Category Archives: Education

learning in America

Communication/Information

Communication/Information 

–         Landlines vs. Cellular: Many folks have abandoned their analog based land lines in favor of a simple digital cell phone. One company offers simple (not smart) cell phones for $10 and programs for moderate use (180 minutes) at a mere $7 per month ($20 for 3 months).  These programs allow no extra charge for phone calls in the US & Canada. When compared to a land line at an average of $30 – $35 a month plus extra for toll calls this amounts to quite a bit of savings! Another way to save on a quasi-land line is to utilize a VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system. You will still need a basic land line connection, but most providers offer a basic line which allows for emergency calls and all incoming at a price in the $5 – $8 + tax per month range. Any outgoing calls would be charged at around $.10 per minute, but if you use a VOIP system you will never need to make outgoing calls on that line. One system that has been around for about 10 years is Majic Jack. The cost runs about $3 per month after an initial devise cost in the $20 – $40 range. On special, the initial devise cost comes with a free year of service. Calls to the US & Canada are free. Another system that can be used with a computer, tablet or mobile devise is Skype. Service is free from devise to devise & toll charges are very low when calling a land line or cell phone. International rates are also very low on this service.

–         Cell phone compared to “Smart” phones: The basic cell phone is great for phone calls and texts, but not so great for Internet use. If you use the Internet for emails and occasional surfing & download then it can be more cost effective to go with a “smart” phone with an unlimited plan. At the entry level these plans allow for unlimited phone, text & data, but the high-speed data is usually limited according to a monthly maximum. When that limit is reached the data speed is reduced until the start of the next month. If you are a moderate data user (just emails and occasional surfing   & downloading) you will most likely not exceed the limit.

More on this is next weeks posting

 

Clothing (perhaps the most difficult to control)

  • Clothing (perhaps the most difficult to control) 

–         What are methods to “stretch” your clothing budget? Time is the key to maximizing your clothing budget. The mark up on soft-goods is frequently as much as 400 – 500%. E-bay & Amazon are good sources to establish fair market price, but even better prices are available at retail when you make time your friend. Impulse is the enemy of a budget. I realize this concept may be difficult. The pleasure achieved from the “I loved it as soon as I saw it” is fleeting & later on you may wonder “What was I thinking”? Establishing what you need, flavored a bit with want you want combined with waiting for the right time will really stretch your clothing budget. Some folks are ashamed of shopping at discount stores for clothing. Don’t be. Most clothing today originates in Asia & many factories make similar quality clothing where the only difference is the “label” & thus the price. Many of the “brands” that have been established in Asia have the same quality standards as promoted brands.

 

Your food budget

Your Food Budget What methods can we use to stretch our food budget? As with all cost containment areas the key is planning. While making a shopping list is important more is required to maximize your food budget. One good idea is to match what you need for the fridge and pantry weekly with items that are on “special”. Another is to stock up on items that you use every week when they are at reduced prices (it’s like investing). If there are outlet stores in your town they can be a great source for everyday items at substantial savings. The key with these stores is to buy several of the high use items when available as they probably will not be in stock the next time you visit. Finally, meal planning can avoid wasted product. Prepare what can be assumed at the meal or prepare a double portion and refrigerate or freeze the balance for a future meal. Accurate planning will avoid waste and save $$. One final tip is to partner with a friend on certain items. Often large packs are offered at substantial discount but you may not have the freezer space to store the pack (extra beyond the initial meal). An example of this is the Boston Pork Roast Twin pack that sometimes is on sale for around a dollar a pound. The entire pack may weigh around 12 pounds, but if you and a friend split the purchase it provides each of you with a more manageable size.

         What we eat matters; everything we ingest is a drug. That may sound a bit strange, but it is a fact that everything you ingest has an impact on health. Excessive consumption of carbohydrates is like a drug that creates body fat & has long term negative consequences. One myth concerns fat. Your body needs a limited amount of fat & consumption of fat does not create fat.  While protein creates muscle (but only with exercise) over consumption will create health issues. The key is to consume, in balance, the amount of calories needed to maintain good health. Over consumption will result in weight gain & most likely involve primarily carbohydrates which creates fat.  Typically we only need 2,300 calories a day to maintain good health, especially with a good balance of Carbs, Protein & Fat. Unfortunately most Americans consume over 3,000 calories daily & most of the over consumption is in Carbs. Almost 35% of our population is obese & that trend has continued upward for the past 20 years or more. Fancy diets are not necessary or effective, reduced consumption is the key.

         Healthy alternatives without the high cost: We have been bombarded with advertising & public information imploring us to eat healthy. I really think that most of us understand what we should do, then why don’t we? One factor is the high cost of fresh & healthy alternatives. While these ingredients are usually less expensive than eating out, the prices do put off most of us with moderate incomes. There are several, what I call, secondary “health food” items, that help stretch the food budget. While the purist may disagree there are items that are better both in terms of health benefit & cost. Among these are dried beans (all varieties), brown rice, fresh potatoes, canned or frozen green beans, canned or frozen spinach, other canned or frozen greens, tomatoes (canned or fresh), etc. I encourage fresh over canned or frozen when the market and price permits. When it comes to protein in today’s market chicken & pork are great values.  Locally 10 lb. bags chicken of leg/thighs have been “on special” at $.39 a lb & certain cuts of pork have been on “special” at $.79 a lb.

         Are there less expensive alternatives to “fast food” when time is at a premium? Absolutely, but here again planning is the key. One great time saver is a crock pot. Low end pots work just fine and a decent one can be acquired for less than $20. You simply throw in meat & several vegetables in the pot in the morning on the low setting and dinner will be ready when you return in the afternoon.  I often make enough for two meals and then refrigerate half of the pot for another dinner later in the week. By varying the assortment of meat, vegetables and spices you can easily come up with a half dozen combinations that will provide a variety of taste sensations. Using this method 2 or 3 times a week will be a real time & money saver as well as help you avoid the unhealthy fast food habit.

         How much of your budget allows for eating out? Eating out can be fun, but also expensive & often dangerous to your health. If your income permits, I would encourage you to establish a monthly budget specifically for that purpose & stick to it. Eating out will cost a minimum of 3 times & as much 6 times the amount compared to eating at home. For most of us eating out should be considered a luxury. For health reasons you are encouraged to avoid fast food establishments unless you intend to eat salad. Many fast food meals contain in excess of 1,000 calories without adding a desert. If you must have a ¼ lb burger & fries it can be prepared at home for less than $1.50 a serving.