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Friday, December 11, 2009

Buying a Used Car - Part 5

Finally, 4 "Must Do's" Before Buying Any Used Car
  1. If you are interested in a particular car, ask the dealer or owner if you can take it on a test drive. Try to drive the car under many different conditions, such as on hills, highways, and in stop-and-go traffic.
  2. You also may want to ask the dealer or owner whether the car has ever been in an accident. Find out as much as you can about the car's prior history and maintenance record.
  3. Getting an independent inspection by an experienced mechanic is a good idea before purchasing any used car.
  4. Be prepared to negotiate. Many dealers and individuals are willing to bargain on price and/or on warranty coverage.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Buying a Used Car - Part 4

Result of a serious automobile accident.Image via Wikipedia

If You Have Problems

If something goes wrong with your car and you think that it is covered by a warranty (either express or implied) or a service contract, refer to the terms of the warranty or contract for instructions on how to get service. If a dispute arises concerning the problem, there are several steps you can take.

Try To Work It Out With The Dealer

First, try to resolve the problem with the salesperson or, if necessary, speak with the owner of the dealership. Many problems can be resolved at this level. However, if you believe that you are entitled to service, but the dealer disagrees, you can take other steps.

If your warranty is backed by a car manufacturer and you have a dispute about either service or coverage, contact the local representative of the manufacturer. This local or "zone" representative has the authority to adjust and make decisions about warranty service and repairs to satisfy customers.

Some manufacturers also are willing to repair certain problems in specific models free of charge, even if the manufacturer's warranty does not cover the problem. Ask the manufacturer's zone representative or the service department of a franchised dealership that sells your car model whether there is such a policy.

Other Approaches You Can Try

If you cannot get satisfaction from the dealer or from a manufacturer's zone representative, contact the Better Business Bureau or a state agency, such as the office of the attorney general, the department of motor vehicles, or a consumer protection office. Many states also have county and city offices that intervene or mediate on behalf of individual consumers to resolve complaints.

You also might consider using a dispute resolution organization to arbitrate your disagreement if you and the dealer are willing. Under the terms of many warranties, this may be a required first step before you can sue the dealer or manufacturer. Check your warranty to see if this is the case. If you bought your car from a franchised dealer, you may be able to seek mediation through the Automotive Consumer Action Program (AUTOCAP), a dispute resolution program coordinated nationally by the National Automobile Dealers Association and sponsored through state and local dealer associations in many cities. Check with the dealer association in your area to see if they operate a mediation program.

If none of these steps is successful, you can consider going to small claims court, where you can resolve disputes involving small amounts of money for a low cost, often without an attorney. The clerk of your local small claims court can tell you how to file a suit and what the dollar limit is in your state.

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act also may be helpful. Under this federal law, you can sue based on breach of express warranties, implied warranties, or a service contract. If successful, consumers can recover reasonable attorney's fees and other court costs. A lawyer can advise you if this law applies to your situation.

For Further Help

If you want additional information about warranties or service contracts or about new car leasing or buying, send for these free FTC brochures:

* Warranties

* Service Contracts

* Car Ads: Low-Interest Loans and Other Offers

* New Car Buying Guide

* A Consumer Guide to Vehicle Leasing

Write: Public Reference, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580.

If you have additional questions about the Used Car Rule, contact the Federal Trade Commission Office nearest you.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Buying a Used Car - Part 3

1978 Fiat advertImage by rutlo via Flickr

Warranty and Service Contracts

"As Is--No Warranty"

About one-half of all used cars sold by dealers come "as is," which means there is no express or implied warranty. If you buy a car "as is" and have problems with it, you must pay for any repairs yourself. When the dealer offers a vehicle for sale "as is," the box next to the "As Is--No Warranty" disclosure on the Buyers Guide will be checked. If this box is checked but the dealer makes oral promises to repair the vehicle, have the dealer put those promises in writing on the Buyers Guide.

Some states (Connecticut, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and the District of Columbia) do not permit "as is" sales for most or all used motor vehicles.

"Implied Warranties Only"

Implied warranties exist under all state laws and come with almost every purchase from a used car dealer, unless the dealer tells you in writing that implied warranties do not apply. Usually, dealers use the words "as is" or "with all faults" to disclaim implied warranties. Most states require the use of specific words.

"If the dealer makes oral promises, have the dealer put those promises in writing."

The "warranty of merchantability" is the most common type of implied warranty. This means that the seller promises that the product will do what it is supposed to do. For example, a car will run, a toaster will toast.

Another type of implied warranty is the "warranty of fitness for a particular purpose." This applies when you buy a vehicle on the dealer's advice that it is suitable for a particular use. For example, a dealer who suggests that you buy a specific vehicle for hauling a trailer warrants, in effect, that the vehicle will be suitable for hauling a trailer.

If you buy a vehicle with a written warranty, but problems arise that the warranty does not cover, you may still be protected by implied warranties. Any limitation on the duration of implied warranties must appear on the written warranty.

In those states that do not permit "as is" sales by dealers, or if the dealer offers a vehicle with only implied warranties, a disclosure entitled "Implied Warranties Only" will be printed on the Buyers Guide in place of the "As Is" disclosure. The box next to this disclosure would be checked if the dealer chooses to sell the car with implied warranties and no written warranty. A copy of the Buyers Guide with the "Implied Warranties Only" disclosure is shown on page 7.

Dealer Warranties

When dealers offer a written warranty on a used vehicle, they must fill in the warranty portion of the Buyers Guide. Because the terms and conditions of written warranties can vary widely, you may find it useful to compare warranty terms on cars or negotiate warranty coverage.

Dealers may offer a full or limited warranty on all or some of the systems or components of the vehicle. A "full" warranty provides the following terms and conditions:

* Warranty service will be provided to anyone who owns the
vehicle during the warranty period when a problem is

* Warranty service will be provided free of charge,
including such costs as returning the vehicle or removing
and reinstalling a system covered by the warranty, when

* At your choice, the dealer will provide either a
replacement or a full refund if the dealer is unable,
after a reasonable number of tries, to repair the vehicle
or a system covered by the warranty.

* Warranty service is provided without requiring you to
perform any reasonable duty as a precondition for
receiving service, except notifying the dealer that
service is needed.

* No limit is placed on the duration of implied warranties.

If any one of the above statements is not true, then the warranty is "limited." A "full" or "limited" warranty need not cover the entire vehicle. The dealer may specify only certain systems for coverage under a warranty. Most used car warranties are "limited," which usually means you will have to pay some of the repair costs. By giving a "limited" warranty, the dealer is telling you that there are some costs or responsibilities that the dealer will not assume for systems covered by the warranty.

If the dealer offers a full or limited warranty, the dealer must provide the following information in the "Warranty" section of the Buyers Guide:

* The percentage of the repair cost that the dealer
will pay. For example, "the dealer will pay 100% of
the labor and 100% of the parts....";

* The specific parts and systems, such as the frame, body,
or brake system that are covered by the warranty. The back
of the Buyers Guide contains a list of descriptive names
for the major systems of an automobile where problems may

* The duration of the warranty for each covered system. For
example, "30 days or 1,000 miles, whichever occurs first";

* Whether a deductible applies.

Under another federal law, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, you have a right to see a copy of the dealer's warranty before a purchase. Examine the warranty carefully before you buy to see what is covered and what is not. It contains more detailed information than the Buyers Guide, such as a step-by-step explanation of hoax to obtain repairs if a covered system or component malfunctions. Also check who is legally responsible for fulfilling the terms of the warranty. If a third party is responsible, the best way to avoid potential problems is to make sure that the third party is reputable and insured. You can do this by asking the company for the name of their insurer and then checking its performance record with your local Better Business Bureau.

Unexpired Manufacturer's Warranties

If the used vehicle is still covered by the manufacturer's original warranty, the dealer may include it in the "systems covered/duration" section of the Buyers Guide. This does not necessarily mean that the. dealer offers a warranty in addition to the manufacturer's. In some cases, a manufacturer's original warranty can be transferred to a second owner only upon payment of a fee. If you have any questions, ask the dealer to let you examine any unexpired warranty on the vehicle.

Service Contracts

When you buy a car, you may be offered a service contract, which you can buy for an extra cost. In deciding whether you want a service contract, consider:

* Whether the warranty that comes with your car already
covers the same repairs that you would get under the
service contract or whether the service contract
protection begins after the warranty runs out. Does the
service contract extend longer than the time you expect to
own the car? If so, is the service contract transferable
or is a shorter contract available?

* Whether the vehicle is likely to need repairs and their
potential costs. The value of a service contract is
determined by whether the cost of repairs is likely to be
greater than the price you pay for the service contract

* Whether the service contract covers all parts and systems
of the car. Check out all claims carefully. Claims that
coverage is "bumper to bumper" may not be entirely

* Whether there is a deductible required, and, if so,
consider the amount and terms of the deductible.

* Whether the contract covers incidental expenses, such as
towing and the costs of a rental car while your car is
being serviced.

* Whether repairs and routine maintenance, such as oil
changes, can be performed at locations other than the
dealership from which you purchased the contract.

* Whether there is a cancellation and refund policy for the
service contract, and what the costs are if you cancel.

* Whether the dealer or company offering the service
contract is reputable. Read the contract carefully to
determine who is legally responsible for fulfilling the
terms of the contract. Some dealers sell service contracts
that are backed by a third party. If a third party is
responsible, you may wish to ask if the company is insured
and to check the company's performance with your local
Better Business Bureau.

If a service contract is offered, the dealer must mark the box provided on the Buyers Guide, except in those states that regulate service contracts under their insurance laws. If the Buyers Guide does not include a reference to a service contract, and you are interested, ask the salesperson whether one is available.

When you purchase a service contract from the dealer within 90 days of buying the vehicle, federal law prohibits the dealer from disclaiming implied warranties on the systems covered in that service contract. For example, if you buy a car "as is," the car normally will not be covered by implied warranties.

But if you buy a service contract covering the engine, you automatically get implied warranties on the engine, which may give you protection beyond the scope of the service contract. Make sure you receive a written confirmation that your service contract is in effect.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Buying a Used Car - Part 2

It's got a cop motor...Image by corydalus via Flickr

Buyers Guides

Whenever you purchase a used car from a dealer, you should receive the original or an identical copy of the Buyers Guide that appeared in the window of the vehicle you bought. The Buyers Guide must reflect any changes in warranty coverage that you may have negotiated with the dealer. It also becomes a part of your sales contract and overrides any contrary provisions that may be in that contract.

Spoken Promises

The Buyers Guide warns consumers not to rely on spoken promises. Oral promises are difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. Make sure all promises you want are written into the Buyers Guide and keep it.

Pre-Purchase Independent Inspection

The Buyers Guide also suggests you ask the dealer whether you may have the vehicle inspected by your own mechanic. Some dealers will let you take the car off the lot to get an independent inspection. Others may have reasons, such as insurance restrictions, for denying this request. In such a case, the dealer may permit you to bring an independent mechanic to the used car on the lot. A dealer who refuses to allow any independent inspection may be telling you something about the condition of the car.

Remember, a good-looking car, or a car that comes with a warranty, does not necessarily run well. An independent inspection lets you find out about the mechanical condition of the vehicle before you buy it. Although an inspection fee by a mechanic may seem high, when you compare it to the price of the car, it can be worth the cost.

Vehicle Systems

The Buyers Guide includes a list of the 14 major systems of an automobile and some of the major problems that may occur in these systems. You may find this list helpful to evaluate the mechanical condition of the vehicle. The list also may be useful when comparing warranties offered on different cars or by different dealers.

Dealer Identification and Consumer Complaint Information

On the back of the Buyers Guide, you will find the name and address of the dealership. In the space below that, you will find the name and telephone number of the person at the dealership to contact if you have any complaints after the sale.

Spanish Language Sales

If you buy a used car and the sales talk is conducted in Spanish, you are entitled to see and keep a Spanish-language version of the Buyers Guide.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Buying a Used Car - Part 1

2007 Mini Cooper photographed in USA.Image via Wikipedia

Buying a Used Car

This year, millions Americans will buy a used car. Why buy used? Because a frugal person knows that the minute you drive a new car off the lot, you lose thousands of dollars in value, not a frugal choice. Also, the depreciation in value over the first couple of years is astronomical. So if you’re frugal and used is what you are planning, this post may help you.

It explains your protections under the FTC's Used Car Rule and offers some shopping suggestions, even if you are not buying from a used car dealer.

Before you begin looking at used cars, think about what car models and options you want and how much you are able or willing to spend. You can learn about car models, options, and prices by searching on the Internet and by reading newspaper ads, both display and classified.

Also, your local library and book stores have magazines that discuss and compare car models, options, and costs, as well as provide information about frequency-of-repair records, safety tests, and mileage. The U.S. Department of Transportation Auto Safety Hotline (800-424-9393) will tell you if a car model has ever been recalled and send you information about that recall.

Before You Look For a Used Car, Consider

- Costs. Remember, the real cost of a car includes more than the purchase price: it includes insurance, maintinance and repairs. loan terms and interest rates should not be a consideration, because living the frugal lifestyle means avoiding debt and interest and paying cash for purchases.

- Reliability. You can learn how reliable a model is by checking in publications for the frequency-of-repair records. Find out what models have repair facilities in a location convenient to you and if parts are readily available at the repair facility.

- Dealer Reputation. Find out from experienced people whoseopinions you respect which dealers in your area have good reputations for sales and service. You may wish to call your local consumer protection office and the Better Business Bureau to find out if they have any complaints against particular dealers.

If you go to a dealer for a used car, look for a "Buyers Guide" sticker on the window of each car. The Buyers Guide, required by the Federal Trade Commission's Used Car Rule, gives you important information and suggestions to consider. The Buyers Guide tells you:
  • Whether the vehicle comes with a warranty and, if so, what specific protection the dealer will provide.
  • Whether the vehicle comes with no warranty ("as is") or with implied warranties only.
  • That you should ask to have the car inspected by an independent mechanic before you buy.
  • That you should get all promises in writing.
  • What some of the major problems are that may occur in any car.
The Used Car Rule requires dealers to post the Buyers Guide on all used vehicles, including automobiles, light-duty vans, and light-duty trucks. "Demonstrator" cars also must have Buyers Guides. But Buyers Guides do not have to be posted on motorcycles and most recreational vehicles. Individuals selling fewer than six cars a year are not required to post Buyers Guides.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Frugal Holiday Tips

Before you go to the Christmas tree lot and spend $20-$50(or more)for your tree this year, consider cutting one down from the National Forest. Permits are $5 each in my area and there is a limit of 3. This may not be the case where you live but it's worth a call to the National Forest Ranger District closest to you. Many offices are open on Saturdays during the holidays. Call ahead to make sure.

We have been doing this for the past 10 years and it has become one of our favorite traditions. We have many fond memories of hiking in the woods looking for the perfect "Rouse Family Christmas Tree".

Make sure you prepare for the weather. A good time can go bad quickly when little ones are cold. You will also most likely be on back country roads where it can be easy to get stuck (2004).

Most importantly have fun and enjoy this time together with your family.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner For Under $5!

The cover of Walmarts circular says "Thanksgiving Dinner for a family of 8 for under $20". I think I can do better.
I think you'll be surprised at how little you actually have to spend without giving up too much. What's nice is that if you're having friends and family over it's certainly ok to ask them to help contribute to the meal.

I tried to match the Walmart circular as closely as possible. This is what I came up with.

Turkey - A 20lb would do & provide leftovers for 2 more meals - .26/lb @ Super 1 Foods = $5.20. Divide this by 3 since your getting 3 meals and the cost is = $1.73

Mashed Potatoes - 10 lb bag is .88 @ Super 1 Foods = $.36 (that's for 10 potatoes)
The Walmart ad had stuffing but that cost too much so I went with mashed potatoes.

Green Beans - 3/$1 @ Fred Meyer - Walmart said you need 2, I think 4 = $1.33

Sweet Potatoes - .25/lb at Walmart - $.50

Cranberry sauce - .10 can @ Super 1 Foods = $.20 (Limit 1, but I have 6 children)

Brown n Serve Rolls - .75 12 ct pkg = $.75 I know you can make these for cheaper, I just don't know how much.

Total - $4.87

Did you ever think you could do Thanksgiving dinner for under $5?!

I didn't include dessert. I figured I can make a pumpkin pie for $2. You can ask any guests to bring the desserts.

Below are some extras. Maybe you need these, maybe you don't. You decide. I've listed the prices that I found.

Butter - $1.49 lb @ Super 1 Foods
Pop - 2 liter 7-up, select varieties 3/$1 @ Safeway when you buy 3
Olives - .10 a can at Super 1 Foods - limit 1 (I have 6 children who can make a purchase)

When turkeys go on sale at this time of year I always try to get extras for the freezer. It's also a good time to stock up on extras like the pop and veggies.

Let me know what you do to be more frugal during the holidays.

May God bless you and your families and keep them safe. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Family Meals Under $5 - Macaroni & Cheese

This weeks dinner is one of those classic, comfort foods. I have found that there are lots of different ways to prepare it. Many people have recipes that have been in their family for generations.

I grew up on boxed macaroni and cheese with hot dogs in it. When I had a family of my own I wanted to try the "homemade" kind. When I did it didn't get rave reviews. I was determined not to give up though.

Tonight's dinner was part desperation because it was getting late and I wanted something fast, and part inspiration because I realized I had all the ingredients to try this version of mac & cheese. It sounded creamy, which was what my family missed in my other attempts. There is still a little room for some add ins. You could try any type of meat, steamed broccoil, diced tomatoes and olives. I could go on and on. Just be creative, have fun and don't give up.

Macaroni & Cheese - $3.46
Mixed Veggies - $.68

Total - $4.14

1 1/2 lb elbow macaroni - got on sale for 68c /lb at Super 1 Foods = $1.02
1c sour cream - $.98 16oz Darigold on sale at Trading Co. = .49
4T marg or butter - I used margarine but butters always better = .08
4c grated cheese - $4.98 2lb loaf (the $3.99 2lb loaf at Fred Meyer would have been even better) = $1.81
1/2c milk = .06
salt & pepper to taste

Cook the noodles to package directions till almost done. Add remaining ingredients and stir till combined. Season to desired taste.

Mixed Veggies - 16oz bag on sale for $.68 @ Super 1 Foods = .68 (stock up)

My family actually liked this. They did say it could have been a little creamier so next time I'll add a little more milk. I'm glad I kept trying. Homemade is so much better than the boxed kind. I still like adding hot dogs though.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Family Meals Under $5 - Barley, Bacon, Lentils & Tomatoes

Since the hubby is out hunting this week I thought it would be a great time to eat some of the foods he doesn't like. It's not that he doesn't like beans, it's more that beans don't like him. OK, I know TMI.

I was a little worried about the rest of my family liking this as well but thought "oh well, I'll give it a try." Much to my surprise and delight my middle son had 5 helpings!

This recipe came from Pillsbury's One Dish Meal Cookbook. The recipe below is double the original to make enough to feed my family. It also includes a little more bacon.
Serve it with some french bread.

Barley, Bacon, Lentils & Tomatoes - $3.60
French Bread - .77

Total - $4.37

1/2 lb bacon - $1.18 lb @ Super 1 Foods 12 Hour Sale = .59
1 med onion, chopped - still have some in the garden = free
2 c dried lentils, rinsed - .98 1lb bag
2c uncooked pearl barley - .99lb
4 bullion cubes (beef is what's called for but I used chicken. Either would work) = .32
2 t cumin
7 c water
1 28 oz can stewed tomatoes, undrained = .56 (see below)
4 T chopped fresh parsley - .67 bunch = .16

In a large skillet cook bacon till crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Add onion and lentils to bacon drippings in skillet. Cook on med for 3-5 min or till onions are tender and lentils browned. Add barley, bullion, cumin and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 min or till lentils are soft. Add tomatoes. Cook uncovered for 15 - 20 min more or till lentils and barley are tender and liquid is absorbed. Before serving stir in parsley and bacon.

I have green tomatoes that are ripening in boxes on my kitchen floor. A few had ripened so I chopped up what I needed and just used those. I included the price because I figured not everyone has tomatoes ripening in their kitchen. About the price, I buy a #10 can of diced tomatoes at Costco and freeze what I don't use immediately in 2c portions. The price comes out to be about .02c an oz. I also just use these whenever any type of tomato is called for.

Hope you enjoy it!

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Family Meals Under $5 - Potato Soup

Fall has finally arrived and the temperatures are dropping. There's nothing like a bowl of warm soup on a crisp fall evening.
Soups make a great budget friendly meal. When I saw potatoes on sale I knew this would be a good one to make. Thanks to my friend Kristin for this recipe.

Creamy Potato Soup - $2.26
Frozen Mixed Veggies - $1.36
French Bread - $.88

Total - $4.50

Creamy Potato Soup
3/4 c butter, melted - $.88lb @ Super 1 Foods last week (Stock Up)= .33c
3/4 c flour = .09c
6c Milk - $1.58 gal @ Fred Meyer last week (Stock Up)= .60c
1 1/4 t salt
1 1/2 c grated sharp cheddar cheese - $4.49 2 lb loaf @ Fred Meyer last week = .61c

7 1/2c diced potatoes - $1.25 10lb bag at Trading Co. 2 weeks ago (I stocked Up)= .45
1 1/4 t salt
1 1/2 c diced onions = free from the garden
2 3/4 c Water
2 stalks celery, diced = .18
1 t pepper

In a large pot put potatoes, onion, celery, seasonings and water. Cook over med/high heat till potatoes are done but not mushy.
While potatoes are cooking, in another pot melt butter for sauce. Remove from heat and stir in flour. Return to heat and stir till it makes a smooth paste. Gradually stir in milk and salt. Add cheese. Cook over low/med heat stirring constantly till thick.
Once potatoes are done add sauce and stir well. Simmer 10-15 min or till desired thickness.

Frozen veggies were on sale this week at Super 1 Foods for $.68 for a 16 oz bag, another stock up price. I thought 2 bags would be plenty.

A loaf of french bread split and toasted is great for dipping.

There have been some great stock up sales these past 2 weeks. Another thing I've noticed is that a lot of stores are lowering their prices on selected items. While I'm sure it's just an ad ploy to get us in the store, why not take advantage of the savings and stock up on the things you use the most while you can.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Free Samples To Cut Grocery Bill

RelianceMart5Image via Wikipedia

Free Samples To Cut Grocery Bill

The price that you pay for groceries has skyrocketed lately. The cost of bread and milk has steadily been climbing over the last couple of years. If you are like most people, then you may have been considering ways to help cut back on the amount that you pay. Have you considered getting a free food sample of some of your favorite grocery items? We are not talking about the food samples that they give out in the store for you to taste right there. However, we are talking about the countless food samples that you can order online and receive them directly in the mail.

These samples can really help you to get the products that you are already using for free. You might even be surprised at the sizes that you would receive. In some cases, you could actually get the same size of the item that you would have bought in the store. Once you receive the item, you can scratch it off of your shopping list that week. You would have gotten the product by simply filling out an easy form without spending a dime. It's quite an easy process.

Well, so you may ask what kind of food products can you get as samples? There are an endless amount of products available. Some examples of products include coffee, sodas, cookies, baby food, and many more. You can easily find the items that you put into your grocery cart as a product sample. Why not begin these easy steps that can quickly help you to slim your grocery bill?

Free Food Sample offers a wide variety of completely free samples that you can get for FREE. Check out our top product samples and learn how you can get more for less.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Tammie_Taylor

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Monday, September 28, 2009

13 Ways To Save On Gasoline

NGK spark plug (type BP6ES).Image via Wikipedia

13 Ways To Save On Gasoline
  1. You can save hundreds of dollars a year by using the lowest-octane called for in your owner's manual.
  2. Keep your engine tuned up. A misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30%. Follow the service schedules listed in your owner's manual. Replace filters and fluids as recommended.
  3. You can save up to $100 a year on gas by keeping your tires inflated to their proper pressure. Under-inflation wastes fuel--your engine has to work harder to push the vehicle. Check tire pressure once a month.Wheels that are out-of-line (as evidenced by uneven tread wear or vehicle pulling) make the engine work harder. An alignment is warranted if there's uneven tread wear or if your vehicle pulls to one side as this decreases mileage.
  4. Observe speed limits. Mileage decreases sharply for every 5 mph above 55 mph.
  5. Drive gently. Avoid sudden accelerations and jerky stop-and-go's. Use cruise-control on open highways to keep your speed as steady as possible to save on mileage.
  6. Avoid excessive idling. Shut off the engine while waiting for friends and family. Today's vehicles are designed to "warm up" fast, so need to idle for long periods to warm the vehicle up in cold weather.
  7. Remove excess items from the vehicle. Less weight means better mileage.
  8. Store luggage/ cargo in the trunk rather than on the roof to reduce air drag.
  9. Plan trips. Consolidate your daily errands to eliminate unnecessary driving.
  10. Try to travel when traffic is light to avoid stop-and-go conditions.
  11. Join a car pool or take public transportation.
  12. Don’t drive! Try walking or biking to your destination, it not only saves money, it’s good for your health (both physical and mental).
  13. Every ten days, motorists who drive with under-inflated tires and poorly maintained engines waste more than 70 million gallons of gasoline. Remember, how your car runs and how you drive it effects your budget and whether or not you’re frugal or wasteful, not to mention the consequences on the environment.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

10 Ways to Lower Your Auto Insurance Costs

Congestion caused by a road accident, Algarve,...Image via Wikipedia

10 Ways to Lower Your Auto Insurance Costs

You may not realize it, but the insurance rates you pay for your car can vary dramatically depending on the insurance company, agent or broker you choose, the coverage you request and the kind of car you drive. Listed below are a number of things you can do right now to lower your insurance costs.

Prices for the same coverage can vary by hundreds of dollars, so it pays to shop around. Ask your friends, check the yellow pages or call your state insurance department. You can also check consumer guides, insurance agents or companies. This will give you an idea of price ranges and tell you which companies or agents have the lowest prices. But don't shop price alone.

The insurer you select should offer both fair prices and excellent service. Quality personal service may cost a bit more, but provides added conveniences, so talk to a number of insurers to get a feeling for the quality of their service. Ask them what they would do to lower your costs. Check the financial ratings of the companies too. Then, when you've narrowed the field to three insurers, get price quotes.

Deductibles represent the amount of money you pay before you make a claim. By requesting higher deductibles on collision and comprehensive (fire and theft) coverage, you can lower your costs substantially. For example, increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 could reduce your collision cost by 15% to 30%.

It may not be cost-effective to have collision or comprehensive coverage on cars worth less than $1000 because any claim you make would not substantially exceed annual cost and deductible amounts. Auto dealers and banks can tell you the worth of cars.

If you have adequate health insurance, you may be paying for duplicate medical coverage in your auto policy. In some states, eliminating this coverage could lower your personal injury protection (PIP) cost by up to 40%.

Before you buy a new or used car, check into insurance costs. Cars that are expensive to repair, or that are favorite targets for thieves, have much higher insurance costs. Write to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 1005 North Glebe Road, Arlington, VA 22201 and ask for the Highway Loss Data Chart.

Costs tend to be lowest in rural communities and highest in center cities where there is more traffic congestion.

Some companies offer discounts to motorists who drive fewer than a predetermined number of miles a year.

You may be able to take advantage of discounts on some coverage if you have automatic seat belts and/or air bags.

Non-Smokers often get discounts.

Some insurers offer discounts for more than one car, no accidents in three years, drivers over 50 years of age, driver training courses, anti-theft devices, anti-lock brakes and good grades for students. See the following page for a guide to these and other discounts.

  • $500 deductible
  • $1,000 deductible
  • More than 1 car
  • No Accidents in 3 Years
  • No Moving Violations in 3 Years
  • Drivers Over 50 Years of Age
  • Driver Training Course
  • Anti-Theft Device
  • Low Annual Mileage
  • Automatic Seat Belt
  • Air Bag
  • Anti-Lock Brakes
  • Good Grades for Students
  • Auto and Homeowners Coverage with the Same Company
  • College Students Away From Home Without a Car

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Monday, September 21, 2009

7 Ways to Save Money on Transportation

Airbus A330-200Image via Wikipedia

7 Ways to Save Money on Transportation

1. Airline Fares
You can lower the price of a roundtrip air fare by as much as two-thirds by making certain your trip includes a Saturday evening stayover, and by purchasing the ticket in advance.
To make certain you have a cheap fare, even if you use a travel agent, call all the airlines that fly where you want to go and ask what the lowest fare to your destination is.
Keep an eye out for fare wars. Be prepared to act quickly.

2. Car Rental
Since car rental rates can vary greatly, shop around for the best basic rates and special offers.
Rental car companies offer various insurance and waiver options. Check with your insurance agent and credit card company in advance to avoid duplicating any coverage you may already have.

3. Buy Used Cars
When you are considering buying a car, buy used and you will save thousands of dollars. Most people can find a quality used car with low miles from those who were not so frugal and bought beyond their means. Checkout local papers, craigs list and other websites for deals.
Before buying any used car:

a. Compare the seller's asking price with the average retail
price in a "bluebook" www.KBB.com or other guide to car prices.

b. Have a mechanic you trust check the car, especially if
the car is sold "as is."

Consider purchasing a used car from an individual you know and trust. They are more likely than other sellers to charge a lower price and point out any problems with the car.

4. Car Repairs
Prevention is the best medicine. Most repairs cab be prevented or minimized by regular maintenance such as checking and keeping the fluids up (i.e. radiator fluids, transmission fluids, brake fluids, and oil). Also, regular oil changes and tune ups, along with replacement of worn parts like brakes and tires.
When repairs are needed, consumers lose billions of dollars each year on unneeded or poorly done car repairs. The most important step that you can take to save money on these repairs is to find a skilled, honest mechanic. Before you need repairs, look for a mechanic who:
* is certified and well established;
* has done good work for someone you know; and
* communicates well about repair options and costs.
A properly maintained car runs better and saves on fuel.

5. Auto Insurance
You can save several hundred dollars a year by purchasing auto insurance from a licensed, low-price insurer. Call your state insurance department for a publication showing typical prices charged by different companies in your state. Then call at least four of the lowest-priced, licensed insurers to learn what they would charge you for the same coverage.

Talk to your agent or insurer about raising your deductibles on collision and comprehensive coverages or, if you have an old car where repairs would be easier paid for out of pocket, dropping these coverages altogether. Taking these steps can save you hundreds of dollars a year.
Make certain that your new policy is in effect before dropping your old one.

6. Sell the Car
Join a car pool or take public transportation. Sometimes we need to look at the big picture of automotive ownership and see if it’s feasible just not to own at all.

7. Don’t Drive!
Try walking or biking to your destinations, it not only saves money, it’s good for your health (both physical and mental).

A penny saved is a penny earned,

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Family Meals Under $5 - Tuna Casserole

Sorry for not posting last week. A headache and football games got in the way. Anyway, this weeks dinner has some "stock up" items that were really great. It's also a classic, easy recipe that can be made in one pot. You can tweak it by adding different veggies or different cream soups to suit your family's tastes.
Some sliced tomatoes from the garden make a great accompaniment, and their free.

One Pot Tuna Casserole - $4.65

1lb uncooked macaroni (3 1/2c) -1.88/3lb @ Super 1 Foods = .62c (Stock up)
2 5oz cans tuna - 38c can coupon @ Super 1 Foods = .76c (Stock up)
2 cans cream of mushroom soup = $1.30
2 c grated cheddar cheese = .72c
2c milk - $1.48 gallon @ Super 1 Foods 12 hr sale = .18c
1 T Worcestershire = .08
1 16oz pkg frozen peas = .99c
1 c bread crumbs = free

Preheat oven to 350. In a large pot cook pasta till al dente. Drain and return to pot. Add remaining ingredients except bread crumbs and stir to combine. Pour into 13 x 9 baking dish and top with bread crumbs. Bake for 30 min or till heated through.

I'm amazed every time I go to the store it seems like prices have gone up. That's why I try to stock up on the things I use on a regular basis when they go on sale, like the pasta and tuna. One of our local grocery stores has a 12 hour sale every month. This is a great time to stock up since they usually have at least one or two things I use on sale. If I happen to have a coupon the savings are even greater.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

9 Ways To Save Money On Insurance And Banking

9 Ways To Save Money On Insurance And Banking

1. Homeowner Insurance
You can save $100 or more a year by purchasing homeowner insurance from a low-price, licensed insurer. Ask your state insurance department for a publication showing typical prices charged by different licensed companies in your state. Then call at least four of the lowest priced insurers to learn what they would charge you. If such a publication is not available, it is even more important to call at least four insurers for price quotes.

Make certain you purchase enough coverage to replace the house and its contents.

Make certain your new policy is in effect before dropping your old one.

2. Life Insurance
If you want insurance protection only, buy a term life insurance policy.

If you want to buy a whole life, universal life, or other cash value policy, plan to hold it for at least 15 years. Cancelling these policies after only a few years can more than double your life insurance costs.

Check your public library for information about the financial soundness of insurance companies and the prices they charge.


3. Checking
You can save more than $100 a year in fees by selecting a Free checking account.

Banking institutions often will drop checking fees if paychecks are directly deposited by your employer. Direct deposit offers the additional advantages of convenience, security, and immediate access to your money.

4. Savings and Investment Products
Before opening a savings or investment account with a bank or other financial institution, find out whether the account is insured by the federal government. An increasing number of products offered by these institutions, including mutual stock funds and annuities, are not insured.

To earn the highest return on savings (annual percentage yield) with little or no risk, consider certificates of deposit (CDs) and treasury bills or notes.

Once you select a type of savings or investment product, compare rates offered by different institutions. These rates can vary and, over time, can significantly affect interest earnings.

5. Credit Cards
Don’t use them, get a debit card instead. You can reduce credit card fees, which may add up to more than $100 a year, by getting rid of all cards, and avoiding late payment and over-the-credit limit fees.

6. Auto Loans
Don’t get a loan, if you’ve followed the frugal living principles, you should have significant savings earning a low interest rate, pay for the car in cash. This could save you as much as several thousand dollars in finance charges.

7. Mortgage Loans
You may save tens of thousands of dollars in interest charges by shopping for the shortest-term mortgage you can afford. On a $100,000 fixed-rate loan at 8% annual percentage rate (APR), for example, you will pay $90,000 less in interest on a 15-year mortgage than on a 30-year mortgage.

You can save thousands of dollars in interest charges by shopping for the lowest-rate mortgage with the fewest points. On a 15-year, $100,000 fixed-rate mortgage, just lowering the APR from 8.5% to 8.0% can save you more than $5,000 in interest charges. On this mortgage, paying two points instead of three would save you an additional $1,000.

If your local newspaper does not periodically run mortgage rate surveys, call at least six lenders for information about their rates (APRs), points, and fees. Then ask an accountant to compute precisely how much each mortgage option will cost and its tax implications.

Be aware that the interest rate on most adjustable rate mortgage loans (ARMs) can vary a great deal over the lifetime of the mortgage. An increase of several percentage points might raise payments by hundreds of dollars per month.

8. Mortgage Refinancing
Consider refinancing your mortgage if you can get a rate that is at least one percentage point lower than your existing mortgage rate and plan to keep the new mortgage for several years or more. Find a mortgage calculator online and calculate precisely how much your new mortgage (including upfront fees) will cost and whether, in the long run, it will cost less than your current mortgage.

9. Home Equity Loans
Avoid home equity loans, they will cost you thousands of dollars a year and these loans reduce the equity that you have built up in your home. Also, if you are unable to make payments, you could lose your home.

A penny saved is a penny earned,

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Monday, September 14, 2009

6 Ways To Save Money On Housing And Utilities

Compact fluorescent light bulbImage via Wikipedia

6 Ways To Save Money On Housing And Utilities

1. Home Purchase
You can often negotiate a lower sale price by employing a buyer broker who works for you, not the seller. If the buyer broker or the broker's firm also lists properties, there may be a conflict of interest, so ask them to tell you if they are showing you a property that they have listed.

Do not purchase any house until it has been examined by a home inspector that you selected.

2. Home Improvement
Do-it-yourself, you can save large labor costs by doing the improvements yourself and most home centers will give free advice, not mention classes on how to do it. They want your business and will provide these services to get it.

If you can’t do the work, remember that home repairs often cost thousands of dollars and are the subject of frequent complaints. Select from among several well established, licensed contractors who have submitted written, fixed-price bids for the work. Do not sign any contract that requires full payment before satisfactory completion of the work.

3. Major Appliances
Consult Consumer Reports for information about specific brands and how to evaluate them, including energy use. There are often great price and quality differences among brands.

Once you've selected a brand, check the phone book to learn what stores carry this brand, then call at least four of these stores for the prices of specific models. After each store has given you a quote, ask if that's the lowest price they can offer you. This comparison shopping can save you as much as $100 or more.


4. Electricity
To save hundreds of dollars a year on electricity, make certain that any new appliances you purchase, especially air conditioners and furnaces, are energy-efficient. Information on the energy efficiency of major appliances is found on Energy Guide Labels required by federal law.
Check with your electric utility to learn if it has a program to help reduce the costs of any appliance purchases.

Enrolling in load management programs and off-hour rate programs offered by your electric utility may save you up to $100 a year in electricity costs. Call your electric utility for information about these cost-saving programs.

5. Home Heating
A home energy audit can identify ways to save up to hundreds of dollars a year on home heating (and air conditioning). Ask your electric or gas utility if they can do this audit for free or for a reasonable charge. If they cannot, ask them to refer you to a qualified professional.
Check with local utilities about programs that help with energy efficiency upgrades for homes, these programs can save you thousands of dollars in home improvements and increase the value of your home.

6. Telephone Service
Check with your phone company to see based on your usage, which service plan will save you the most money.

Check your phone bill to see if you have optional services that you don't really need, use only occasionally or could do without. Each option you drop will save you money each year.

If you make more than a few long distance calls each month, consider subscribing to a plan that has unlimited long distance.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Family Meals Under $5 - Lodge Ribs

My good friend Julie gave me this recipe. Her family used to make it at their restaurant. It's super easy and super good too. You get to use the crockpot, so it's also a great dinner to have when you have a lot of back-to-school events.

I will say that I haven't made this dish in awhile because of the cost of the meat. There is no way I'd be able to keep it under $5 except for a good sale on the ribs and some good couponing. As you can see the main dish takes up most of the cost of the meal. Thank goodness for the garden to provide a healthy and delicious side dish.

Lodge Ribs - $4.33
Mashed Potatoes - .64c
Sauteed Garden Vegetables - Free (I used zucchini, bell pepper and tomatoes)

Total - $4.97

Lodge Ribs
Boneless country style pork spare ribs, 1/2 lb per person - 99c lb @ Safeway = $3.85/3.89lbs
1 18 oz bottle BBQ sauce - free (I don't remember the price because I got it earlier this summer when it was on sale at Albertsons. I had a coupon and was able to use a doubler coupon, so I got it for free -Yeah!)
1 pt maple syrup - .48c see recipe below

Season Ribs with salt and pepper. Layer in a greased crockpot, ribs (about 4 or 5), syrup and BBQ sauce. Keep repeating layers till all meat is used Cook on high 3-4 hrs. Reduce heat to low and cook an additional hour.

Maple Syrup
1 c water
2c sugar
1/2 t mapleine
Bring water to a boil. Add sugar and mapleine. Stir till sugar is dissolved.
This is the way I have made my syrup for years. It's so much cheaper than the store bought kind. If you want to thicken it up a bit you can add corn syrup.

Mashed potatoes
8 potatoes @ .08c ea = .64c
Boil and mash.

I'd have to say the frugal skill I used with this dinner was patience. Sometimes it's just not worth giving in to higher prices. I really love this recipe but when meat prices went up I knew this just wasn't something I was going to be able to make. Since I have 8 in my family I need to get a least 4lbs of meat for this. I've been waiting for prices to come down to where I knew I could afford it (around 99c/lb) and eventually they did.

In the meantime we ate many other delicious meals. So instead of giving in to high prices, a little patience will help keep your grocery budget where you want it.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

5 Super Fun Kid-Friendly Destinations That Won't Break The Family Budget In This Economy Crisis

5 Super Fun Kid-Friendly Destinations That Won't Break The Family Budget
By Alexandra Vrugt
Summer doesn't stop because the world is going through an economy crisis. While many families are looking for ways to reduce their overhead, the reality is that summer is still....summer! So, don't let this economy crisis keep you and your kids from going out and having a blast. An abundance of fun is out there at easy to get to destinations.

Cheap and exciting times can be had if you and your kids look at things a little differently this summer. From experimenting with silly and frugal recipes to finding fun spots that you can get to easily and get supplies that you can buy for cheap, there is no shortage on opportunities for a good time for those that seek them out. Try out these 5 super fun kid-friendly destinations that won't blow your family's budget in this economy crisis:

Try your local McDonald's, Wendy's, or Chick-fill-A Playland! Indoor playgrounds are fantastic places to visit with the kids. They love to do all of their regular outdoor playground stuff in the comforts of an air conditioned playland. You can get all the fun without all of the finances also by buying the cheapest thing on the menu. Often, you can get by with spending less than $1 per person! Buy for cheap a fun goodie like ice cream or cookies and your kids will be even more satisfied.

Go on a nature scavenger hunt. This is an activity that is great during this economy crisis because it can help you and your family learn to keep things in perspective relative to the earth and it's resources. Do a little research and get an age or grade appropriate science nature trail scavenger hunt worksheet online that you will find for free. Then, get the kids, bike, scoot, or walk to your nearest nature trail and let them explore.

If you can, have some fun at the beach. Buy for cheap some gas to get you to the nearest sandy place and watch the kids have a ball. You don't have to plan to stay at any fancy hotels, just make it a day trip and bring along some snacks that you can buy for cheap in advance. Most beaches are free and full of playtime opportunities for kids.

If you don't live near a beach, find a park with a sandpit. Many municipalities have incorporated sandpits into their playgrounds and parks because kids really love sand. A completely free activity, your kids can have a blast on the playground equipment and still try their hand at sand art. Buy for cheap some snacks and keep lots of water available. Kids love to snack and play, but if you don't play you could end up paying a lot of money for snacks from a vending machine.

Go camping...in your own backyard. Pitch a tent that you can buy for cheap at a discount store and plan a night when you and the kids sleep out under the stars. If you want to make a whole afternoon and evening of the backyard adventure, then, prepare a menu using frugal recipes like hot dogs, chips, and fruits and veggies that are in season that you can buy for cheap. Make the house off limits except for "emergencies" and your kids will have a summer adventure that they will remember for years to come. You will remember that it barely cost you anything but that you all have a fabulous time!

Summer fun doesn't have to cost an exorbitant amount of money. You can buy for cheap different things that your kids can use to explore, play, and learn during their visits to these 5 cheap and cool destinations. This economy crisis brings with it enough stress. Don't let it rob your family of a cool, cheap summer!

About the Author:
As a wel-known connoisseur on saving money in daily life, Alexandra Vrugt has written many articles on how to manage on less. You can receive a free copy of her Ebook '15 Top Ways to Save Money' by visiting her MakeEndsMeetOnline.com website.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Combating High Diesel Fuel Prices

Combating High Diesel Fuel Prices
With the gasoline and diesel fuel prices increasing, people have come up with various solutions to go around this situation. One of these solutions is the use of diesel fuel additives. Primarily they are known to increase lubricity of fuel, hence decreasing the wear and tear of engine parts. What is more is that it also can increase gas mileage.
Being a highly complex fuel, diesel fuel’s chemical structure changes from the time it leaves the refinery to the time it is pumped into holding tanks and fuel station to the time it gets pumped into the vehicle. Oxidization and structural changes occur in the fuel molecules. The energy per unit volume of the fuel can change during this phase, and this is what will cause your engine to have poor performance.
To combat the effects of fuel degradation and increase the fuel’s cetane value (discussed in detail below), the right type and ratio of fuel additives have to be used. Among a myriad of benefits, the engine will be able to obtain more power from a gallon of fuel.
Diesel fuel has more energy per gallon as compared to gasoline. The three types of diesel fuel are 1D, 2D, and a combination of the two. The lighter grade is 1D, and it offers less energy than 2D. It is more commonly used to reduce, if not eliminate, the gelling of fuel during cold winter climates; some people combine it with 2D.
The cetane rating denotes the diesel fuel’s ignition quality. The higher the rating, the easier the fuel burns evenly and the more power is produced. The average diesel fuel is at the 40-cetane level. Large diesel trucks and diesel pickup trucks prefer a cetane rating in the 45- to 50- level; this is considered as the premium diesel. However, this is not a general categorization—that is, the state’s regulations will dictate at which cetane rating is diesel fuel considered premium.
You should check with the fuel station with regard to the cetane ratings of the fuel they are selling. The higher the cetane rating, the better the drivability as well as reduced emissions. Moreover, the driver of the vehicle can feel the change in power (for the better).
Choosing the right diesel fuel additive can assure you that the diesel fuel will perform at its maximum because of its optimum quality. Here are some of the effects of a good quality diesel fuel additive:
- Reduces Cylinder Wear:
It neutralizes acids during combustion. It minimizes the wear of the acidic cylinder and it reduces the rate of engine oil depletion; thus, maintaining the quality of the engine oil for better protection.
- Minimizes Soot Loading:
It cleans fuel injectors and piston rings for better combustion and sealing. This reduces soot loading, controls soot-related wear, and increases engine oil viscosity.
- Stabilizes Fuel:
Fuel degradation increases deposits, which can promote the plugging of filter. The additive improves oxidation and thermal stability of the diesel fuel.
- Improves Fuel Economy:
It cleans dirty injectors as it improves the acceleration and restores horsepower, and in the long run it will enhance performance.
- Improves Water Tolerance:
An alcohol-free additive protects fuel systems against water contamination, helping to prevent emulsions. It also protects the metal against rust.
To combat the increasing diesel fuel prices, you can consider using a diesel fuel additive and experience the change in your expenses as well as the drivability of your vehicle.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Family Meals Under $5 - Taco Salad

This is one of my favorite dinners because it pleases everyone. With 8 people in our family it's hard to find foods that everyone likes. It's also a one dish meal so there is less clean up and in the summer heat all you have to cook is the ground beef. We serve this "salad bar" style so everyone can just pick what they like and everyone is happy. It's also a good time to raid the fridge for any leftovers that could be added.

I'm putting down the basics. You can go all out with this dinner or just keep it simple. Of course keeping it simple keeps the cost down as does having a wide variety of vegetables to choose from in the garden.

Basic Taco Salad - $4.84

Tortilla Chips - $1.99 22oz bag = .99c for 1/2 bag
1 1/2 lb lean ground beef - $1.47 lb @ Trading Co. = $2.20
3c grated cheddar cheese - $3.98/2lb @ Super 1 Foods minus $1 off coupon Print Free Coupons- $2.98 = $.81c
1 1/2c salsa - $1.98/26 oz = $.84c

The salsa listed is what it cost at Wal -Mart. If you want this dinner to be cheaper, head out to the garden and make your own salsa like we do. Below is a list of what I grabbed to add to the salad. Like I said you can go all out.

Lettuce = free from the garden
tomato = free from the garden
onion = free from the garden
bell pepper = free from the garden
zucchini = free from the garden
shredded carrot = free from the garden

This week in Albertsons weekly circular they had a section that said "Introducing dinner for 4 for under $15" I did the math and for my family the dinner they had shown would be $28.96. If we ate like that all week it would come to $202.72 and for a 4 week month it would be $810.88! And that's just for dinner.

I realize that it takes some doing to keep dinner under $5 and that it's not possible every night. But I hope that you have learned from these posts that it is possible. If you have a dinner under $5 idea please send it in and share with the rest of us. I'd love to hear how you keep your grocery costs down while still feeding your family healthy, delicious dinners.

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What Can You Do About Rising Diesel Fuel Prices?

Diesel smoke from a big truckImage via Wikipedia

What Can You Do About Rising Diesel Fuel Prices?
Not to forget those who run on diesel. Diesel fuel is one of the most important commodities on the economic landscape. The reason for this is that the transportation used in almost all aspects of the economy is fueled by diesel engines. Rising diesel fuel prices usually translate to rising costs of products and services. In order to know what can be done to slow down this increase, you as a consumer need to understand its causes.
Elements of Worth
There are several basic elements that determine the worth of a gallon of diesel. About sixty percent of the cost of diesel reflects the price of crude oil, which is raw material for diesel production. Crude oil is purchased from oil producing countries and subsequently brought to refineries where the ultra-low sulfur diesel, among other petroleum products, is extracted. Given a barrel of crude, a refinery will be able to distill about one tenth of a barrel of diesel. Refining accounts for nearly twenty percent of diesel fuel cost.
The remaining elements of the cost of diesel fuel are government taxes and the expense of marketing and distribution. A ten percent excise tax is levied onto all fuel products that are manufactured in the country. Although foreign fuel avoids this, it is generally cheaper to buy locally refined fuel as import taxes generally translate to higher unit price. Marketing and distribution only makes up five percent of total diesel fuel cost, but this can often be the most volatile factor affecting the value of diesel fuel.
Origins of Increase
Basically, the price of everything is dependent on supply and demand. If supply is low and demand is high, prices will go up. If supply is plentiful, the price will stay steady, and may even decrease when demand wanes.
Crude oil supply is dependent on oil producing countries, so anything that disrupts their production activities, like wars or economic embargoes, will drive the price of both world crude and diesel up. Refining costs are generally pretty stable, but both local and foreign companies compete for refined fuel. If the demand of foreign countries for the diesel produced by local refineries increases, this can ultimately result in elevated fuel costs.
The most unstable factor that affects diesel fuel is undoubtedly local marketing and distribution. Diesel fuel is in such high and constant demand that fuel stockpiles are generally pretty shallow. This means that if there is a sudden spike in fuel consumption, the warehoused supply will not be enough and this will drive the price of fuel up. Another factor is distance; consumers close to refineries tend to pay less because they avoid transportation costs. Local competition also plays an important role in regulating fuel prices.
Control Stems from Understanding
World supply and demand, international politics, economic pressures, all of these play interrelated roles in the cost of fuel. Though they seem beyond the comprehension of the non-economist layman, it all really boils down to supply and demand, and this is something anyone can understand. Saving fuel and lowering consumption is not only good for the environment; it decreases demand, and ultimately, cost. Programs which promote peace and goodwill among nations do not only make a better world; they result in less disruption of supply lines, and again, decrease fuel costs.
The factors that affect diesel fuel prices seem complex, but an understanding of the basic principles can empower the individual consumer. Unsurprisingly, it would seem that doing the right thing really is the right thing to do.

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