Friday, September 28

Fast Simple Balanced Meal

Stagg 4 bean vegetable chiliToday's meal idea is brought to you by the words "tired" and "lazy". Hey, it's Friday night, I don't want to spend any significant time cooking tonight. Besides, we had a nice roast with baked potatoes just a few days ago.

As you can see, the main time saver was the 4 bean chili. Cook up some tricolor pasta, dump in the chili and toss in some shredded leftover meat. Bam, ten minutes for the pasta to cook, dump, mix, serve. Done.

There you go, a cheap and fast meal with protein, vegetables and fiber which is even low in fat. Who says frugal has to be inconvenient? Yeah, okay, I know the can of chili might have been a cheat job. I'm okay with that.

Thursday, September 27

Sep 2007 MyPoints Update

Join the 'fun' :)Not too long ago I posted about joining MyPoints. Now, dutifully, most mornings, I'll wake up and plunk myself in front of my computer to read my email.

Hey, it's not like I have much brainpower at that time! So, while I'm peeling my eyes open and revving up the hamster wheel powered cranium, I click on their messages and visit some websites that I'm almost never going to purchase anything from. While this sounds pretty hum-drum, I'm liking it.

Hmm, didn't I just write something about consumerism? Does the phrase "I'm liking it" remind you of a certain large company?

Anyway, to make a long story short, I'm sitting on over 450 points as of this morning. Woohoo! Another year of this and I'll qualify for a free toenail clipper or something...

Saturday, September 22

Musings On Consumerism

Available at AmazonSometimes I worry about the effects of consumerism on society.

In real terms, how much do we need? Civilizations were fat and happy in the past with a lot less than we have now. What force is it that drives us so hard? Is it as simple as status or greed?

Every day, people profess that the important things in life are truly simple things such as enjoying the company of family and friends. How can this be squared with the ridiculous spending behavior and subsequent need to earn vast incomes to then pay for it all?

Can this possibly tap into some age old instinct to hunt, to gather, and to provide? Or, instead, is our society simply built up on a house of mirrors created by manipulative messages which serve no purpose but to feed desires for things we don't actually need?

I certainly don't know.

However, I do have an insight or two based on experiences from my past. I know that no matter where I travel, or no matter what I purchase or own, I am basically the same person. Whether or not I am a happy person with a positive outlook on life comes from inside, not outside.

Sure, I can hear you now. You there, with a substantial inability to meet your financial obligations, I've been through your situation. I'm not talking to you as someone who's ridden a wave of good fortune all of my life. Seriously, believe me when I tell you that resources can certainly alleviate some sources of stress and remove a few things that lead to being unhappy, but the sad news is that removing sources of unhappiness, or amusing yourself with expensive toys, does not make you happy.

Such things are mere distractions.

How many of us are simply busy amusing ourselves, distracted, as life passes us by, while we strive for the next rung? How many of us get so busy reaching for the next rung that we don't see the end coming before it is too late to spend some time enjoying what we all believe is truly important?

I have one final question. Am I writing this for your benefit or mine?

Free Stats From Google Analytics

Anybody who takes blogging seriously keeps track of their statistics. While most people are aware of services like StatCounter, which offer basic statistics for free, Google also provides free stats services. The advantage of Google, as opposed to StatCounter, is that Google does not limit the number of raw visits that it will keep track of.

Here is a snapshot of interesting data regarding visitors to this blog:

Browser  % visits
Internet Explorer  74.93%
Firefox20.23%
Safari3.56%
Opera0.47%
Netscape0.42%
  
Connection Speed% visits
Cable35.41%
DSL27.42%
Unknown20.80%
T18.14%
Dialup5.80%

It was interesting to see how many people are using the Firefox browser (download and try , I like it) and how few people appear to be left on dialup.

Google Analytics is located here.

Tuesday, September 11

Sneaky Hidden Expenses

A beautiful waste of money?Beware! There are hidden expenses that might be built into your lifestyle. They are nearly invisible and can be hiding right under your frugal nose.

Do you have a leaky faucet? Is it dripping continously? If so, that is bad enough, especially if your water is metered, but it might be worse. Are you slowly dripping from the hot water tank or is it just cold water? Every drop of water entering the hot water tank starts out cold and uses a fair amount of energy to heat up.

While leaky faucets are easy to spot, a toilet that runs constantly may not be. While the wasted water won't be heated it can still run through gallons of water a day and end up affecting your utility costs.

Perhaps most insidious is the fancy combination faucet. You know, the ones that you pull up to the right or to the left depending on whether or not you want cold or hot water? Guess what, they generally are easiest to use if you simply pull up the middle. Filling a glass, flip, straight up. Yes, though you may not run it long enough to notice, you are getting half heated water and half cold water.

Sure, these faucets look nice, but they take conscious effort to use without inadvertently wasting hot water.

Check your home and see if you have faucets that are spending your money on your behalf. If so, exert the discipline to train yourself to use them more efficiently, and then if it is replacement time, find a faucet that both looks nice and isn't designed to throw your money down the drain.

Note: Part of this week's festival of frugality.

Friday, September 7

Frugality Steering Committee

Hello, how may I help you today?

No, I'm not practicing my skills for a customer service position. I'm simply wondering what you would like me to write about next.

This is your chance to be a member of the frugality steering committee. How? Simply by voicing your opinion.

What aspects of frugality most interest you?
Were you just looking for a cheap and healthy meal?
Did you hope to find a useful household tip?
How far into finance should frugality blogs go?

If you have any requests, suggestions or thoughts on the subject of frugal living, please leave a comment for me. I can't guarantee I'll write about or even know about the things you mention, but maybe I will.

Thank you. Have a nice day.

Wednesday, September 5

Exercising At Home

Staying FitOh oh. Now that I've moved further out of the city it is no longer that convenient to drive downtown to visit the gym. I'm not always willing to drive half an hour each way.

I've been fighting this conclusion, perhaps in denial, for a couple of weeks now.

However, all is not lost. It isn't that hard to find bodyweight exercises that can be done at home. Also, while overheating can be an issue - even with a fan, the cooler fall season is approaching.

Here are some ideas:

Stair Climbing
They didn't invent the stair climber machine for nothing. This is great exercise and nothing is stopping you from walking up and down your stairs, at a reasonable pace and carefully, until you get winded or tire out.

Squats or Knee Bends
You'll want to practice "good form" while doing these. This means that it would be a good idea not to round the back. Since I throw a barbell on my shoulders when I squat at the gym, it will be important for me not to adopt a sloppy movement pattern. If simple squats are too easy then progress to one legged squats, known as pistols.

Push Ups
Everybody knows what pushups are. Do them from your toes if you are able to, if not, you can do them using your knees as the pivot point.

Shoulder Raises
I'm not sure if there is an official name for this, but if you hold your arms straight out to the sides and then raise them overhead, you'll eventually notice your shoulders and/or your traps getting sore. Congratulations, that's known as exercise.

Pull Ups
If you are fairly good shape you may be able to do pullups. There are devices that can be attached in door frames that will let you pull yourself up. However, if you are too tall it might be difficult to get a good range of motion with this exercise. Be aware, it can be very difficult for a sendentary person to achieve even one pullup, so make sure you can do one before you purchase anything.

Sit Ups
Situps, or perhaps crunches, are a well know way to work on your ab muscles. Don't even imagine that you can spot reduce by doing ab work as you can't. However, this doesn't mean you should neglect this muscle group.

Bodyweight Rows
Again, I'm not certain what to call this, but if you lie on your back you can reach up and grab your pullup bar. In reality, you'll want the bar a couple inches out of reach if you are lying down. Anyway, this move is the opposite of a pushup and will help work your back.

Bridges
A bridge is when you brace your core and lift your stomach or back off the floor using your head and feet. Here is a definition on Wikipedia. This is less familiar to most people so I'll just suggest you go look it up and view online examples before trying to do them.

Running, Walking, Hiking
Depending on where you live, and your fitness level, it might be appropriate to get outdoors and move around. Heck, in the winter you can add ice scraping and shoveling to your exercise routine.

Anyway, I think you get the idea. These exercises are available to everyone at very low cost. Don't let lack of a gym membership, or the convenience of a gym, get between you and an appropriate level of fitness. Remember, health is job one, don't neglect it.

Tuesday, September 4

Top Personal Finance Blogs

Though not on this recently compiled list of the top 100 PF bloggers, maybe I could beg for inclusion?

According to Quantcast.com this blog has a healthy 4886 visitors per month. That puts me right in the 25th slot. Woohoo!

However, I do have to admit that it's very possible that "frugality" is an entirely different blogging category. Regardless, this type of ranking provides useful feedback concerning audience size and so on.

Check out Fire Finance's list. Presumably you'll recognize same of the names, but a few sites in there might be hidden finds! At the very least, I'm sure there will be plenty of good ideas that you can put to use.

Monday, September 3

Wasting Time With Forex

Blogging about the ForexOkay, I suppose that isn't a very charitable statement, but I've been putting some of my spare time into a new hobby.

I'm the newest rookie trading on the Forex market!

It's actually kind of funny, but I can only say that in terms of entertainment value per dollar, it's actually a good deal. What do I mean by this? As a day trader I can experience the thrills and stresses of immediate gains and losses whenever I want to. It's as exciting as a good movie and as a bonus you can never tell what the ending is going to be.

Anyway, while this isn't really a frugal issue, if you are interested, I have started another blog on my efforts to learn about Forex trading.

On another note, my girlfriend and I put some small furniture pieces together this weekend. Actually, she was happy to do much of the assembly and I added a bit of muscle for the bits that weren't cooperative. She did a great job. Hmm, maybe there is a blog post in this somewhere?