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There is still time to win!

Brought to you by: The Frugal Buzz On March 28, 2010 Under Expired Contests

Starting Over Contest Entries - We have a new entry in our Starting Over Contest (#7 from N. K. of Chantilly, VA).  There is still time for you to share your Starting Over story with us and you could win one of three $150 gift cards.  Contest ends at 11:59pm Wednesday, March 31, 2010.  If you are looking for real life examples of how frugal living can enhance your life, you will find it here. Check out all our entries today.

Make sure to include your full name, address, and date of birth with your entry and include “Starting Over Contest” in the subject line.  Send your entry to:  thefrugalbuzz@hotmail.com.  Remember: You must be a current Email subscriber to thefrugalbuzz.com and remain so for the duration of the contest.

Check back often as entries will be added weekly.

Entry#1 – Starting Over Again (submitted by P.N. from California): Everyone who gets divorced has to find a new life, has to learn how to cope.  After my divorce I listened to smart friends who told me that I needed to give  myself time and to stay busy.  I was an elementary school teacher and added part time jobs to my schedule.  The income from the extra work allowed me to keep my house.  Eventually I grew accustomed to living alone because working intensely kept me so tired that when I wasn’t on the job, I was sleeping.

Although I never remarried I was fulfilled by days in the classroom with bright positive children.  I’m retired from teaching now and one at a time I gave two weeks’ notice and resigned from my part-time jobs.  Now I use my free time to do volunteer work.  Hope everyone who has a setback in life will remember that life will eventually right itself and become better that it ever as before.

Entry #2 -(submitted by D.H. from Florida): I could not find a job for a long time, that’s why I was trying to find every possible way I could save money. At first I started to clip coupons to save some money on groceries. I was keeping track of the every possible sale and trying to combine it with coupons and that helped a bit.

Now when you are trying to look for a job and you have to go for an interview, you need to look clean and have professional clothes.  But I had no money to spend on new suits, or blouses.   But then I subscribed to different email newsletters for different chain stores that would send me  coupons where I could get something for free. Yes for free. They would send me one of those coupons where you spend $10 and you can take $10 off.  I ran through every single clearance rack and found some nice clothes that, with my coupon, were free.

This is my story about how to stay frugal and how the frugal living saved me.

Entry #3 -(submitted by A.G. from Ohio): My wife took a new job with a significant pay cut based on the chance to be a part of a small company and have the chance for huge bonus sharing at the end of each year. I had been a stay at home parent and we were forced to figure out how to better manage our finances in order to make it through the year.

My first step was I immediately contacted our utility companies and started asking for breakdowns on what exactly we were paying for and if we needed the service. The cable company was the first to offer me a better rate and we ended up saving $30 per month AND getting phone service as well which allowed me to cancel our current phone and save an additional $25 per month.

We noticed a lot of weird charges on our electric bill such as “customer service” fees and asked for an explanation of our bill and we stated we did not need customer service so we would like that fee removed. No one could explain what a lot of the fees meant and we ended up being offered a better rate, I believe, just so we would stop asking.

I then took a long hard look at grocery shopping. As a family of four with two growing kids (aged 8 and 5) we were spending upwards of $1,000 per month plus eating out expenses for food. I decided to start planning out a weekly meal list and only buying those ingredients necessary as well as sticking to what I had a coupon for or what was on sale. I also started scrutinizing what was really a “sale” and shopping at 3 or 4 different stores to get the best prices. Our bill has been nearly cut in half. We also stopped going out once a week and started going out once per month saving over $200 per month.

We have really started taking a hard look at all areas of spending and find there is “fat” to trim on everything we do. We do expect to make a lot of money at the end of the year in bonuses, but also have decided we like the changes we have made and can now use that money to save better for our future or to give our children a good vacation.

Entry #4 -(submitted by J.P. from California):

When the going gets really tough, basic frugality just isn’t enough.  When I got divorced about a decade ago, I was already used to making a dollar go a long ways.  I could buy an entire months’ groceries on only $100 a month.  I had to – my ex-husband was not what you’d call a steady worker, or good with money.

It became clear immediately that I was going to have to reach to extraordinary levels, especially as one of my goals after the divorce was to finish college.  My mother had always said that any child of hers could move home rent-free if they were going to school.   I decided to take her up on that offer.  I did pay all my expenses and my daughter’s, as well as some extra bills as I was able.

The immediate savings of about $1000 a month in living expenses enabled me to get started paying a debt burden that ended up falling exclusively on me.  I worked from home and walked my daughter to school, so I rarely needed a car.  Since mom had a company car, she let me borrow hers when needed.  Through it all, I continued to clip coupons and shop sales – vigorously.  As the mother of the oldest grandchild, I saved my daughter’s outgrown gear for my nieces.  In addition to helping them, it also helped me remember to keep my eye out for things that had value at a good price, rather than being simply cheap.

These were hard, lean years.  I paid my debts, bought a car when I needed one, and set aside some money.  I got financial aid to help me get through school.  I worked at my job, my education, my parental responsibility, and worked to show appreciation to my mom- by working in the house and sometimes by keeping my lip zipped when I didn’t like her rules.  I got exercise by parking a mile off campus and walking to class – saving myself over $400 per year in parking fees, and spending nothing on gym memberships.  I seldom went to the movies, let alone other entertainment.   I frequented the many wonderful free parks and libraries, including free movie rentals from the library (when I had time for movies!)

I got my bachelor’s, and took up a new job in another city.  Thanks to my frugal habits, I had plenty of money to make the move and to buy the things I needed to make a new home.  Frugality took me from near-bankruptcy to being able to pay my debts while fulfilling my dreams.  Even now, while I have a very good income, watching where the money goes a habit born of painful experience that continues to serve me well.

Entry #5 -(submitted by J.M. from California):

My frugal living was forced upon me.  For years I’ve been a Rare-book salesman, mostly on line.  About a year ago, everything changed-you probably noticed…

I stopped getting orders, my friends were losing their jobs, I started selling inventory for less and less money.

I remember going to the Grocery store and skimping more than usual. I found the vegetables particularly expensive. Well, believe it or not, I watched a News-story with Mrs. Obama talking about growing your own vegetables. I’d never done it before, but, I got on line and found plenty of information. I just hoped a green-thumb wasn’t a prerequisite!

I thought I’d start slow-tomatoes. I planted a few and hoped for the best. In a few  months I had more than I could eat or give away. So, I planted green-beans, radishes and hot-peppers. It’s really helped and even if I had a million-bucks I would still grow my own veggies.

But, though I love a good chicken-dinner. I could NEVER raise them to eat. I’m an animal-lover, I rescue dogs. And, I’m certain I’d end up turning them into pets.

Entry #6 -(submitted by D.D. from New York):

My initial reaction to being laid off from my job of 26 years was shock. But shock soon was replaced by a newfound sense of relief and joy. That’s because I realized that my frugal lifestyle will allow me to decompress and relax for awhile … maybe forever.

How did this fortuitous turn of events come about? As far back as I can remember, I’ve been frugal, much to the chagrin of friends and family. They
regularly chastised me for being cheap and “denying myself” while I viewed it as simply saving for a rainy day, not dreaming that the “rainy day” would turn out  to be a layoff.

My frugality began years before the concept was in vogue. Somehow I always managed to discover ways to live way below my means. I happily lived without a cell phone, CD player, big-screen TV, expensive vacations, designer clothing, manicures, pricey makeup and hairstyles requiring regular upkeep.

I also focused on energy efficiency to save even more money, getting rid of my dryer   in favor  of wooden racks and a clothesline.   Meanwhile, I sought every possible way to save money: Coupons, sales, buying used whenever possible, finding new uses for objects, etc. Turning this quest into a challenging adventure, I derived great pleasure from   discovering unique ways to be frugal.

I learned years ago to distinguish between “wants” and “needs” and only spent money on necessities. This allowed me to regularly contribute to IRAs and savings accounts. By following a frugal lifestyle I also discovered I really don’t need a lot of stuff, that I’m perfectly content with few possessions and even fewer bills.

I’ve managed to accumulate enough of a financial cushion to afford myself the luxury of never having to work full time again in the years remaining until retirement. My plan is to supplement my savings with freelance   writing/editing assignments and occasional temporary jobs. Most importantly, I’ll be able to do jobs I choose to do instead of being held hostage by an unrewarding, energy-sapping, full-time job. As The Ultimate Cheapskate so succinctly put it, I’m going to become “selfishly employed.”

This new chapter in my life — one blissfully free from full-time   work stress — is solely due to my years of living frugally and finding ways to make my hard-earned money work for me.   Will I, you might ask, abandon my frugal lifestyle and start enjoying   myself?

I  AM enjoying myself. Once these frugal habits are part of your lifestyle it’s impossible to abandon them. They’re far too rewarding. Especially now that I have tangible proof of the fantastic benefits of frugality.

Entry #7-(submitted by N.K.  from Virginia):

My So (Significant Other) and I have had some HUGE financial set backs in the past few years and we’ve learned how to live very frugally. I believe the lessons learned and new ways of spending/saving money will stay with us forever, even when finances  are better for us.
  • I will always clip coupons (I feel like I’ve won something when I see how much I’ve saved at the grocery store)
  • I will always budget for the holidays, and plan exactly what we buy our family, not just go to a store and make quick decisions
  • I wil always consolidate errands to save fuel
  • I will always find in-hom activities to keep us entertained
  • I will use freecycle.org
  • Most of all-I will always put some money from each paycheck into savings so if I need to than I can always start over.

Entry #8 -(submitted by C. D.  from New Jersey):

Starting over for me came when I found myself unexpectedly pregnant
with our fourth baby.  I was stunned, happy, and quite concerned all at
the same time, as we already had three kids, and I was doing all I
could to be a stay-at-home mom and worked part-time.  Life was busy and
expensive enough.   On top of that, I had sold every last bit of baby
stuff at our yard sale years before, I literally had nothing for a
baby, not even a rattle.

I take great pride in saying that I outfitted my baby’s room, wardrobe,
and obtained all he needed for very little money.  I was fortunate that
my sister gave me her baby’s crib and changing table, and I frequented
consignment stores, yard sales, and ebay, and got amazing deals.  My
sum total spent was $63.  I got Health-Tex outfits, Baby Dior, you name
it,  for 25 cents that were in new condition, that I washed in Ivory
Snow.   I gladly accepted bags of used clothes from friends and then
passed them on.   I bought toys in new shape and ran many through the
dishwasher to sanitize them.  $63, that’s what I spent to have a new
baby in our home.  His room was painted pale blue, with paint I bought
on sale, and I found curtains at the thrift store that my mom
embellished with pretty ribbon.  We also found an area rug that a
wealthy woman was practically giving away at a yard sale, she just
wanted to be rid of it, and when I told her my story, she let me have
it for $5.  He wore cloth diapers, I made my own baby food.

Not only did I save the planet by reusing items, I passed them on and
continued the “green” chain of events.  Starting Over, for me, meant
ratcheting up my already frugal ways.  I was able to stay home and
enjoy my gorgeous wonderful surprise gift from above, our son.    I
breastfed him for about a year, again not only saving money, but doing
the best thing from a health standpoint.

I am happy to say that my kids are my frugal friends.  They have
adopted my eco-friendly and thrifty ways.  Going from three to four
children forced my hand, in some ways, to be even more frugal.  It was
just another blessing that came from my son,  the $63 kid.   :)

Entry #9 -(submitted by L. C.  from North Carolina):

Several years ago, I was working as a high school teacher.  I enjoyed my job very much and planned on returning to it after my maternity leave was over.  We lived quite a ways away from the school & after I calculated day care expenses, gasoline, and misc. expenses, I realized that I’d be in the hole and would miss out seeing my precious little one.  It took quite a bit of convincing to get my husband to agree to me staying home, but I told him to give me one semester to show him we could do it.  This gave him a little sense of security and gave me a great challenge!  As if, being a new mom wasn’t enough!

I had had a frugal grandma who had already taught me “Waste not, want not.”  I checked out frugal living books from the library – “The Tightwad Gazette” opened up a new world to me.  I began cooking from scratch, keeping a price comparison book, & an all-around bargain hunter.  Little by little, I squeeked out our budget.  Giving up fast food & movies were a challenge.  But then I started making pizza at home and checking out free movies from the library.  So that I wouldn’t feel deprived, I made it a game.  The changes were gradual and began to add up over time.  By the time the next semester rolled around, my husband was still a little leary, but he conceded that we could make it work.

Living a more frugal lifestyle gave me a chance to do something I had always dreamed of:  being a stay-at-home mom.  I am now trying to teach my son those same lessons in frugality.  It may take years to set in, but when the time comes, he can always fall back on bulk shopping, gardening, and do-it-yourself repair.  Being frugal means learning to be independent and self-reliant.  No better lessons than I can think of to instill in a child.

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