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Frugal Mom June News:  June, 2006
http://www.frugalmom.net

In this issue:

Hello to all you wonderful Frugal Moms (and Dads!),

As the temperatures in North Carolina have spent the week in the high 80's, we've experienced the true feel of summer.  Summer brings back so many wonderful memories for me as a child, and I am enthusiastic to give my children fun, carefree days of summer as well. Our newsletter next month will be dedicated to summer and all that we love about it.  Please send me your best frugal ideas for enjoying the lazy (or action packed!) days with your children - I would love to share them with our frugal readers.  You can email them to:  summer@frugalmom.net.


Frugal Mom Book Club

You are just in time to join our June Book Club!  This month we are reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.  This book is a national bestseller and we are very excited to get started. 

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. See's engrossing novel set in remote 19th-century China details the deeply affecting story of lifelong, intimate friends (laotong, or "old sames") Lily and Snow Flower, their imprisonment by rigid codes of conduct for women and their betrayal by pride and love. While granting immediacy to Lily's voice, See (Flower Net) adroitly transmits historical background in graceful prose. Her in-depth research into women's ceremonies and duties in China's rural interior brings fascinating revelations about arranged marriages, women's inferior status in both their natal and married homes, and the Confucian proverbs and myriad superstitions that informed daily life. Beginning with a detailed and heartbreaking description of Lily and her sisters' foot binding ("Only through pain will you have beauty. Only through suffering will you have peace"), the story widens to a vivid portrait of family and village life. Most impressive is See's incorporation of nu shu, a secret written phonetic code among women--here between Lily and Snow Flower--that dates back 1,000 years in the southwestern Hunan province ("My writing is soaked with the tears of my heart,/ An invisible rebellion that no man can see"). As both a suspenseful and poignant story and an absorbing historical chronicle, this novel has bestseller potential and should become a reading group favorite as well.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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We would love for you to join our book club:  Frugal Mom Book Club  We are very thankful to Anjette for the hard work she has put into getting our book club going! 

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Are your Kids on Drugs?  How Can you Know for Sure?

Drugs have become a part of our world.  It is not a nice or pretty statement, but it is a true statement.  No one is more at risk of experimenting with or becoming addicted to drugs than our youth. 

Parents today have an option available to them that parents in the past did not - drug testing in the privacy of your own home.  Do you suspect that your child is using drugs or alcohol?  Would you like to know for sure?  Now you can. 
Test Country has hair test kits so you can test your children without their knowledge and their tests are completely confidential.

Quick Home Drug Test Selector

 

Father's Day is June 18th!

I have done the searching for you and found merchants who are offering specials, coupons and f*ree shipping for Father's Day.  Here is a list of what I have found save money, gas and time and shop online this year!  Don't put it off buying for Fathers Day another minute.  Follow the links below and cross something off of your do-to list!  

Personalize.com :  Do you want to send your guys a gift they will treasure for years to come?  Personal Creations is offering 10% off any order.  Simply add the coupon code SIXTEN at checkout. Visit to see the Top 25 Personalized Gifts for Father's Day

Crazy for Bargains: They have men's pajamas, slipper and boxers.  Right now they are offering F*ree Shipping on Sleepwear Orders of $40 or More

Engravable Gift Collection:  Would your dad or hubby enjoy an engraved gift?  Engravable Gift Collection offers f*ree engraving on all of their products and they have a nice assortment of gifts.  Some ideas are:  personalized billiard sign, personalized stein, money clip, CD box, or sports mug.  They have executive gifts, golf gifts and so much more!  They are offering $5 off any order over $50

Russian Legacy:  Russian Legacy is a really neat shop offering all types of authentic Russian products.  You really need to check it out - it isn't what you'd expect it to be.  They offer F*ree Shipping on all orders and are running a special: $6 OFF on "Soviet Award to Harley-Davidson" T-shirt.

Magazines Quick: Magazines make great gifts!  Here are 2 offers from Magazines Quick: 

  • Get 15% of any order of $100 or more with coupon code SAVE15. Offer expires 12/31/06. 
  • Get 10% of any order at MagazinesQuick.com with coupon code SAS10. Offer expires 12/31/06.

Perfume.com:  Do the guys in your life like to smell nice?  Cologne makes a nice gift and  Perfume.com is offering the following offers: 

International Bible Society:  Almost 100 Scripture products from 10-60% off in their Sale Room.

Penney Lynn Wind Toys: Dads love to be outside this time of year and Penney Lynn has great wind toys such as kites, wind chimes, spinners and windmills.  They are offering F*ree Shipping on orders over $20.00

ARA Master Watchmaker and Sons:  They have a nice selection of watches, watch bands, watch tools and watch accessories. Use Coupon Code 2748 at checkout and receive $20 off all 200 Meter watches and Aviator Watches.

Bill Bam Collectibles:  Star Trek, Star Wars, Gremlins...all the collectibles that guys like!  Purchase at least $75 worth of merchandise and UPS Ground shipping is F*ree.  Use Coupon code FREESHIP75 This coupon is available to all customers in the continental U.S. (P.O. Boxes, APO/FPO, AK, HI, PR not valid).

Netflix.com:  Is Dad a movie buff?  Netflix is a really fun gift and we have enjoyed being a member.  You create your list of DVDs online.  They will send you 3 DVDs from your list and you can keep them as long as you want.  When you return your viewed movie(s), they will replace it with new ones off of your list.  Shipping is f*ree and you can try it F*ree!

Overstock :  Overstock.com sells discount, brand-name merchandise up to 80% off the suggested retail price and ships every product, big or small, for only $2.95! With over 750,000 products in stock, you are sure to find exactly what you are looking for; choose from bed-and-bath, home decor, furniture, handmade goods, kitchenware, watches, jewelry, computers and electronics, sporting goods, apparel and designer accessories and more! But, the unbeatable prices don't stop there; Overstock.com also has great deals on books, magazines, CD's, DVD's, videocassettes and video games! With a best price guarantee on all their products, your home for great deals on the internet is Overstock.com.

Rochester Big and Tall! :  This is the perfect gift for the guy who hates to go clothes shopping!  They are offering Shipping F*ree!

Franklin Covey - Franklin Covey has everything Dad needs to get his life organized.  They have a great selection of daily planners, accessories and software.  Look for the Today Only section (near the bottom) for Daily Deals .These are specials and each day is different!

Backcountry.com - Does your dad or husband like outdoor gear and clothing?  Backcountry is a great place to shop.  I've linked to their current sales!

BackcountryOutlet.com - If you love Backcountry for outdoor gear then you'll love Backcountry Outlet where you can save up to 70% retail!

Austads.com - Get your brand name golf equipment for less at Austad's. Millions of golfers already know that Austad's means Service.

Golfsmith Clearance Center: Great gifts for golfers and tennis players! F*ree Shipping on orders over $75 at Golfsmith.com. See site for details.

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Once a Month Cooking Goes on a Diet

There is one area of my life that I am not frugal in, but have never felt I had a choice - dieting. That changed when I stumbled upon the ebook Easy Does it Diet written by Jonni Good. This book is a combination of two things: once a month cooking and dieting, and I found it at just the right time. Last week I decided, once again, to go on a diet. In the past I have had dieting success when I purchased the pre-packaged diet meals and eaten them for lunch and dinner. The problem with that system is the cost. If you have ever shopped for Lean Cuisine® or Weight Watcher® meals, you know what I am talking about - they are very expensive considering how little food you are actually getting. I now have a new dieting solution thanks to the Easy Does it Diet.

Upon reading this book I discovered that the Easy Does Diet is so much more than a list of recipes and foods to say no to. It is a well thought out, successful plan with complete instructions on how to succeed. This book teaches you how to make your own, individually packaged freezer meals that are portioned controlled, full of nutrients, taste, and about 1/3 the cost of the frozen diat meals you will find at the grocery store. In addition, it is written in a very easy to read style that was extremely enjoyable. Best of all, it uses one of my all time favorite cooking techniques - once a month cooking.

In her book, Ms. Good shares that she had five main objectives when developing the system: (1) it had to be easy, (2) it had to contain all of things that people normally eat, (3) there had to be plenty of food, (4) it had to be nutritious, and (5) it had to be self-regulating. She also shares, "we need healthy, wholesome, nutritious food, in moderation - along with regular exercise - to build a thin, healthy body that will stay active and energetic for many years. Isn't that what we all want? I know I do. The book includes easy-to-fix recipes that give your body the nutrients it needs, and leaves out the empty calories we don't need. We are also taught how to turn your own favorite recipes into Easy-Does-it frozen diet meals as well as how to adjust the diet for our own personal success.

I am thrilled to have found the Easy Does it Diet and can't wait to get started!  To order your copy of the Easy Does it Diet, or to receive more information, Visit The Easy Does it Diet Online.

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Holiday Business Spotlight

I came across this article and am eager to share it with my Frugal Moms this month.  Yes, I realize that it isn't the holiday season yet, but starting a holiday business should not be left to the last minute.  November is not a good time to start a holiday business, but sadly that is when most of us start panicking about our Christmas budgets.  You need to be planning your holiday business at least 6 months ahead of time.  The more time you give yourself, the better.  Enjoy!

Make Money This Holiday Season; Don't Just Spend It
By Liz Folger

What if you could make more money than you spend this holiday season? Sounds like a pretty good idea, you say? If you'd like to be on the making money end during the holidays, now is the time to start preparing. Below I'm going to give you several money-making ideas. Pick the one or two that interest you the most and have fun!

Crafts

It doesn't matter if you're into woodworking, sewing, painting, pottery, or creating handmade paper. More than ever, people enjoy giving that one-of-a-kind special gift. You can sell your wares via the Net, at holiday bazaars or craft shows, or even consignment style. Once you become known for your crafts, word-of-mouth will keep you very busy.

Rubber Stamping

One idea is to create your own line of holiday cards with rubber stamps. Melissa Duquette has found this to be a profitable business. She explains, "The card season is upon us and everyone will soon be searching for the perfect holiday card to send to family and friends. This is your opportunity to break out into business and create unique hand-stamped holiday cards. Or why not offer a class teaching this great hobby? Rubber stamping can be worked into so many different businesses."

I've been to a rubber-stamping party where we were able to create our own cards. I had a great time hanging out with my friends and making my own unique cards. If you are into rubber stamping, seriously consider having a rubber stamping card party. You would supply everything needed, and could charge either a flat fee or charge per card made.

T-Shirts

Kim Moya runs a T-shirt business and finds this a way to make extra money during the holidays. She says you can create inexpensive holiday sweatshirts, and long- and short-sleeved T-shirts. And she doesn't stop at T-shirts, but also includes tote bags, felt and cloth ornaments, advent and traditional calendars, aprons and many other items that you can purchase wholesale and sell at retail prices!

Fleece Blankets

I don't know about you, but I love fleece blankets. I was really excited when I found out I could make these awesome "Snuggly" blankets without having to sew a stitch. Cinda Louden has been making these types of blankets for a while now and explains, "These blankets are made out of Polar Fleece material. They are soft, warm, cozy, durable, and wonderfully 'Snuggly.' There's no sewing or needlework involved; all you do is cut and tie. Making Snugglies is a great way to start and create a business or just make them for gifts. It's all up to you!"

Online Auctions

The hype of eBay has not gone away, but has only grown. When among a group of people, I can usually find someone who has either bought or sold something in an online auction. Colleen Wallace has made it her business to sell merchandise online. "The holiday season is the best time of year for me. People are always looking for unique and interesting gifts to give their loved ones. What better place to find something different than the online auctions," says Colleen. Start thinking about what you might have that you could sell online. Colleen has found that the items that sell well are those that can be used for stocking stuffers, are limited editions, or are signed items.

Baking

Then there are the people who cannot stop baking during the holidays. Are you the type of person who finds that at the close of the season, all of your neighbors' refrigerators and cookie jars are bursting at the seams because baking is just your thing? Believe it or not, this is not the favorite activity of some people.

Stacy Robinson has found that A Holiday Home Boutique is a fun way to network with others who provide a holiday-related product or service. Each vendor displays her product or information about her service, and friends and neighbors are invited to come to shop and share fellowship.

"As a cake decorator, I sell gingerbread houses, as well as display and serve a holiday-themed decorated cake - which the hostesses love because this becomes part of the refreshments! Visitors to the boutique get a chance to taste and see my cakes, and I take orders for holiday party cakes. I also display a few 'dummy cakes' to showcase my designs for birthdays, weddings, etc."

The niche market that has been Stacy's holiday bread and butter since 1991 is selling gingerbread houses to real estate agents. She leaves a gingerbread house with order information in large real estate offices for a few days. She also offers delivery to the real estate office, or delivery for a fee to their home-buying customers and other colleagues, such as mortgage brokers, closing attorneys, etc.

Additional Resources:

Ebooks are available on each of the subjects listed above, and each ebook contains more information on starting that particular business. They include:

* Bizy's Guide To: Making Snugglies! A Step-by-Step Guide to Making and Starting Your Own Fleece Blanket Business - By Cinda Louden

* Bizy's Guide To: How to Create a Profitable Cake Decorating Business "From Scratch" - By Stacy Robinson

* Bizy's Guide To: Making Money With Online Auctions - By Colleen Wallace

* Bizy's Guide on How to Start and Operate A Home-Based T-Shirt Business - By Kimberly Banfield Moya

* Bizy's Guide To: Starting a Rubber Stamping Business - By Melissa Duquette

You can purchase any of these ebooks at: Bizymoms.com

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Personal Budgeting

I am very excited to talk with you this month about a Personal Budgeting System that has earned high acclaims.  We have just received word that Mvelopes Personal will be featured in the "100 Best Products of 2006" issue of July 2006 PC World Magazine.  To select the winners, PC World's editors examined hundreds of products, including those that have appeared in the magazine over the past 12 months. The 100 winning products and services were selected for their exemplary design and usability, features, performance, innovation, and price. 

Three Financial Goals You Can't Afford Not to Make This Year

And how to actually keep them

By Steven B. Smith

If you are serious about finally getting your finances in order this year, here are the three goals you need to make, along with easy steps to help you actually keep them.

 1.  Automate your finances.

Why it's important:  If it's not easy, most of us will quit.  The key to effectively managing your money is tracking where it's going, and how much money you have allocated for specific categories.  Paper and pen will do the trick, but be honest with yourself, do you plan on keeping that paper and pen with you for the next year, logging each and every purchase no matter how large or small?  The Internet allows you to track all your accounts with no manual effort, and will even do all the math for you.  If it's automatic, you won't get lazy, and you won't forget to do it either.

Managing your finances online may also help keep your money safe.  According to a 2005 study on identity theft by the Better Business Bureau and Javelin Strategy and Research, "electronic monitoring provides greater safety by sharply reducing time to detection, and potentially eliminates the paper records and mail that are possible avenues to many identity theft cases."

How to keep your goal:  Set up a secure online budgeting system like Mvelopes Personal.  The subscription service will automatically track your expenses from multiple accounts and credit cards as well as provide you with balances of various savings and spending categories.  Seeing where you are spending your money will let you know where you can cut back.  Seeing your net worth rise in the net worth tracking feature will keep you motivated.  With a 30-day trial, if you do give up by February, you can simply call and cancel.

Set up automatic transfers with your bank to pay your mortgage and other fixed payments to avoid missing a payment or incurring late fees.  Use online bill pay to save on envelopes, stamps, and time (Mvelopes Personal includes a bill pay service, and most banks now offer bill pay for little or no extra).  Set up an automatic transfer to a savings or money market account once a month.  Find a high interest bearing account to maximize your savings.  Many online banks, such as EmigrantDirect, are currently offering three to four percent APY on savings accounts. 

2.  Stop paying interest and start earning it.

Why it's important:  According to Bankrate.com, if you charge $1,000 on your credit card, and pay only the minimum payment (assuming an interest rate of 15 percent and a 2.5 percent minimum payment), it will take over 10 years to pay off and cost an additional $757.98 in interest.  Conversely, if you were to take only the amount you would be paying in interest each month on that loan and invest it in an account earning ten percent, it would grow to $1,594.92 over that 10 years. 

Even if you've gotten deep into credit card debt and can't pay it off quickly, you can save a bundle by lowering your rate, and paying more than the minimum.  By dropping the interest rate on your credit card in the example above to 11 percent and paying only $30 a month, you could pay off that $1,000 in just over three years with only $198.85 in interest. 
 
Editors Note: Some families may choose to put together a well planned budget and cut back on expenses. Other families choose to combine their debts and in addition to making changes in their spending habits. See if you can cut your credit payments by up to 50% or more! 

How to keep your goal:  Always pay at least the minimum payment on time, and if at all possible, pay your credit card balance in full each month.  Mvelopes Personal has a credit card tracking feature that automatically sets aside the exact purchase amount each time a purchase is made on your credit card to help you pay off the balance in full each month. 

If you are carrying a balance from month to month, cut your spending to a minimum and allocate all the extra money you can to paying off your debt.  Use the debt roll down principle to quickly reduce your debt.  Make a list of all your consumer debts and prioritize them in order of interest (highest to lowest).  Pay the minimum on all your debts and pay as much as you can on the one with the highest rate.  Once your first debt is paid off, roll that payment amount into the next debt on your list. 

Call your credit card issuer and try to negotiate a lower rate.  If they decline, let them know you plan to roll your balance to another card and cancel the card with the higher rate.  If your credit history is clean, you should be able to find a card with a 0 percent introductory APR.  Don't make any purchases on the new card as often the introductory period ends as soon as you make your first purchase.  Be careful the interest rate doesn't skyrocket after the introductory period, and make sure you cancel the card with the higher rate to avoid simply running up a larger debt load.

Check your credit reports to make sure they're accurate.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion -- to provide you with a copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.

3.  Stop procrastinating saving for your retirement.

 Why it's important:  Time can be your biggest ally when investing for retirement.  For example, if you begin at age 25 and invest $4,000 annually in a portfolio that provides a 10 percent average annual return, then stop contributing after 10 years, your investment will grow to $1,365,818.31 by the time you retire at 65.  However, if you procrastinate investing until you are 35, then contribute $4,000 annually in a portfolio with the same 10 percent average annual return, and continue to contribute every year for 30 years until retiring at 65, your investment will only grow to $759,775.11.  Even though you contributed $80,000 more over the life of the investment in the second scenario, you still ended up with $600,000 less. 

How to keep your goal:  If you have a 401(k) plan, contribute at least enough to your 401(k) to get the maximum company match.  Talk to your HR department to find out the details of your company's plan.  If your employer offers a company match and you are not contributing to your plan, you are essentially turning down a bonus every year.  And since your contributions are taken out on a pre-tax basis, as you increase your contribution, your taxable income decreases, meaning you pay less in taxes. 

Open a Roth IRA.  Your money grows tax-deferred, and just so long as the IRA has been open 5 years or more and you are at least 59 ½ when you start to withdraw, there are no tax penalties for withdrawal.  The maximum annual contribution increases to $4,500 this year. 

Make sure that no more than five percent of your portfolio for either your 401(k) or your Roth IRA is in a single stock.  Diversifying is the best way to ensure maximum growth over time while minimizing the risk and volatility of the market.  Select an index fund or target fund for an easy option that requires little oversight.  Fidelity, Vanguard and T. Row Price are among the largest purveyors of mutual funds and all offer excellent funds for a variety of investing styles.

From start to finish.  Regardless of where you stand financially, there is no better time than the present to review your finances and make improvements.  Make sure that this year you don't just start fresh, but that you also finish strong.

Steven B. Smith is president and CEO of In2M Corporation

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Budget Decorating by Guest Columnist Kathy Wilson
Cottage Style Decorating on a Budget!

By Kathy Wilson

The Budget DecoratorCottage decorating is meant for real living, which makes it perfect for the budget decorator!Cottage style is a relaxed and casual style, reminiscent of a small vacation cottage in the woods, at the beach, or in the mountains.

There are no rules, except everything is usable, feet can be put up on the furniture, and charming is the word of the day.That being said, there are certain things a budget decorator can do to bring the cottage style into ones home.

  • Add white through the room. If you prefer color on your walls, remember to add lots of white and light colored accessories to brighten. White painted furniture, white plates on the wall and white fabric would all be great contrasts. If you have white walls, add a hint of color to them with a wash of the palest pastels, and color in the fabric.

  • Use lots of fabric in the room. Slipcovers, pillows, and tablecloths are all hallmarks of a romantic vacation spot. Combine patterns. An easy way to combine pattern in the cottage style is to look for different patterns that all have a white background and similar color schemes.

  • Use mismatched furniture. A room should evolve over time for maximum charm, just be sure that the furniture is all casual in nature, and tie it together by painting it all white, or using the same fabric on each piece.

  • Keep clutter down to a minimum. Have a place for everyday items, and keep your accessorizing to your favorite pieces. You can even change them out with the seasons, just don't feel the need to display everything you own at once.

  • Creative use of everyday items are hallmarks of the cottage style. A garden bench makes a great coffee table, a tin bucket is a perfect magazine rack, and a yard sale pitcher makes a terrific vase. Look around your house at what you already own, and see how you can repurpose things with charm.

  • Everything old is new again...weathered finishes, faded florals, and furnishings with history are ideal fits into the cottage décor. A budget decorators trick to avoiding the high price of antique furniture, garden accessories or architectural elements...buy them new at a discount or home improvement store, and age them yourself! Lattice, decorative shelf brackets, or tin buckets can be painted and sanded to look 100 years old, at a fraction of the price. Do a google search for "faux antique finishes" and you'll have all the info you need to create a one of a kind vacation home cottage décor!

Kathy Wilson is an author, columnist, and editor of The Budget Decorator and other popular websites. For hundreds of budget decorating ideas, visit her at http://www.TheBudgetDecorator.com.

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Frugal Mom Associated Sites:

Dogwood Glen:  This is our very own homeschool store filled with science curriculum.  As a thank you to all of our Frugal Moms, we are offering newsletter subscribers a 15% discount on any product (including sale products like our popular science kits) in our store this month!  Simply use coupon code Junefm on the final checkout page.

ChurchBizOnline: Provides impartial information on building, finance and accounting; areas that can have a disproportionate impact on the church if done improperly. Get the facts you need to properly finance and construct your church.

Doll Cottage:  The Doll Cottage has a unique selection of collectible dolls.
 
Go Potty Training Tips: Potty Training Articles, Resources, and products. 

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I hope you all have a wonderful month!

Candace