Frugal Fridays: the Latte Factor

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David Bach coined “the Latte Factor” to describe any senseless habit that leaks money out of your bank account every day. But what about taking him literally? Do you spend two-five bucks regularly on a coffee, or a soy chai latte?

Now I’m not dissing spending time at the coffee shop… It’s one of the cheapest dates Jason and I go on, and I use coffee shops instead of having an office. It’s remarkably thrifty if you are paying for drinks instead of rent. But that daily habit of having a morning drink through the drive-through window, well, it’s just a waste of money.

When I came pack from my (fourth?) trip to Ethiopia last May, somehow I, and my friend T, coincidently, got hooked on having coffee every day. It’s not something I’ve done as an adult… In fact, I drank copious amounts of coffee as a teen in Germany, but gave it up for fifteen years since it irritated my stomach. I found on that trip, the stomach irritation was gone. Yeah!

But drinking coffee (macchiatos, specifically,) in Ethiopia, is like drinking first growth Bordeaux. There is nothing like it in the world. Starbucks simply does not cut it. And Tim Hortons? Sorry, but that’s the coffee equivalent of Yellowtail.

20140425-101758.jpgMy friend Haile had given me a package of Marley espresso for Christmas that year, and I hadn’t touched it. He always gives me some fair trade Ethiopian coffee for Christmas, bless his heart, so that I have some to make for guests the year through.

But I popped open the espresso, and made some with the espresso maker I had bought baclpacking through Italy when I was 20. That espresso maker has been in 7 countries!

And voila. Damn good coffee.

Since, every day or two, I have a morning espresso. I’ve invested in a one-cup pot, and a properly sized cup that matches the rest of my dishes. And I order Marley espresso via American Amazon and pick it up every couple of months in my post box in the USA. (I’ve tried other fair trade Ethiopian espressos, but none are as good as Marley.)

I even invested in a jar of those little amaretti cookies, for five bucks, which will last me a year….

And you know what? Totally worth it.

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Financially, I save a bundle. And honestly, I could never get this quality of coffee at a coffee shop.

The added benefit is that I actually have to sit down and sip for 5 minutes a day, which if you know me, is more than I usually sit still. It’s become a ritual, and my latter factor makes much more sense, finically and emotional health wise, than the Starbucks drive thru.

Frugal Fridays: 5 Strategies for Holiday Hosting Without Going Broke

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With the holidays coming, relatives descending, and parties to host, it’s very difficult not to go crazy on the food bill this month. But this little bit of advice may help you, and me, save some money as we enjoy the warm and loving company of family and friends.

My brother and his girlfriend, my mom and dad, and probably some other friends too, are joining us for the holidays. It’s not just one day, but many. As large families know, feeding eight or 10 people instead of four can be a big difference. So here are my strategies for planning ahead:

1. Meal plan. I normally do this, but I take special care to plan for meals during the holidays. This allows me to strategically think about delicious meals that cost less.

2. Eat real food, mostly plants. These are two of the three instructions from Michael Pollan’s fabulous books. But they work especially well when you have large crowds to feet. Think about the cost of chicken legs for everyone, versus a fabulous lentil casserole, or a soup filled with hearty beans and ham bone. If you concentrate on vegetable sources of protein, things will be a lot cheaper. And, if you aren’t getting pre-made food, it will be way less expensive as well.

3. Bulk up, but only what you need. Before the holidays, I will be going to the local fruit packaging plant and loading up on apples and pears and all sorts of other fruits. I will leave them all over the house for people to eat, but more importantly, I can use them in fruit salads and desserts and snacks as well. In my neck of the woods, a bag of pairs at the fruit packing plant is only three dollars. I’m sure there are deals to be found in your neck of the woods as well.

4. Not every meal needs to be a masterpiece. I find one of the greatest eating joys to be homemade soup, homemade bread, and some cheese on the side. Well that is one of the most healthy and least expensive options we have to eat… And it’s always a hit! I will leave the big turkey dinner for that one big turkey day.

5. Don’t go overboard on extras. We all know it’s nice to have extra snacks and treats around the house at Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate. But it’s too easy to stock up on things that you don’t really need. Plan for one sweet snack the day. And it can even be a box of chocolates to share. No need to go crazy now!

Writing down these tips is a good reminder to myself, and hopefully gives you some ideas how to save money at Christmas while being a fabulous host to the family that we love and cherish during the holidays.

Frugal Fridays: Fix and Keep Stuff

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I remember when my gramma and I were chatting one day, and I told her I didn’t fix my nylons. I throw them out, often after one use. She looked at me incredulously. In her day, people fixed their nylons.

We live in a very disposable society. There is even a term for how companies design for their products to have a limited lifespan: planned obsolescence. It’s cheaper to throw electronics out and get a replacement than to fix them. When Jason and I needed a new computer, we had to look high and low for one that didn’t come with a keyboard and a monitor. We’ve had the same computer monitor for ten years. I’m writing this post looking at the ten year old monitor. But we had to go against the grain to not buy something new.

Really, it takes a commitment not to buy new things and to fix what is broken. That is, in North American society, anyway. In Ethiopia, I see people fixing things all the time. If you have one sweater, you darn the holes. If you can’t get another camera, you find a part at the Merkato. Necessity is often the mother of frugality. That’s the world that my gramma lived in when she had small children.

Back here in North America, present day, I do fix a lot of things. Mainly around the house… I’m really quite handy and can replace light fixtures and jimmy a fence. I also mend knees on jeans and reupholster furniture. So I try to fix something at lest once a week.

I still don’t fix nylons. But I do darn the busted-out toes of my daughters” stockings. (Those silly things are $5 each, on sale!) Of course it takes time to fix and mend, but if you are going to have a hobby, it’s not back to have one that saves you money!

What do you fix?

Frugal Give-away! Smart Women Finish Rich

smart womenThis first give-away, I have the fantastic financial book Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach. You heard me rave about the Smart Couples Finish Rich book, and how it made such a difference in Jason and I’s life. We were able to set value-based priorities, and structure our financial life around what is really important to us.

Well, this is the version for single ladies. If you are a single mom, or have a daughter just going out on her own, this is the book for you!

This book has “straight-shooting, action oriented tips for getting a handle on your spending habits… presented in a straightforward, nonintimidating manner, perfect for the personal finance newbie.” ABC News

So how do you get a chance at this book? Simply leave a comment on one of my other blogposts during this week, and next weekend I’ll pick a winner (email them for their address) and ship off the book!

The winner was Joan! On St Vincent Island!