icecream truck

What is your favorite from the ice cream truck?

Summer is officially here! The kids are out of school, the ice cream truck is making the rounds, vacations are beginning, lazy pool days, the NBA season is finally over (good try Thunder) and baseball can carry us through to the Olympics.

Summer is here and it’s time to let the fun begin. You work too hard, relax a bit–but keep an eye on your dollars or they might slip and slide down the wet banana to the mud pit at the end.

Good clean frugal fun is what I’m talking about. Save money, have fun, and enjoy your summer with this collection of articles I’ve read this week.

Frugal Vacation and Travel Savings

Pack Right and Save on Baggage Fees- I’m sure you hate bagge fees too. Learn how to be a better packer and avoid paying those fees.

A Simple Way to Save Big on Traveling This Summer - Blowing money while on vacation is easy, but MoneyNing has some frugal tips for vacation.

How to Travel Cheap at the London Olympics- There is still time to go to the London 2012 Olympic Games. The Frugal Toad proves you can have affordable lodging in London and other advice for the 2012 Olympics.

Fun fact: I was an escort runner to 3 torch runners for the 1996 Olympic games. I didn’t get to hold the torch, just run beside the torch for several miles while it traveled though Birmingham, AL.

Frugal Summer with Children

Get Your Kids to Read and Save- Reading and Saving? Wow! Sounds like millionaire bootcamp by Enemy of Debt.

Summer Reading Activities and Reading Lists- Great reading lists and printable rainy day activities.

Stay Cool in the Summer: 5 DIY Popsicles by ImpusleSave- My favorite is the Oreo! Yum.

More Summer Frugalness

Great Summer Reading for Your Summer Solstice Weekend by Young Cheap Living

BBQ on a Budget- Grill + Meat by the pool is my idea of a good summer day. (no offense my veggie eating readers-tofu burgers too!)

6 Tips to Rockin’ Yard Sales This Weekend- I love a good bargain and the trill of finding something I need at a garage sale. Great tips and funny article from Budgets are Sexy.

10 Cheap Summer Dates in Los Angeles- In Los Angeles and on a budget, no problem!

What are your summer plans? What frugal summer tips do you have? 

Photo credit Leap Kye (Creative Commons)

Not a Planet :-( News flash: Pluto isn’t a planet. In case you weren’t around for the announcement in 2006, Pluto is now a dwarf planet. I was busy too and didn’t have a clue.

The International Astronomical Union voted that pluto didn’t meet the criteria to be a planet.

  • A planet must orbit the sun- Pluto does this
  • A planet has to be roundish–Pluto kinda fits this.
  • It must be the dominant gravitational object in its orbit. –This is what got Pluto demoted by the  IAU. Watch the video if you’re like me and didn’t understand.

Why Pluto isn’t a Planet Video


What? Yes, everything your teachers told you in school was a lie– a fabrication….OR they told you the best truth based on the facts and knowledge at hand.

Facts change and orbits change and we have to change our way of thinking as the telescopes get bigger– behaviors and rules have to change based on the new paradigm.

Financial Rules That Change

Financial rules also change. Things that were once a given have been turned on their heads with the recent recession.

Let’s look at a few financial rules that have changed. 

1)  3-6 months of emergency savings is enough- As a trained Dave Ramsey coach, I believe and have taught this too.

However many others and myself have found that 3-6 months isn’t enough, especially those who have been out of work. The new paradigm for many is 6-12 months of savings for an emergency fund is needed.

2) Finding a job is easy and quick- While this might be true for some fields it takes longer to find a job.  Gettting hired in the “new normal takes more work and the competition is more fierce.

3) A college degree equals success- This has never been true, but the recession has proven this.Millions with college degrees are unemployed or underemployed. It isn’t about the degree, but about what value you can bring to your employer.

4) A student loan is ok, everyone gets a loan- Indeed, almost everyone who has attended college in recent years has graduated with debt. The nation has over 1 trillion dollars of student loan debt! 

We are witnessing the student loan bubble bursting and people saying crazy things like “I’m not going to send my son to college.” Times are changing.

5) Everyone can afford to go to college- The past few decades of subsidized loans have made college more attainable to the masses. But with soaring college inflation costs not everyone can afford the debt that comes with a college degree.

6) It takes a lot of money and loans to start a business- This also hasn’t been true in the past, but people like Chris Guillebeau are highlighting the fact that you can start a business without debt and low start up costs.

Read what I learned from his book The $100 Startup.

We have a “new normal.” The new normal isn’t always as black and white as personal financial experts once thought it was. New shades of grey exist that cause us to examine each personal situation differently.

The only thing that remains the same is change and we all have to keep learning to keep up to date with new financial changes.

If you subscribe to, I’ll do my best to inform you of any financial rules that change.

What other financial rules has the recession changed or shown to be false? 

Photo by Crilix (Creative Commons)

Urban Garden: Pepper Plant in Milk Jug

Our urban garden experiment has been going for a bit now and we’re seeing some fruit from our labor! If you’re just turning in, we planted a garden on our apartment’s balcony in 5 gallon buckets, milk jugs and assorted pots.

We’re learning a lot about gardening…this stuff is tough work.

“The sign of a good gardener is not a green thumb, it is brown knees”.-unknown

Urban Garden: Fruit

After weeks and weeks of watering and fruit has been spotted! The cherry tomato has dozens of green baby tomatos. We should be eating salad soon!

Tomato Plant

The 2/6 pepper plants have baby peppers growing, the others are flowering so they should be fruiting (is that what you say?) soon.

Pepper Plant

Urban Garden: Bugs and Disease

Geez this garden thing was supposed to be easy. Hey we live in the city, how did the bugs and disease find our plants?

Something is eating our potato plant

Mystery holes in potato plant.

It seems something is chomping on our potato plant. Possible culprits:

  • Colorado Potato Beetle- This little bugger likes potatoes and maybe even peppers. Haven’t seen one yet, so I’m sure it’s the culprit.
  • Flea Beetle- Another beetle. No sign of this one either.
  • Aphids- Could be potato or peach aphid. These guys munch and spread disease.
  • Slugs- I’ve read that slugs come out at night and munch on plants and disappear during the day…I’ll have to go out at night with the flashlight to investigate!
  • It could be we just got a diseased crop that happens occasionally.
This will take a bit more investigating, but now I’m on a mission to find out what is eating my potato plant.

Our 3 squash and 3 zucchini plants have powdery mildew. Gross I know. It looks like athletes foot.

White Powdery Mildew on Squash

White Powdery Mildew on Squash.

Powdery mildew likes hot dry areas and could be caused by too much shade and overcrowding. I’m pretty sure we’ve overcrowded and over planted our 5-gallon buckets, I’ll try separating and giving them space.

We’re going to have to try a water spay made of 1:10 milk solution. We’ll have to wait for the “June Gloom” to dissipate as you need a sunny day.

Urban Garden: Failures

We’ve only had one fatality so that’s good odds. The basil plant bit the dust weeks ago. It seems it got neglected in the watering rotation.

We’ve got our watering rotation down now. Every other day and it seems to be working out. Our toddler even gets in on the action to water a few plants with a cup.

How is your garden going? Have you ever dealt with potato bugs or white powdery mildew on your squash? 

dorm room laptop

Do you need insurance for the dorm?

As you prepare to pack your college freshman off to school, you’ve got a long “to do” list. Items to buy, details to iron out, lots of things to do…whew! It’s tough kicking your kids out of the house.

As you are purchasing their $1000+ laptop along with their dozens of other electronic devices (I-pads, phones, gaming systems, speakers, guitars, flat screen TV, etc) that also cost thousands of dollar, you might be thinking—Do I need some kind of insurance for this?

Do I Need Insurance?

Here are the facts. Fires and water damages occur on campus. A friend of ours told us that on their campus the sprinkler systems were tripped by a frisbee. 3 feet of water ended up in the first floor dorm rooms. Yikes!

Thefts occur in dorms. Roommates and sweet-mates steal. Doors are unlocked. Random people are in your room for study groups.

In a 2010 study 77,441 incidents of theft were reported on college campuses. Who knows how many unreported incidences there were.

The university will not be responsible for the theft or damage. The 2011-2012 On-Campus Housing Contract from The University of Connecticut states:

“The University assumes no legal obligation for damage, theft, or loss of personal property. The Resident is responsible for protecting and
securing any personal property located within any on-campus assignment and is encouraged to obtain appropriate insurance.”

So what is this appropriate insurance they mention? It’s up to you, but your child’s dorm may already be covered by your existing homeowners or renters insurance.

Check with your insurance provider and read the fine print. It is common for the policy to cover only 10% of personal items in the dorm room, but each provider will be different.

It could also be possible to get a rider or addendum to boost that amount. Again we’re only talking about living on campus, if they are off campus—they’ll need to get an additional renters insurance policy.

What About Dorm Insurance?

A few specialized companies sell dorm insurance to cover your child.

For example NSSI (not endorsed) has a policy that will cover $6,000 of Accidental Damage, Theft, Fire, Flood, Natural Disasters, Vandalism and Lightning Strikes. Deductibles range $25-$100 with decreasing annual deductibles $130-$146.

A separate renters insurance might provide more coverage and be less expensive, you’ll have to shop for yourself.

Do get some kind of coverage for worst case scenarios and peace of mind if your child will be living in a dorm. Either your own homeowners or renters policy or a separate policy.

So there, I’ve added an additional item to your summer list before you ship off your kid off to college. Enjoy your summer and send them off well.

Have you looked into insurance for your child at college? How will you insure the contents in your kids dorm? 

Photo Credit cbowns (Creative Commons)

small car jumpstarts big truck

We are over half way through 2012! I really can’t believe that we are two days away from the longest day of the year–Summer Solstice.

By now your New Year Resolutions are long dead–that’s why I resolve not to resolve. If you made 2012 goals I bet they are getting a bit rusty or need revising.

Review Your 2012 Goals

So how are you doing with your goals? Checked off all your goals for the year and need more goals? Then your goals weren’t big enough or you haven’t slept all year.

“Make no small plans; they have no magic to stir men’s souls.” Daniel Burnam

Or perhaps you’re like most of us and need a big ole’ reminder to get your butt in gear and do something.

Time to review and celebrate what you’ve accomplished so far in 2012. Go ahead and celebrate!

Our family has accomplished a lot so far:

  • Cut expenses in 1/3.
  • I’ve made money from this blog and online related gigs.
  • Moved into a 2 bedroom apartment.
  • We started our first urban garden.
  • Wife got a part-time job where she can stay at home with our son.
  • I’ve written 80+ articles this year for OTC.
  • My wife ran a 1/2 marathon! -This was after being sick in bed the previous week.
  • Lots more, but these are a few accomplishments that come to mind.

Jumpstart Your Goals

Have you ever had a dead battery? A turn of the car key and nothing. Maybe you left your lights and drained every ounce of energy from that all important box under the hood.

You need to revive your battery so your car can get moving…..analogy maybe? Goals move your life down the road.

We’ve got a lot of goals we’d like to see happen this year–goals that will take time, hard work, and turning off the T.V.

Goals: Written down dreams with concrete steps of how you’ll achieve them with a time frame attached. 

“With definite goals you release your own power, and things start happening.” Zig Ziglar

You might need to jumper cable for your your goals Try a 30 day challenge to get the ball rolling and gain momentum on your goals.

Make sure to make goals for the various buckets of life:

Areas for goals: Financial, Spiritual, Career, Family, Physical, Personal Development, and Social.

I would highly suggest reading and listening to Dan Miller (affiliate link) for career & personal development goals. His books and podcasts have helped me tremendously over the years.

What are your goals for the remainder of 2012? How will you jumpstart your goals? 

Photo by macspite