled on fresh-picked fruit that it's hard for me to buy produce at the store. What can I say? It just doesn't taste as good. The store-bought apples are less crisp and more waxy. They just don't cut it, anymore. See . . . I'm spoiled.

We recently visited our favorite orchard (Vince Brown Farms in Conklin, MI), and picked a delicious 1/2 bushel of Mutsu and Golden Delicious apples. Yum! The nice thing about this particular farm is that they have a wide variety of apples to pick, and they take you around the orchard by way of a tractor ride. It's just so classic! You can also fill your basket with any variety of combinations. A 1/2 bushel turns out to be a TON of apples, too. The cost for our massive 1/2 bushel . . . $4.50. You just can't beat it!

I love to make homemade apple pies with them, which my husband doesn't complain too much about. Plus, it's so easy to buy pre-made crusts and make fresh apple pies that way, too. This morning, I made some really yummy oatmeal pancakes and sauteed some of our Mutsus with sugar, butter, and Cinnamon, to pour over the top of our pancakes. WOW! That was SO yummy. We have leftovers, and I can't wait to eat them up!

One of the other great things about picking your own fruit is the "free" samples! There's nothing better than walking around picking fruit and munching on them at the same time.

Last year, when we picked strawberries (we didn't get out in time, this year), I made strawberry pies and strawberry jam. I also had enough to freeze. Those strawberries lasted us a whole year, and we only paid about $6.00 for the whole thing. What a deal!

So, the bottom line is that picking your own fruit can save you a bundle and be a really great experience. It gets us outside, walking around, eating really healthy fruit, and away from the television. There's something to be said for stepping outside of normal life, visiting a fruit farm, saving money, and having fun.

Check out your local u-pick farms by visiting your state's website and searching for "u-pick". For you Michiganians, just click HERE!


RECIPE FOR OATMEAL PANCAKES AND APPLE TOPPING:

    Pancakes
    1. Heat griddle or electric skillet to 400ยบ F (if using a frying pan, set burner to medium heat).
    2. Mix together:
    • 1 cup multi-purpose baking mix
    • 1 cup whole wheat pancake mix
    • 1-1/3 cups milk
    • 1 egg
    • 2 Tbsp. sugar
    • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (if desired)
    • 1/4 tsp. unsweetened applesauce (if desired)

    Topping (prepared separately)
    • 3-4 tart apples peeled, cored, and sliced/diced, etc.
    • 1/4 c. melted butter (just melt it in your skillet or frying pan)
    • 1/4 c. sugar
    • Cinnamon

    Combine sugar, apples, and Cinnamon in skillet/pan with melted butter and sautee over medium heat until apples are well-coated and somewhat firm and somewhat soft at the same time.
Spoon topping onto pancakes and enjoy!


10/9/07

Tips to Help Save Money on Gas



"Whether it's global warming or the higher cost of gas, many of us are looking for ways to save money and be environmentally-friendly at the same time. Driving a hybrid vehicle is an easy solution, but for many of us, a new car isn't cost-effective.

"Fortunately, you don't need to own a hybrid to get better fuel economy from your car. You can save on gas by watching how you drive. Driving aggressively and jumping on the gas and breaks, wastes fuel. Also, it's important to keep your tires properly inflated, as an under inflated tire is going to use up extra fuel.

"Here's another tip to help save money and the environment -- cut down on the number of oil changes. In the past, oil changes were typically required every 3,000 miles. Now, with more sophisticated engines, you might not have to take your car in for an oil change as often. The fueling in engines these days is more controlled and the oil has higher quality additives so certain vehicles are known to go 9,000, 10,000 and even 11,000 miles without an oil change. New computerized technology also shows how you've used your vehicle, whether you've been in hot or cold weather, and can tell you exactly when you need to schedule your next check-up."

10/4/07

How to Find Great Savings on Everything

(ARA)—If the thought of saving some money entices you, you're not alone. But isn't there a better way to get a deal than waiting for the Sunday paper just to sort through and cut coupons that usually expire before you use them? Look to the Internet and the answer is yes!


The Internet provides so many ways for people to save. And because e-commerce changes so quickly, businesses want to attract you with some really great discounts. One site dedicated to connecting savings to active consumers is CoolSavings.com.

CoolSavings.com provides free grocery coupons, online coupons, printable coupons, free offers from a variety of top brands and even free samples. If you're looking to stock your fridge for back to school, this is a perfect place to look for savings. Or maybe you just bought a new puppy and you want to find some pet coupons. From babies to travel, automotive and entertainment, there are coupons for all aspects of life.

Many coupons are available to consumers who simply visit the site. Once there, guests have the opportunity to register in order to get additional offers that are tailored to their profile and personal needs.

Many visitors come on a weekly basis, but offers can change even within the same day due to the high demand. Some of the major featured companies are: Panasonic, Pillsbury, Westin Hotels, Netflix, TGIF, Macaroni Grill, Outback, Target, Apple and much more.

"CoolSavings is the number one coupon site on the Web. We're here to help you save in every aspect of your life. Keep coming back for new offers and money-saving ideas every day," says Trent Arkema, a director at CoolSavings.com. "We also provide articles and tips to help you make the most of your time and your money, so you're sure to save a ton."



To register and get valuable coupons right now visit www.CoolSavings.com.

Copyright © 2007, ARAnet, inc.

Saving energy, saving money??

Little changes can have a huge impact on energy costs

By Tanya Berkebile, Cadillac News
Jeff Broddle | Cadillac News


Phil Cornelius purchases heating ducts at the Cadillac Home Depot. Many times when a person buys a product to conserve energy, the energy savings exceed the cost of the product.
The average family spends more than $1,600 a year on home utility bills. Imagine how you would feel if you could reduce that bill by a quarter, which is a savings of $400.

What could you do with that $400? It may pay a month of rent, cover car repairs or go into a savings account where it can accumulate even more money.

It shouldn’t be difficult to make that 25 percent savings, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, since a large portion of that energy is wasted.

It might be as easy as adding some caulk or weather stripping to a door or window, or changing to fluorescent light bulbs.

In many cases, reduced utility bills can more than make up the high cost of investing in a energy-efficient appliance, according to John Putvin, Jr. of Pell’s Appliance and TV.

Programmable thermostat

Roughly half of the typical home’s energy bill goes for heating and cooling, according to the Department of Energy. Lowering a home’s temperature five to 10 degrees at night and when no one is home can slash your heating costs up to 20 percent a year. Just make sure you know how to use the thermostat — some models are confusing and might discourage savings. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, roughly 50 percent of homeowners don’t change temperature settings at night.

With the cost of programmable thermostats at about $100, a unit can pay for itself in a year.

Save money on water

Spend less for hot water. Set the water heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit or the low setting, which is hot enough for most needs. Lowering the water heater temperature from 130 degrees to 120 degrees can save up to 5 percent on heating bills. Also, wrap a water heater with insulation or a blanket if it feels warm to conserve energy.

To help conserve the water’s heat on its way to the faucets, insulate the plumbing with pipe sleeves. With these, you can raise the end-use temperature by 2 to 4 degrees.

Ceiling fan

Ceiling fans are not only for summer — they are just as useful in the winter. Fans have a switch that reverses the motor. This causes the blade to spin clockwise, which pushes warm air from the ceiling back to the living space.

This can help keep heating bills down and possibly knock off $10 to $20 a year.

Fireplace insert

Many people think a fireplace is the way to keep home-heating costs down during the winter. But an open fireplace can send up to 80 percent of the fire’s heat up the chimney and depletes warm air from surrounding rooms. To keep this from happening, Dave Nederhoed, owner of Positive Chimney & Fireplace of Cadillac, suggests having a fireplace insert installed.

What exactly is a fireplace insert? It’s a self-containing stove that sits partially inside the fireplace and is equipped with an outer shell to deliver heated air into the room and minimize heat loss to the masonry. It is more than five times as efficient as an open fireplace and distributes warm air throughout the home.

“A gas, pellet or wood insert is an efficient upgrade that adds not only another source of heat, but additional value to your home,” Nederhoed said.

Energy Star products

Energy Star is a U.S. government program to promote energy efficient products. According to the program, Americans who used Energy Star appliances had savings of $14 billion on their utility bills.

Since 1992, when the program began, products have continually been added to the list.

“There are Energy Star dishwashers, refrigerators, dehumidifiers, laundry products — the list keeps growing,” said John Putvin Jr. of Pell’s Appliance and TV. “They are becoming more and more popular.”

For those who have older appliances, Putvin, Jr. said there is no doubt people will see a drop on their electricity bill with Energy Star products.

Sources: Consumer Reports, U.S. Department of Energy, Consumers Energy


Your local connection

Free ways to save energy... and money

  • Wash clothes in cold water. About 90 percent of energy is spent heating the water for the load. You can save substantially by washing and rinsing at cooler temperatures. Warm water helps the suds to get at the dirt, but cold-water detergents will work effectively for just about everything in the hamper.
  • Hang it up. With clotheslines, you spare the energy a dryer would use, and your clothes will smell as fresh as all outdoors. You’ll also get more useful life out of clothes dried on indoor or outdoor clotheslines — after all, dryer lint is nothing but your wardrobe in the process of wearing out.
  • Let the dishwasher do the work. Don’t bother prerinsing dishes with the idea that your dishwasher will work less hard. Consumer Reports has found that this added step can waste 20 gallons of heated water a day. All you need to do is scrape off leftover food. Enzyme-based detergents will help make sure the dishes emerge spotless.
  • Put your PC to sleep. Keep your computer and its monitor in sleep mode rather than leaving them on around the clock. You stand to use 80 percent less electricity.
  • Think twice before turning on the oven. Heating food in the microwave uses only 20 percent of the energy required by a full-sized oven.
  • Use the right pan. When cooking on the stovetop, pick your pan, then put it on an element or burner that’s roughly the same size. You’ll use much less energy than you would with a mismatched burner and pan. Steam foods instead of boiling. If you do boil, be sure to put a lid on the pot to make the water come to a boil faster.
  • Dust off the Crock-Pot. Slow cooking in a Crock-Pot uses a lot less energy than simmering on the stove.
Source: Consumer Reports


Energy-saving investments

If you don’t mind spending a few dollars, here are some ways to conserve energy—and save money.
  • A tighter home is a toastier home. Insulation is your home’s first line of defense against the weather, right? Wrong. Before you bulk up with fiberglass blankets, seal the leaks. Inexpensive foam strips and caulking can cut your heating and cooling bills by 5 to 30 percent.
  • Try do-it-yourself low-E windows. If your windows don’t have a low-E coating, consider applying a self-adhesive film on the glass. This treatment is a lot cheaper than replacing the units, and better-quality films are quite durable.
  • Use a programmable thermostat. Roughly half of the typical home’s energy bill goes for heating and cooling, according to the Department of Energy. The easiest way to save is to use programmable thermostats. They can pay for themselves in about a year.
  • Switch to those funny-looking fluorescents. You may not be familiar with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), but give them a try. A single bulb can save from $25 to $45 over its life. And it’s a long life: Manufacturers claim that CFLs last between 5 and 13 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs.
Source: Consumer Reports

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