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By Melissa Bailey on Jan 13 2014, 2:35 PM
It's honestly hard to believe that another year is behind me. 2013 was like a whirlwind, coming and going a little bit too quickly! One thing that I like to do at the end of each year is spend a few minutes thinking back on my frugality and asking a simple question: Was it worth it? Although this is a slightly personal question, I've decided to open the window into my own life, allowing our readers a glimpse into what being frugal has meant for my family this year.

1. We saved 3 months of living expenses
For those of you that follow the blog, you know that my family moved from the Midwest to the West Coast. This cross-country trip was a leap of faith as we were heading out West for my husband to pursue his PhD but we did not have jobs to support our family. Knowing the move was coming, we were able to save 3 months of expenses while the job hunt ensued. We only used two months of that money before we found positions but we are thankful that living frugal allowed us to look for a job and not have to worry about money in the interim.

2. We saved $500 towards next year's vacation
Each month we have a special budget line for vacation that fluctuates between $100 and $125. The idea is that we save enough money for a nice vacation every two years when this money is paired with cash back credit card rewards. Because we had expenses associated with our relocation, we were not able to save our targeted amount. However, I am still proud that we have $500 waiting in a fund for next year's vacation.
By Melissa Bailey on Jan 5 2014, 11:21 AM
There is a scene in the movie Forrest Gump that has always comes to mind when facing the New Year. The scene takes place after the Vietnam War when Lieutenant Dan and Forrest Gump are hanging out in a bar during New Years Eve. They meet up with two women to celebrate the eve of a new year, when one of the women looks off whimsically at the television where the ball is dropping in Times Square and says, "Don't you just love new year's? You can start all over. Everybody gets a second chance."

There is a sense that all things are new when the clock strikes 12:00am on New Year's Day. When it comes to being frugal, the New Year is a great time to start whittling down debt, lowering monthly expenditures, saving for the future, etc. Here are a few great Frugal Goals for 2014 to get your year started off on the right foot financially:

1. Resolve to make a budget
I always liken living life without a budget to taking a trip without a roadmap. Do not leave yourself financially directionless in 2014! Look at your current monthly spending and make a reasonable budget.

2. Resolve to stick to the budget
Creating a budget is great but actually sticking to the budget is fantastic! Most resolutions are abandoned by February but if you can focus on the long-term goal of financial success, your budget can become a reality month after month.

3. Resolve to build your savings
When you work really hard it can be frustrating to end the year with little money to show for all those long hours.
By Melissa Bailey on Dec 22 2013, 10:58 PM
The Boston Globe recently published an article titled, "Conservatives’ new enemy: Bikes". Of course the article captured my attention as my husband proudly bikes around Southern California (Who wouldn't? It's the end of December and it was 75 degrees outside this past weekend!). To my knowledge, biking was always a neutral issue but evidently others have different opinions. I had no idea that some people in this world view a man or woman on a bike as an enemy.

My first response is to remind people that there are bigger issues than cyclists that we should care about (unless of course that cyclist was using performance enhancing drugs :)). If you get a little agitated when someone on a bicycle pedals by then remind yourself that, though it may seem annoying, there are many injustices around the world that could use some of that anger! :) Next, I thought I would dig into the reality of biking vs. driving a car to help our readers make an educated decision on their mode of transportation.

In 2012 the average U.S. family spent $3,000 on gas which averaged about 4% of a family's income. Interestingly, this is the highest percentage in three decades as gas prices continue to rise. You have to get to work somehow and, depending on where you live, the most popular option for the majority of American is to get in your car and drive.
By Melissa Bailey on Dec 15 2013, 12:57 AM
Recently, U.S. News released the 10 most frugal states. The list was based on annual household spending with the most frugal state coming in at just over $24,500 in annual spending. Here are the final results:

Wyoming ($32,272)
North Dakota ($31,179)
South Carolina ($31,080)
Georgia ($29,752)
Alabama ($29,337)
Kentucky ($28,870)
Idaho ($28,537)
Mississippi ($27,740)
Montana ($27,032)
West Virginia ($24,517)

Whether or not your state made this list, you can still be frugal. Being frugal has little to do with where you live and more to do with your state of mind. Even if your physical location doesn't measure up very well to the world of frugality, you can still practice some frugal principles. 

1. Saying "No" Now To Say "Yes" Later
So many times instant gratification is the air that we breathe. We are used to making a list, going to the store, and getting every item on that list no matter the cost. In this frame of mind, it can be difficult to place our wants aside and consider our needs based on affordable options. Going against the flow of instant gratification means that you have to plan what you are going to buy, do your research, and purchase accordingly.

This can be difficult at first but there is a long-term goal when embracing frugality. Remember that you are saying "no" to little purchases to make room in your budget for a fun "yes" later! For our family, we have an ongoing vacation fund.
By Melissa Bailey on Dec 10 2013, 12:44 AM
If you are a last minute shopper, then please keep reading! We are into the final countdown of Christmas shopping as we are in the last two weeks before the holiday. If you are still looking for that perfect gift, here's a list of the best codes that we could pull to help you save a little bit of money!

JC Penney (ends 12/12/13)
JC Penney continues to be staple of American shopping. It can easily be a one-stop shop if you have a long list of friends and family to purchase gifts for. Use code UNDERTRE to get 15% off and for a printable coupon, click HERE.
Free shipping if order is over $99; Free shipping to store if over $25

Starbucks
If you have a coffee lover, $30 will get you a Coffee Tumbler plus they can get a FREE coffee everyday in January 2014. If you average it out to $2 for each cup of coffee, that turns a $30 gift into a $62 present that continues to give long past January. You can buy In-Store or click HERE to purchase online.

Keurig.com (Expires 12/20)
Keurig coffee makers continue to be a hot ticket item this holiday season.
By Melissa Bailey on Nov 29 2013, 11:37 PM
If you haven't felt your purse strings tighten by now, then the pain is probably forthcoming! Especially after Black Friday shopping, chances are you've dished out a serious level of cash and might not even be halfway through your list. If you have faithfully saved all year for the holidays, spending the cash that was so carefully kept can be difficult to do.

Even though December is the month to spend, let's take a few minutes and talk about one area that can be scaled back to keep your finances in check: your holiday party. For many families gift giving is a joyful and necessary part of the holidays. It is a genuine way for families to show love and support. If your finances are strapped pretty tight with the bountiful load of presents piling up under your tree, then consider these ways to compensate by building a fun and festive party that is still frugally fabulous.

1. Buy Cheap Decorations
It never makes good money sense to purchase expensive party napkins, cups, and plates that are simply placed in the trash at the end of the night. Visit your local dollar store to find simple and creative party supplies that can add the right amount of sparkle without the expensive pricetag.

2. Dress Up Simple Ingredients
For many holiday spreads it is all about making simple, inexpensive foods look amazing! Research creative ways to cut fruits and vegetables. You can also find cheap substitutions for more expensive dishes. For example, instead of purchasing expensive baguettes for bruschetta, purchase a cheap loaf bread and simply butter and toast it in the oven!

3.
By Melissa Bailey on Nov 24 2013, 5:27 PM
This time of year the Internet lights up with searches on how to save money. If you were feeling overwhelmed by your spending come October, by November you are starting to panic as the list of holiday gifts and parties continue to mount. In the midst of the spending frenzy that is about to occur in the coming weeks, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about the pitfalls of frugality. While being frugal is a good idea this holiday season, if we're not careful we can become frugal in all the wrong places!

1. Hitting Too Many Deals
When the Sunday paper comes I rip into it like a hungry bear! I throw to the side any black and white pages and reach for those nice, colorful ads that let me know all the ways to save money. Most times during the year they are not that tempting but come Christmas season there seems to be something in every single ad! If I'm not careful I can shop at 10 stores to save a mere $20 dollars on my overall bill.

Hitting too many deals can slowly take a hit on your gas budget! Sometimes its better to spend a few dollars more at one store rather than drive across town to hit them all. (This is a good reminder as Black Friday looms before us)

2. Buying Unnecessary Items
I imagine a good portion of our readers on Frugal 5 take advantage of coupons. My hope is that most of you use coupons for items that you need and stop when your stockpile reaches a reasonable amount.
By Melissa Bailey on Nov 17 2013, 7:45 PM
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, the words "Black Friday" are ringing in the air! This year retailers are opening earlier than ever and major retailers have already released their holiday ads. Black Friday is designed to entice shoppers into the doors and spend big amounts of money. This year it is even more critical to post positive Black Friday sales as there are six fewer days than normal between Thanksgiving and Christmas to shop given the way that the calendar plays out.

However, have you ever rushed out for Black Friday to get an amazing deal, only to walk into the store a few days later and find the same deal still available? This has happened to me more than once (I'm a slow learner!) which is enough to give me pause. In a recent USA Today article, Lindsay Sakraida, Deals.com Features Director, said,

"We've already noticed a lot of stores pushing the holiday shopping element more...(Lower consumer confidence) will encourage retailers to offer especially good doorbusters and really enticing deals that actually can be a really great opportunity to get great prices."

If you are attacking good deals all year long like those featured here on Frugal 5, should you be scouring Black Friday ads, making a game plan and recruiting a shopping team? Let's start with some statistics from Read More
By Melissa Bailey on Nov 10 2013, 6:53 PM
As winter approaches and we begin to turn on our heaters and furnace, energy efficiency becomes very important. With so many fun options during this time of year the last place you want to spend your money is on heating bills. There is nothing quite like the sticker shock that can accompany an inflated gas or electric bill! Before the winter months begin to suck money out of your wallet, here are some tips to keep you energy efficient.

1. Open Up The Windows
The most powerful source of heat is the sun. Even though it hides its face during the winter months, on days when it is shining, take advantage of its free power! Open up the curtains on any south-facing windows to let the sun shine into your home. This will naturally help to keep your home warm and limit the amount of power used by your furnace.

2. Seal Leaks
Poor sealing around doors and windows is a huge energy waster, especially in the winter. If you can feel a draft around your doors and windows, then spend the few extra dollars to purchase weather strippers, caulk, and plastic sheeting. These small fixes to your doors and windows can end up saving hundreds of dollars each year.

3. Don't Forget The Fireplace
There's nothing like a warm, cozy fire during the winter. I personally love the smell of burning wood and the earthy aroma that can fill a home. When fireplaces are burning wood, it's a great energy source! When the fire has burned down and the damper is left open, it sucks the warm air straight out of your home and allows cold air to funnel through.
By Melissa Bailey on Nov 3 2013, 11:37 PM
More frequently I find myself using my SmartPhone to aid my quest of frugal living. It's the perfect tool for families on the go as the amount of money saving apps continue to raise in popularity. That being said, with the high number of apps it is easy to feel overwhelmed or download a bunch of apps that are not very useful. I have decided to share a few of my favorite SmartPhone apps (all FREE of course!) and talk about how they have helped our family save money and stay on budget.

1. Target Cartwheel
I have recently fallen in love with Target's new app simple titled Target Cartwheel. It's a fairly new app from the nationwide retailer that allows you to choose your savings based on what products you are going to buy at Target during that shopping trip. The app is filled with categories that range in savings from 5% to upwards of 20% off. The best news is that you can combine this app with savings you already earn from coupons, sales and your REDcard discount. 

2. Mint
If you or your family needs a good budgeting software then Mint is the best one that I have found. Our family finances were all over the place until we found Mint. It's a simple way to manage your monthly budget and the app provides up to date information. Based on the different settings you can program the app to send you text alerts when you are close to overspending or have already overspent on various categories.

3. Shoeboxed
I hate organizing and saving receipts.