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Thursday, March 26, 2009

5 Keys to Frugality

* Patience really is a virtue.

We tend to live microwave lifestyles where every whim is a 'need' and we want instant gratification. Even those of us who are learned at being frugal will benefit from slowing down and being even more patient. Do you need to see the latest movie release? Can we make it home to prepare a decent snack there instead of stop at a fast food drive-in? Can't we do without the car for a few days while we save up for a repair? Must the kids see Disneyland this year instead of next? Even taking asprin for a headache is a means of 'instant relief' when just laying down for a nap might be just as effective.

I am constantly reminded - CONSTANTLY - of how my impatience wastes money. Start noticing how patience would have benefitted you and you will also see new ways to save.

* Be prepared.

This is the flip-side to the patience axiom. If I have dinner pre-planned and waiting for me at home, I'm less likely to cave into an eating out urge. If I washed, ironed and hemmed my nice pair of slacks, I'm less likely to race to the store because "I have nothing to wear." If I do the small repair on the roof today, I am less likely to have to pay for a major roof replacement (and other damage) later. Just saving money "for no reason at all" is a way to be prepared.

Opportunities are won when we are in a position to jump on them. Think of the current times. So many big ticket items are at bargain prices right now. If we were out of debt and had loads of money in the bank, we'd be in a position to snap up these deals. However, if we're one of the many who are 'in a hole' and needing to liquidate, then those opportunities are lost to us.

* You can't buy a lifestyle.

I see people do this all the time. Signing up for a gym membership doesn't make us healthier. Buying a truck-load of camping equipment doesn't make us 'outdoorsy'. Buying adorable baby clothes and toys doesn't make us better parents. Graduating from a pricy private college doesn't make us well-eduated. And buying the latest item to hit Target doesn't make us stylish.
We tend to seek qualities by what we buy instead of what we do.

The other day DD and I were walking through a street fair. On the sidewalk were two guy playing music to earn money. Their equipment was nothing more than a few metal pots and over-turned plastic buckets. I turned to DD, who has be bugging me for drum lessons instead of piano, and said, "See. If you really want to play drums you don't need the fancy equipment." She just smirked. In reality, what DD wants is the cool drum set, not to play the drums. I want her to learn not to try to buy a lifestyle.

* Be clear on your values, priorities and goals.

Yes, you can have it all IF you know what "it" is. I know a couple who dropped out of college just before graduating. They decided that what they really wanted out of life was to be married and raise their children in the same small town where they grew up. They determined that a college degree wasn't going to do anything to help them achieve those goals, so they dropped out. To this day - with their children grown - they haven't regretted it. However, if your biggest priority in life is to travel the world helping people by providing much needed medical treatment, then an advanced college degree would be the answer for you.

Once we know what we value most, we can make much better decisions about how we spend our time and resources. I may adore a closet full of gorgeous new clothes, but if my main goal is to travel the world, I might decide to save my money for airplane tickets instead.

* The quality of your decisions in the past affects the quality of your decisions in the future.

This is the companion axiom to the statement above about priorities, values and goals. It also ties into the concept of being prepared. If you to be a doctor, you'll probaby have to decision to attend medical school. If you want to snap up great property deals during an economic depression, you have to save up some money and eliminate debt during a housing boom.

As in all things in life, there are exceptions to every rule, but that axiom has to do with the quality of your decisions. Yes, you could probably practice medicine in some third-world country without a doctorate, but is that the quality of the decision you intended?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Casual goals

I don't know WHY this works, all I know is that it does ... create a casual goal.

Most of us have a hard time designing a goal and sticking to it because we think of it as something we have to work on all the time. Instead, I set a casual goal and let my progress be driven by my subconscious.

Step 1: Design your goal.

The goal must be realistic and be dependent on your abilities instead of luck or something out of your control. For instance, you can try the goal, "I'll win the big lottery" but I doubt it will work. Similarly a goal of "I'll inherit a million dollars" would be dependent on someone else doing something. A realistic goal would be "I'll have $5000 in my savings account".

Step 2: Set a deadline.

The deadline must be a specific, do-able date. Don't make it a moving target. For instance, "in 6 weeks" is a moving target. Every time you see that goal your subconscious will push out the deadline another 6 weeks. A specific deadline is a date as in 12/31/07.

Step 3: Write it down.

Simply write down your goal someplace where you will be able to revisit it occasionally. For instance, write down, "I will have $5000 in my savings account by 12/31/07" on the top of your budget booklet or on the top of your check register. The place doesn't have to be anyplace special but you do need to be able to find the goal again later. You do NOT have to decide HOW you're going to accomplish that goal.

Step 4: Allow the goal go into auto-drive.

Relax. Once you've written down the goal, let it be. Remind yourself of the goal periodically but don't stress over it. Don't consciously do anything to force the goal to happen. Of course, when an opportunity comes along to further your way toward the goal, take advantage of it.I believe one of the reasons this system works is because we subconsciously become aware of the opportunities that come our way. Once we start tuning in on the possibilities, we slightly change the way we operate. I liken this system to changing stations on the radio. When we turn the knob we start hearing static. Our opportunities are hidden somewhere in that static and we start to hear key phrases that encourage us to listen a little more carefully and to stop and dial in the station a little more clearly.

Step 5: Revisit the goal periodically.

We have to remind ourselves of the goal so our subconscious can work on it. If we don't other priorities and urgencies take over. This is also a good time to evaluate if this is still your goal. If it isn't, give up on it.

For instance, I once made a goal to install a hot tub in my backyard. As I progressed along, I decided, while a hot tub would be a nicety, that really wasn't something I wanted to work on at that time. Other home improvements were much more important to me and I had an alternative access to a hot tub that meant I didn't have to out-right own one.

However, I have used this technique several times to get where I wanted in life. I do recommend having only one goal at a time otherwise it gets confusing and takes too much effort.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Step Down to Savings - Part II

When the co-worker recovered from seeing how much they were spending per month on food, he denied they could save almost all of that money just by not eating out. He said, "We still have to buy food!" I pointed out that they were already buying groceries, the cost of which was largely not included in our calculations, and that part of their budget was about average for a family of two.

He then objected, "But we have tried to stop eating out and were miserable. We soon got back into our old habit." I told him that they had set themselves up for failure by trying to go 'cold turkey' on the eating out. I suggested that they instead take small steps to change their habits.

First of all, they could save some money by getting food 'to-go' more frequently. Even if they ate dinner in a park before going home, they'd be saving on the full tip (a small tip for the hostess who assembles the to go order is fine). Additionally, the food would already be in a boxed container so it would be easier to save a portion for a later lunch. Plus even when they did eat out, they could not order an appetizer or drink. They could share a drink or get just water. And, since all that restaurant food was high calorie and large serving size, they could save money further by ordering off the appetizer menu or by splitting an entree.

The second step would be gear down on the places where they went. Instead of sit down restaurants, look for less expensive options. This didn't leave them eating every day at fast food joints, though. They could opt for healthier ethnic restaurants instead or places where you order at the counter. As above, ordering at the counter and bussing your own table saves on the tip. It is also easier to order more simply (just a bowl of soup, for instance) when a waiter isn't hovering over you. And once again, you can skip on the drink if you've bought individually packaged drinks at the grocery store and have them sitting in the car.

The next step would be to explore the options in the grocery store more fully. Where we live, some grocery stores practically ARE restaurants in themselves. Their deli sections offer lots more than sliced meats and fried chicken. Some grocery stores have pretty good sushi, fresh salads and properly portioned HOT entrees. Stopping at the grocery store and/or doing other errands while waiting for the traffic to die down was just as effective as stopping at a restaurant for killing time. As a matter of fact, it probably got them home sooner.

But that's the point, they usually got home so late, they barely had time to relax before going to bed. This kept them up later, making it hard to get up early enough to leisurely prepare for work in the morning. Instead, the morning was a rush and they ended up squarely in the worst of the commute hours. By slowly contracting the amount of time they took getting dinner (waiting to get seated at the restaurant, waiting to order, waiting for their food to arrive, waiting for the check, etc), they ended up being at home where they wanted to be and their lives became more relaxed.

After the grocery store deli section, it was time to explore more of the store. I suggested they start with buying a few frozen foods to keep on hand at home to fill out their meals. They could still buy a hot entree to-go from a restaurant or at a walk-up counter, then take it home and prepare the side dishes from the groceries they already bought. This helped transition them into preparing food in the kitchen AND getting used to doing dishes.

Next they would start experimenting with their own recipes, perhaps trying to duplicate their favorite restaurant foods or trying a few recommendations from friends. At this point, I suggested they get into the habit of inviting friends to dine with them in their home instead of eating out. This makes the evening more relaxing, less rushed, and more conducive to a lifestyle that included a baby later on. It also upped their culinary skills. For some reason, when we start to cook at home, a steady diet of restaurant food doesn't seem that appealling.

But should they stop there? Not necessarily. They really needed to scale back on their grocery budget. Highly processed foods are still expensive. So once they got used to grocery shopping more often, they could become more practiced at shopping smarter. That might start with using coupons and comparing prices. They could compare frozen foods to canned or fresh of the same item. They could do more cooking with basic ingredients instead of relying on foods that were already combined for them. They could get out of the ritzy, high-end grocery stores and buy the same basics at lower priced, less esthetically designed grocery stores. They could do a little bulk buying, if it saved them money. At the same time this transitioned them into acquiring the proper tools to cook at home and organize their storage space for all the groceries.

And they could go even lower. They could limit their shopping at 'first tier' grocery stores and start shopping at other markets: farmers markets, roadside stands, grocery outlet type stores, farm shares (CSA: Community Supports Agriculture), Angel Food Ministries, and direct from wholesalers. This would take more effort but it also ties them more solidly into their local community and got them eating healthier.

Lower still, I encouraged them to start growing their own food then considering preserving the harvest. Again, they'd have to start slowly and increase their garden as they increased in experience. They might even become interested, somehow, in managing to raise meat animals. Since they lived on a small suburban lot, this would be a long-shot but it could be done with some imagination.

But that's the beauty of Step Down to Savings. Go as low as you want to, get comfortable there, and if you don't want to step down any further, stop. Or, as what happens to me, I tend to step down a little bit too far then say, "Nope, this isn't for me" and instead of giving up completely, all I do is revert back to one step up which is where I was comfortable.

And the concept can be applied to almost anything in our lives. Do you want to break the la-tee-da coffee habit? Step down. Do you want to curb a clothes shopping addiction? Step down. Do you want to simply eat healthier? Step down. Take the change in tiny steps and you won't end up feeling deprived.

Oh, and the co-worker. Yes, his wife became a SAHM and last I heard they have three gorgeous children.

Step Down to Savings - Part I

A few years ago I was speaking with a co-worker who had been recently married. He and his wife were looking forward to starting a family but they had no clue how they could transition from a dual-income, child-free couple to a single income couple with a child and the wife as a SAHM. He said even on their dual income they weren't able to put much away in savings. Even if they had a child and his wife didn't become a SAHM, he said they wouldn't be able to afford daycare.

That is how the concept of "Step Down to Savings" was born.

I asked the co-worker a little bit more about their lifestyle. They didn't have unusual expenses but tended to live in a cycle of charging splurges to credit cards then struggling to pay them off. I also observed the co-worker's dining habits and those of his wife (also a co-worker). From what I could tell, they both ate almost every single meal away from home. He objected to my observation with the rebuttal that sometimes they get food 'to go' or were too tired to go anywhere so they stayed at home and ate leftovers from the 'doggie bags'. He did reveal that they do some grocery shopping (whew!) and considering all the eating out they did, their grocery budget was still about average for two people. I had to wonder what they were buying at the store.

The first step was to figure out exactly how much they were spending on food.

A short discussion revealed that, per person, breakfast was about $4 at the workplace cafeteria. They ate at work because usually they were too rushed to grab something before leaving home. Breakfast during the weekend was a mix of grabbing something simple that was already in the house or going out with friends. I figured if they ate at home on Saturday then went out with friends on Sunday, they still were averaging $4 per person, per meal.

Lunch during the week was almost always going out with co-workers and averaged $7 for him. His wife tended to eat at her desk so lunch was a either something brought from home or bought at the cafeteria. I averaged $4 for her. She also went out to eat, away from work, about once a week. We stayed at the $4 per person, per meal for her and $7 for him on the weekends since they tended to grab a hefty snack while running errands in lieu of a sit down lunch. Just grabbing a fruit smoothie while on the run was easily $4 to $5 for them - EACH. He was tall and very active so he did tend to eat much more than his very petit wife.

Dinner during the week usually meant that they stopped on the way home to allow traffic to die down. This became a sore point to my co-worker as he was sure they weren't spending THAT MUCH on dinner out, but he finally admitted that by the time we added in a side salad (they did eat rather healthy), a drink and the tip, the cost of dinner got up there. I didn't want to put him into shock, so we calculated $10 per person, per meal for dinner. On some evenings, they did tend to cook at home but those meals tended to contain highly processed foods that were quick to prepare or expensive cuts of meat (ie: BBQing steaks). On weekends and some weekdays, they tended to meet up with friends or go to various extra-curricular activities which meant more eating out.

So what do we have?

Breakfast - $4 per person, per meal. Two people ($8 a day). 7 days in a week = $56 a week.
Lunch - $7 per person, per meal. One person, him ($7 a day). 7 days a week = $49 a week.
Lunch - $4 per person, per meal. One person, her ($4 a day). 7 days a week = $28 a week.
Dinner - $10 per person, per meal. Two people ($20 a day). 7 days a week = $140 a week.

Per week = $56 + $49 + $28 + $140 = $273

There are 52 weeks in a year so their annual food cost was approximately (52 x $273): $14,196.

There are 12 months in a year so their monthly food cost was approx ($14,196 / 12): $1183.

I asked him if having an extra $1000 in his budget would help toward allowing his wife to quit her job. His eyes grew wide!

How to get out of debt

I always tell people the first step to getting out of debt is to not even consider money.

First, I want you to sit down and imagine your ideal lifestyle. If you are married, have your spouse do this too. Do the exercise separately then compare notes. Yes, write down your vision. How will you spend you day? What hobbies will you enjoy? What will your house look like? How will you live? What kind of relationships will you enjoy? What is most important to you?

Next examine your current lifestyle. How different is your current situation from your ideal? What do you need to change? What can you change now? What will change in the future?

Our financial life is just a small part of our overall lifestyle. However, our current financial situation can greatly affect the opportunities that we can afford to take. If your dream is to become a freelance writer but you are the breadwinner of a large family who needs employee benefits like medical insurance then you are going to have to take several steps to strengthen your financial picture in order to live your dream. On the flipside, if you already own a huge McMansion and your dream is to live in a quiet, rural cabin then your dream, including a debt-free lifestyle, may be as close as finding a qualified buyer.

With a firm vision of your ideal lifestyle, put pencil to paper (or fingers to Excel spreadsheet) and WRITE DOWN all of you debts, fixed obligations and all of your assets. You can also use one of the many financial software packages, like Quicken, to help you. However, I also recommend writing a separate list of the debts that you want to pay-off. List the total debt, the interest rate, your minimum payment and the due date.

Before you start paying off debts, look at the assets side of the equation. The first rule in debt pay-off is to 'stop the bleeding'. You needs enough assets - savings and investments - to dip into should an emergency arise. If you don't have an emergency fund then you'll find yourself using your credit card to avert disaster. If you don't have any savings, then you need to concentrate on saving FIRST, then look to pay off your debts.

The next step in 'stop the bleeding', is to STOP using the credit cards or otherwise adding to your debt. If you can't contribute to your savings because you're using your income to cover your unexpected expenses, that's fine as long as you aren't adding to your debt as well.

At this point, many people say, "But I don't have any money to save!"This is a cash flow problem - you have more money going out than you have coming in. The only solution is to either increase the money coming in or decrease the money going out.

Look at your tax withholding. Do you get a refund every year? If so, reduce the amount that is withheld from your paycheck. You need that cash in your pocket NOW, not later. Can you take on a second job or find some other source of income? Can you do more work for your current employer to get extra money? Can you sell some of your assets, such as a second (or third) car or unneeded household items? Put that money into savings.

Look at your fixed expenses. These expenses aren't as 'fixed' as one would think. Can you increase the deductible on your insurance to save on premiums? Can you can cancel unneeded services such as cable or cellphone? If money is really that tight, a Netflix or Tivo account is not a necessity.

Start writing down EVERY penny you spend day to day. Money tends to run through our fingers like sand through a sieve. Look at what you're spending your money on and see where you can cut back.

There are a multitude of suggestions on how to spend less. Some people have even written books about the subject. Go to the library, check out a few books, and start reading.

Once you are spending less than you are taking in and have gotten into a habit of saving money, then it is time to pay off debt.

Start paying off the highest interest rate debt first. Sometimes, I recommend that people start with paying off a few low balance debts first. It is psychologically uplifting to get that 'early win' and see those debts float away. After that, definately pay off the highest interest rate debt first. No, do not withdraw money from savings to do this. Once that debt is paid off, 'snowball' your debt payoff by adding the money that would have gone to the first debt to payoff the second debt. Pay off the third debt by dedicating the money that would have gone to the first and second debts to that debt. Soon, all the other debts will get paid off much faster.

Finally, when all your debts are paid off, increase your savings and investments even more and continue to work toward your fulfilling your dreams.

Camping Checklist

Spending money

sleeping bags
air mattress / pump
firewood (buy there?)
bug spray: flying / ground
fly swatter
whisk broom
water: 2.5 gallon jugs
first aid kit
tools for car (including the instant tire repair stuff)
garbage bags
bungie cords
paper towels

Optional items
folding chair(s)
folding table
reading material
fishing gear: pole(s) / tackle / net / license
pocket knife
cards / games
radio / tapes
wine glasses / corkscrew
marshmallow sticks
9V batteries / fine steel wool (firestarter)
femine hygene items
laundry detergent / fabric softener
manual can opener
duct tape

Personal care
bath towels
shower thongs
back-up sunglasses
disposable contact & contact care supplies
hair dryer (don't laugh!)
hair brush / comb
hair tie-backs
baseball caps
face wash
asthma medication
antihistamene (especially important for stings even if the person doesn't have an allergy)personal bug repellant
fellsnaptha soap / anti-itch cream
bathing suits
beach towels
sleep shirts / sweats (don't let anyone sleep in the clothes they wore that day)
long pants (jeans)
T-shirts / tanktops / overshirts
sweatshirts / sweaters
jacket(s) / rain slicker
hiking boots
walking shoes
sandals / river walkers

Before we go
pet care
water plants: inside and outside
leave emergency info with neighbor

Dinner ideas

I keep this list in my purse and pull it out when I'm in the grocery store stuck for an idea of what to make ...

Dinner ideas

Spaghetti and meatballs
Fettuccini alfredo with broccoli and chicken
Pasta primavera
Baked ziti
Italian stir-fry: meat with stewed tomatoes and sliced peppers over rice
Anti-pasta salad
Minestrone soup
Meatball sandwiches
Chicken parmesan

Make your own tacos
Mexican soup
Taco salad
Enhanced nachos

Fried rice
Broccoli, walnut and chicken stir-fry
Pot stickers

Baked potatoes and toppings
Lettuce salad with fruit
Lentil soup
Split pea soup
Red beans over rice
Fritta or quiche
Waffles or pancakes
TVP or refried bean tacos and burritos

Breakfast for dinner: waffles, pancakes or French toast with bacon or sausage or eggs
Stuffed peppers
Stuffed cabbage
BBQ: hot dogs, stuff on a stick
Roasted chicken
Kielbasa with Mac n cheese
Beef stew
Chicken noodle soup
Corned beef hash
Stewed chicken with noodles over mashed potatoes
Roast turkey
Turkey tetrazzini
Roast beef with mashed potatoes
Ham with scalloped potatoes and green beans (one of hubby's favorite meals)
Grilled salmon or other fish
Tuna or salmon patties
Chef salad
Grilled steak
Roast leg of lamb
Homemade hamburgers
Corned beef and cabbage
Tuna noodle casserole
Pot roast
Shepherd’s pie
Sliced turkey cutlets with stuffing

Advice for grandparents caring for their grandchildren.

There are several things you should do right away.

1) Apply for the child-only TANF grant (if you aren't receiving foster care funds). Either that or get a child support order from BOTH the bio-mom and bio-dad. The TANF is usually more than you will ever see in child support so that is the direction I prefer. Child-only TANF is based ONLY on the child's income (child support, SS-survivor benefits or a trust fund). You DO NOT report your income anywhere on the form. Even if you think you do not need the money, this is the child's money and you put it in a college savings fund if you want.

2) TANF will open the door to other services. The most important is Medicaid. Usually you can't add your grandchild to your employer-provided medical insurance policy unles you have guardianship or have adopted. If the child needs health coverage so Medicaid is a good way to go. You have to apply for Medicaid in a different office from the Health & Welfare office that grants TANF but the offices should be close to each other. If you have guardianship, you can also use Medicaid as the child's secondary insurance. Medicaid will pay for the out-of-pocket medical expenses your primary insurance may not cover.

3) Medicaid will open the door ro - and pay for - play or talk therapy for the child and caregiver support FOR YOU. This is really important because dealing with a child who has been switched around between houses is A LOT different from dealing with a 'normal' child who you may have given birth to and raised.

4) Medicaid also opens the door for you to get the child into the WIC program (again, apply separately). The WIC program will monitor the child's growth and help identify health problems that may go unnoticed until much later. IF there are health problems (asthma is common), you need to know them now. The documentation from WIC may be very important later on, too. WIC is for children 5 years old and younger. If the child is already 5 and not in the program, s/he probably won't be accepted, however.

5) Get the child's birth certificate. If the child has been in the foster care system the caseworker has probably pulled a copy. You'll want a copy, too. IF you are related to the bio-dad and he is on the birth certificate (most states don't list a birth father anymore), he may be able to sign the paperwork allowing you to get a copy. However, in most cases, you'll need the bio-mom's signature. Since that will probably be difficult to obtain, you may need the caseworker to apply for the birth certificate for you. Why do you need the birth certificate? Because you need to show a chain of relationship between the grandchild to the bio-parent to you in order to get TANF. Later on you may also need it to get the child into school - even preschool.

6) Get the child's social security number - preferrably the child's SS CARD. Again, you need this for TANF and you're going to want it later because you can claim the child as a dependant on your income taxes. You'll also need the number to gain access to a bunch of other services.

7) Get copies of the child's medical records. If the child was in foster care for a long while, they probably brought him up to date on his vaccinations. However, you need proof of this or else s/he'll have to get them all over again. You also want to pull all the other medical records because they can be eye opening. First of all, you can document long stretches of failing to get the child medical attention OR not following doctor's orders. You can also see what medical tests have and have not been performed. This may be important later on.

8) Document, document, document. I document on a calendar and keep them year to year. Note everytime either bio-parent visits, sends a letter, makes a phone call and talks to the child. Document everytime either bio-parent is supposed to make contact and doesn't. Note when the bio-parents are late or early. Note the gifts that are given (most gifts from bio-parents are NOT age-appropriate.) Document anything that comes to mind. Also take pictures of YOU and the child together. Make sure the pictures are dated in some way. For instance, you can have a magazine in the foreground. Even if you can't read the date on the magazine, you can find out when it was published by researching the picture on the cover. Also take seasonal photos - you and DGS visiting Santa, you and DGS swimming, you and DGS sitting on a pumpkin in a pile of fall leaves, you and DGS dressed in Halloween costumes, you and DGS searching for Easter eggs - you get the idea.

9) Find real-life support groups. We belong to GAP- Grandparents As Parents. If you can't find a chapter nearby, contact your local AARP office and ask them if they know of any grandparenting support groups. These meetings are important because they will key you into local resources and local laws. They will help you navigate some of the local red tape, too. Plus, the groups often have opportunities for THE CHILDREN to get together and realize they are not allow in their situation. My grandhild can't wait to go to the monthly GAP meeting so she can reconnect with her friends there. We went camping with the GAP group earlier this month and she loved it.

10) In addition to a grandparenting specific support group, look into play opportunities for your grandchild. At 3-yrs old, preschool is a real possibility. You can also do programs like Gymboree or Kindermusik. One of the first things I did was join MOPS - Mothers of Preschoolers, which is usually available through a local church. The friendships I developed through there helped save my sanity.

11) Visit the website and find out about attachment disorders. There are some excellent parenting tips on there, too.

12) DO NOT have visits - with either bio-parent - in your home. Bio visits should be in a public, neutral location. DO NOT stop the visits because of the grandchild's behavior. These are issues s/he has to work through and issues s/he CAN work through while in the safety of your home.

What is Oh Cookie about?

This is my general blog that collects bits of posts that I have written on message forums. I'm much to modest to say that this is my 'wisdom collection' blog. Yes, really, I'm too modest to say that.

About Me

A little about the author ... I'm known as Cookie. I'm a long time frugal fanatic so when I shop, I prefer to save money. There is no reason to spend more than we have to! However, I also appreciate convenience and fine living. I strive to strike a balance between a nice lifestyle, simplicity and frugal living. I work hard for my money so I like to make my money work hard for me.