An empty pink change purse.

5 Ways to Survive an Economic Downturn

If your income were to dramatically drop tomorrow, would you survive? We’re going to give you 5 ways to survive a personal economic downturn.

How are you doing Financially?

If you were to ask ten different people in your town, “How are you doing financially compared to last year,” you’d probably get several different answers. And if you asked ten different people across the country the same question, the variety would be even greater. It seems that no matter what the national economy is doing, there are always people who are experiencing plenty, lack and doldrums when it comes to their financial situation.

The Certainty of Economic Booms and Busts

One thing is certain in life; personal economic booms and busts are inevitable. But what is not as certain is how you will weather the busts; the economic valleys of life. Some people seem to sail through job loss, repossessions and other financial speed bumps with a resolve and confidence that things will get better, while others will feel like life has come to an end and want to cash it all in.

Here are 5 things we’ve done personally to survive job loss, medical emergencies and starting a business – all without having to borrow any money. We’re not saying that if you do these things that life will be easy, but we will say that you’ll be able to sail through rough seas without going under. And with each storm that you make it through, your financial muscles and confidence will grow stronger, and the waves will grow smaller.

1) Be a Manager - and Manage Your Money

Save in advance of expenses by using a budget described in our book, America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right On The Money and in our America's Cheapest Family Budgeting System. Or try, it’s the only computer budget system that works like our system. We’ve used a simple money management system since day one of our marriage. It’s helped us weather many financial storms. We are totally convinced that a budget is the most effective tool we’ve ever used, and it helped us pay off house in 9 years, pay cash for all of our cars and keep our overhead manageable.

2)  Be A Researcher

Philosopher Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is Power.” Whether you’re fighting a political battle, physical battle or a fiscal skirmish, the more you know the more you’ll get. Research is one of the secret gems of the frugal life. The more informed you are, the better you’ll be able to negotiate and the easier it will be for you to recognize a deal when you are looking at it. When you’re experiencing financial limits, taking time to research can produce some pretty hefty dividends.

a) Quote Your Insurance 

We have saved $66 per month on auto insurance by using and $200 per month using eHealthInsurance. It will take more than 15 minutes to quote your insurance, but even if it takes you 5 hours and you save $2400 in a year’s time, that $480 per hour you just earned . . . tax free!

b) Ask For Discounts 

Over time you’ll learn where it is appropriate to ask and when it is likely to produce a good return, but initially, just ask. You’ll probably embarrass your kids and your spouse, but you’re very likely get a positive answer more often than not. We’ve asked for, and received discounts when buying cars, houses, insurance, clothes, food, building supplies, tools, artwork, furniture and so much more. You’ll be amazed at what will happen when you ask.

Are you a veteran? Ask for a discount.
Are you a student? Ask for a discount.
Are you a senior? Ask for a discount.
Are you a mom of multiples, home schooler, teacher, civil servant, airline employee, hotel employee . . . the list goes on and on, ask for a discount. And one more . . . are you paying cash . . . ask for a discount! Be ready to be surprised.

c) Be Patient

Ben Franklin is credited with saying, “Haste makes waste.” It is so Read More...

A girl hugging a dog and a cat.

Choosing a Pet for your Kids

Pet ownership in America is huge: approximately 70 million dogs and 80 millions cats. Of this number about 7.6 million of these pets find their way to one of 13,600 community based animal shelters each year, surrendered by their owners or lost as strays. Owning and caring for a pet is an important part of family life, and it should be a happy part. In this article we want to help you evaluate and select the right kind of pet for your family so that you and the pet can enjoy life together.

Pets Don’t Teach Responsibility

Pets are a great addition to a family. Pets can help kids practice compassion and consistent care, but pets should never, ever be used to teach a child responsibility. It’s simply not fair to the pet. Teaching your child to do chores will teach them a good work ethic and great responsibility.

If you have children who want a pet, please don’t buy one for them expecting that they will be fully responsible for it. Some children may well be nurturing and gentle enough to truly love and play with a pet. But it is unrealistic to expect most children to be fully responsible for feeding, exercising, and cleaning, and to have enough experience to know when something is wrong.

If your child or children really want a pet, please approach this with great amounts of evaluation and introspection. Why?

Why You Should Get a Pet

Parents should get a pet for their family because they have enough time, patience, and money to care for the animal. Over time, your kids can take on some of the tasks related to pet care, but ultimately the responsibility falls on the parent’s shoulders. So before you make any decision about adding a living creature to your household, please consider the costs and the financial, physical and emotional investment needed.

A Possible Pet Progression

If your child is ready to help care for a pet, we’re proposing a progression from those that are less expensive and easier to care for, to those that take more time and money.

These are various pets that we’ve had. We’ve written this as a guide to help determine what type of pet is right for your family:

FISH   We did have goldfish for a while, but our kids eventually became bored with them. Kids can feed fish with supervision, but cleaning the bowl or tank takes adult involvement until the kids reach the teen years.

TURTLES    We raised three-toed box turtles in an enclosed atrium in the middle of our house for more than 20 years. They’re low maintenance.

The kids help made up a special food mixture every two weeks and put it out a couple of times each week when the turtles weren’t hibernating. The kids loved hunting for newly hatched babies once a year. When our youngest daughter got married a couple of years ago, we decided to sell off our breeding family of turtles to simplify our lives. It was definitely a sad day and the end of an era.

In 20 years we only took our turtles to the Vet once. We did join a turtle and tortoise society to learn about proper care.

BIRDS   We had parakeets for a while and they would chatter anytime we were near. They required daily checks for food and water and cleaning their cage every few weeks. The kids couldn’t interact much with them, so we sold them at a garage sale. We have friends who have an African Grey parrot and love to talk to their bird. Feed is inexpensive.

MICE    We had these for a while too. It’s a long story, but we’d never do it again. It might work for some families, but not for ours. They don’t require much more than food, water, and a clean cage (escape proof is always a good idea). Feed is inexpensive.

HAMSTERS    These furry little critters require regular food and water monitoring and cleaning the cage every few weeks. Our kids loved holding and playing with them. They’d build Lego or Lincoln Log forts for the hamsters to play in or let them run around the house in a plastic rolling exercise ball. The hamsters broke out of their metal barred cages regularly until we used metal twisty-ties to lock the cage doors. By the way, we did try those colored tube cages. they look beautiful, but they are a nightmare to keep clean. Feed is relatively inexpensive. The Teddy-Bear hamsters we owned lived about 2 years.

RATS   A family friend of ours had a rat and loved it. We were told it was incredibly intelligent and very docile—maybe for some families, but not for ours.

CATS    Steve is allergic to cats, so we haven’t had one, Read More...

Freezer with open lid, full of grocery food with a dollar sign on the front.

5 Kitchen Tools That Will Save $6000 #5: Chill Out

This is the final article of a 5 Kitchen Tools series designed to empower you to save thousands of dollars on your food budget.

Over the past 4 weeks we’ve shared how we save with the humble SpoonUla, a set of glass bowls for lunches, a SloCooker and a Meat Slicer. We’ve calculated the annual savings from using these four kitchen tools to be about $4500.

But, hold on to your wallet, we’ve held back the biggest saver for last.

This tool will assuredly pay for itself quickly and truly help you build a stockpile of cold, hard cash.

Chill It Out: A freezer is one of the best money-saving tools a family can invest in.


Because a freezer allows you to stock up on sale items and enjoy eating steeply discounted food for weeks or months to come. We regularly freeze bread, milk and shredded cheese. But we also stock up on things like turkeys at Thanksgiving, hams at Christmas, corned beef after St. Patrick’s Day and pork ribs over the summer holidays.

Plus, because we have the storage space, we’re constantly watching for marked-down meat prices when grocers have overstocks – recently we bought 60 pounds of chicken legs for $.19 per pound. 

We like non frost-free freezers because they don't dry out food as quickly. Frost-free freezers have a fan that constantly runs to reduce the build-up of frost, but that same fan removes moisture from food that isn't vacuum sealed. Years ago we started with a 9 cubic foot chest-freezer, then graduated to a 17 cubic-foot upright. Now we have a 27 cubic-foot chest freezer.

Buying Used: Freezers can easily be found gently used on CraigsList. Our book, “Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with Americas’ Cheapest Family,” describes our secrets to researching and buying quality used appliances, very inexpensively. In the book, wee also provide a list of the best items to freeze and how to organize a chest freezer for maximum efficiency.

Buying New: You can also pick up inexpensive freezers from Amazon - if you're a Prime member, shipping is free - and that makes it really affordable. Here's a list of Amazon's best selling chest freezers. They aren't that expensive, ranging in price from $199 to about $320. 

Savings: We’ve calculated that our chest freezer saves us at least $2000 a year—not bad for a $400 investment. And this cool little workhorse will keep saving you money year after year, after year.

Adding It Up!

Cost for Five tools:

  • Spoonula . . . . . . .$  10
  • Pyrex Bowls . . . . $  10
  • Slow Cooker . . . . $  20
  •

How to Save Money on Essential Items

Many blogs, articles and books about budgeting and saving money focus on lowering or cutting out non-essential expenses such as coffee, manicures, trips to the movies, cable TV and other discretionary purchases. While that is certainly a valid and effective way to save money, it's not the only thing you can do to reduce your household spending, get out of debt and have more money in your savings account.

There are also several ways to lower your essential monthly expenses. Most people assume their monthly bills are fixed and not negotiable, and in some cases that's true. However, there are several ways to lower your essential expenses so you have more money for nonessentials, paying off debt or building your nest egg. Here are some ways to lessen your monthly bills.

Consider Refinancing

Depending on your individual circumstances, refinancing your mortgage may or may not be a smart choice for your family. However, you can't decide whether or not it's a good option if you don't have all the facts. Take some time to research the details of refinancing so you understand how it works. Then you can call your mortgage holder or a broker and see what the options are for your specific situation.

Consider Buying Second-Hand

Clothing, furniture, cars and appliances can be either essential or nonessential purchases depending on when you buy them. Either way, you can save a significant amount of money by buying pre-owned or used items. Many stores even offer warranties on used appliances so you don't have to worry about your refrigerator dying a month after you purchase it. Pre-owned cars are far more affordable than new models and many come with warranties as well. Buying clothing and furniture from thrift or second-hand stores can save you a large amount of money, and many items are in nearly new condition.

Clip Coupons Wisely

You can save money by clipping coupons for your weekly groceries, but only if you do it wisely. One downfall of coupons is that many people end up purchasing things they don't need simply because they have coupons or the store is running a sale. If you fall into this category, come up with a system for your coupons where you only use them for things you actually need, not just because something is a "good deal." Reading our book, “Cut Your Grocery Bill In Half” is a good place to start.

Call Your Insurance Provider

You home and auto insurance policies are most likely a large portion of your monthly bills. You may be able to save a significant amount on your premium by switching to a new provider for one or more of your policies. The easiest way to find out if there are potential savings is to talk to a local agent. You should ask about possible discounts for a clean driving record or certain safety features in your home to make sure you are getting the best possible rate.

While you can save a significant amount of money by reining in your nonessential purchases, you can also lower your essential expenses as well. Purchasing pre-owned items and using a smart coupon strategy can help keep lower certain costs. You can also consider refinancing your mortgage and changing insurance providers for additional savings.



A candy store display full of colorful, sweet candy.

Why Buying in Bulk is Better

They say that "bigger is better." How about buying bulk packages of your favorite candies and chocolates?

You Can Save Loads of Money

A company like Sweet Services offers great savings to clients who are looking to seriously satisfy their sweet tooth. Have you ever tried to stock up for the trick-or-treaters on Halloween? You end up buying bag after bag of candy, and those individual bags can really add up! Before you know it, you have spent hundreds of dollars on Halloween candy, and if you have kids, you might still need to purchase costumes for them. What a headache! Now with something like Sweet Services, you can end up getting loads of candies without shelling out mega dollars. Candies are sold in bulk, with flat-rate prices that are totally affordable. Instead of visiting store after store and spending all of your money on candy, you can purchase what you need online and get armfuls of treats for a much better price!

You Can Choose More of Your Favorites

Moreover, the prices here enable clients to end up with larger quantities of candy and chocolates, and who wouldn’t love that? “The more the merrier,” as they say. Buying candy in bulk is a smart choice for people who are planning parties, holiday get-togethers, and other special events. The need for ample amounts of treats means that large orders are a given, and Sweet Services provides all of the favorites you want at a price you won’t turn sour about. Some customers even choose to put all of their purchased candy into a gorgeous and stunning candy buffet! This adds more class and appeal to any type of party, plus you can have bigger quantities of everyone’s favorites.

You Can Get a Wider Variety

Finally, when it comes to candy and treats, people always want to try everything there is to offer. You’ll get such a great deal on the price that you can afford to have a much wider variety of snacks than if you were to just buy candies at the grocery store. This is a great perk, especially if you are planning a big get-together with many different guests. You want everyone to be happy with your selection of candies, right? Sweet Services not only has so many different kinds of treats, but they offer them at a flat rate in bulk packages. Never worry about missing someone’s favorite sweet ever again. If you need extra help, contact Sweet Services today!


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