Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Storing up for Winter

I love this time of year, when the temperature outside is comfortable enough to throw open the windows and let the breeze in.  After a summer of excruciating heat, I feel the need to get outside and enjoy what nature has to offer.  Most often my choices are free this time of year.  Attend a festival for Bluffton or one of the neighboring cities, take a day to play on the beach when it's not too hot, or get the kids out for a walk in your neighborhood or local park.  All are affordable ways to enjoy the outdoors and spend some quality time together as a family. 

If you are not allergy ridden, turn off your HVAC and use the windows this month, a little fresh air will do the body good and will help cut down on your energy cost to boot.  This time of year is also good for a certain kind of cooking which I absolutely adore; Soups, Stews, Chili, and pasta dishes.  This time of year many vegetables go on sale such as potatoes and broccoli, as do apples, pumpkins, and pears.  Use these as a start to any yummy dish and you will have a money saving treat.  Rachel Ray makes a great side dish with mashed sweet potatoes, honey, chicken stock, lemon juice, and nutmeg that is amazing and cheap. Soups, stews, and chili can all be made in big batches when the ingredients are on sale, and leftovers can be frozen for a week that you don't have time to cook or when money is a little tight.  A little creativity can be fun in the kitchen, and lead to mouth watering dishes that don't break the bank.

As I start to crave comfort foods this time of year, I make use of pasta sales by baking my pasta.  Publix had both pasta and sauce on sale this week.  Simply cook the pasta according to the directions, add your favorite sauce and pour into a casserole dish.  Top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and bake in the oven.  It's such an easy and affordable way to feed a crowd, and generally most people love baked pasta.  When the items are purchased on sale, an 8x10 pan of baked pasta can be made for less than $10.00.  In my family this would normally serve at least 4 separate dinners as I divide it out into 2 - 8x8 pans, and freeze one of them for another time.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Movin and Savin . . .

Many folks in the Low Country are moving locally for a variety of different reasons. Some of us have lost our homes to foreclosure, some are trying to lower our monthly rent, and some of us are trying to minimize our losses by renting our owned home only to become tenants ourselves. Regardless of the reasons, moving can be stressful, tiresome, and most of all expensive. Time constraints tend to add to the cost, because most of us have only a day or two to get all of our items from one house to another which means that instead of carrying our stuff willy-nilly, we need to box up all of our items and rent a truck.

We recently moved only a few streets away, and the cost seemed much more than the last time that we had moved. Maybe we had more stuff than I could remember, but my one very important tip would be to clean every last cabinet, drawer, and closet out before you even start packing. Get rid of everything that you don’t need, either in a garage sale or give it to Goodwill, but the less you have to move, the better. Even though I have not taken this advice myself, the cheapest way to purchase moving boxes in online, which offers a discount through most of the truck rental companies, and they will ship them directly to your house. Me, I like to go back ten times to the store because I really didn’t think I was going to need this many boxes. From my experience, the boxes at the Uhaul stores are competitively priced, and the packing paper is cheaper at the Uhaul store than buying it at Lowes. This surprised me, but the other great thing is that the cheaper paper is actually larger which really helps with those glass items that need a lot of wrapping. Out of the top companies: Ryder, Penske, and Uhaul, I found Uhaul to be the most affordable for my local move, but I encourage you to price shop as prices change for the seasons, day of the week, and the distance that you are moving.

A great way to save money on your boxes is to reuse them. If you have moved recently, hopefully you had enough storage space to save your boxes, if not, you are bound to have a friend that might have just moved; ask to barrow or use their boxes. The Uhaul boxes I purchased stated that they were good for 4 uses. Now, some of ours did not make it, but most of them did, which will hopefully save us some funds on our next move.

For the actual labor of the move, in order to save money, you need to be ready to do some heavy lifting. Also, asking a few friends to help never hurt anyone. Offer to buy your friends lunch, dinner or both, and even if they only come for a short while to help move some of the larger items, it will be worth it. If you don’t have anyone that can help you, most of the truck rental companies can recommend movers that you need to pay by the hour; the going rate ranged anywhere from $200 to $1000 for about 3 hours of work depending on the company.

Here are some tips for saving money in a local move:

1. When using a moving company, try to book as far in advance as possible so that you will have time to compare prices and get exact quotes.

2. If possible avoid the summer months for moving, these tend to be the busiest as I was told by Uhaul because parents with children want to wait for the kids to get out of school before they move. Prices go up during these months.

3. Call your car insurance company and see if your truck rental is covered, if it is, it can eliminate the need for extra insurance costs on your truck.

4. Order your packing supplies online – some companies offer up to a 10% discount and free shipping, so if you don’t mind waiting a few days, it can save you money in the long run.

5. If you can find a friend with a pickup truck to help, you can either reserve a smaller truck or eliminate the truck cost all together.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your friends are your friends for a reason, and many people are moving these days so you might be helping your friend move next month.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Get back out there!

So after taking a little bit of a hard hit from the vets in our area, I took a little break from writing both my blog and my column.  Even though I was accused of "having an axe to grind," that was not my intention at all.   I really upset both Bluffton Vet and Coastal Vet by calling them for prices and services, then publishing those prices in the paper.  My question I pose to you is this, "If they are so upset that inaccurate information was posted, then why don't they make these prices public knowledge by putting them in black and white on their websites?"  I believe that my words were taken a bit out of context, when they cited that "obviously you get what you pay for".  You absolutely do "get what you pay for," but the point of my blog is to save readers' money, and sometimes that means sacrificing a little quality in order to get the job done. 

When I told my readers to go to the Dollar Store for bread, I have to assume that you know that the Dollar Store does not offer the same amenities and services as Publix, but I figured that my readers were smart enough to know that.  Just as when I told my story about calling the local vets, you need to know that they were just that, Phone calls to the clerk who answered the phone at the vet's office. I was merely stating prices on the specific items that I was requesting, and I did not stop by to see the vet's credentials, cleanliness of the facility, or chat with the vet to see if he or she was personable.   As for the recommendation of the vet clinic in Beaufort, sorry, but that came directly from the Humane Society on Hilton Head Island.  I can only infer that they do not know of a more affordable vet nearby, or I assume they would have referred me there. 

Now I will go back to my original intent which is to invite you on my "Money Saving" journey.  This morning as I watched the Today Show, there was a quote that was mentioned from Hoda's new book that she says changed her life.  "Your journey is not all about you."  I agree, if you are on a journey and you are learning from that journey, no matter what it is, you have an obligation to share your experiences and knowledge with those who want to listen.  Use your experiences to help others.