Tag Archives: stretching your dollar

Optimizing Your Dollar: It’s Not Used; It’s Retro

Isn’t it nice when being stylish is also being economical? This week as you look for ways to optimize your dollar think optimize your dollar 1about ‘used’ clothes. Thrift stores and consignment shops have lost their negative connotations, instead becoming the new trendy way to shop. Here are several ideas for your consideration.

When my son was born we had a neighborhood second-hand shop where one could pick up baby clothes for a quarter the original price. My friend, who introduced me to the shop, helped me realize that babies often outgrow their clothes, sometimes even before they’ve been worn. We found many cute outfits for practically nothing.

The timing between my son and my sister’s oldest introduced me to yet another way to save as I was able to pack up many of my son’s outgrown clothes passing them on to my nephew. A few years later, when my daughter was born, sis passed back the hardly worn outfits and a cycle was born. We shared clothes until my daughter finally realized she was wearing ‘boy jeans’ which she didn’t think was appropriate.


Sporting her most popular vintage dress

Today, used clothes are considered vintage, unique and one of a kind garments. Fortunately for us, my sister switched from sharing the boys hand-me-downs to her own. As my daughter grew she regularly inherited distinctive items from my sister’s closet.  There were many pluses to these classic outfits, key among them to a teenager, that no one else would be wearing the same thing. And more exciting to her is when someone would compliment a dress; wanting to know where she found it…She loved explaining that her outfit was vintage and not available at the local store. Nothing like being a teen fashionista and knowing no one else can copy you.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the down economy but a ‘find’ from a thrift shop has become a trendy bragging point.  Rather than being uncomfortable revealing their shopping habits, family and friends are choosing to share their great deals.  Just last month visiting family divulged they had found much sought after, and generally high dollar, area sports shirts for a super bargain price at the local resale store. Another friend enthusiastically disclosed that she always searched for high dollar brand name jeans at the consignment shop first.

Recently my daughter was noting a cute outfit worn by a friend. The friend was eager to tell her that she and her mom had gone ‘thrift store shopping’ over the weekend. She got her whole coordinated look for just $12. As the friend told my daughter, “They’re not used; they’re retro.”

Optimize Your Dollar: Making Tough Choices

This week I talked to my friend “Dee”.

Dee has been through some trials due to the continued poor economy.optimize your dollar 1

Three years ago Dee was working in the career she loves. She was teaching young children at a private school. Unfortunately, the economy caused her school to make a tough choice. They closed. It was no one’s fault (well, you could blame the Obama administration but…) Parents were losing their jobs, had hours reduced or took pay cuts; homes were upside down and there just wasn’t enough money to send kids to school when there were charter and neighborhood schools available at no cost.

Dee, like so many others, had been living on a shoestring. Everything was very finely balanced; the paycheck just matched the bills. So when the school told Dee they would be closing the end of May and that there would be no unemployment available well, you can imagine. Suddenly, expenses were more than income.

Of Hispanic descent, raised in Texas, Dee was familiar with being poor. After her mother died her father took over both roles. A landscaper, who often worked two jobs, he taught the children the importance of education carefully monitoring their school work and pushing them to go further than he. This desire that the children lived a better life meant Dad often had to make very tough choices.

The teacher cuts were statewide that year. My friend had to swallow her pride and accept assistance from the Salvation Army and the Catholic food bank. She cut her cable television and then the internet and then the phone. Finally, she found a new position. Unfortunately, the pay was less.  When her young adult daughter lost her part time job due to the economy they made one more tough choice. They had to give up their car.

100_0923 (1024x768)For Dee the past two years have been a challenge. But things are improving. She found a coworker nearby who would give her a ride to work. Her daughter eventually found a job at a discount store close enough that she could ride her bike.

Going back to her roots, Dee began cooking from scratch and found her crock pot to be invaluable once she returned to work. They also decided that eating out would be reserved for special treats. The family decided they could continue to live without cable television and now weekly visits the local library for free movies and books.

This week when we talked Dee said the family no longer needs to use the food bank to help with their groceries. And she is starting to save money so she can buy a car with cash. She doesn’t want to worry again about making payments.

Some people might choose to run up the credit cards during challenging times. Dee instead chose to make some tough choices. As this family gets back on its feet I know they are glad that they’ve got their bills in check.

If you have suggestions to stretch your shopping dollar or questions please let me know.


Optimize Your Dollar: Five Easy Ways to Save on Dinner

optimize your dollar 1

Noticing that cash crunch from your lowered paycheck this week? Here are five quick and easy ways to save money at meal time.

  1. Breakfast for Dinner: My family loves homemade breakfast. Trouble is we don’t usually have enough time in the morning for more than cereal and juice before heading out. So we move breakfast to dinner once a week. A box of pancake mix, some butter and syrup and you’ve got the fixin’s to fill up even the hungriest teen. Add a side of seasonal or frozen fruit (here in the desert it’s citrus time) and some bacon or sausage and you’re set.
  2. Breakfast for Dinner Part Two: Still thinking about breakfast? Might I suggest baked eggs? This one is soooo easy. Throw it together and into the oven for 30-40 minutes, help the kids with their homework while it’s baking, and then time to eat. There are no hard and fast rules to make this: I use 2-3 eggs per adult, 2 for less hungry kids, stirred with a little milk, salt & pepper; sprinkle some hash browns in the bottom of the pan (if you have them, some people line the bottom of the pan with slices of bread); bacon or other meat if you want (cooked first and crumbled); some cooked vegetables (we like to take frozen broccoli chopped up, cooked in microwave 5-6 minutes and drained—I use about 1/3 cup per person); pour the egg mix in and cheese for the top. Use oil, butter or spray Pam in your pan and bake at 350 until puffed up in the center.
  3. Make your own pizza: Around here there are pizza specials where for under $10 you get a medium pizza, enough for a couple adults or several small children. Otherwise, pizza can be a pretty expensive treat. Why not make your own? Jiffy makes an inexpensive and easy to make crust but there are others readily available, you can also make your own pizza sauce (can of tomato sauce, tomato paste, seasonings including garlic and oregano) or you can buy sauce at the grocer.  In both cases watch for these to be on sale and stock up (they have a long shelf life—if you buy a yeast product, pay attention to the ‘use by’ date.) Add your toppings and bake.  Look for your favorite toppings to be on sale too, most, including shredded cheese, can be frozen for later use. This is a great meal where the kids can help.
  4. Hamburger Helper: Many families like the quick easy meals that can be prepared with the Hamburger Helper type mixes. My friend with five kids shared her tip to make one package feed the clan: she cooks separately, additional pasta and then stirs it into the pan mixing together. She said this is the only way to get enough food into the hollow legs of her growing boys and does the same with macaroni and cheese mixes. A second suggestion is to use ground turkey either alone or mixed with regular hamburger. At our local Costco I can buy a five pound chub of ground turkey for $7. I let it thaw enough to cut and then portion it out. At this point you can cook it all up and freeze in portion sized bags for later use (shaves ten minutes off cooking later and you can throw it in the microwave to thaw). If your family doesn’t like ground turkey plane you can easily mix it 50-50 with the cheap hamburger, which will have plenty of fat to add flavor.
  5. Nail Soup. Do you remember this children’s story? A traveler enters a very unfriendly village and sets out a pot filled with water over a fire. The curious villagers come out one by one and the traveler explains that he is making a magic soup that uses nothing but his special nail. As it simmers he tells them how great it will be, if only he had a pinch of salt which one woman decides she can share. After tasting it again he remarks how wonderful the soup would be, if 100_0897only he could add a carrot or two, which another villager remembers she has in the house. The story goes on, adding potatoes, then some meat, etc., etc. until the pot is filled with a delicious simmering soup. The traveler shares it with the villagers who find it amazing and happiness abounds. That’s the soup we make at our house. What’s in the refrigerator? Some leftover chicken or ham, pick it off the bone and throw in the pot. Got a few potatoes? Peel and add. Carrots or cauliflower? You got it. Our soup is never the same but it’s always delicious. As I was typing this article I made a pot for dinner tonight. In the freezer I discovered a chunk of leftover turkey from Thanksgiving, still good, but a little frosty looking. Cut it up added an onion and some potatoes. Today I have a sweet potato and kale. Both made a fine addition to the soup. I add just enough water to cover and today used a couple of chicken bouillon cubes for seasoning.  Cook the potatoes until soft so they can be mashed up a little. Often I add a can of creamed corn (just before serving) to thicken. You 100_0901can add milk for a creamier sauce. You can make it with pasta (I cook pasta separately and add at end so it doesn’t get mushy.) And, as my family likes to remind me, if it’s kind of bland tasting, ketchup makes it better. This soup takes a little more time to prepare and cook but you can put together it at night and cook in the crockpot.

So there you have it. Five easy ways to stretch your dollar at dinner. Using any one of these suggestions should save a family of four at least $10 per meal over everyone ordering a kids meal at the local fast food store.

NOTE: I am not a nutritionist so make absolutely NO claim about the nutritional value of these meals. As a mom I will say our family does try to eat a well balanced diet.

If you have suggestions to stretch your shopping dollar or questions please let me know.