A Surprising Place to Save Money

Saving Money On Online Adult Education Classes

I've been considering taking a few classes to further my education, so I took a look at some online classes that were available at my local community college. There was a nice selection of non-credit, adult education classes available and I thought they were reasonably priced. But I did notice that the courses weren't actually taught from the college - they were from an online source. Being nosy, I did a google search on the online source and checked out the website. The same classes I had looked into at the college were available at the website - but for a higher price.
I noticed also that there was a search box on the site so I could specify my area and find different places that were offering the courses; the search results listed several colleges and technical schools. Being ever the one to look for bargains, I decided to find out how much the courses cost at the other colleges and technical schools. I was surprised to find the difference in prices were as much as $44! Maybe in a better economy $44 wouldn't be something to consider, but on a tight budget every little savings is a great deal.

So if you are considering taking online classes, do some research, see what is available, and compare the cost. You might just find a surprising savings!

Blogs Gone But Not Forgotten

Where Have All The Bloggers Gone?

I've been blogging for a couple of months now and one thing I've noticed is that there are a slew of blogs that haven't been updated for a while. Months, even years, have passed and not a peep from those bloggers. I can't help but wonder why. Did they get busy? Did they discover they didn't have the time to blog? Did they get frustrated that they only had three followers? Did they try to monetize their blog and discover it wasn't the cash cow they'd hoped for? Did they get abducted by aliens?

It's sad, really, especially for folks who go searching for blogs to read. You hit the "next blog" button and see a blog title and a headline that piques your interest. You read, you smile, you say "hmm" to yourself, and just when you decide you are going to become a "follower," you notice that the post was from 2008. You search the page for an archive, and upon finding it, you see that the post you just read - the post with the headline that made you read, smile and say 'hmm" to yourself - was the last thing that blogger posted.

What then? Do you become a "follower" anyway and hope the blog gets resurrected? Do you search for "contact" info for the blogger and ask what happened to them? Do you just hit the "next button" again, and move on, deciding to let sleeping blogs lie?

Anyhow....

Couponing Hints!

Did you know that coupons and grocery store specials have a cycle?
February is National Hot Breakfast Month, National Canned Food Month, and National Snack Food Month so start keeping a look-out for coupons and deals on things like frozen waffles, soups, and crackers! February could be a great time to stock up on your favorites!

National Chocolate Cake Day

Did you know that January 27th is National Chocolate Cake Day?  I don't know who came up with a day to celebrate chocolate cake, but I would imagine it was a fellow chocoholic!

If you're in the mood to celebrate National Chocolate Cake Day, try this recipe for moist, Easy Chocolate Snack Cake; it's quick to mix and the ingredients are usually on hand.


Easy Chocolate Snack Cake

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup melted margarine
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 8x8x2 pan.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Stir it around to make sure it's blended.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the vinegar, vanilla, and melted margarine. Gradually add the water, and stir until the batter is well blended.

Pour into the pan and bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool before serving.

You can serve this cake plain, or you can sift a little confectioner's sugar on the top.

note - if you don't have an 8x8 pan, you can use a different sized small square pan or even a round cake pan - just adjust the baking time.

Enjoy! And Happy National Chocolate Cake Day!

Inspiration: Ten Things Before Breakfast

Ten Things Before Breakfast

A couple of days ago I read something about how people have a tendency to focus on the negative things in their lives and not on the positive. I think that's probably true: the negative things seem to invade our thoughts like a fungus.

But while there are negative things in all our lives, there are positive things - good things, right things and things that really work. What if, just for a moment, we could all stop and think about the positive things?

This morning I decided to write down Ten Things Before Breakfast that were positive and I was happy about.

Can YOU come up with your own Ten Things Before Breakfast?

My Ten Things Before Breakfast:

1. I woke up. That's a great way to start the day!

2. I was warm.

3. I have my hubby and my cat with me.

4. I have a roof over my head.

5. I have indoor plumbing. That's something a lot of people take for granted, but I grew up in a house with no indoor plumbing and it wasn't pleasant. This morning there is snow on the ground here, and there is freezing drizzle coming down - you can just imagine what it would be like to have to go out to the outhouse on a day like this!

6.The coffeepot worked!

7. I had coffee. I just can't get moving in the morning without my cup of coffee.

8. The hot water heater worked, so I got to have a hot shower. Yes, I know this is related to Number 5 above, but after childhood years full of sponge baths, a hot shower is a nice luxury.

9. I had clean clothes to put on this morning.

10. I have several choices that I can have for breakfast this morning.

Maybe my list of Ten Things Before Breakfast doesn't seem like a lot - but when you stop and think about how many people in the world are cold, alone, without a roof over their head, without food, and without clean clothes, my ten things are things to be thankful for - and I am.  

How about you? What are your Ten Things Before Breakfast?

Chinese New Year: Rice Facts and Fun

January 23rd, 2012 is the Chinese New Year!!

While some of us might not celebrate the Chinese New Year, most of us have, at some point, enjoyed Chinese food and rice is a usual accompaniment!

Rice Facts and Fun

Did you know...

  • Seeds of long-grained rice were found by archaeologists in the Hemudu, Yuyao, Zhejiang Province in China that date to 3000 - 4000 years ago? That is, so far, the earliest signs of rice production in the world.

  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (website), 60% of China's population lives on rice and according to the USDA, rice is the primary staple for 50% of the world's population.

  • On the eve of the Chinese New Year, Chinese families enjoy a cake called "nian gao." Made of glutinous rice flour, the cake is also known as "sticky cake" - they also give this "sticky cake" to the "kitchen god" in hopes that he won't speak badly about the family to the rest of the gods.

  • Rice came to what would become the United States in the 1600's. Produced on plantations, especially in South Carolina, the rice industry in the south waned after the civil war. 

  • Now raised mostly in Arkansas, California, Mississippi, Texas, Lousiana, Missouri, the United States produces more than 19 billion pounds of rice per year according to the USA Rice Federation (website)

  • The average American eats about 25 pounds of rice per year - that is way up from the 1950's when the average American only ate a little over 5 pounds per year!
 Fun -
  • Did you know also that you can donate rice to feed the hungry by playing a vocabulary game? For each correct answer, they donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Programme. There are also other quiz subjects to try your hand at such as literature, and flags of the world. I tried the vocabulary game and admit that it is a bit addictive! Give it a try!  freerice.com

Happy Chinese New Year!

National Oatmeal Month

January is National Oatmeal Month and according to statistics, we consume more oatmeal this month than any other month of the year.


4 Ways to Enjoy Your Oatmeal!


Cook Up A Bowl Of Oatmeal And Add Some Tasty Ingredients

I grew up eating oatmeal laced with white sugar and topped with butter and milk. The sight of a bowl of steaming oatmeal with little streaks of melted butter swirling on the milk takes me back to my childhood days. I get warm memories along with my hot cereal.

A bowl of oatmeal is also yummy paired with brown sugar, maple syrup, a little cinnamon, raisins or bananas.


Bake Cookies

Cookies aren't just for Christmastime!  Bake up a nice batch of Oatmeal Cookies. Add nuts and raisins to make them a hearty January treat to go with a glass of milk or a hot cup of coffee.



Oatmeal As A Meat Stretcher

Oatmeal works wonderfully in place of bread crumbs in recipes for meatloaf, meatballs or salisbury steak. That makes oatmeal a meat stretcher, and budget friendly!


Oatmeal As A Facial Scrub

Oatmeal is a great beauty product! Wet oatmeal with warm water and use as a facial scrub or body scrub.. Scrub lightly, and then rinse. This scrub gives you the benefits of fancy oatmeal soaps without the high cost!
*If you want your scrub to be more luxurious, add a little honey to the mix.

Gift Card Exchange

Gift Card Exchanges - good or bad idea?

I've read several articles in recent days about exchanging your unwanted gift cards. Among the sites noted in the articles are:

Cardpool

Plastic Jungle

Gift Card Rescue

Like many other people I have gift cards that are stashed away, unused, and so I decided to look into the idea of exchanging them for cash. I am a believer in reading online reviews of companies I'm not familiar with before I engage in a transaction with them, so I read some online reviews about the aforementioned sites.  Now, I am even more confused! Some reviews are great, some are negative. One negative review seemed to be on every site I visited. On the other hand, a couple of reviews, which were on Youtube, sounded like paid advertisements.

So if I do decide to exchange my gift cards, which company should I go with? I haven't decided yet. I am going to check them out further, read their "in the news" sections on their websites, and make my decision. In the end, I may end up with some extra cash, or then again, I may be trying Fuddrucker's burgers for the first time, or perhaps sharing $25 worth of Red Lobster's "chedder bay biscuits" with my friends and neighbors.

The Double Dip Recession Hits Home

Here at the drafty doublewide we got some bad news - my hubby lost his job. This is the second job he's lost since the economic mess began. The first job he lost after being at the same company for ten years. He was fortunate to find a new job (but making less money) in a fairly short time after that, but now, he is out job hunting again. The double dip recession has hit home.
So, like many other people in the same position, we ask, "now what?"

I am starting to question where the jobs really are. I'm not really one for conspiracy theories, but I'm beginning to wonder if the economic crisis is worse than we are being told. When you start to see "for sale" signs and "auction" signs, and abandoned homes in your own area, you start to wonder what's going on.
I was reading today about people over 50 having difficulty finding jobs; some people say no one wants to hire older workers, because they can get young workers cheaper. But then I read the other day that only 55.3% of young people ages 16-29 are employed in this country. So, the older people aren't getting jobs and it's being blamed on the young workers - but wait! - only 55.3% of the young people are working! I'm not a mathematician, but it seems the numbers just don't work out.

Another statistic I was reading about the other day was the poverty level here in the U.S. According to what I read, one-third of people in the U.S. are living in poverty. One-third! That means when you see three people in the grocery store, on the street, at church - the possibility exists that one of them is living in poverty. Depending on where you spot those three people, all three may be living in poverty. 
But maybe they don't look it - not yet. When you first lose your job, or have to work at less pay, you might still show the outward signs of your former prosperity - you still have nice clothes, you still have a nice car, your house is in good repair. But in a couple of years, will the signs of economic decline be more visible in those we see everyday? The clothes look a little more tattered because they can't afford to buy new ones. The car looks a little old, but they can't afford a new one. The house is starting to look a little run down, but they can't afford repairs.  

It's sad.

So tonight I'm asking the same question many other people are probably asking, "now what?"

Tomorrow is Friday the 13th

Tomorrow is Friday the 13th and there's the usual buzz about triskaidekaphobia - the fear of the number 13. But what about other phobias?

If you're afraid to read this post, you might just suffer from epistemophobia - the fear of knowledge. And if you can't make up your mind whether or not to continue reading this post, then you may be suffering from decidophobia - the fear of making decisions.

Are you afraid of clowns? A lot of people are! Clowns are marketed as fun and friendly, but for some folks, they are just plain creepy. I won't admit to having coulrophobia - the fear of clowns - but I will say I'm not fond of them. Of course, that could come from a childhood experience; who ever had the bright idea to put a painting of a clown directly across from a dentist's chair? I think somewhere in the back of my memories, I associate clowns with having my teeth drilled!

If you have a fear of bicycles, you have cyclophobia. But what if you're afraid of the bicyclists? Sometimes when you're trying to walk on a rail trail, the bicyclists go speeding by so fast you're surprised you didn't get run over! Maybe that phobia would be bicyclistophobia. Or maybe gettingrunoverbyabicyclistophobia?

If you go into any antique mart, you're likely to come across someone's collection of dolls for sale. If you're afraid of the dolls, you've got pediophobia. And if you're by yourself with those scary baby dolls, you might have a sudden attack of monophobia - the fear of being alone.

Blossoms are lovely, and blooms are fragrant, but if the idea of strolling through a garden center gives you the willies, you might be suffering from anthrophobia - the fear of flowers. And you never know - that could be your husbands excuse for not bringing you flowers in over 5 years - he has become anthrophobic.
On the other hand, if your husband doesn't want to make you dinner, he could be suffering from mageirocophobia - the fear of cooking.

If you watch home decorating shows, you might just see someone complaining about white walls and how they really need some color; maybe they've got a case of leukophobia - the fear of the color white.
And sometimes those home decorating shows will inspire you to do something around your own home; decluttering is always a good idea, but you might find it difficult to do if you're suffering from disposophobia - the fear of throwing things away.

Did you know pets can have phobias, too? A loud crack of thunder always sends my cat running to hide under the couch. My poor kitty has tonitrophobia - fear of thunder.

If after reading this post you decide it's time for lunch and decide to have tuna instead of a pb&j because you're afraid the peanut butter will stick to the roof of your mouth, you've got a case of arachibutyrophobia, which is, of course, the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth!

And with modern times come modern fears: if you read this post and decide to grab your cell phone and call a friend to tell them about it, but you start to have a feeling of dread, you may be having an attack of nomophobia - the fear of losing cell phone service.

Who knows where phobias come from: a childhood memory, an embarrassing situation, a frightening experience. I think most people have some sort of phobia, or at least some thing or situation that makes them uncomfortable.

I hope you have a great Friday the 13th!


*If you have a phobia, and are having difficulty dealing with it, please consult a health care professional. *

Easy Chicken and Dumpings

Dumplings are a great meal stretcher and budget friendly. They can turn a small dinner into a lot when you're watching your pennies or stretch your meal when you have unexpected company.

You'll need:

A big pot with a lid

chicken
vegetables (optional)
salt and pepper

For the dumplings -
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsps.baking powder
2 tsps.sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
water

Place chicken in a deep pot, cover with water, and simmer until cooked and tender. You can use any kind of chicken parts - legs, thighs, or a whole chicken cut into pieces - whatever you have on hand, or whatever is on sale that week.

When the chicken is cooked and tender, remove pot from heat, scoop out the chicken with a slotted spoon and put the chicken on a plate to cool.

While the chicken is cooling, strain the broth into a large bowl to remove scum and little bits. If there is a lot of fat on top of the broth, you can spoon some of it off and discard it. Then, pour the broth back into the pot.

Add vegetables to broth if desired, or skip to the next step. You can add whatever veggies you have on hand - diced potatoes, or carrots, some frozen peas or a can of corn. Cook the veggies until just tender.

Pull the chicken meat off the bones and cut it up or pull it apart into bite-sized pieces. Put the chicken meat into the broth, stir the mix around and add salt and pepper to taste.

You'll need about a quart of broth to cook the dumplings in; if there's not enough, add some water to the cooking pot. Turn up the heat on the pot until the mix is gently boiling.

Now the dumplings -

Sift together   1 1/2 cups of flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 2 tsp. sugar and 1/4 tsp. salt into a small mixing bowl.

Add water, stirring, until you have a wet dough.

Using a regular table spoon and a knife, scoop up heaping spoons of dough and drop the dumpling dough into the boiling broth, leaving space between each dumpling. You should have about 12 dumplings.

Then, cover the pot and let it cook for 12 minutes. Do not lift the lid during the cooking process!
(Keep an eye on the pot while it's cooking; sometimes some steam escapes and a little gravy will start running down the side of the pot. If it's a lot, I just wipe the dribbles with a wet dishtowel.)

When the 12 minutes are up, remove the pot from the heat, and take off the lid.
Dish up the chicken and dumplings into a big bowl and serve.


- You can serve the chicken and dumplings in the same bowl you strained the broth into if you want and save yourself from having to wash an extra dish.


Beef and Dumplings -

 - These dumplings work with beef, too. When I cook some beef in the crockpot, I save the cooking broth. If I have a little leftover beef from the first meal, I chop it up and toss it into my deep cooking pot with the saved broth and make beef and dumplings. There's a little meat in every bite, and it's a nice budget stretcher!

Fun On A Budget Idea!

Looking for something fun to do this weekend that is easy on the budget?
Why not visit a National Park! This coming weekend, January 14-16, is a Free Entrance Day at more than 100 National Parks that usually charge admission.

You could learn about an ancient people at The Aztec Ruins National Monument in New Mexico.

Or maybe explore Civil War history at Manassas National Battlefield Park  in Virginia.

Or find out about the glory days of steam trains at Steamtown in Pennsylvania.

Can't make it out this weekend? The National Parks offer other Free Entrance Days throughout the year -

April 21-29 - "National Park Week"

June 9 - "Get Outdoors Day"

September 29 - "National Public Lands Day"

November 10-12 "Veteran's Day Weekend"

There's lots to do and explore in the National Parks and Free Entrance Days make them fun on a budget!

For more information visit the National Park Service Website

Out and About In Pennsylvania State Parks

Out and About In Pennsylvania State Parks

The unusually warm weather here in PA yesterday just begged folks to head outside. Hubby and I love to go for walks, so we took off for one of our favorite Pennsylvania State Parks - Cowans Gap.
There were quite a few people enjoying the park - hikers, fishermen, casual walkers, and dog walkers. The large lake, the centerpiece of Cowans Gap, wasn't frozen over because of the warm weather we've had but when it is, you'll usually spot some ice skaters and folks enjoying ice fishing.

I saw an article the other day that said a lot of people don't realize the state parks are open this time of year. But they are, they offer a variety of winter activities and PA State Parks don't charge an admission fee!

So if you are suffering from cabin fever, take a look at what Pennsylvania State Parks have to offer and get out and find yourself a winter adventure!

Cowans Gap State Park website

Pennsylvania State Parks Website

Couponing Hint

Looking for coupons for your favorite products?

Try checking out the manufacturers website! Some companies offer a coupon (or more!) just for signing up on their website and may also have special promotions, email newsletters, etc. It's worth a look if you have a favorite brand product. I've gotten coupons for hand lotion, kitty litter, pain reliever, and even frozen chicken nuggets just for signing up.  A dollar off here and a dollar off there adds up quickly!



Using The Internet To Look For A Job

A lot of people are looking for work, and many use the internet everyday to help in their search. If you are new to the internet, it might not be so easy - you could be wondering where to start.
Here are a couple of ideas you might want to try -

Unemployment Offices - Find your state's unemployment office online and see what they have to offer. You may find information regarding jobs and/or training.
Here in Pennsylvania, for example, there is a website for "Careerlink" - http://www.cwds.state.pa.us/
When you go to the site, you would just click on the link that says "find a job." That will take you to a job search engine where you can search for jobs by keyword or category; by city, county or zip code. You can also add other (optional) criteria to the search like the salary you desire, what shift you'd prefer and whether you're looking for part-time, or full-time work. After you've entered the information, you click "search" at the bottom of the page and it will show you a list of jobs. Click on the link for a job and you'll go to a page that shows more information about the job and how to apply.
  *That might sound daunting if you're new to the internet and/or computers, but it is easy to get the hang of it. And a lot of webpages have a "Help" link - just click on that link and you'll find more information.

Newspapers Online - Take a look at your local newpaper online. You can search for the newspaper by name, or type in the name of your town, or county, and state and "newspapers" in the search engine search box. Most online newspapers have a classified section where you can view help wanted ads. Some of the newspapers online list only local help wanted ads, but some have a job search engine where you can type in the information and click 'search'.
Also consider checking out your other regional newspapers online to search their help wanted ads. 

Search for Company Websites - Some company websites have a link either at the top or bottom of the page that says something like "careers," "employment opportunities" or "work for us". The link will take you to a page where you'll find information about current job opportunities and how to apply. There may also be information about things like company benefits. 
While large companies from fast food places, to news organizations, to retail stores often list job opportunities on their websites, so do many smaller, local companies. Just searching through a few company web pages when I was researching to write this post, I found listings for white collar jobs but also jobs for blue collar workers from truck drivers to heavy equipment operators, to laborers for a quarry.
If you are interested in a particular company, you can do a search for the company by name to see if they have a website. Or you can try searching for local companies in a particular industry - for example if you're looking for a job as a construction laborer, type "construction companies" and your town name in the search box. This should bring up a list of company webpages for you to check out.

 *Don't be afraid to try job hunting online. A lot of people are not trained in using computers and the internet, and they are just learning as they go - you can, too!  

A Great Week To Buy Vitamins and Nutritional Supplements

This is a great week to buy vitamins and nutritional supplements! After the overindulging of the holidays, a lot of people made New Year's resolutions to lose weight, and get healthy, and the stores seem willing to help them along! A lot of grocery and drug stores have vitamins and nutritional supplements on sale right now and many of them are buy-one-get-one free if you have a store loyalty card.

Also it's a great time to look for coupons for vitamins and nutritional supplements. I found a coupon for $7 off on a joint supplement my hubby takes and one of my favorite stores has the product on a buy-one-get-one sale. The store also has vitamins and minerals on a buy-one-get-one sale so the iron supplements I take daily are a great deal this week!

The savings can add up quickly, just for an example -

joint supplement - regular price $15. BOGO at local grocery store - so the price for 2 is $15 for a savings of $15. Take off for coupon of $7 - total price $8!

iron supplement - regular price $6. BOGO at local grocery store - so the price for 2 is $6 for a savings of $6.

Total savings - $28
That's a great savings on products we use every day!

So if you use vitamins and/or nutrional supplements, check out your local sales this week and look for coupons for your favorite products!

Save Money on Residential Trash Removal

Save Money on Residential Trash Removal

We're all looking for ways to save some money in this tight economy -- here's an idea to consider -
If you live in an area where you have to pay for your own garbage pickup, consider checking out what kind of deal you could get by changing trash removal services.

We'd had the same trash removal service for many years; it was a large company, their service was dependable, and we had no complaints, but it just seemed to be getting more and more expensive every year. We started noticing folks in our area putting out trash cans and bins with various trash removal company names on them, and then also noticed a small ad in a local paper advertising a trash removal company in a nearby town. We decided to look into what kind of prices the other companies were charging and we were surprised at the difference! We ultimately decided to switch to a smaller, local trash removal company and cut our trash bill by more than a third.


  • Research Companies - Take note of any trash removal company names on trash cans and bins in your area, or look up residential trash removal in your local yellow pages.

  • Ask about services - Do they provide pickup in your area? Do they pick up weekly? How many bags or cans can you put out for each pick up? If you only have a bag or two of trash per week, ask if the company has a discount for smaller pickups - some do.

  • Compare prices - Compare prices among the different companies; they can vary quite a bit.

  • Negotiate  -  Try negotiating with your current trash removal company. When we found out how much less other companies were charging, we called our trash company, told them we were going to cancel our account and change services and they offered us a discount if we stayed with them. Your current trash company might not be willing to negotiate price, but it's worth a try!