90-Day Spending Challenge: Pump Penalty

I commute about 50 miles/day for school. I try to carpool with friends or family when I can; however, I was curious how much money would be saved if you go 55 mph (state limit in Oregon), 65 mph (speed limit in most states), and 70 mph (the speed at lot of people out here travel). I know limits can go higher in California and Nevada borders them but….for the purposes of this Challenge, I wanted to know what individual impact I could make on my wallet with going the speed limit and SET MY CRUISE CONTROL into town.

I’ve heard that you can get about 10% more gas efficiency by going 65 mph and I also heard that if you let your car coast down hills in neutral, you will save more. Now, i couldn’t find a calculator for coasting and nor does my car have spiffy electronics in it, I did my own test over 2 weeks.

Goal:
Increase fuel efficiency

How:
– Use Cruise Control (whenever possible)
– Travel at 65 mph (or speed limit) 🙂
– Coast in neutral down hills (whenever possible)

Outcome:
I increased my fuel efficiency by about 10%!!

I went from filling up 15 gallons at 310-320 miles to about 340-360 (depending on how close to Empty I let my gas tank get).

There are other things that you can do to increase fuel efficiency like removing excess weight from your car but with living further out of town….my car stores a lot of things I may during my day so I DON’T have to drive home to get it.

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90-Day Spending Fast Challenge: FREE Money $$$

KNOW that I have posted about earning money on Bing before; however, I can’t stress it enough about EASY this is and no one should miss out on FREE money!!

You can trade in your Bing Points for $5 Egift certificates at Amazon, Sephora, Starbucks, ProFlowers, Fandango, IHOP, Burger King and the list goes on. You can also donate your money to charities 🙂

Just open a Live/Hotmail account and use the link below to link your account to Bing RewardsYou can now do your searches online as Bing Rewards is going Mobile!! I earn $60/year in FREE money. Not bad for just using a search engine for looking up stuff on the internet. 

90-Day Spending Fast Challenge

90 Day Spending Fast Challenge

About 9 months ago, I embarked on a 30-Day Spending Fast before quitting my day job and going back to school full-time. I learned a lot about myself during that time in regards to what I need and what I want and even when I went back to spending money again.  I highly recommend going on a “fast” to learn what things (literally) are worth to you. You really discover what is worth your time/energy and what is worth your money.

Now that the Holidays are over, I’m looking around my house seeing an accumulation of stuff; mainly things that I do not need like travel size toiletries for when guests come over (um, yeah…cause I get so many, NOT), or my bulk stash from a discount/coupon deal, or just things that I forgot about like under my bathroom sink! I realize that I have much that needs to just be used up so I can get back my space and back to simplicity……and lastly, I spent much MORE MONEY this holiday season on gifts and a vacation before school started up again (the vacation was worth it 🙂 ). Yet I NEED to get back on track with my savings, so I don’t run out before graduating…..so I thought about doing another Spending Fast but this time for 90 days and see what occurs.

Stay tuned for this 90-Day Challenge!

Almond Milk from Scratch

So, I just learned how to make Almond Milk from scratch from my uncle. It’s actually quite easy and if you have any almonds left over, they are much easier to chew as they are soaked in water.

What you will need:

  • 1 cup of raw almonds
  • 3 cups of water
  • 2 medjool date (pitted)
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla extract
  • Nut milk bag & blender

FIRST, take about 3/4-1 cup of raw almonds and soak then for 48hrs in the refrigerator.  CHANGE THE WATER EVERY DAY!!

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Next, take 1 cup of soaked almonds (without the water) and put them in the blender along with the 3 cups of water. Add the vanilla extract and dates and then allow the dates to soak for 10 minutes prior to blending the mix. I put my blender on “liquidify” for about 3 minutes to make sure all the almonds were completely ground down.

Place the milk bag into a large bowl and then pour the mixture into the bag.

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With your hands, if you want you can also wear food preparer gloves, squeeze out the liquid starting from the top and working your way down.

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Now you have your own Almond Milk 🙂

Almond milk pic

P.S. If the Almond Milk is not sweet enough add more dates.

I will be writing another post soon on what to do with the remainder “pulp” from the Almond Milk.

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Stay Tuned!

Crochet Wrist Sweatband

Since I started trail running and now it is July in Reno, NV where the temperature can hit 100 degree plus, it’s HOT here. Even with sweatproof sunscreen, it doesn’t matter. At that temperature and creating body heat, you’re melting and sweat is going to drip into your face.

So with staying frugal and especially for something like a sweatband…I didn’t want to spend money on something that is soaking it up. I went through my old yarn to see what I had and luckily I have some remnants of 100% cotton yarn from when I made dishcloths and eye make-up remover  pads.

Here’s the pattern:

  • chain 12
  • in the second stitch, single crochet all the way across
  • chain 2 and turn, double crocheting (through broth loops) all the way across again 
    • Let’s call a row of single with a row of double crochet a “set”
  • chain 1 and turn, single crochet (through both loops) all the way across
Repeat this pattern of alternative a double crochet line for a single until you hit your desired length. I did 8 “sets.” With my left hand, I just held the seams together and tried pulling the sweatband over my hand a couple of times to make sure that it was snug enough before finishing.
**Remember that the cotton will stretch a little over your hand and you don’t want it too baggy. Especially when wet, it can get annoying if it hangs too low on your wrist.
To finish:
  • I single crocheted through the loops of both ends which made a chain along the width of the sweatband. You can sew the ends together for a more seamless look. 
By the way, this sweatband idea can also be used for a coffee cozy if you are in need on one 🙂 = easy, fast but great Christmas idea.
I like the idea of this sweatband being cotton like a towel because I have used it like a dishcloth when I had nothing else around and a tissue was too flimsy to clean up from dirt (on me) while on the trail.

Spending Fast…and Now that I’m Spending AGAIN

Since my Spending Fast, I’ve had some expenses for school that I have needed to take care of (i.e. immunizations, shoes and upgrading my software on my personal computer); nevertheless, I have been exercising more and enjoying the great weather outside. I couldn’t help but wander through REI and look at all the cool, efficient gadgets that are lighter, better, faster than what I have from my Wally world (Wal-mart) equipment. My head was spinning with excitement and the desire for wanting to upgrade.

Unfortunately, here’s what I realized with “allowing” myself to spend again:
I feel like I don’t have enough…
while on my Fast, I felt like I had everything that which I needed, I just needed to get creative and maybe re-purpose something.
 
You would think that I would have the opposite feeling of, “I have money and I can provide for myself.” So why would I feel the lack? The act of having to go out and get something screamed to me that “I don’t have it” and I’m missing it. Instead of, “You already have it. Get creative and make it work.”
The only thing that I have felt a little guilty on, which thankful for my mother she changed my perspective, has been buying new trailing running shoes and a hydration pack (both bought on clearance). I tried to make my husband’s hydration pack work for me; however, it only held a bladder, leaving me with no where to put house my keys, phone, and maybe an energy bar. And my hiking shoes are heavy while my running shoes…..well, you can see the white inner sole showing through the black outer sole that hits the pavement. I told my mother about this and her response to me was, “Valerie, it’s your health and wrecking your knees is not worth it to save some cash.” Well said!!!
As for the hydration pack, I did look on Craigslist (I would have changed the bladder/mouthpiece, etc.) but the piece was almost the same. I also spoke with my husband last night who has ran many marathons and leads PT (physical training) for his crew and told him about how I got light headed, vertigo and run was pounding while running yesterday. I never crave sports drinks and this time I did. He confirmed that I was dehydrated so the pack was a good thing to get. I HATE carrying junk while running and having the weight bounce against my back or hips. This is my first time using a pack so I will post a review on the Nathan HPL #020 (I got mine at REI for their 2012 close-out deal = over 25% less than Amazon.com). I’ve tried running with water bottles, and not to say that it can be done; however, running for 1-2 hours or hiking 2+hrs……it’s nice to have something more comfortable. I also like the idea of having my hands free in case I slip and need to catch myself.
Conclusion:
  1. “Needing” to go buy less gives you the sensation and satisfaction that you have everything that you need.
  2. And your health is worth it! Don’t sacrifice treating your body like a temple. This physical body is what moves your through this world.
P.S. I just watched a lecture by Scott Jurek (ultramarathon runner and fruitarian) on his tips for saving money on gear:
  • Buy on sale and stock up
  • If you are a women’s 8 (shoe size) then you are a men’s 6 — see if the men’s version works for you. Because the shoe size is so much smaller than what normal men go for, there may be a chance that there is overstock = save money
  • Use what works for you – if you are not racing, throw on a t-shirt and shorts and get out there.

Spending Fast FINISHED: Conclusions and Lessons Learned

So in retrospect of my Spending Fast, here are some conclusions that I have come to

Wants:
Reality:
Eating out/happy hours 1x/week – more of bummer as I was pretty frugal when I did go out = normally spending $10
Hard – I make this sound like I’m a socialite but I’m not. As long as I keep my “mad money” to $10/week (not per event)…..for any and all Happy Hours, lunches, coffee, etc. I think I’m good.
  • This was also harder to plan for if I didn’t pack enough lunch or I was running errands and they took longer than anticipated.
Gifts – will be recycling, re-gifting or making all gifts
Medium to Hard – This one wasn’t so bad as I have a lot of crafts and got creative however….don’t give junk to people. If the person can’t really use it, a $10 gift card along with a nice card is much better. I say something is better than nothing, even it’s offering to wash and detail someone’s car.
  • I hate washing my car so I would love this one.
Haircuts
Easy – besides my bangs which I’ve been watching YouTube videos on how to do this myself in the future, my hair is long enough to put up or down. I have also been looking at Pinterest for more updo’s so when I am do for cut, I can hide it.
Clothes
Medium – I actually found myself purging clothes than wanting more during this Fast. It made me take a look at what I have, what I actually wear and what I have worn in a LONG time.
New hobbies or crafts
HARD – this was hard for as me I constantly get coupons for Michaels and Jo-Anns however I have so much in boxes already…..I have to contain myself and see what can I repurpose.
Groupons or Living Social Deals
Easy – delete the app and just remind yourself of the goal
Specialty Coffees at Coffee Shops
Easy – I got treated to coffees by nice friends however I won’t abuse this and honestly will return the favor, with coffee in the future. I like good coffee yet having a to go cup from home is fine with me.
Contact Lenses
Easy – this was the easiest as I like my glasses = which is KEY!!!

Lessons:

  1. Put your needs before others, if you really want to achieve your goal.
    • This is a hard one for me; however, if you put other people first, then you always put second or last. And what does say about the value you put on your time, energy, money, etc.? It is of value also. And if something is of importance to you, share this with your loved ones so if you miss out of something, they know that you are working towards your goal and when you can, you will be there.
  2. This Spending Fast is NOT about “just getting by in life.”
      • Don’t be so cheap or frugal to the point that you feel like you are existing to achieve your goals.  Here are some suggestions to still have fun:
        • Organize a picnic in the park
        • Scout out new restaurants that may have a cheap happy hour
        • Offer to clean the yoga studio in return for taking a free class
        • Go for walk with someone instead of eating/drinking
        • Do a hobby or craft with a friend

    I’ll write a whole page on this later as I came up with a lot of small things to do.

    1. When there is something that really want or need and a possibility of it running out, BUY IT and YOU CAN ALWAYS RETURN IT LATER!!
      • I waited on purchasing material for a quilt for a baby shower as I’m doing this Spending Fast; however, the fabric is now discontinued and I can’t find anywhere, not even online. So lesson is: If there is something that heart is really set on and you know it’s perfect for what you want or want to achieve (in this case, I KNEW my friend would have loved it for her lil one) = Go For It!! Get rid of the guilt of spending and take advantage of the opportunity.
      • I once had a girlfriend tell me, “If it’s exactly what you want, then it’s worth it.” So far, I have not felt guilty purchasing something more costly when it was EXACTLY what I was searching for. (OK, in the beginning I did; however, I got over it and learned to enjoy my decision as some things are worth it.)
    2. Take advantage of coupons, reward points, timing, and COMBINING them together!!
      • For instance, I had an ULTA reward point that I had to use before the end of the month. I know that I was on my Spending Fast however missing out on the fabric, I was not going to make the same mistake twice. Also, my friend gave me a $5 off coupon and my mascara was on sale for “buy 1 get one 50% off” along with getting a cosmetic bag. When I got to the register, not only did I get my hair accessory (as I only had Category 1 of reward ULTA points) = got for $2 after using the reward points; got 2 of my mascaras and then used  the $5 off coupon; still received the cosmetic bag, yet I also received a free Moroccan Oil bottle for being a loyal customer for coming in the week since it was Memorial Weekend. All in all, I spent $12 when I should have spent more than $25.
    3. If you are going to buy something, be smart and get some cashback $$ for it if you don’t have reward points and timing is not of the essence.
      • I signed up for ebates.com where they pay you for shopping online at 1,600+ websites. First, you log onto the site, then find the online store that you want to shop at, a tracking code is issued to you for that shopping experience and when you check out, you get a certain percentage of cashback reward dollars. Also the site tell you which promotions and coupon codes are going on at the store prior to finishing your purchase.


    I got 3% cashback at Burt’s Bees = $0.91 along with a $10 Wal-Mart gift card for making my first $25 purchase within the first 90 days of signing up. And on top of this this, I used my Discover card which I get cashback dollars with them as well just for using my credit card to purchase the items.
    So I get cashback on the front and back ends of the purchase.


    • By the way, make sure that your address is filled out in your account information in order for Ebates.com to send you a check. A check is not sent until you have $5 accumulated in cashback dollars.
    • You can also have your Paypal account credited or donate to a charity, if that works better for you. 
    • And for the gift card, you can also choose between Targets, Wal-Mart and a couple of other major department stores. I just choose Wal-Mart as I can buy food and it’s in my local area.
    • NOTE: Discover card has their own shop online version however they don’t have as many vendors as ebates. Any cashback dollars I get from Discover, I use on Amazon as you don’t have to have a certain dollars to hit prior to being able to use it. It could be $0.01 and you can use it. Also search on Bing and receive points towards an Amazon gift card, too.

    Spending Fast: Day 21 – Get Creative

    So  honestly….I’m just wanting to revamp some of my clothes although I realistically, I don’t NEED new clothes and the next year of my life is going to be Nursing school. So with going through my closest, I decided to:
    1. Go through and get rid of clothes that I don’t wear anymore and are just there
    2. If the clothes are nice enough = give to a girlfriend
    3. If they are just OK or maybe too out of style = REVAMP!!!
    And here are some ideas from Pinterest:
    1. http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/garter-stitch-swingy-sweater
    2. http://blog.easilydunn.com/2011/10/diy-make-an-awesome-cardigan-out-of-a-shirt-from-the-6th-grade-that-you-refuse-to-throw-away-but-never-wear/
    3. http://wobisobi.blogspot.com/2012/07/no-sew-halter-3-diy.html
    4. http://wobisobi.blogspot.com/2012/07/no-sew-one-shoulder-shirt-diy.html

      Spending Fast: Day 13 – How to Move Beyond Convenience

      I’m almost halfway through the month of this Spending Fast, and I’ve noticed my biggest struggle is really fighting against convenience. For instance, you need to run errands on the weekend and you will be gone all day. Grabbing a banana or power bar is easy however power bars are not always cheap and sometimes you more than just a bar.
      I was thinking about this more and more over the weekend and thought of a couple of things to stock in my pantry/fridge so I can grab ’n go:
      Pantry:
      ·         Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
      ·         Protein powder in a Blender Bottle (just add water and ice and shake — I like Vega chocolate and it also makes sure that I drink enough water in my day)
      ·          
      Fridge (no microwave required):
      ·         Pesto pasta (in particular tortellini pasta = more hearty) I eat cold and it just reminds me of a pesto salad than COLD pasta.
      ·         Lettuce/Cheese sandwich (make sure the lettuce is really dry or else it will get soggy) and sometimes I will  put tempeh bacon on this too.
      ·         Veggie wrap – be careful if putting hummus on this as the spread can make the tortilla wrap soggy. I would go for beans (whole like pinto) or just straight veggies.
      ·         Yogurts
      ·         Celery or carrot sticks
      ·         Chia seed drink – I get the snack/lunch size Tree Top apple juice (plastic bottles), take a sip from the bottle, put 2-3 teaspoons of chia seeds in the bottle, refill with water to the top again, put the top back on and shake. The Chia seeds have omega-3’s, protein, fiber and much more nutrients in them. Also when refrigerated overnight, the chia seeds expand from the liquid and the drink becomes quite filling!
      Freezer:
      ·         Frozen grapes (separate into snack bags to grab ’n go)
       This what I’ve thought of so far however hope to add to it. Please comment if you have other fav, grab ‘n go items even if it is a power bar as maybe it’s heartier than what I eat. Thanks!

      Spending Fast: Day 3

      So today is already starting a little bit hard =
      I wasn’t able to make lunch last night with the in-laws in town, and trying to be a good host; so I don’t have a lunch 😦

      Also tonight, we are invited over to the hubbie’s uncle’s house and I was told that there will not be any vegetarian/vegan options. I get pretty used to eating something different than others however didn’t want to appear rude if I have already eaten before arriving or bring something for me to eat. The hubbie is encouraging me to go buy my food = going against what I’m trying to achieve…….ugh. If I lived closer to town, I would just go home and make something however we live too far out to do so.

      Lesson I’m learning: Put your needs before others if you really want to achieve your goal.

      P.S. Definitely not used to doing that…..but it’s true. If you think about it, even on a spiritual or physical level (i.e. wanting a more calm life or to lose weight), in order to achieve your goal, you can’t give in…….you have to stand for what you know is good for you.

      SOLUTION  Going to Qdoba and using a buy one get one free coupon — so still “saving” with a free burrito that I will bring with me tomorrow while running errands in town all day.

      Over Goal: Aprox. $7