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So a bit of an Update

The GECU Savings Challenge announced its winner Sunday December 13th.

And the Winner Was.........

Yours truly! I indeed won the GECU Savings Challenge. All thanks to my helpful coaches, Alex and Sophia, GECU, my Family, my Friends, and my loyal readers.

I can say with confidence that if there was one real aspect of my application that set me apart from the other competitors, it would be my blog. And I created my blog for vastly different reasons than why I continued my blog.

Updating was never easy, but knowing that there were people that were genuinely interested in what I found, what I had to say, and the way I delivered it really helped to keep me motivated.

So thank you all so kindly for reading and for your fellowship and comments. It has been a crazy, crazy year!

And next year proves to be crazier. Check out a sneak preview here.

Love you all!
Contact me: email

2010---Diet Challenge

I spent a whole year saving money, getting out of debt, and really getting my life back together from a financial explosion of epic negative proportions.

I wanted to continue the theme of year long adventures into 2010. One year, one mission, one chance to get one aspect of my life back on track.

My diet.

Ohhhh no! I've said the "D" word. Well, fortunately, nobody is going to rinse my mouth out with soap for dropping that word, but frankly they should.

I'm on a mission this year to get healthy, get active, and get back to where I can look at myself in the mirror again and not find those parts of my body that I hate and that hate me. It's not going to be easy. Let's face it, that's not how I roll. But it will be fun and it will be challenging, especially since I'm not just going to be dieting and exercising. I'm going to be testing the limits of my body. Nothing to extreme like marathon running or climbing Mt. Everest.

No, what I have planned is a bit more sinister. You see, there is a researcher inside of me that begs to be finding the best way to go about doing things the right way. You can't trust diet claims on the internet or television or from your neighbors coworker's ex-boyfriend's mother's hairdresser. It just doesn't work that way.

So I'm officially setting the challenge up for any and all forms of dieting. 50 diets. 50 weeks.

You heard that right... or rather read that correctly.

I am going to give 50 diets one week's worth of testdriving. Keeping track of everything from weight to measurements to how I feel on the diet. I'm looking forward to researching these 50 diets leading up to the first week of January when it all goes down.

As a control setting, I will also get moving and get active. Pictures, videos, blood, sweat, and tears all to follow.

I hope you'll stick with me in 2010, lord knows I'm going to need some friends to hold my hand and help me stay on track.

This Little Diet of Mine, kicks off January 1, 2010.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Snow! Alot of Snow! I'm ecstatic. As you can see, we took advantage of the weather and built a few snowmen. This brings to mind the upcoming Christmas season and how to shop frugally.

Here are my tips and hopefully ones that I will employ with rapidity :P

Start earlier – Do it from now
The reason is the store is not too crowded and the amount of goods still lot, so you can be more free to choose the gifts you want to buy then you can choose good quality goods with reasonable price.

Conduct research
Find ideas about the kind of gift that will be given to the people you care about by browsing to the online store, reading magazines, watching TV, and chatting with friends. So you will get idea bout the right stuff to give.

Gift List
Create a gift list before shopping. Write the name of the person you want to give a gift, type of gift, and the store where the gift is sold.

Do not over-budget
Don’t let the amount of money you spend beyond the budget that have been made. Of course you don’t want to start 2010 with a lot of debt right?

Don’t forget to compare
Check the online store in advance about the specification and price of goods you want to buy, and then compare it with the offline store. Considering the discounts offered too. If the price of goods at the online store can be much cheaper, then you don’t have to bother to go to the shopping center.

Special wrapping
If the stores offer special free wrapping service, I recommend to use this service, because it can save a little money to wrap the gifts.

Make gifts

Shop Good Will-ONLINE!

Tis the season to be giving, but don't give to the point of financial ruin. Consider Secret Santa parties where you draw names and are responsible for one gift rather than two thousand. Or give the gift of food--minus the fruit cakes. Or donate to a charity as a family--Ronald McDonald House of El Paso, clothing that doesn't fit anymore this holiday season!), to name a couple.

Sure it feels good both to give and to receive, but think of the Christmas's to come when you are more financially stable and able to give the way your heart desires. Those holidays will be possible because you made a simple sacrifice this year.

You, Your Fitness, and Your Money

Joining a gym is not a decision you should take lightly—especially since it affects your wallet. Fitness centers come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges, offering everything from basic workout equipment to upgrades like massages, tanning, and even laundry service! But most of us are pinching our pennies and stretching our dollars these days, so you may think that a gym membership is unaffordable. Don't throw in the (sweaty) towel just yet! I have some money-saving ideas that will help your cut your membership costs. As a trainer and wellness coordinator, I spent several years working in public and private fitness centers, so I know all the secrets! Here are 10 insider tips to getting a good deal while keeping a little more money in your pocket!

Shop during the Slow Season
When looking to purchase a membership, consider the time of year. Thanks to New Year's resolutions, gift certificates, and renewed resolve, the first few months of the year are the busiest—and best—times to be a membership director. Similarly, the colder months are also busier than warmer months because people can't exercise outside. Because they're selling so many memberships, gyms don't need your money and they're less likely to cut you a deal. But the opposite is also true: Membership slides during the summer and toward the end of the year, so that is the best time to make your move. Look for specials and discounts at this time, and don't be afraid to ask for a better deal.

Join at the End of the Month
Gyms and fitness centers typically have membership goals for each month. They want to gain new members and retain the ones they have. At the first of the month, these sales goals don't seem as daunting to employees as they do in the last week of the month. So go at the end of the month, when most gyms are willing to make a deal with you so they can hit their goals!

Check Out the Competition
In most cities, there is more than one game in town, so shop around to find out what each gym has to offer. Once you have narrowed the list down to the places you like, go to each gym and speak to the individual responsible for memberships. Explain what you want and what you've seen at the other gyms you visited. (Make sure you are looking at comparable facilities when you do this.) If there is a difference in price, ask if they would meet or beat the monthly fees of their competitors. If they cannot beat the monthly fee, find out what they are willing to offer you instead. Don’t do this over the phone. When you meet in person, it will be more difficult for them to watch you walk out if you can’t strike a deal.

Strip Off the Extras
Many facilities offer a one-price-for-all structure. For example, your monthly fee includes the use of the gym, locker rooms, childcare and group fitness classes. If you don't have children, you won’t have any use for the childcare. If group fitness classes are not your cup of tea, you don't want to pay for something you aren't going to use, right? Explain this when talking about the membership fee with a staff person and see if you can strike a better deal.

Avoid the Contract Agreement
Many gyms require you to sign a contract (often called “an agreement”) that may lock you into a long-term membership that lasts several months, one year, or longer. When you sign a contract, you are, in essence, agreeing to pay the monthly fee whether or not you're happy or using the gym at all. My first advice is to avoid the contract if possible. Once you sign a contract, it can be very difficult to cancel if you don’t like or use the facility, if you're unable to pay your fees, or even if you move farther away. If your gym does require a contract, make sure you understand what you are agreeing to before you sign it. Also, opt for signing a shorter-term agreement even if it costs a few dollars more. You may save money in the end by not being stuck paying for a gym you don't use. If you can't agree to their contract terms, ask to write in your own exit strategy. As with all things, make sure to get it in writing, get it signed by both parties, and keep a copy for yourself.

Get Out of Your Gym Contract
So maybe you didn't read my advice above until it was too late! Luckily, there are some stipulations that will typically allow you to exit most membership contracts. One option is moving outside your gym's contract-stipulated radius to the club (and its affiliates), which usually requires proof of an address change. Another would be a health/medical reason that prohibits you from using the facility, which usually requires a note from a physician. These are not absolutes, however, as many clubs come up with their own stipulations. What you should never do is cancel the credit card or bank account from which your monthly dues are deducted—that can lead to even higher collection fees later on.

Be Honest about Your Budget
Let’s say that you have found "the one!" This is the gym for you—it has everything you need, where you need it. The only problem is that the fees are just beyond your budget. Sit down with a staff person and explain your situation. Tell them what you can afford. You might be surprised to find out that they may help. The YMCA is great about this! They have financial assistance at many locations and never turn away a member who can't afford to pay.

Work With Your Employer
Employers today are facing increasing healthcare costs and often want to improve employee health to reduce those costs. Check with your employer to see if they would consider subsidizing a portion of your gym membership fees. If you have a health savings account, find out if you can use that money to cover all or a portion of your gym membership as well. If your employer cannot or will not cover any of these costs, go straight to your co-workers. Find out how many are interesting in joining a local fitness center. Then go to that facility explaining that you could bring a few of your co-workers with you they may be willing to negotiate a lower monthly rate, such as a 10%-20% discount for everyone, depending on the number of people you bring in.

Don't Fall for "Good Deals" on Extras
When you're on a budget, it seems like a no-brainer to say no to extra costs like personal training, apparel, supplements, laundry, and tanning (which isn't good for you anyway). But salespeople at gyms will do anything to make you think these extras aren't just necessary but are also a good value. If you are not careful, it is easy to drop a lot of money each month with a few dollars here and a few dollars there. Skip the super protein smoothie or energy bar after your workout and go for a high quality meal at home. Double-check your gym bag for your water bottle to forgo buying $2 bottles of water at each visit. And before you sign a contract for personal training sessions, ask yourself, do I really need a personal trainer? Chances are, you don't.

Traveling? Put Your Membership on Hold
One thing I love about some gyms is that they will let you put your membership "on hold" for a short period. If you know that next month you will be out of town a lot and unable to go to the gym, ask if you can put it on hold for that month. Just remember to do this ahead of time, if possible. Don’t walk in after not using the gym for three months and ask for a refund or extension. Gyms are businesses too and a lack of motivation on your part does not necessitate a refund on their part.

Even though I have seen many of the above tips work firsthand, there are no magical spells that will make all of these suggestions work in your favor. Most importantly, honesty is the best policy when dealing with people—and that includes gym employees, managers and salespeople. If you can't afford the fees in the first place (or if you encounter financial hardship after signing on the dotted line), explain your situation. You may be surprised to find that many people are willing to try to help in some way. In the end, remember that you don't need a gym to get fit, but they do need your business, so find a compromise or deal that works for both of you!

Thanksgiving on the Cheap

When it comes to Thanksgiving, it's not just the calories and fat content that many of us have to worry about--it's the price. The average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $42.91, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. (That's good news! It marks a 4 percent decrease since last year.)

This time of year, the added cost of a huge meal for the entire family can be intimidating. While we want to entertain our loved ones and give them a tasty, nutritious and bountiful spread, we also need to be able to keep food on the table for the rest of the month.

We know that for many of us, Thanksgiving is the beginning of a long--and often expensive--holiday season. We embrace frugal living and know you do, too. So we've asked readers, SparkPeople experts and few dietitians to share tips on how they save money on their Turkey Day dinner. We've got dozens of ideas to help you save money from Thanksgiving through the New Year.


* Most cooks today are inexperienced at cooking a fresh from the farm bird. Unless you know what you are doing, stick to a name brand, pre-basted bird with a built-in thermometer, and buy it on sale. For those experienced cooks…yes, they can adventure into the world of grandma-style turkey roasting.
SparkPeople Head Dietitian Becky Hand, Registered and Licensed Dietitian

* Buy two turkeys when the Thanksgiving turkeys go on sale. Freeze it for a December holiday meal or for all your soups for winter.
Meg Galvin, Master Chef and Healthy Recipe Developer

* Consult a turkey buying chart so you know how much to buy. Factor in the desired amount of leftovers. If no one likes dark meat, then it is a better buy to get just a breast (yes, it costs more, but there will be less waste, in the long run).

* Now’s the time to clean out your freezer, and make room for that second turkey—it will keep for a good year. Also, budget time and space for turkey casseroles and soups—at these prices, you can’t lose by investing now.
Susan Burke March MS, RD, LD/N, CDE

* Bone-in turkey breasts or turkey rolls offer more protein/meat for your dollar compared to whole turkeys which typically only yield about 40% meat/pound purchased. If you use the remaining bones/carcass to make soup stock, it may be worth it to purchase the entire bird on sale but if you tend to just throw them all away when the carving is finished, you will get more for your money from the other options.
Tanya Jolliffe, SparkPeople Healthy Eating Expert and Community Moderator

* If you do buy a turkey breast, buy one that still has the breast bone in it. It's much cheaper. Then use the bone for making stock.

* Prices for turkey are competitive, so be on the lookout for coupons and specials, especially as we get closer to the holiday. Turkey lovers! Now is the time to buy three—cook one for Thanksgiving, use one for soup and casseroles to make and freeze while the price is right. Freeze the third for another holiday or family meal.
Susan Burke March


* I start saving my bread crusts and the last slice or two of the loaf for stuffing the turkey about 2 or 3 months before the holiday. I toast the slices on a light to medium setting on the toaster to dry out the bread without making it too crispy, then crumble or tear it into small pieces and keep in a bag until time to prepare the dressing. We feed about 20 or more people every holiday, and with 3 families saving the bread that would otherwise go to waste, we rarely have to purchase any bread or stuffing mixes.

* The bread ends or "heels" can be saved for weeks in a bag in the freezer. Several days before your big meal, remove them from the freezer and use them to make your stuffing.

* Reach for real: homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, pie/cobbler are much less expensive than the boxed, instant or pre-made varieties. Call in the troops (partner and children) to peel potatoes, tear the bread, cut fresh green beans, etc.

* Use the KISS method and Keep It (the menu) Simple. You don’t need four different types of salads, two types of stuffing, etc. Don’t make cranberry salad if the majority of folks don’t even like it. Stick to the basics-- food items that you are comfortable making, and make those items HIGH Quality.

* Sweet potatoes are a Thanksgiving favorite that I love all year round. Scrub and prick them, then bake or microwave (wrapped in a damp paper towel) until just soft, about 4-5 minutes then turn over and repeat. Let cool until you can handle, split down the middle, brush with olive or canola oil and place under broiler until just toasty-topped. Serve with crushed, unsweetened pineapple.
Susan Burke March

* Many family favorites are not only costly but also high in calories, fat and sodium. Consider making this the year to make some changes and go with basics. For example, instead of super mashed potatoes filled with cream cheese and sour cream, try baking small red potatoes instead. Instead of the sweet potato casserole, go with simple baked sweet potatoes instead. Broccoli, rice and cheese casserole could easily become steamed broccoli and green bean casserole could easily become cooked green beans with almond slivers.

* Seasonal fruits and vegetables are the most economical and ecological. Save dollars on local produce, as well as lower the impact on the environment instead of buying produce that’s been shipped from miles away.
Susan Burke March

* I like to prepare some of my foods (i.e. sweet potato pie or casserole) in the summer/fall when the produce is cheap and plentiful). I also try to buy up a lot of the veggies when they are at the least expensive, and then freeze them, or parboil them, or make a casserole or dish out of them and then freeze it.

* Use frozen veggies and fruits (like cranberries) to make your family's favorite dishes. Canned veggies/beans can be used, but rinse them to remove excess salt.

Sweets and desserts

* Save butter wrappers to coat pans that need to be greased- the amount of butter is minimal.
Chef Meg

* I make my list of what cookies I will make for xmas at the end of Oct. And each week I pick up a ingredent I will need till I start making cookies and put it aside. When the time comes I just pull those ingredents and start baking.

* My mom used to make six different kinds of pie--each person has a favorite. Now, we make just one or two kinds of pies. Apple and pumpkin are easy to make--and they're affordable. Make just enough pie for everyone to have one (or two) slices.
Stepfanie Romine, dailySpark editor

* Making cookie dough ahead and freezing it saves time and money. I can freeze the individual balls of dough and only take out the amount that I need. Also, it saves time when I'm ready to bake to have the dough ready to use. This prevents the temptation of buying the "ready to bake" dough in the grocery store. Bread is another item that I can make ahead from scratch and can freeze easily for a month or two.

* Skip the whipped topping and whipped cream in a can. Make your own for a fraction of the cost--or skip it altogether and let the pie's natural flavors shine through.


* Make it a BYOB---the alcohol is expensive, so let everyone share the cost by bringing their preferred drink of choice.

* Make flavored ice cubes from juices instead of buying soda or expensive beverages.
Chef Meg

* Provide a simple punch for all do enjoy…this cuts back on the individual cans, bottles, juice pouches, Provide a punch, tea, hot coffee, hot tea, or hot apple cider drink for all to enjoy.


* We usually do road trips for our holidays and stay in regular motels around the countryside. We now carry my own breakfast with us so we don't get trapped into starting the day with unhealthy fatty buffet breakfasts. We have a a cooler in the car and refreeze the icepack overnight so our food stays fresh and cold the next day. This is also great for carrying fruit and yogurt to eat on the drive instead of snacking on sweets. This also keeps us alert for the day and we aren't sitting in the car full of heavy food, We have yogurt, good cereal and buy fresh fruit daily. We keep nuts and dried fruits and plenty of water in the car too.
SparkPeople member Maxine


* This is a great time of year to stock up on nuts; pecans and almonds. Prices are usually the lowest of the year. Freeze what you won't use within two months.
Chef Meg

* I buy food and baking items at various locations, not just the grocery store. I look for the best prices at the big box stores, at the grocery stores, as well as stores like Aldi's that are "no frills" and at Farm and Fleet, a farm supply store, that has the best prices on bags of nuts.

* Does the local farmers’ market have better prices?

* Learn your substitutes: Log on to your SparkPeople Resource Center, and click on Food Charts. Now you know what you can substitute within food groups for any favorite recipe, and make it even more interesting. For example, if your recipe calls for blueberries, if peaches are in season, substitute. Snap up "buy one, get one free" offers!
Susan Burke March

* I buy food and baking items at various locations, not just the grocery store. I look for the best prices at the big box stores, at the grocery stores, as well as stores like Aldi's that are "no frills" and at Farm and Fleet, a farm supply store, that has the best prices on bags of nuts.

* Check for store coupons and specials during the holidays. Plan the menu now and when those spuds (green beans, etc) go on sale…grab them. Check out stores for day old bread sales and freeze it now for stuffing.

* Make a grocery and supply shopping list and “stick to it”. Then you won’t be tempted by fancy end of the aisle displays at the store. This holds true for food items and also decorations and table d├ęcor. Do you really need a new table centerpiece or Pilgrim candle holders?

* Based on what I need, I begin buying various staples in the fall, such as sugar, flour, baking chips, etc., to spread out the cost of the things I know I will need. This goes for canned and frozen foods as well. I have an extra refrigerator and freezer, so I can preserve some of these items for a length of time. STORMTMB

* Planning, planning, planning, and inventory. Make a concise list of what you need for the December holidays before cooking Thanksgiving dinner. As you’re cooking for Thanksgiving do an inventory. Did you find a bag of powdered sugar you didn’t know you had? Evaporated milk in the back of the cupboard? Finalize the shopping list and keep it on the fridge. While doing your regular shopping, keep the holiday list with you and watch for specials on the non-perishable items on your list. If you need flour and you see a coupon or loyalty card saving for 30 cents off a bag, buy it then but only buy what you need and don’t be afraid to buy generic which will often be on sale more often if it’s the store’s brand. And to help the especially calorie conscious – save your wallet and your healthy lifestyle by not over planning the cookies! How many cookies do friends and neighbors bring by around the holidays? Serve those at your holiday festivities and save on buying your own ingredients as well as your cookie dough intake!

* I begin by working on a plan for the meals I will be hosting or to which I will be contributing. I also consider food gifts that I will be giving. I break it down by holiday, month, date, so I know what food items I need to have or make and when I need them. The master list is helpful for planning, especially when there are sales in the grocery and other stores.

* Some recipes call for expensive macadamia nuts and cashews so choose more wallet-friendly walnuts, almonds and peanuts—they’re dramatically less expensive, very tasty, and offer similar nutritional value. The same goes for cooking oil; canola and regular olive oil are perfectly fine for cooking and salad dressings—and much less expensive than extra virgin.
Susan Burke March

* Also, in October and November, I look for ways to double a batch of whatever I am making for dinner. If the dish can be frozen, then it's a meal that I can pull out and warm up easily when I'm in a crunch. It saves me from buying take-out or delivery. I also benefit because the food is homemade and more nutritious.


* We keep the old tradition of potluck alive. Each guest usually has a dish they're very good, love to make at or have a soft spot for. They bring that. My mother is a big contributor simply because locale deprives her of the chance to host the meal. She brings candied yams (everyone prefers her recipe) and some of her pies: apple for my older daughter, mince for herself and my youngest, and rum cream for the adults in general. My brother makes fantastic garlic mashed potatoes. My 82-year-old father-in-law brings cranberry sauce (because he likes to watch the little ones play with it as much as he likes to eat it) and my brother in law brings extra olives (because he knows he eats more of them than the rest of us). No matter what, no one pays for the whole meal!

* Make your own simmer pot by placing fruit skin in a saucepan with a cinnamon stick and cloves, simmer on low to make your whole house smell great- do this instead of buying expensive candles. Meg Can you and the children make the decorations? Go to the local library, check the craft books, and make it a simple, easy and fun family activity. Ideas: name cards, napkin rings, a simple centerpiece, etc. Check the second-hand store for items too.

* Decorate the center of the table with fruits of the season not flowers or decorate your table from the outside- Holley branches, twigs, rosemary.
Chef Meg

* Have someone else cook the meal. Splitting the cost between the members of a family can be a great way to reduce the financial impact on one family’s budget.
Debi Silber, MS, RD, WHC, The Mojo Coach

* Make your own gift tags--I make mine out of gingerbread.
Chef Meg

* Instead of a huge turkey and loads of side dishes, consider a turkey breast, fresh vegetables and one starchy side (potatoes OR stuffing instead of several versions of each). Keep the dishes that mean the most to you, and let go of the idea of an overflowing table.
Debi Silber

* Have each family member bring one dish to spread the cost around. Ask for specific contributions to avoid duplicates.
Debi Silber

* Make it a pitch-in meal and everyone can bring their favorite side dish. Becky Coordinate the side dishes or assign the side dishes so one does not end up with 3 green bean casseroles.

* Find a new holiday tradition instead of the big meal. Maybe you’ll all go volunteer at a homeless shelter. Maybe your family will spend the day at a museum. Maybe a neighborhood touch football tournament. Maybe a bike ride to admire the changing leaves or a walk to soak in all of the beautiful decorations. Instead of sitting around the table overstuffing yourselves, participating in an activity that celebrates your togetherness and the things you truly want to celebrate can save your wallet and your waistline.
Debi Silber

Saving money... Period

I have been wanting to do a post of epic proportions for a while. Hoping to gather some decent insight into the saving habits of other college aged bloggers, I scoured the internet. Not only was I disappointed with the results, but I was absolutely devastated to realize that there are so many college students who don't understand money. Don't understand the fundamentals of saving money. Don't understand the consequences of credit cards. Don't understand. Period.

A few blogs I ran across were of similar-aged college bloggers asking for savings advice. The advice they received were no-brainers.

Create a budget. Stick to the budget.

It took me a whole year to figure out my budget and it will take me longer to stick to it 100% every month.

So where's the middle ground? Where's the hope for the hopeless?

I think this comes with negotiating with youself. Figuring out, what you need to do and make sure those things are taken care of first. And then the things you want to do... Coming from a society of instant gratification it will definitely be harder to sacrifice certain trivial luxuries for other certain trivial luxuries, but those sacrifices have to be made.

Don't buy any new clothes this month so I can go out partying with the girls.

No matter how silly it may seem (and let me tell you re-reading it aloud, its very silly) that kind of a mentality will keep you out of debt and will help you save while sticking to your budget.

Although, budgets still don't make a lot of sense to me.

It doesn't make sense to budget $50 every month to clothes. How will that help me develop good spending habits if I'm alloting $50 a month to clothes? This far into my savings excursion, I'm still not seeing the sense in that.

Lets say I get paid $1000 every month. $200 towards rent, $200 towards car, $100 towards utilities and $100 towards insurance. That is a total of $600 with a remaining $300.

If I do a traditional budget, I would budget $100 to savings $100 to groceries, $80 to gas, $20 to personal care, $50 clothes, and $50 entertainment.

$50 a month on clothes is $600 a year. Assuming you don't buy a new wardrobe every season, using frugal methods (I've blogged enough about that) you can buy the seasonal necessities in one month and keep it lasting for the next three months. What happens to the remaining $80 you budgeted for clothes? Or the remaining $440 for the total year that wasn't spent?

It gets used up into something else which goes against all budgeting rules, especially Dave Ramsey's zero-balance, "every dollar has a name" philosophy. If every dollar has a name and forty of those dollars are named clothes, but I don't need new clothes, why name them that in the first place?

Why not name them all savings and budget on a short term basis with longterm goals?

Think about it. The $600 I budgeted for was for the "Need To's". I need to pay my rent or my landlord will kick me out. I need to pay for my car or it will be repossessed. If I take care of those and throw the rest of my check into savings, all of my dollars are then named Savings. Now all of my Mr. and Ms. Savings are living happily in my savings account.

I'm going to call it a Swinging Budget.

If my longterm goal is to have 3 months worth of savings in my savings account, then I create a budget that will help me obtain my longterm goal.

Having a swinging budget gives me the option to spend Ms. Savings on $50 clothes every month OR Mr. Savings on $50 entertainment every month, while leaving me $50 for my savings account each month. BUT since they're all named Savings, I might be less likely to spend my Savings Family until my savings goal is met. Not including them explicitly on my budget, allows me to spend more implicitly. And this method helps me to work on my negotiating and sacrificing.

What's in a name? Everything! Once you get started on your savings goals you'll be surprised how horrible you feel breaking up your savings family. The more you negotiate with yourself and the more sacrifices you make, the more you realize what was really important in the end.

10 Ways College Kids can Save and Go Green

Here’s a list of 10 tips for college students who want to go green and save money doing it.

1. Buy and sell used books. I still take college classes from time to time for professional development. I always buy my books used. I have better luck getting them used if I buy them online. I do a search for my books as soon as I am registered for class, that way I can buy my book and have it shipped to me in time for class. My biggest piece of advice is to sell your books at the end of the quarter/semester either online or to the local bookstore. Really. Unless you are in law or med school, you won’t use those old text books, especially when you can look up current information on the Internet. The old marketing books I saved and thought I was going to use as reference quickly became outdated doorstops a short time after I took the class. I should have sold them back when I had the chance.

2. If you have an all you can eat cafeteria make sure you eat all you take. Chances are your school cafeteria isn’t going to compost that food you left on your plate. Eat it. Don’t throw food away. If your school cafeteria doesn’t compost food waste, consider working with them, your university’s landscaping office and start one! It’s a great idea for service project for an on campus group and can be a resume builder for you.

3. Unplug electronics when you’re finished with them and turn off the lights as you leave a room. These little things really do add up. I didn’t think this was a big deal either until I did the 20% Energy Reduction Challenge Project. Once I started keep track of my electric usage I quickly found that if I made it a habit like putting my TV on a power strip and turning it off after I was finished made a big difference in my electric use and lowered my bill.

4. Use a book bag/backpack for small purchases instead of using a disposable plastic bag. Consider carrying a reusable bag for bigger purchases in your backpack. It can be a nifty fold up bag or just reuse a plastic grocery bag you already have.

5. Use last year’s/quarter’s/semester’s school supplies. Backpacks/book bags are pretty sturdy and can be used from one year to the next. If it’s ripped – see if someone can fix it for you if you can’t. I like to buy the big notebooks so I get two classes/quarters worth of notes from them. Yes, taking notes on a laptop would be even greener, but I don’t type that fast and the information seems to stick in my head better if I write it out long hand (your mileage may vary.) There are more environmentally friendly paper/pens/folders/notebooks, etc for sale now and if you can afford them, you may consider purchasing them.

6. Upgrade/repair electronics like computers, laptops, etc. first before buying new. Ask the store/service person if they can recycle the ewaste (spent video cards, laptop batteries, cell phones, etc) from the repair/upgrade for you. If they can’t, they may know someone who can.

7. Drink lower waste drinks. Try a glass of tap water, make a pitcher of drinks from powder/concentrate, or buy soda in 2 liter bottles instead of a six pack of cans or bottles. You can always put these items in a reusable water bottle so you have your favorite beverage in on the go low waste form while on campus. Many may say to ditch the soda altogether but let’s be realistic, some folks get their daily caffeine buzz from soda, not coffee or tea, especially during finals. If that’s the case, be a little more sensitive as to how many bottles/cans you are buying and recycle the empties, OK?

8. Recycle paper, glass, metal cans, plastic, ewaste, etc. through local programs. Don’t have a campus recycling program? Consider working with your college or university and starting one! It’s good for the environment, an excellent service project if you belong to a campus club or student organization, and an excellent resume builder.

9. Ditch the disposables. Try using rechargeable batteries, cleaning sponges/micro fiber cloths/rags instead of paper towels, bring your own travel mug to get coffee/tea at the campus coffee shop (some shops may even give you a discount!), etc.

10. Donate clothing, furniture, etc. when you move out of your dorm/house/apartment at the end of year instead of leaving it behind or tossing it in a dumpster. Some charities will pickup contributions if they are sizable. In that case, get together with friends and donate your items as a group. Your school may have a program that allows students to donate items before they move out, like Ohio State University. If you don’t have something like this at your school – start one! Again, it’s a wonderful idea for a service project and resume builder.

I admit some of these items involve spending some money such as buying a reusable coffee mug, rechargeable batteries, or water bottle. You might consider asking for these items as holiday or birthday gifts. You may be able to get some of these items through campus freebies.

These are some of the ways I tried to green my college experience and save money during college. What are your tips?


Sign up now for next year's GECU Savings Challenge.



Why I love Goodwill

My job responsibilities have increased significantly at the office. It wasn’t until after I had donated the majority of my sophistacted officewear to GoodWill that I realized that I might actually need to have some nicer clothes. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret donating 3 trashbags and a giant moving box full of clothes I never wear to GoodWill, I just might have hung on to one or two of them had I known that I would get the chance to wear them.

So this weekend I trekked back to GoodWill once more. On my list of things to buy:
-Short Dress

The boots were more of a luxury. I have wanted a decent pair of boots since I gave my last pair away, right before I moved to Thailand.

GoodWill is a fabulous store. One of my favorite things to do is go with friends and play the “Dare you to try this one on” game. We’ve tried on wedding dresses, mumus, prom dresses, parachute pants, and more hats and shoes than Paris Hilton owns. Free fun and one of the reasons why I love Goodwill.

But back to my shopping list. To maximize the frugalness of GW you have to check the discount color of the week. Each item, in theory, has a colored plastic tag punched into it near the brand tag. The colors correspond to the 50% off sales price and changes weekly. This week, it was blue.

I was able to secure 3 button ups, a black jacket, a blue jacket, a pair of brown slacks, a black and white floral print dress, a maroon business dress, a pair of flats ($3.50, couldn’t pass them up! Though they weren’t on the list), and a glorious pair of black calf-high soft boots.

As a special treat I thought I’d splurge and buy myself something extra nice… two .50¢ paperbacks.

I swear by Goodwill and you should too. I was able to get a few very core pieces for my wardrobe at great prices. The boots were the most expensive, at $12.00, but everything else was under $4.00.

Total spent $35.00! Well there was some change tacked on there too, but really it was very much worth it and I enjoyed having the opportunity to spend time with my friends and have a good time without having to worry about movie prices, tipping waiters, covers at the bar, or baby mama drama. Just good, clean, old-fashioned fun.

Christmas is coming up too, I must admit I’ve been peaking a lot on the website to get some ideas for gifts this year again.

And those are the reasons why I love GoodWill.

Oh My Goodness

Somewhere along the way I lost time. I think it fell out of my pocket, slipped through my fingers, and blew away on the wind. How unfortunate, but I'm here to redeem myself! As always.

My recent frustrations have brought me to the bowels of resourcefulness. Particularly, in terms of finding cheap affordable food... while on campus. Yes I know, I know. Not possible. BUT! I have been testing out different plans, methods, and means of making campus food work for me.

For starters, AVOID THE CAFETERIA! Over priced, low-quality, and utterly disgusting. I've tried the little mexican food place (Red Chile Burrito=Stomach Cramps), Chopsticks (Soggy Chicken and hard Rice dishes aplenty...also equals stomach cramps and an empty wallet), Delicious (not so delicious), and Pizza Hut (Mini personal pizzas, burnt on the edges for $4 a pop plus tax).

Whats a college student to do? Well kick it gradeschool style of course. Get out your rusty tin of a lunchbox or newage style with a walmart plastic bag and roll out the bento ideas. You know, just minus the artistic elements.

Preparing lunches for a student on the go isn't easy. It can't be something that has to be refridgerated, nuked, or otherwise protected from extreme heat or cold. I have stumbled upon a secret microwave in the Classroom building on campus, maybe I'll utilize it one day. For the time being, taking my lunch to school is my main method of making this work.

I was able to find interesting lunchbox ideas online. Checkout this awesome Ziploc PDF I stumbled upon that has been very helpful. You know, I just don't go the extra step at making my food cute, as I'm just going to eat it for the sheer convenience factor. Anyhow, enough suspense, check out the helpful pdf Here.

Some quick ideas of things to throw into your lunchbox:
* Peanut, Cashew or Almond Butter and Banana
* Turkey and Cream Cheese Whole Wheat Tortilla wrap
* Egg Salad
* Cold Pasta Salad
* Turkey and Cranberry Wrap
* Black Bean Burrito
* Avocado, Cheese and Tomato
* Tuna Salad and Cheese
* Salmon Cakes
* Zucchini Cakes
* Waldorf Walnut Salad with cheese
* Chicken Salad
* Veggie Wrap
* Cold Peanut Noddle Salad
* Chinese Cabbage Salad
* Pasta with Pesto, Tomato and Pine Nuts
* Bulgur Salad
* Tempeh Salad
* Couscous Salad
* Pita Pizza (loaded with favorite veggies, of course)
* Quesadilla: Traditional, Spinach & Mushroom, Pizza
* Bagel, Cream Cheese, Turkey and Veggies


* Grape and Melon Ball Kabobs
* Applesauce
* Mango slices
* Pear or apple slices with cheese
* Blueberries and Cottage Cheese
* Banana with Peanut Butter Dip
* Cubed Melon Mix
* Dried Fruit (no sulfur)
* Strawberries with yogurt dip
* Sliced Kiwi and berries
* Orange Slices
* Peaches and Plums
* Pineapple Spears
* Papaya and Mango Chunks
* Watermelon Slices
* Stuffed Apples

* Chopped, diced, cubed or sliced into sticks -- be sure to pack enough veggies each day with dips such as a low-fat ranch, spinach dip or hummus.

* Cherry Tomatoes
* Carrot Sticks
* Asparagus Spears (slightly blanched & marinated in Italian dressing)
* Cubed Sweet Potatoes
* Mushroom and Tomato Kabobs
* Snap Peas
* Broccoli and Cauliflower Florets
* Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
* Celery with Peanut Butter or Cream Cheese
* Coleslaw
* Jicama Sticks
* Edamame
* Zucchini Salad
* Broccoli Salad
* Cucumber Slices
* Pepper Strips
* Potato Salad
* Spinach Salad


* Yogurt
* Homemade Cinnamon Pita Chips
* Homemade Granola Bars
* Quinoa Coconut "Granola" Bars (Our favorite!)
* Granola Balls
* Cottage Cheese with toasted walnuts and cinnamon
* Graham Crackers with Strawberry Cream Cheese
* Homemade Trail Mix
* Raisins and Toasted Nuts
* Whole Grain Cracker and Cheese
* Pretzel Sticks and Almond Butter Dip
* Dried Cranberries
* Sunflower Seeds
* Air-popped popcorn
* Cheese Sticks or Cubes

* A couple of cookies or a small brownie isn't going to hurt, but mix it up with these other tasty "sweet" treats:

* Dark Chocolate Squares
* Jell-O
* Fruit Cup
* Fruit Kabobs
* Butter Ball Cookie Balls
* Peanut Butter Carob Balls
* Yogurt Pretzels
* Homemade Fruit Roll-ups

And if thats not helpful enough, remember to take your coupons with you when you're shopping so you can get the best deal possible.

Everyone has to eat. Everyone should make smart, financial and personal choices.

And it all comes tumbling down...

Oh the frustration. The pure and bitter sweet agony. What happened to my game place? My game plan? My game?

I've hit a wall, and that wall is in a room that is closing in on me. No matter what I do, how much I plan, whatever I put my mind to, it always seems that something pops up and creates a muck in my plans. September was supposed to be the month that I got everything back on track and yet it seems September is the month that is kicking my butt the most.

I had a budget. I had a plan. My debt is getting paid off, so thats not the problem. But I've been endlessly pulling from my savings. Adjusting to a part time paycheck is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I am honestly looking forward to payday tomorrow and that is a feeling I haven't had for most of this year. Primarily because I have never had to worry about money. And now I'm in a place where I am worrying about money constantly. Not what I have in my checking account, but how can I keep my money in my savings!!!

All of my Dave Ramsey empowerment is slowly dwindling. BUT!!! As always there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Thankfully I do get paid tomorrow and I can garner all of my budgeting knowledge together and the tidbits I picked up over the weekend and get my act together.

Zero-balance, Zero-tolerance Budget.
Recouping my Savings.
Re-Configuring my debt payoff.

Ya, October will be the month of redemption. The month where it all comes together for me. Quite frankly, the only month that matters at this point. September isn't a lost cause, we'll just have to see how it played out in the end.

To all my loyal supporters, thank you for constantly dropping by. And to any new members, not to worry! I'm usually more on the ball than this, hardly ever author these 'woe is me' posts.

Stay tuned, I'm going to change my world in one month's time.

Dave Ramsey Followup

Dave Ramsey Followup

I could think of no other way that I would want to spend five hours on a Saturday than at the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover Broadcast. It was well worth the twenty dollars I separated myself from to attend at First Baptist Church. I would like to extend a sincere thank you to the wonderful staff that provided ample seating, snacks, and COFFEEEEEE. On behalf of my willing companion, Panda, we were welcomed into an environment that would allow us to take full advantage of Dave Ramsey.

Now as to the presentation, I was really impressed with Dave. You see, I feel we're on a first name basis now. Dave Ramsey was able to hammer down the last remaining hangups of my budget, teach me about retirement, and become intricately involved in my personal finances. You're #*&@ right we're on a first name basis.

Budget wise, the place where I have been faltering is going over budget. I couldn't manage to tame the beast. And the reason that was happening was because I was working a budget that was less than the money I had coming in. Every time I would set my budget I had funds left over undelegated. That money would then be mentally spent, phyiscally spent, and shared over my assigned categories. Essentially, spending the money more than once. Inevitably, going over budget at the end of the week. Dave says zero-balance is the way to go. Krystal says zero-balance=zero-tolerance. Dave says, every dollar has a name. Krystal says, every dollar has a name and a job to do. Father Abraham had many sons and I'm putting them all to work. Start my budget from the ground up, do my saving and my giving before I work my budget together and then work my budget until every dollar has been spent. If I wait to do my savings until I've thrown my budget together, I run the risk of not saving. And I've been not saving. I've also been jolting on the offering bowl at church a bit more than I should. No more. Dave says, NO MATTER WHAT! Krystal expands on that and says, NO MATTER WHAT, This is my budget! I'M DONE MESSING IT UP!

Debt wise, I was doing fantastic at the beginning of the year. Now I'm making my weekly payments, but am I doing it effectively? Best to go back and review the Debt Snowball. One of my first posts was on how to put one together and I think its back to the basics I go. The snowball effect works wonders! Read my post here.

Retirement will be the beast I tackle at the start of 2010. Why don't I start now? Because frankly, taking on a financial responsibility that requires a great deal of research, knowledge, and setup isn't something I have the emotional capacity to take on right now. I may be screwing myself out of some serious compounded interest, but frankly I'm banking on the opportunity to do this the right way, the smart way. But when I do start, 15% of my income will be thrown at it. To help me plan ahead and decide how big of a risk I'm willing to take, punching in my figures and utilize the internet calculators, gives me a good idea of what I'm capable of doing with my money and future income.

I highly recommend anything and everything Dave Ramsey. My good homie from Tennessee.

Enjoying the Weekend

Other than forking over the $20 to attend Dave Ramseys Televised seminar tomorrow, I hope to dramatically curb my spending. I have a few things I need to save up for... my oil change, possibly having to have more serious work done on my car and paying down the remainder of my debt.

But, having now gone part time, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to stretch my dollars. I have to frequently dip into my savings account to cover purchases I was making last month just fine. And that is incredibly frustrating. I'm really going to have to stick to my budget and develop a better spending mindset. The way I see it, I will be in school fulltime for the next three years, part time at the office... I should begin creating these budgeted spending habits now as to not create another mess of my finances in the future.

So here's to hope, here's to a great cheap weekend, and here's to friends who support me and occasionally buy me lunch. Hint hint. :)

Dave Ramsey-Live--ish

Just thought I'd inform everyone about a great opportunity!
Would you like to enjoy life free from debt?

Would you like to control your money rather than it controlling you?
Would you like to learn principles of money management that will revolutionize your life?

You can--with Dave Ramsey's
The largest event on personal finance in the United States

This is a live simulcast presentation at FBC on Saturday, September 19, from 1-6pm. The cost is only $20 per person. For more information or to register, contact the Family Ministries Office.

El Paso, TX
Date: Saturday, September 19, 2009
Time: 1:00 - 6:00 PM
Location: First Baptist Church of El Paso
805 Montana
El Paso, TX 79902
Speaker: Dave Ramsey

NOTE: Limited Seating Available!

About This Event

In this five-hour event, Dave presents the proven plan that has helped millions of people take back control of their money. If you're married, this information will get you and your spouse on the same page when it comes to your money. If you're single, Dave will walk you through the tools you need to stay financially focused.

In The Total Money Makeover LIVE!, Dave shares personal experiences, stories and information not found elsewhere in this setting! It is packed with humor, energy and incredible information ... and that's why it has become the country's number-one event on personal finance.

Plan now to host or attend this life-changing event!

September 11th

It has been eight years and we will never forget.

We interrupt your usual broadcast...

Over the course of this year, I've thrown alot of information at you. I hope that some of it has sunk in, but in the event that it hasn't, here is the whole year in one blog post.

Save money, by not spending:
Budgeting, best tool to help you understand your spending habits. Once you can track your spending, you can make adjustments to cut out spending and start saving. My What's in your wallet post, has excellent budget creating tips.

Factor out your Latter:
My latte factor is smoking. I've really cut back this year... on paper. I smoke just as much today as I did at the start of the year, the only difference is I don't pay the same amount. I buy cigarettes when they're on sale (2 packs for a discount) or when its buy one get one. I save pennies and hand those over for my cigarettes so I don't have to worry about pulling money from my checking account to feed my latte factor. While I wish I could cut it out completely, I'm not in a position in my life to make that change. But I adjust my latte factor so as to get the most out of my guilty pleasure as possible. If you're struggling with your latte factor, figure out how to make it impact your budget on a minimal level.

Shop during sales events:
Sales events are easy to spot. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Labour day, Independence day and other major holidays are excellent times to make big purchases. If you intend to purchase a big ticket item like furniture or plasma TV, wait for a long weekend and you will see prices being slashed at the stores that carry them. You can also apply for a store card and save more. Many stores will offer you a 10% off your first purchase or offer you an interest free card for the first year. And for the love of watermelons, look for coupons before hand. Get the most out of your sale!

Split the difference:
I know that many financial experts recommend paying of debts - especially high interest credit card debt first, before saving. Conventional wisdom suggests that paying off high interest debt garners an immediate 13%, 18%, 21% (or whatever) rate of return on your money. Makes sense. Here's the problem. If you take all of your available cash and pay down debt, then what will you do in case of an emergency? I find it a bit more psychologically comforting to save some money for emergencies, even if you are paying off debt. To my mind, it works the same way as the debt snowball. The debt snowball, class, is a method of repayment where you pay off the smallest debt first, regardless of interest rate. Once you have success in eliminating the first debt, you get a psychological boost and roll the former debt payments into paying off the next debt on the list. Psychologically, a good idea. Financially, not so much. But sometimes the process is not as crucial as the end result.

Fast Food, not Frugal:
First understand that the numbered combo meals are designed to get us to spend maximum dollars per visit. Menus are designed to capitalize on the fact that the average person either doesn't read the full menu or is unwilling to take the time to piece together a meal from the value menu. My local McDonald's charges $6.29 for a twenty piece chicken nugget box. A four piece box costs a dollar. By reading the menu and ordering 5 of the 4 piece boxes, a person can save $1.29. Granted, most people do not order a 20 piece, but I don't think the pricing difference is an oversight. The kids menu portions are closer to the recommended portion size for adults than anything else on the menu. So eat smaller and spend smaller! Look at it like this a combo meal ranges anywhere from $4.50 to $6.50 or more! Factor in a supersized fries and a supersized drink for only fifty cents more and you have a meal fit for a small family. Do you really need that much food? Absolutely not. Look elsewhere on the menu. Value menus are popping up all over the fastfood world. These value items are typically smaller and definitely a better bang for your buck.

Its Electricity my dear:
Large appliances like your refrigerator, stove, and microwave are other big consumers of electricity. Your fridge can account for 20% of household electricity use. Replacing old appliances with newer energy efficient models may seem like a big expense, but it can pay for itself in a few years. Set your fridge and freezer to lower (warmer) settings and make sure that the doors seal properly. You can do this by taking a piece of paper, your GECU bank statement would work nicely ;), and closing it in your fridge/freezer door. If you're able to move the paper up, down or pull it out, your doors are not sealing properly.

Noxious Gas of financial doom:
Check the web for deals. With the ever increasing gas prices, use the Internet to find the cheapest gas near you. Some of these sites even offer text messaging capabilities, where they will send you the a text message with the location of the cheapest gas in your area. Here are 3 sites that enable you to search for lower price in your town: MapQuest, and now supplies a free gas card valid at most gas stations. But don't drive miles out of your way or wait in excessively long lines (your car gets 0 MPG while stopped and idling.) just for a cheaper station, or you will defeat the purpose.

Of course this is a loose overview of posts, and boy are they all over the grid. I hope to have some time to put my blog in ebook format so that you may all enjoy the lessons I've learned over the year. :)

Keeping things local...

I love this city. I really do. I have lived in cities all over the world. I enjoy different aspects of all of them, but I really do love this city the most. I can't explain it, whether its founded in the deep relationships I've cultivated here, the experiences I've had as a teenager and then into adulthood... although I'm leaning pretty heavily on the fact that the best mexican food on the planet is overflowing here.

Regardless, I want to help El Pasoans save money. So I'm doing the legwork for you, you just have to sit back and reap the benefits.



Dine With Us Today, We'll Buy Tomorrows Dinner!
During the month of September we want to make you an offer that's very hard to beat (okay, an offer you can't refuse). Dine with us any day of the week, and take home tomorrows dinner with you for FREE!! We want you to know how great our Take and Bake products are and we're sure you're going to love them. So bring in this email, spend $30 on dinner, and we'll send you home with one of our Take and Bake pizzas, a 2 lb tray of our Award Winning Lasagna, or a quart of our tangy Marinara sauce. So kill two birds with one stone. Have dinner with us today and have dinner with us at home tomorrow!

Not valid with any other offer
One offer per table
Expires 9/30/09
Email me for a copy of this email:


Member Benefit:
Visit their site for more information
As a “Value Club Member” all you need to do is present your Value Club card to your server each time you dine with us. We
will keep track of your expenditures for food and drink. As a Value Club member, you will receive 1.5 club points for every
dollar you spent at a Cattle Baron Family of Restaurants location. Each time your earned points total reaches 500, we will
send you a $25.00 gift card. Your gift will be mailed in 5-10 business days and is good for 1 year! As our way of saying thank
you for joining the Value Club, you will receive an automatic 10% off on your first use of your Value Club Card. Look for future
Value Club benefit programs.
Terms & Conditions:
Must be 18 years of age or older to participate.
Members must present Value Club Card at time of purchase.
Points are earned on, and are applicable to, the products purchased for the individual use of the cardholder only. Cardholder
must be willing to present a picture ID on request.
Points only apply to the cardholder paying the bill. Cardholder can earn points on one bill
per visit.
Points are earned based on the purchase price of products excluding taxes and tips.
Points are earned on products paid for with a gift certificate.
Points are not earned on the purchase of gift certificates.
Cattle Baron Restaurants, Inc. is not responsible for lost or stolen cards.
This card is not transferable.
Points cannot be applied in conjunction with other discounts/special promotions.
Example: 10% student discount/compliment cards/fundraiser discount cards.
The Value Club Card remains the property of Cattle Baron Restaurants, Inc. and must be surrendered on request.
Retroactive program points cannot be issued.
The Value Club Card has no redeemable cash value.
Program rules and guidelines are subject to change at the discretion of CBRI.
By clicking on the submit button you agree to the terms and conditions of the Value Club Card as set forth in this application.

The Wine-Club at GREENERY
Wines of the Month

Each month, for 11 months, Greenery wine and food club members will receive 2 bottles (per members preference) of imported and domestic wines made available to wine and food club membership at a substantial savings of at least 15% off our retail pricing. Wines of the month will cost approximately $29 - $50 per month. Members will be notified by email or telephone and wines will be available for pick up, at Greenery Market, beginning on the 5th of each month and credit card charges will be billed on or about the 5th of each month. A Greenery wine and food club member or an authorized adult (at least 21 years of age) must pick up purchased wines from Greenery Market, Sunland Park Mall, El Paso, Texas. We are unable to deliver or ship wine. Wine and food club members can purchase additional units of wines of the month, at their discounted prices, as long as supplies last. No special orders can be taken.

Monthly Tasting Seminar Credit

$20 per month = $220 value. Each month, with the exception of December, wine and food club members will be entitled to attend one wine tasting seminar at Greenery Restaurant and Market and receive a $20 credit for the tasting and/or any wines purchased at the tasting/seminar. The term credit designates a credit towards the cost of the tasting/seminar and/or specific wines featured at the tasting/seminar. Should wine and food club member not attend tastings/seminars, no carry-over credits will be issued. A wine and food club member must be in attendance in order to receive credit. Credit is non-transferable and may not be used for any other purchases.

First Offerings and Advance Notification of Special Releases

Wine and food club members will receive notification of special offerings, special releases and pre-sale purchases for futures. Notification will be made, via email, at least 48 hours prior to the offering being made public.

Winemakers Dinners

Wine and food club members will be notified, in advance of public notice, of our winemakers dinners and will receive a 25% discount on all wines purchased at the events.

Everyday 10% and 15% Discounts

As an added benefit, Greenery wine and food club members will enjoy a 10% discount on all retail food and merchandise along with an everyday 15% discount on wine purchases made at Greenery Market. A Greenery wine and food club card must be presented for discount. Discount does not apply to purchases made in Greenery Restaurant.

Also at the Greenery....
Greenback$ Frequent Dining Program

Receive 1 GREENBACK for each dollar spent while dining-in at GREENERY Restaurant. For every 500 GREENBACK$ accumulated during the year, you will automatically receive a $25 GREENERY giftcard - redeemable in our restaurant or market. For every 2000 GREENBACK$ accumulated during the year, you will automatically receive a $100 GREENERY giftcard redeemable in our restaurant or market. Purchases redeemed with giftcards do not qualify for discounts or additional GREENBACK$.

The annual cost of membership in our GREENBACK$ frequent dining program is $10. To enroll and purchase your GREENBACK$ card, fill out the attached information sheet and submit along with your $10 fee. Within 45 days, you will receive your GREENBACK$ card along with a $10 GREENERY giftcard (available to the first 500 members as our way of saying thank you for helping us launch this exciting loyaltyreward program). Your GREENERY giftcard will then be redeemable upon any visit to GREENERY Restaurant and Market but will not qualify toward GREENBACK$ purchases. Annual renewal notices will be mailed 1 month prior to expiration.

GREENBACK$ are awarded on food, beverage and purchased GREENERY giftcards. GREENBACK$ are awarded on dollars spent after any promotional discount is deducted. Tax and gratuity DO NOT qualify for GREENBACK$ awards. In order to receive GREENBACK$, you must physically present your GREENBACK$ card at the time of the transaction.

GREENBACK$ have no cash value and are redeemable as stated in this brochure. GREENERY giftcards received as GREENBACK$ rewards are valid at face value for one year and cannot be extended. Cash cannot be redeemed or given as change for any GREENERY giftcard purchase.

One GREENBACK$ card will be issued per application. GREENBACK$ are not transferable to another members account and are only available to individuals. If you would like an additional card for your spouse or your card is lost or stolen and you would like a replacement card, the cost of the additional/replacement card is $5.

GREENERY Restaurant and Market reserves the right to change GREENBACK$ membership rules, regulations and rewards without notice and may revoke or cancel this program with 90-days notice.

Also Please Support Local El Paso-Visit

This College Girl...

It has been an emotional two weeks and I'm glad, so glad, that things are falling into place.

Least of my worries is how I'm paying for college this semester, next semester, and beyond. Thanks to financial aid and NAWIC scholarship, I'm stress free for quite some time.

If you're not in the same situation as myself, Sallie Mae has some items she'd like to share with you about Financial Aid.

"Sallie Mae’s Financial Aid Top 10 Tips

1. Know your budget
In order to determine how much financial aid you will need to cover the full cost of attending a college or university, you should develop a budget. Tuition and room and board are not the only expenses you will incur – books, lab fees, transportation and personal expenses should all be factored into the equation.

2. Know your deadlines
Deadlines for applications and financial aid forms vary by school and state. In addition, some schools require applications in addition to the FAFSA, (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), check with your target schools to make sure you have completed and submitted everything. Know the difference between grants, scholarships and loans.

3. Know what your family’s contribution will be
The expected family contribution, also known as EFC, is the amount that the federal government and your college or university expect your family to contribute toward your education expenses. The EFC is calculated based on the information you submit on your FAFSA.

4. Know that parents can help
PLUS (Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students) loans are federally insured loans for parents of dependent students. Unlike Stafford loans, PLUS loans allow individuals to borrow up to the full cost of the student’s education, less any other financial aid received.

5. Go for the free money first
Unlike student loans, scholarships and grants do not have to be repaid. To search for scholarships, use a search engine like the one at

6. Know what your exact interest rate will be and how it can change
The interest rate on federal Stafford loans issued after July 1, 2006 is fixed at 6.8 percent. Interest rates on private student loans can vary so check with your lender. Also, interest rates can change depending on your payment history so make sure to always pay your monthly bill on time.

7. Know the details or your repayment plan and what your monthly payment will be
Lenders offer a variety of repayment plans that allow you to manage your monthly payment amount. You can make standard payments of principal and interest, pay on a graduated basis or pay as a percentage of your monthly income. In addition, Sallie Mae offers benefits or incentives that allow you to reduce your interest rate or receive cash back in reward for successful on-time payments.

8. Know the difference between deferment and forbearance
Deferment entitles federal student loan borrowers to payment relief by postponing payments in certain circumstances for specified periods of time. In some instances, the federal government pays the interest that accrues during the deferment period. Eligibility is outlined in federal law. A forbearance is also an authorized period of time when a borrower does not have to make payments; however, a forbearance is granted at the lender’s discretion. During forbearance, interest accrues and the borrower has the option of paying it quarterly or it will be capitalized.

9. Know that you can deduct tuition and interest on your income taxes
In many cases, you may be able to deduct up to $3,000 in tuition and education-related expenses from your taxes. In addition student loan borrowers may be able to deduct up to $2,500 of interest paid on education loans. More information is available at

10. Know your loan counselor
Students with federal educational loans are required to receive counseling before they receive their first loan disbursement and before they graduate or withdraw, during which the borrower’s rights and responsibilities and loan terms and conditions are reviewed with the student."

Coupon Monday! Woohoo!

Back to school means back to the stores. But don't forget your coupons! Seriously, why pay more than you have to?

Kmart is offering Super Double coupons again. They're also offering a $5 off coupon for your next order if you spend $25 in health or beauty, which Super Doubles makes it pretty easy to do. The rumor on the world wide web is that this is the last week in 2009 that Kmart will be doubling coupons.

Super Double Manufacturer Coupons Up to $2.00 !
with purchase of $25 or more in grocery & drugstore merchandise

Participating stores only. Amount of credit from doubling a coupon cannot exceed the current retail price of a single item. No cash or in-store purchase credit will be awarded for any amount exceeding the retail price of the item. Limit 1 coupon for each item purchased. Only 1 coupon will be doubled per item. You may only purchase 4 of the same item using double coupons. Excludes Buy One, Get One offers, Kmart Savings coupons and Kmart Store coupons. Coupons do not apply to sales tax. Limit 10 coupons per customer per day. Offer excludes products prohibited by law, including but not limited to alcohol, tobacco, and prescription medication. Not valid on non-merchandise, federal or state regulated items, prior purchases, Lands’ End, Sears merchandise rung on Sears registers within Kmart and In the event of a return, coupon savings may be deducted from the refund. Exclusions apply. Please see store associate for details.
Sears Holdings (Kmart) reserves the right to modify or cancel this program at any time.

Grocery and drugstore items include: all food items, health & beauty, baby diapers, household cleaning supplies, pet foods, detergents, paper goods, shampoos and other beauty items, over the counter medicines such as : Tylenol, aspirin, etc.

10 coupons, per day, per customer may be doubled. Additional coupons will be honored, just not doubled. Customer should choose which 10 they would like doubled.....

$25 threshold is BEFORE coupon redemption.

Here is the list of participating Kmart Stores in the Double Coupons savings

K-Mart Coupons:
$5 off $50 purchase printable coupon
$5 off $20 toy purchase printable coupon

The following Coupons can be doubled at participating Kmarts this week! Watch the savings fly! Oh me oh my!

Kotex Liners
Starting Price: $1.29
Use $1/1 printable coupon
Final Price: Free!

Dove Deodorant
Starting Price: $3.99
Use $2/1 printable coupon
Final Price: Free!

Bumble Bee Tuna
Starting Price: $1.00
Use $1/2 printable facebook coupon
Final Price: 2 for Free!

Campbell's Cream Soups
Starting Price: $1.29
Use $1/2 printable coupon
Final Price: 29c each!

Welch's Grape Jelly
Starting Price: $2.00
Use 75c/1 printable coupon
Final Price: 50c!

Suddenly Pasta Salad {Betty Crocker}
Starting Price: $1.25
Use 40c/1 printable coupon
Final Price: 45c!

Juicy Juice {juice boxes}
Starting Price: $2.50
Use 75c/1 coupon from previous newspaper insert or $1/2 printable coupon
Final Price: $1.00 - $1.50 each

Hefty Trash Bags
Starting Price: $5.99
Use $1/1 printable coupon
Final Price: $3.99

Huggies Diaper Jumbo Packs
Starting Price: $9.99
Use $1.50/1 printable coupon
Final Price: $6.99

Huggies Pull-Ups
Starting Price: $9.99
Use $2/1 printable coupon
Final Price: $5.99
Get a FREE Diehard AA or AAA battery 4 pack when you buy $25 or more of health, beauty, food and consumables
Get a FREE American Greetings Card when you buy $20 or more of health, beauty, food and consumables
Get a FREE Smart Cents paper towel (1 roll) when you buy $15 or more of health, beauty, food and consumables
Get $5 off Kmart Craftsman Black Tool Center

Call to see if your Kmart is participating in the double up coupons savings program. If not, those were still some fabulous coupons, so take advantage and save!

Kmarts in the El Paso Area :

Tel: 915-751-2391 |

Tel: 915-779-5084 |

Tel: 915-760-5001 |

Tel: 915-591-9466 |

Tel: 915-855-4696 |

Tel: 915-858-1919 |

Tel: 505-523-7536 |

Tel: 505-522-7135 | s

Tel: 505-434-1901 |

Tel: 505-544-2654 |

New Layout


On my way to start my weekend off right. Nice and cheap, budgeted, and exciting. :)

Year to date

My 100th post couldn't come at a better time.

I received a $4000 scholarship today from NAWIC-National Association of Women in Construction, El Paso Chapter, 248.

I was floored by their generosity and their dedication and commitment to my education and my career goals.

What a year...
After this week’s payments, my remaining debt balances will be:
Asset Retrieval- $2498.80
Dentist- $1235—will verify with my folks.
GECU- $525.89

Not a lot of debt payoff this month, but I’m thinking I beefed up my savings enough to where I can focus primarily on paying off debt the last couple months we have left.
Total debt payoff for August: $399
$200 to Asset
$130 to Dentist
$69 to GECU

I was just looking through my savings folder I have on my computer, taking a look at where I started.
Unique/Library- $111.95? paid off
CMI/Time Warner- $154? Paid off
JSZ/Sutters Wood- $212.42? paid off
RJM ACQ/WAMU- $412.47 paid off
Target card-$ 570.51? paid off
Midland/Chase-$707.50? paid off
Capstone- $2500.15? paid off-ish
Mysterious time warner? Knocked off
Total Debt payoff-ish: $6636 (inclusive for everything)

My cell phone bill is gone, my GECU loan is shrinking, Asset retrieval will be a one shot payoff for the remaining balance at the end of the challenge at which it should be around $1000 and they’ll work with me then, my dentist bill will be knocked out in 19 weeks at $65 a week or the first week of January…

I’ve received $5000 in scholarships not to mention the $7300 in financial aid each year for the next three years…

What a year. Regardless how the challenge ends, I feel like a winner. Especially with the team I’ve been blessed with.

Thank you guys for your support, your advice, and your friendship.

Life gets in the way of blogging sometimes...

My mini adventure for the last two weeks has involved fighting tooth and nail to get registered at UTEP. Three trips to the financial aid office, one student orientation, and camping out at the admissions office until they physically entered my transcripts and I can now happily proclaim that I am OFFICIALLY registered at UTEP.

While it has been a long drawn out, sometimes unnecessary process, the experience has taught me a great lesson. And of course I'm going to share my acquired knowledge with my loyal loving fanbase. Here's for you mom, lol.

1. Give yourself as much advance time as possible. The unforseeable might happen, so just plan for it to occur. While I started my progress to becoming a student at UTEP about 3 months ago, it still left me fretting and worrying about everything falling into place in time.

2. FIGHT! I wasn't originally offered the UTEP Promise, but I knew I qualified. I went to the financial aid office and requested an appeal of sorts to ensure that I was offered the aid I was intended to receive. When my transcripts weren't moving fast enough, within their allotted timeframe, I went and sat in a chair and politely informed the clerk I wasn't moving until I had my transcripts downloaded and processed. No One is going to fight for your cause if you won't.

3. Remain patient. This especially applies for the last few remaining weeks/days/seconds before the school bells ring. The helpful admissions/clerks/financial aid employees, work incredibly hard to keep the ball rolling. They could use alot more smiling, friendly faces than they probably receive.

4. This is your future school, don't burn any bridges. Park in areas designated for visitors, avoid losing your temper, play nicely with others. You know the drill. Don't let a bad reputation precede you into your classes.

5. Share whatever information you acquire with anyone about to start the process. Direct people where to go and inform them of any hardships you experience. Preparing the next generation of students by informing them of any papers they might need to bring with them to admissions will help speed up their process (and everyone elses involved) and can be your good deed for the day.

All in all this semester will cost the price of two textbooks, parking, and losing 8 hours at the office a week. I'm more than a happy Miner right now.

Free Walgreens Photos! Today Only!

Walgreens: 20 Free 4x6 Prints---AUGUST 20th ONLY!!!

Walgreens is having some fantastic photo deals this week! Check back here every day for the new "Deal of the Day"!

Today only, you can receive 20 Free 4x6 Prints from Walgreens!

Go here to place your order, and use this coupon code at checkout: 20Free4Me

To avoid shipping costs, be sure to select in-store pickup.

See also:


School School School

Oh boy, less than a week and a half before I start at UTEP. How exciting!!!

The thing I'm least excited about is buying my books. I know that it is going to be significantly more expensive than at community college and I'm not sure I want to go the route of buying too old of an edition online as it may not be beneficial to my GPA as much as it is to my wallet.

The first thing to do is find some one who has taken your classes before. Ask them about the overall book use in the class--did they even crack it open?!--what to expect from the course load and professor as well as what the overall role of the text was in the class.

If you receive any of the following answers, get the book!
-Homework that contributed to the course grade
-Open Book tests
-Extensive reading
-Quoting, paraphrasing for essays
-Book Check... my Cal II professor gave out extra credit on random days for everyone that had their book.
-Really particular/specific courses like Nanotechnology in the Sixteenth Dimension.

But while you've got that person talking to you, ask them what they did with their book. If they've sold it back, thats a deadend. If not tell them you'll give them $5-10 over the asking price at the college bookstore. And if they want to throw in any course notes, old tests, etc. that would really sweeten the deal. Not cheating, it's extensive social studying.

I was in Goodwill yesterday and saw a math book that I bought at the bookstore for $50.00 going for $5.00. While I don't suggest spending a full tanks worth of gas tracking textbooks down, I do recommend taking a look at Thrift stores or Goodwill before hand. For any interested parties it was the Algebra math book they currently use at EPCC possibly UTEP at the goodwill on the corner of Rushing and Fairbanks.

If you can't get a book locally, DON'T BUY AT THE BOOKSTORE!

Online is the next option you have available. Buying books online can save you a lot of money, particularly if you want new books. If you go to your favorite online bookstore, you will see that most of the bigger names offer not only discounts, but free shipping if you purchase $25 or more in their "free shipping category" of books. Lead time to get your books is going to vary according to the textbook's availability, but in general, you will have your books within about a week.

Now, if you are willing to buy used books, it is going to be a whole different ball game for you. Most of the major online bookstores offer used books. To get more comparisons, type the name of your book and the author. If its just called "Literature" or "Calculus" try typing in the publisher as well. You can do a recon mission at your college's bookstore to get all this information.

My ace in the whole as far as used books is, a business that is part of eBay. I generally find the least expensive books on this site whenever I want to buy a used book. However, finding a cheap textbook is not the only factor here. First off, you should consider how much damage
and highlighting that you are willing to accept, given the fact that you will not be able to actually see the book until after you have bought it. Second, you will have to pay shipping on used books. Most of the used books sellers on these sites are actually individuals or other businesses that pay a commission to the bookstores for listing their used books. Your books will be coming from different locations. Finally, unless you are willing to pay extra, your books will be shipped via media mail, the least expensive option. However, the least expensive option is takes the longest to arrive, sometimes as long as two weeks.

To give you an idea of how to figure out where to buy your books, I picked five online bookstores to compare,,,,, and I checked the prices for "Principles of Marketing, 10th Edition," by Phillip Kotler and Gary Armstrong, with a list price of $136.67. Prices on these websites ranged from a high of $136.67 with free shipping (Amazon) for a new book to a low of $14.99 with a $3.25 shipping charge for a text in "acceptable" condition (Half). If you research each book that you need to buy, you stand to save yourself considerable money. Make sure that you consider packaging combinations of books through different sites to save yourself even more money.

Free Chocolate!

Mars Real Chocolate Giveaway.

Thank me later. You can send me chocolate! lol

Real Tips, from Real People

"Two years ago my ex-boyfriend convinced me to give up using a dryer. I haven't missed it since. I have a clothesline in my spare bedroom and a drying rack. My clothes and towels are much softer. I use liquid fabric softener and the apartment smells wonderful when I do laundry. In the winter, it puts moisture in the air. I do not own a dryer now. Some people who do hang clothes will dry towels and jeans for about 5 to 10 minutes first to get the wrinkles out. Not using a dryer saves both electricity and wear on your clothing."

"I have learned that if you go to a bagel store after 3PM, they will give you as many bagels as you want for free ... depending on where you go. Put on a smile, and you can [possibly] get them for free. Bring them home, freeze them and defrost one each morning for breakfast."

"As a college student with a tight budget, I refuse to buy or sell back any of my books to the store. Most places will buy your practically new books back for a third of the price -- if you're lucky -- and sell them for 4 times as much. I buy from and Now I pay about $200 a semester on six classes worth of books instead of close to $800."

"You can pay the same dollar amount per month on your loan, but by splitting the amount up to weekly payments, you'll knock more interest off your loan and pay it off sooner without even paying any higher monthly payments. Set up an automatic payment for each week and watch your loan go away more quickly."

"My biggest savings? eBAY. That's right. You can buy coupons for ANYTHING and if your grocery store doubles or triples coupons, you are already saving money. You can purchase coupons, rebates, and more. Just type it in! Not only do you save money, but TIME. Why buy 10 newspapers for that $1 off coupon on Charmin ($10) when you can get them so much cheaper?"

"I haven't paid OOP (out of pocket) money for many items including milk, toilet paper, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, band-aids, cleaners, and many more items since last October 2008. I achieve this by keeping a very organized coupon box, and utilizing the extra care program at CVS and Walgreens with the coupons. I have even been able to take hundreds of dollars of items to a low income family in need. I treat this like a job and it pays me very well and helps me to save thousands each year off my grocery food bill. Cha-Chang!"

"Instead of expensive eye cream (to get rid of wrinkles), I use 100% aloe vera oil (Jason Natural Aloe Vera, 1 oz. bottle). It costs less than $5, it lasts forever, and I always get compliments on my skin (& very few wrinkles!)"

"I buy windshield wiper fluid and use it on windows, mirrors and glass around the house. It is the same liquid, but oh boy do you get more bang for your money!"

"We started three things a few years ago.
1. Estate Sales -- I now have every Craftsman tool and I only paid pennies on the dollar. A .10 cent screwdriver here and there, a $5.00 electric sander, etc. and in the end, I have a complete workshop of quality tools.

2. Yard Sales -- My daughters (both 14) found that they can buy all the name brand clothes they want for quarters and dimes. My wife still wears a .50 cent Eddie Bauer Down Jacket that we found a few years ago. We found a similar jacket and it was over $150. So this type of shopping is how we start our back to school shopping. Its a lot of fun too, get to spend the day out doors with the whole family.

3. Discount Stores -- Just one example of many is that I purchased 10 Fila new- with- tags winter jackets at a local discount store. The price tag still said $189.99. After the discount store marked them down, and after the end-of-year discount of 97% off (red or navy were the only colors and only in size large) -- I wound up paying only about $5 for each of the jackets. I sell these items on eBat and keep some for myself or to give away as gifts at Christmas.

I have everything I want or need for pennies on the dollar."

"I keep my worn dress shirts to wear under sweaters in the winter. Only the collars show and they still look good. This saves lots of wear on my good shirts and they last longer."

"I save all my birthday, Christmas and any other cards I get [during the year] and use them for postcards. Most of the cards do not have anything written on the right-hand inside flap. That leaves you a place to write your own personal note to someone. Postage is cheaper for a postcard and you didn't even buy the card to start with, but pass it on with a smile."

"Remember it all ends up in the same place! Save those little bits of food. In a few days you will have enough to add to a new dish, therefore increasing the amount of food you have at a time. Make large pot meals (ie. Goulash) and freeze part of it. Ground beef, macaroni, onion, crushed tomatoes. Find old cook books in your family or borrow one. We all need to stop eating out so much, as it costs more for less. It is hard though, with the pace our lives are set at these days. Maybe it would be a good idea if we could all just slow down a bit."

"When you think that tube of toothpaste or bottle of lotion is empty, cut the tube or plastic bottle in half with sturdy household shears. You'll be amazed at how much of the product remains in the packaging that we usually throw away. I started doing this in college and never stopped. Get your money's worth!"

"I hated tossing those fabric softener sheets in the landfill, so I make my own with an old washcloth. Mix one part liquid softener to four parts water and place in an old spray bottle. Spray some on a dedicated washcloth and toss in the dryer along with the clothes. One bottle of liquid fabric softener lasts a very long time."

"If I know I am going to be out and about and needing a fast food lunch, I think one of the best bargains around is the Wendy's Value Menu. I get the Double Stack [burger] and a Value fries each at $0.99 for a total of $2.12 including tax. I bring a little ice chest with me for the day with a can of Coke. It is a satifying fast food lunch."