The Frugal Retiree
Five Last Minute (Frugal) Gifts Ideas
By Kerry Hook
Dec. 17,2010

Ok, so we are coming down the homestretch on this Christmas thing and you’re
scratching your head wondering how you will afford to give gifts this year.  
Maybe you’ve even been avoiding gift shopping because you know your funds
are limited.  Here are some ideas for all you last minute shoppers in need of
frugal gift giving ideas.

  1. Take your favorite recipe for bean soup, cookies or muffins.  Pick a
    recipe that you are sure the recipient will love.  Maybe it’s your secret
    chili recipe, maybe a sponge cake.  Carefully – neatly write the recipe on
    an index card or if you have them – colorful recipe cards.  Put all the dry
    ingredients into a bag or jar and add the recipe with a pretty bow.  Be
    sure to separate any ingredients that don’t get mixed in together until
    later in separate bags.  Layering your ingredients makes for a nice
    effect.  Do not put any wet ingredients in or they will spoil.   Recipients will
    know to add the “wet” ingredients (i.e. eggs or milk) themselves because
    they’ll see it on the recipe card.)  During the holidays there are many
    pretty bags that you can use to really make this gift special.  If you use a
    jar, then cut some pretty fabric and use ribbon or elastic bands to secure
    it to the top of the jar.
  2. Check your local stores for last minute sales.  Often merchants will mark
    down their merchandise when it gets very close to the holidays.  You may
    not have the large selection that shoppers earlier in the season have,
    but the mark-downs can be substantial.  I’ve found great deals at the
    local drug store, hardware store and even some grocery stores.
  3. If you have some mad skills, but no money then you are still in luck.  You
    can offer your skills to recipients in the form of redeemable coupons from
    you.  Are you a carpenter or plumber?  Then print off a coupon offering
    to do some work for your recipient of your gift that you know they need.  
    A single mom would especially appreciate a gift certificate for work
    around the house.  No specialized skills?  How about offering babysitting
    services for several nights for the young family on your list?  And of
    course, most everyone can bake some cookies so put them in a nice tin
    with a bow on top.  Perhaps you’re a gourmet cook or can put together a
    week of frozen meals for that special person.  After all – everyone eats!
  4. Make your own specialized gift baskets.  For example, do you have a
    high school student on your list that is going off to college next year?  Put
    together a basket of sample size toiletries to help them get started in
    their new dorm.  This is good for the traveller on your list too.  Cat lover?  
    Pick up some catnip, small cans of food or treats and wrap it up in with a
    bow.  Dollar stores, superstores, and drug stores are great places to pick
    up deals on these types of items. You may have a basket around the
    house or pick some up for very little at a dollar store or second hand
    store.
  5. Re-gifting.  I’m not a huge fan of re-gifting, but sometimes desperate
    times call for desperate measures.  Certainly, these days some people
    are comfortable with it.  Just be sure that the item is brand new, never
    opened and is not something that has a built in expiration date.  Old
    scented candles or soap for example should never be re-gifted because
    they lose their smell over time.  An unopened popcorn popper from your
    wedding that you forgot to return because you got two of them would be
    a suitable item to re-gift.  And of course, it is imperative that you don’t re-
    gift to the item to the same person that originally gave it to you.  That’s
    never a well-received gift!

So look around the house, shop around the neighborhood and think about your
many skills.  There are frugal ways to give gifts that your family and friends are
sure to love.  Merry Christmas to all and Happy Holidays to the rest!


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Five tips for the Frugal Traveller
By Kerry Hook
Dec. 15, 2010

As a frugal retiree, you may be looking for ways to travel within your budget.  
These five tips will save you money and allow you to travel more with your
limited budget.

First, consider traveling during the off-season.  I personally enjoy this the most
because the crowds are greatly reduced.  Lines at attractions will be shorter
and you may even find that prices are reduced.  Many high tourist areas jack
the prices up during their peak tourist season in order to maximize their profits.  
Prices fall when tourism drops off.  It’s the old supply and demand principles of
basic economics.  Often they lower prices to draw consumers to their area
during the off season.  Expect lower prices on your hotels more than any other
area.

A second way to save on accommodations is to look for alternatives to
traditional hotels.  Many people will consider hostels, but there are certainly
other options open to you.  There are a couple of good hostel review sites that
you should use to investigate any hostel before you decide to go there.  
Hostels.com and Hostelsworld.com are two very good ones to use.  Many
universities rent out dorm rooms when students are out for summer to help
raise revenue.  These deals would typically be available from later May thru
August or September depending upon the school.  You can expect to pay
anywhere from $25 per person/night to $110 depending upon where you are.  
You may also be able to get even better rates if you stay a full week so be sure
to ask.  Check also with convents and monasteries because they rent out
rooms for low rates.  

Look for last minute travel deals.  One of the great things about being retired is
the flexibility that you have.  This certainly allows you to take advantage of last
minute travel deals which working folk have to pass up.  It will be much easier to
get a great deal if you have fewer limitations or needs.  For example, it’s much
harder to get a great deal if you are traveling with several other people or need
particular dates.  Find a travel agent that you can work with.  They are often
able to get many last minute deals that are not available to the general public.
A fourth way to travel frugally is to maximize all your discounts.  Don’t overlook
any air miles that you may have on your credit cards, or discounts from
organizations such places as AAA, NRA or AARP.  Review your credit card
companies for any other travel deals they may offer as part of their reward
programs.

Finally, always ask about senior discounts.  For example, in the U.S., the
National Parks service offers a discount program for seniors that are
permanent residents or U.S. citizens.  For just $10, you can purchase a
discount card that will allow you to enter all parks along with three other adults.  
If you are traveling with your grand-children and they are under 16, they can
enter for free.  You will also get a lifetime discount of 50% on park user fees (e.
g., camping, boat launching, swimming or tours fees).

By keeping these five tips in mind, you can really save on your travel and get
out there more often.  Happy traveling!!

How to save on groceries:  Six tips
By Kerry Hook
Dec. 16, 2010

Whether you are a retiree on a fixed income or just trying to save up for a
special something you can always save money on food.  Here is a list of six tips
that will get your savings stared.

Always make a list.  Set aside an hour and go through your cupboard.
Check your recipes and your stock supplies.  Once that list is made,
check your newspaper for sales.  If you make a list and stick to it, you will
be less likely to buy unneeded items that increase your food bill.  

Check out the generics.  
    I'm cautious when it comes to generics.  Although they are perfectly safe
    and  have their nutritional value, some just don’t have the same taste as
    their originals.  Try out a smaller version of the item and if it tastes ok to
    you, then keep buying it.  Many generics are actually made in the same
    plant as the original name brands so they are identical.  The real trick is
    figuring out which generics hold muster and which don’t.  One good way
    to tell if your generic is worth trying is to read the label and compare it to
    the name brand.  If the generic lists water as the first ingredient, then that’
    s what you are mostly buying.  (Ingredient contents are listed in order
    starting with which one is the largest amount in the container, so if water
    is listed first, you’re paying for mostly water.)  Once you’ve found a good
    generic to replace your name brand, you really save a lot of money over
    time.

Always shop on a full stomach.  
    If you shop when you are hungry, you are much more likely to buy items
    you do not need.  Since our bodies often misinterpret thirst for hunger,
    the same goes for thirstiness.  Make sure that you are well hydrated and
    full when you shop.

Clip those coupons!  
    There are some folks that get really creative when it comes to coupon
    clipping and can really save a large amount on their shopping bill.  The
    best way to really maximize your savings is to:  only clip items that you
    would buy anyway, combine store discounts or coupons with
    manufacturer’s coupons, and shop on “double coupon” days.  It can take
    some time, but if you are dedicated I bet you could raise this to an art
    form.  Try carrying a small booklet with pockets like an accordion file to
    keep all your coupons in order.  Even if you never become a coupon
    Queen, saving just a few dollars a week from coupons can really add up
    over time.
Avoid pre-packaged meals if you can.  
    that you are retired, you have more time on your hands, so why not use it
    to make your own nutritional meals and save money in the process.   The
    pre-packaged meals cost more because you’re paying for their prep work
    and packaging.  And to make matters worse, they aren’t as good for you
    because they are loaded with preservatives.  Shop the perimeter of the
    store as much as possible.  That’s where you’ll find the good stuff: less
    packaging, less processing and generally healthier for you.

Check the unit price on every item.  
    Do not just assume that the larger size is the better deal.  Sometimes
    smaller items cost less.  The unit price can be found on the store shelf
    labels below each product.  You’ll also want to keep in mind how long an
    item will keep.  It’s really a good deal to buy a cheaper large size and
    then have it spoil in your refrigerator because you don’t use it?  If you
    buy a larger size, can you find a way break it into smaller sizes and
    freeze for later use?

If you follow these six tips you will find your savings really start to add up.  Just
think of all the fun things you’ll be able to do with these extra funds.
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