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Category: Earning & Managing Money

Ask the readers: Tips for frugal moving?


I lost my job in June and am in the process of moving from Florida to Houston in order to be closer to my boyfriend. I am desperately looking for cheap ways to
get my belongings and car from Florida to Houston. I have been getting
moving service price quotes and it’s looking around $2000 for
everything. Any tips on moving cheaply? Anything I should know to help mitigate costs with moving companies? -Amanda

My advice: If you have more time than money, do everything yourself.

I’ve moved three times in the last five years and haven’t paid a moving service for anything. I always accept all offers of help from friends and family and then just work very hard for the three weeks or so leading up to the move and the few weeks after the move.

One of the great things of boxing up everything yourself is that, as you’re going through things, you’re likely to find a lot of stuff you don’t need. So you can sell it on Craigslist or in a garage sale before you leave and make a little extra money. You can then use that extra money to rent a truck (I’ve always found the best rates for moving van rentals online.) and pay any additional expenses incurred through moving.

Another tip: If you are really short on time and unable to scrounge up free boxes to pack up everything in, try buying them off of eBay. They are loads cheaper there than buying them from a moving company.

What about the rest of you all? What are your best tips for moving on a dime? Do you think a moving service is worth the cost?

Graphic from

The Tightwad Gazette: 10 Painless Ways to Save $100 This Year

I’ve really enjoyed reading the first few chapters of . Believe it or not, I’ve not read any
of the three volumes before. It’s rather fun to hear from another
frugal zealot and I have a feeling I’ll be gleaning a lot from this.
More than anything, I’m being inspired all over again as to why I am
frugal in the first place.

One of my favorite parts of the book so far was Amy’s list of 10 Painless Ways to Save $100 This Year:

1) Purchase 10 articles of clothing at thrift shops and yard sales this year instead of paying department store prices.

I the only person who automatically zeros in on the clearance racks
even if I have a gift card or someone else is paying? I think I can
count on one hand (if that!) the times I’ve paid full price for any
article of clothing. I usually head straight for the 50-75% off racks
and those are often priced much more than I can bring myself to pay.

am so frugal that I go on thrift store clearance days or dollar days.
Unless I really, really love the item, $1 is about my top price to pay
for any item in a thrift store.

Garage sales are my favorite of all – especially when it’s the kind where everything is marked under $1!

2) Hang four loads of laundry per week instead of using the dryer.

I also the only frugal person who doesn’t hang their clothes? I know I
should, I really do. I just keep coming up with excuses for not getting
the right equipment to do it. It’s on my list of changes to implement
this year.

3) Once a month make a pizza from scratch instead of having one delivered.

Better yet, teach your family to like
more than restaurant pizza and than you’ll pretty much never have to
order out. We order pizza about once a year around here and I always
decide it’s really not worth bothering. My
is so much better!

4) Write a good letter instead of making a monthly long distance phone call.

does email count? That’s even cheaper than a letter, though not as
personal. Most folks, like us, have free long distance on our cell
phones, though, so this one is a bit out-dated.

5) Reduce your soda consumption by four cans per week.

suggestion? Learn to drink water and like it. It’s better for your
health anyway. Don’t get me started on my soapbox on soda addictions,

6) Bake one batch of bread per week.

When it’s
easy to make, I have no excuse. Except the excuse that we’ve not gotten
completely accustomed to homemade bread for sandwiches. Any other time,
though, we much prefer homemade.

7) Save $50 each on two children’s birthday parties by making homemade decorations, cake, wrapping paper, and one present.

Or be a minimalist like me and skip the decorations, give the gift of time or a special outing, and bake a simple cake.

8) Reduce your smoking by three cigarettes per day (or give up smoking altogether and save even more).

offense to anyone, but this is about the biggest money-pit ever. And
that’s not even talking about what it does to your health.

Reduce your whole milk consumption by two gallons per week,
substituting dry milk in cooking, homemade cocoa mix, and in
half-and-half for drinking.

just decided to cut out milk in most instances except on cereal and in cooking (I
sometimes water that down, too.) so we go through about a half gallon
per week. I’ve heard that dry milk costs have gone up so it’s not
really much cheaper anymore to substitute. Can anyone confirm or deny

(Note: We eat a combination of yogurt, cheese, nuts, beans, and green leafy vegetables in place of drinking lots of milk. We prefer this, and from the research I’ve done, our bodies actually assimilate these forms of calcium better than the calcium in milk. I know some disagree on this, but let’s just agree to disagree, okay?)

10) Pack four inexpensive school lunches per week.

don’t have to bother with school lunches right now, but my husband does
almost always take his lunch to work. We’ve figured up that this saves
us at least $1,000 a year!

Inspired by Amy’s list, I wrote my own list of Read it and see other people’s lists too. What would your list say?

The most encouraging thing to remember is that a penny saved, is more than a penny earned. Why? Well, check out
excellent and simplistic explanation. Quite the motivation for focusing
on reducing your outgo first and foremost before seeking to increase
your income!

We can make millions of dollars, but if we don’t
know how to wisely steward it, we’ll be no better off than someone who
makes below minimum wage. In fact, we might even be worse off than them.

Another great quote from

"The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket book."
-Frank McKinney Hubbard

 What are some painless things you do in your home that save you $100 or more each year? Tell us in the comments, I’d love to hear!

Originally published January 2008.

Blogging for Profit – Part 7

I want to finish out this series on Blogging for Profit by talking about another way to monetize your blog– through selling ads yourself.

you’ve built up a steady readership, one of the best ways to really see
an increase in income, is to sell advertising on your blog directly to
companies by-passing a middle-man. I’ve done this quite a bit in the
past and have been amazed at how much money people will readily pay to
have a good spot on your blog. It takes a little time and effort to
make the sale and to keep up with advertisers, but you won’t have to
give any commission to a company such as so your profit margin
will be much higher.

How do you go about garnering advertisers for your blog?

1) First off, you need a steady readership of at least 500-1000 visitors a day.
You might be able to sell ads directly when you are smaller than that,
but you’ll have much better success at going after advertisers when you
have larger numbers to show them. So, before you start chasing down
advertisements, first work on building up your readership.

You might
find, as I did, that you never need to look far to find advertisers
eager to jump on board with you. In fact, once you’ve built up a blog
"following", companies will usually be "courting" you right and left to
get recognized on your blog.

2) When you have developed a solid readership closing in on 1000 visitors a day or more, start looking for opportunities to network with other potential advertisers. If
a company s you about doing a review on your blog, build a
relationship. If it’s something you’re interested in reviewing,
consider doing the review, but don’t let it stop there. Offer them a
discounted advertising rate, give them the option of doing a giveaway
on your blog, encourage them to offer a special price or discount to
your readers only. Once you start working with them and they see how
effective targeting your readership can be, you may very well find you
have an advertiser for life.

3) If you a lot of companies aren’t ing you about possible reviews or asking for your advertising rates, consider becoming proactive. Figure
out some great pricing and find some companies which would complement
your blog’s focus very well and go offer some incredible introductory
pricing to them.

I recommend you just send an email to their marketing
director. Keep it short, professional, and tell them how advertising on
your blog can benefit them. Give them an offer they can’t resist. Offer
to review their products and do a giveaway on on your blog. Go the
extra mile; they’ll take notice.

Send out 20 or 50 such emails
like this and you’ll probably see a nice trickle of response to start
coming back. Once you’ve sold some some advertising on your blog, put a little
link up underneath your ads with something to the effect of "Interested in promoting your product to thousands of moms? Contact me for a discounted pricing package." Sometimes companies wouldn’t think to consider advertising with you if you didn’t spark the idea first to them yourself.

4) Remember that your loyalties lie with your readership first. When you develop a blog readership, you are really developing trust in a brand and that brand is you.
Never forget this. When I allow an ad on my blog, it is somewhat my
stamp of approval on the company or product. Therefore, I often turn
down ads if I do not feel I can give my whole-hearted endorsement of
them or if I feel like they in anyway contradict with my blog’s purpose
or message.

Integrity and honesty are much more important than
making a quick buck. Always let that be your guiding principle when you
are working to monetize your blog.

There’s a lot more I could
say on this subject and on the subject of blogging and making money
through blogging in general, however, I think I’ll close here and open
up the floor for questions.

we’ve gone through this series, what questions have you had? Are there
things you’d like for me expound upon or explain more in detail? Here’s
your opportunity to ask! In a few days, if there are enough questions, I’ll
do a Q&A post on blogging. You can leave your questions in the
comment section of this post or email them to me.

Related: Amy has a great post on blogging and gaining readership.

Poll: Who does the finances in your home?

My husband and I are considering making a radical switch and having me take over the finances and bill-paying for awhile. Jesse has always done the lion’s share of this because he’s the nerd, he’s good at it, and he likes it.

However, we’re both thinking it might be good experience for me to try my hand at it. He also wants me to know how to do it in case something were to happen to him (he’s always thinking of everything to make sure I’m well taken care of!).

Because I’m curious, I thought it’d be fun to do a poll for couples. So, take a minute to vote below:

This should be interesting!

Blogging for Profit – Part 6

For those of you who are just joining us, we’re talking about how you can make money through blogging. I encourage you to go here to read all of the previous installments in this series.

There are many different ways to offer advertising on your blog. We’ve talked about affiliate marketing, today we’re going to cover a well-known and widely-used money-making method, namely,

is an advertising program which is easy-to-use, easy-to-sign-up-for, and easy-to-implement. Advertisers bid on search terms and how much they want to spend per day on advertising. You choose how you want your ads to look and you add code to your blog where you want the Google ads to show up. Once the code is added in, Google takes care of serving up relevant ads based upon the content of your blog and what advertisers have bid on.

To earn money with this program, your visitors just have to click on ads. Every time someone clicks on an ad, you earn a little money — usually somewhere between $0.05 and $1. It varies depending upon what the advertisers have bid. Obviously, the more traffic you have and the easier you make it for people to see and click on your ads, the more money you will earn.

When you have earned over $100, Google will cut you a check at the end of the month. At first, it can be slow going, but as you build up your traffic, the checks will start rolling in much more rapidly. I’ve been amazed at the potential in earnings just from this simple thing!

As with most advertising programs, while there are some great features, there are also some downsides. I think the biggest downside to Google Adsense is that you cannot control which ads are shown on your blog.

Google automatically pulls up relevant ads based upon your blog’s content. For many blogs, this is not a problem, but if you care about what ads are showing on your sidebar, you may sometimes find the ads Google believes to be relevant to be very non-relevant or even offensive to your audience.

For instance, my previous blog was an overtly conservative Christian blog. When I tested Google Adsense on there, many of the ads which were served up from Google were anti-Christian and ones I would not want to run. However, on this blog, since I mostly talk about saving money, I’ve not had a problem so far with any offensive ads pulling up–most have been quite relevant and helpful.

You can choose to block websites you don’t want advertising on your site, but this requires a lot of policing and a lot of work–something which probably isn’t worth your time. So, depending upon your blog’s content, Google Adsense could be a good thing or a bad thing.

Another downside is that you only get paid when you earn $100. If you have a very small blog, it could take you a year or more to actually get a check–and that could be rather disheartening! I recommend you test run Google Adsense on your blog for a few weeks and see how it goes. You might find you really like it and are earning well from it or you might find you don’t like the ads being shown and it is not really learning much for you.

I also encourage you to try having your AdSense ad blocks in various places on your blog. You can have up to three ad blocks per page, so experiment and learn what works best. I’ve found it very interesting that ad placement can make such a difference in earnings. Keep testing until you determine what works best for your blog and blog audience.

Have any of you had experience with Google Adsense? If so, what do you think of it?

Related: Pro-Blogger has a thorough post up on It’s well worth your time.

It will be a long time before I’ll be able to eat another hamburger

Remember that I said we were going to use our economic stimulus check to buy a 1/4 of a cow from a local farm that specializes in hormone-free grass-fed beef? I was so excited to tell you about the great deal we got on this and how we found a freezer to store it in for a steal off of Craigslist.

However, that was not to be.

Oh, we bought the meat alright–all $614 worth of it. And we bought the freezer, too. We were thrilled with the whole experience and were looking forward to lots of great hamburgers and roasts and steaks over the next number of months.

We didn’t get a chance to eat any before we went on vacation, but I couldn’t wait to get back and get cooking. I had visions of all these various dishes I could make and all the great grilling we could do. Since we’ve cut back on our meat consumption for years in an effort to keep our grocery budget low, this high-quality meat was going to be a real treat.

We arrived home from our week-long excursion to Arkansas refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to get back to real-life. As we were unpacking our bags, I went to throw something into the recycle bin in the garage.

I noticed a somewhat-strange smell when I opened the garage door and went to investigate.

You guessed what it was… our whole entire freezer full of meat was off and completely thawed! Not only that but it was room temperature and wreaked of spoiling meat!

Apparently, it rained while we were gone and the electric outlet our freezer was plugged into was shut off as a safety mechanism. (We didn’t know that our garage outlet did this or we sure as ever wouldn’t have hooked our freezer full of meat up to it!)

Gratefully, since we had just purchased the freezer, it wasn’t also full of other things, too. Had it been a few weeks later, I very likely could have had it full to the brim with food in addition to the meat. It was still quite a big disappointment, though, not to mention being disgusting.

I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say it will be a very long time before I’ll be able to eat another hamburger again. So much for our bright idea of buying meat in bulk.

Note: It looks like we’re going to be able to recoup about $140 from our renter’s insurance, but since our deductible is $500, that’s all the recourse we’ve been able to drum up. Oh well, at least it was our economic stimulus check and not money we’d worked hard to set aside for this purchase.