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frugality

After many years of just a trickle of work being offered through my husband's union hall, the Columbus area is now booming with an influx of construction jobs. So much that jobs are actually sitting on the window at the hall unfilled. I have to say, it's a great spot to be in, in the moment, but I know that with the cyclical nature of construction booms, it's only a matter of time before it's back on the downswing. After all, it was less than a year ago that the possibility of a layoff was always looming over our household, a very stressful spot to be in.

It feels like we've experienced more than our fair share over the years... A layoff is never convenient, but some times are definitely less convenient than others. There was the time my husband was laid off the day before Christmas Eve. And there was also the time that he received his notice the day after Christmas. And the worst of all -- when he literally got laid off via a voicemail while we were in the delivery room, as I was giving birth to our fifth child.

I mention all of this because I believe many of you are in the same situation. Despite the falling unemployment rate, I know that those numbers are somewhat skewed by workers who've simply given up looking for a job. So I thought this might be a good time to bump up these tips for what to do if job loss is a possibility and what to do if you lose your job...

If a job loss is still just a possibility:

Cut back your spending immediately. Review your bills and look for areas where you can start to scale back. Start small by trying to cut just $1 a day from your expenses and increase your savings from there. Learn how to maximize your savings at drugstores and grocery stores and add these additional funds to your emergency account.

Consider purchasing supplemental income insurance. SafetyNet is among the simplest forms of insurance. It will pay you a lump sum in the event of a layoff or other unexpected job loss! The premiums are surprisingly affordable, starting at just $5 per month. If you need to file a claim, the payout can be used for anything you wish – rent, groceries, utilities, whatever you need. Signing up is easy with just three simple questions, no credit checks.

Build a stockpile. Hopefulone and Erin both wrote excellent guest posts on this topic. In the event of a layoff, being able to cut back your grocery expenses by eating from your stockpile is a huge blessing.

Pay yourself first. Start building an emergency savings by setting up an online savings and having money automatically drafted into it from your checking account each pay period. Transfer the money saved from any cut backs into it as well. Every little bit helps!

I also can't recommend the book Profit First enough. I've been using the method discussed in it for about 6 months now, and it's totally transformed both my business and personal finances.

Start paying just the minimums on any debt. While not ideal for getting out of debt, this will help with your immediate cashflow. Funnel anything extra you were paying into your emergency account for the time being.

Get a handle on the job market. Check out the classifieds and online job postings. Start doing a little networking to feel out the situation in your industry, and update your résumé so it's ready to go.

If you lose your job:

Negotiate for additional benefits. Most companies will offer the standard severance of unpaid vacation and a good reference, but you may be able to haggle for more. Ask for additional compensation based on years of employment, extended health benefits, or reimbursement for job placement services. It's likely that companies will be willing to provide one or more of these to avoid negative publicity. You won't know unless you ask!

File for unemployment. Generally you should do this immediately because there's a one-week holding period; however, from experience I can tell you there's one exception to that. If it's close to the end of the year, it might be in your best interest to wait until the new year. Compensation rates often increase every year, and by waiting a few additional days you may be entitled to more money. We learned this the hard way when my husband filed back in 2005. If he had waited a mere four days, we would have received an additional $40 per week in compensation. Check with your state agency, and if you can stick it out for a few days, do so.

Communication is key on all levels. Let your family members know about your situation. Explain to your friends that you'll have to cut back on entertainment expenses for a while. Get the word out to your social network. You might be surprised by a job lead from an unexpected source. Finally, contact your creditors immediately if you see yourself starting to fall behind on your bills. They may be able to offer some sort of temporary solution.

Seek out additional resources. These may vary by location, but it's a good idea to see what's available. Don't EVER be embarrassed to take advantage of whatever programs are available to you. There's no shame in doing what it takes to keep your family from financial disaster.

A few to consider:

  • WIC
  • Food stamps
  • Medicaid in your state
  • Food pantries
  • Energy assistance programs
  • Your church

Your state department of job and family services may have additional suggestions. Don't be afraid to ask your unemployment case worker what you're eligible for.

Cut back your budget to all but the necessities. When it comes right down to it, things like cable, cell phones, and Internet can probably all be eliminated. Look for free sources of family entertainment such as free DVD rentals from Redbox. You might be surprised at what you can do without when it really matters.

Start looking for a new job immediately. Take advantage of any outplacement resources offered by your former employer. In most cases you will be required to report on your job search regularly to your unemployment caseworker, so you'll want to maintain a log of companies you apply with and any responses you receive.

If you're a union worker, as is my husband, you may be in a different position. He must wait until his layoff number on "the list" is high enough to win a bid on a job. I know the particulars vary by union, but in our case looking for work outside the union could mean thousands of dollars in fees and fines.

Be sure to stay in close contact with your union hall's hiring manager, and ask about any additional resources that your hall may have to offer. You may be able to take a travel position and work out of another union, as my husband has done on several occasions. Or this might be a good time to take advantage of any continuing education programs available to you. Additional certifications could make you more valuable to employers and therefore less likely to be low on the list when layoffs occur in the future.

When you find new employment:

Keep your frugal ways in place for a while. Pay off any debt accrued during your unemployment period, build your emergency savings back up, and better prepare yourself financially in the event that it turns out not to be a good fit or for future cutbacks.

There's no such thing as job security these days. Especially with the fluctuating economy, it's important to be prepared as best as you can be for a sudden loss of income. Losing a job is never easy, but you can definitely prepare yourself so that it's more manageable.

I certainly would not wish a layoff or job loss on any one of you, but I hope that these tips give you some hope in the event that you should need them.

Have you survived a major loss of income in your family? Do you have any additional tips to share?

This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of SafetyNet; all opinions and text are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this site!

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FREE Printable Shopping Lists Updated

by Tara Kuczykowski on March 11, 2011 · 0 comments

shopping-list

Two years ago, Mandi from Life...Your Way shared her tips for organizing your shopping list along with a FREE printable shopping list template here at Deal Seeking Mom. Yesterday, she released updated shopping list templates that are easier on the eyes and can be filled out on your computer and then printed.

Click here to get your FREE shopping lists today!

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Spring Cleaning Your Finances

by Tara Kuczykowski on May 11, 2010 · 0 comments


I have the pleasure of guest posting on the ING Direct We The Savers blog today about spring cleaning your finances.

Springtime is traditionally a time of out with the old and in with the new, a time to clean and purge and start afresh. Just as the beautiful weather inspires us to throw open the windows and clean out the house, it’s also the perfect time to take a good hard look at our finances and give them a thorough once over for a more prosperous year.

Perhaps this sounds like a daunting task, but if you take a week and devote a small amount of time each day to one of the seven tasks below, you’ll be ready to tackle the rest of 2010 in an organized fashion.

Read more at We The Savers...

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Hidden Savings at the Dollar Store

by Tara Kuczykowski on April 28, 2010 · 17 comments

Photo by www.jeremylim.ca

The following is a guest post from Lina of Grocery Alerts Canada:

Most people spend the bulk of their grocery budget at major supermarkets and small chains. However, we recently started shopping at local dollar stores for great deals on certain items as well. One of the tricks with shopping at dollar stores is that you cannot be brand loyal. Instead, look for the store's private label products. While dollar stores do not typically accept coupons, the cost savings without coupons can still add up.

Here are some of our favorite deals:

Spices

At the grocery store, spices can be very expensive, as much as $4 or more for a small spice shaker. On the other hand, dollar stores have spices for a dollar or less. You won't find expensive spices like saffron or Herbes de Provence, but picking up spices like cinnamon and black pepper for less than a buck is a great deal.

Cleaning Supplies

We love to live in a clean house, but cleaning products are not cheap at the grocery store. We have found great deals on rubber gloves, dish soap, plungers, window cleaner, and bleach at our local dollar stores.

Greeting Cards

It is a nice feeling to receive a well written card for your birthday or anniversary, on a holiday or just because. In our family, there are many young children that love receiving cards in the mail. At specialty card stores and grocery stores, greeting cards can cost over $3. At dollar stores, the quality of the cards and paper is not as high quality, but you can often get more than one for a dollar, and the importance of the card is the message inside of it anyway.

Beauty Supplies

It is amazing how much some beauty aids cost at drugstores and grocery stores. We find that the dollar store has great prices on products like nail polish remover and epsom salts.

Cooking Supplies

Tinfoil, baking soda and baking powder are all on my shopping list at the dollar store. On a price per unit basis, these often are great deals. For many products on this list, the best deals are often on the "no-name" products. You must be comfortable purchasing outside your typical brand to save money.

Calculate the Price per Unit

To be sure the products you're purchasing are really a great deal, calculate the price per unit basis of the product:

For example, if a 250g container of baking powder is $1 at the dollar store, the price per gram of baking powder is $0.004. If the grocery store carries a different brand of baking powder at $3.50 for 1 kg, the price per gram would be $0.0035, an even better price. Use a pocket calculator or your mobile phone to calculate what is a better deal.

Keep in mind to consider the expiration dates on anything you buy in larger quantities (especially with baking powder!).

What other great deals have you found at the dollar store?

Lina Zussino is the co-founder of Grocery Alerts Canada, home of canadian grocery deals and printable grocery coupons. She enjoys teaching group fitness and saving money in beautiful Victoria, BC with her husband Steven.

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Growing Your Own Produce: Does It Really Save Money?

by Tara Kuczykowski on April 21, 2010 · 16 comments

This following guest post is an excerpt from Your Money: The Missing Manual by J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly:

Your Money: The Missing ManualOver the past few years, I've tried a variety of cost-cutting measures in order to save money. At first, these forays into frugality were a way to help me dig out of debt. After I actually managed to get out of debt, I opted to stay frugal because I saw that doing so would allow me to build wealth — something I never thought I'd be able to do.

Some frugality measures — clipping coupons, buying store brands, using the public library — are clear winners. My wife and I know we save money by doing these things.

But sometimes, it's not clear if our choices make sense over the long term.

For example, we pool money with friends every year to buy a side of beef. This gets us great quality meat, but there's no real cost savings. (It's sort of a break-even proposition.)

We've been growing a vegetable garden for nearly 20 years, but my wife and I had always wondered: Do we save money by growing our own food? And if so, how much?

How much does a garden really save?

Many prominent penny pinchers are proud to proclaim that gardening is a great way to save money. Michelle Obama is growing vegetables at the White House. The Burpee seed company boasts that $50 in seeds and fertilizer will yield $1250 in produce. Burpee CEO George Ball told the Wall Street Journal that $1 in seeds will produce $75 worth of beans.

But how much does a garden really save?

My wife and I set out to answer that question during 2008. For twelve months, we tracked the cost of seeds, fertilizer, water, and electricity. We carefully weighed every fruit and vegetable we harvested from our garden, comparing costs with local supermarkets and produce stands. We also logged the time we spent in the garden. At the end of the year, we tallied the results.

We'd spent 60 hours working on our crops and $318.43 on seeds and supplies. We harvested $606.97 worth of food, including:

  • $225.74 in berries
  • $294.59 in vegetables
  • $66.63 in fruit
  • $20.10 in herbs

Drawing on what we'd learned, we repeated the experiment in 2009. This time, we spent $351.37 (and 63.5 hours) while harvesting $809.74 worth of food. Can $50 worth of seeds and fertilizer really give you $1250 in food? Well, not in our yard. Still, we were able to double our investment in just a year. T's a better return than I get with my mutual funds — and it's tastier, too.

An Actual Weekend Harvest from August 2006

An Actual Weekend Harvest from August 2006

Greens from the garden

Growing your own food is a fun and rewarding way to save money. Food fresh from your yard is convenient and generally tastes better than anything you can find in the supermarket. If you're able to put in the time and effort, you'll be rewarded with a bounty of fruit, berries, and vegetables. Here are some quick tips for starting your own garden plot:

  • Plan in advance. Decide what you'd like to grow. How much space can you devote to the project? How much time are you willing to spend? For those with small spaces (or small ambitions), a container garden is an excellent choice. Others might consider building raised beds to use for square-foot gardening. Square-foot gardening allows you to maximize food production in a minimum of space.
  • Start small. When planning your garden, it's better to start too small than to start too large. In order to enjoy your garden, you have to be able to control it. Don't be too ambitious. If you want to test the waters, try herbs. Herbs are easy to grow and they're cost-effective.
  • Choose productive plants. It's frustrating to plant a bunch of seeds that don't produce. If you want a rewarding, productive garden, do some research to find out what grows well in your area. One excellent resource is your state's extension office, but also ask your friends and neighbors.
  • Share with others. When you buy a packet of seeds, you'll generally receive more than you need. It can be fun and frugal to split the costs with others. It's also useful to share equipment. You may own a roto-tiller while your neighbor has a trailer for hauling manure. Sharing saves money.
  • Buy quality tools. When you buy tools, it pays to purchase quality. Thrift and frugality are about obtaining value for your dollar – not just paying the lowest price. Garden tools take years of abuse. You want equipment that will last and that will also be a pleasure to use.
  • Have fun. Don't make gardening more work than it needs to be. Your garden doesn't need to be perfect. Pick a favorite fruit or vegetable, plant a few seeds, and have fun watching them grow to maturity. Make it a family thing. If you're a beginning gardener, start small. It's easy to dive in headfirst and be overwhelmed. Research the plants you want to grow and the conditions they require, build a manageable raised bed if you're starting from scratch, and use local resources to gain knowledge and cut costs. Build on your successes.

Herbs Grown in an Indoor Container

Herbs Grown in an Indoor Container

Your public library will have many great gardening books, some tailored to your location. Two excellent books for new gardeners are Square-Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew and The Bountiful Container by McGee and Stuckey. You might also want to check out You Grow Girl, a blog about gardening. With a little bit of effort, your yard can be producing food that tastes great and saves you money!

Have you started working on your garden yet?

J.D. Roth writes about sensible personal finance at Get Rich Slowly. J.D.'s first book, Your Money: The Missing Manual, is now in stores and contains tons of tips for saving (and making) money. To learn more about gardening, check out the Get Rich Slowly articles about starting seeds indoors and how to start your own vegetable garden.

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