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Thrifty Blogger of the Week

Thrift Culture Now, we’ve put together a team that’s focused and devoted to presenting our readers with the best ideas for saving money and being thrifty. But why stop here? There’s no reason to believe that we know all there is to know about frugality, saving, and thrift, when the world and the Internet are so vast and abound with bright, thrifty people. So, in this new article, Thrifty Bloggers, we will be featuring the Internet’s best blogs on the topic of thrift, frugality, and thriving. Our goal is to build a huge community-- a brain trust--so that our readers may receive the best ideas available, for living thriftily and well.

We hope you enjoy, Thrift Culture Now’s Thrifty Bloggers.

Tight Fisted Miser: Where Resourcefulness is the Key to Frugal Living Success

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My grandfather used to tell us stories about his childhood and what life was like during the Great Depression. One thing always rang clear with each and every story that described how they found ways of making something nourishing for dinner even when the cupboards were nearly bare, what they would do to make a few extra dollars here and there, or all of the things they gave up because they just couldn’t afford them: these people were resourceful and knew that it was up to them and them alone to get by.

Nearly every time I read one of the posts at Andy’s blog, Tight Fisted Miser, I think back to those stories from days gone by. The world is obviously very different than it was back then, but the extent to which Andy will go to make or save money, even when most other people would say it was impossible, displays that same sort of gritty perseverance and resourcefulness that people had to have when my grandfather was a boy.

While Andy’s frugal living lifestyle might not be for everyone, it sure is inspiring to read about all of the things that he has done and is doing to make and save money; he generates some income from Tight Fisted Miser, he does online surveys and mystery shopping trips for cash, participates in medical studies and invests, just to give a few examples.

Pair these creative money making ventures with money saving tips and the fact that Andy only spends what he can afford, and you have one thrifty individual whose resourcefulness seems to be relatively uncommon these days.

“I don't think people are nearly as resourceful as they used to be,” Andy says. “It seems that many people aren't willing to make even small adjustments to save money or make more money.”

Today, rather than do what it takes to survive and thrive in any situation so many people throw their hands in the air, give up, and look to someone else to clean up the mess and help them through tough financial times.

Andy, 42, says he’s always been pretty frugal but it was when he recently went back to law school that he started looking for new ways to save money and creative ways to make money. A regular nine to five wouldn’t really jive well with law school’s demands but he says he also didn’t want to take out more money in loans than he had to.

That’s when this ex-Vegas blackjack dealer started to get creative, to think outside the box, and started to do things that paid the bills but that definitely wouldn’t fall into the ‘traditional’ job category. He participated in the odd medical study before returning to school, but the mystery shopping and blogging were new ventures.

When you visit Andy’s blog, the title, Tight Fisted Miser—Extreme Frugality—How to Live Well on Very Little, appears at the top of the page and, while Andy says it’s a “tongue-in-cheek take on how many people view frugality,” it seems to sum up Andy’s personal finance approach; he has found ways to live well on what today would be considered very little. In fact, Andy’s income last year was less than $20,000 but he says that despite what many people would think he didn’t struggle to make ends meet and he’s happy.

Andy says that maybe even more than having the right personal finance information or education, successful frugal living requires a particular frame of mind, a real willingness to do what it takes. I’d say it takes guts too.

“Knowing how to take care of your money is important but then you have to actually implement your knowledge,” Andy says. “I would say frugal living requires greater resourcefulness. The easy way to solve problems is usually to spend money. When you're frugal you look for alternatives to spending money.”

Andy’s right. It is easier to spend and that’s why his posts are good reminders that if you try to be as frugal and smart with your money as you can, even in the times when you have more money than usual, this type of mindset sees people through those situations when money is limited.

When asked what he thinks it will take for people to be more resourceful like they used to be, Andy says he thinks most people have to hit rock bottom before they change the way they manage money.

“I'm not really sure how things got be this way,” Andy explains. “I think people will start being more personally responsible when they don't have any other choice. Economic conditions may force many people to be more personally responsible but otherwise I think most people are content with the way things are.”

I guess our grandparents’ lessons with regards to ingenuity and thinking outside the box, or saving money for a rainy day, faded–or never really stuck in the first place—when the going got good again and the hard realities that were the Great Depression started to seem like unfathomable fables.

I encourage you to check out Tight Fisted Miser. Even if you aren’t willing to do medical studies or covert shopping trips for other stores, this site is still a great source of inspiration and ideas.

Get your head in the game and be willing to do what you can to save money and to succeed in frugal living.

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Monroe on a Budget: Where Frugal Finances & Community Come Together

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“Treading water” is how Paula once described the way in which she and her family were managing to get through another tough financial period: the bills were paid but all extras either required a great deal of resourcefulness or were put on hold altogether.

Paula, who has worked as a newspaper journalist in Michigan and Ohio for more than 20 years, knows what it’s like to have more month than money, only four days worth of food left in the kitchen cupboard and no way of knowing how much money will be coming in the following week.

This married mother of one credits her family’s frugal living strategies and resourcefulness for making sure the bills were paid even when layoffs (her husband has been laid off a few times) significantly reduced their household income. Paula says the fact that she and her family never really lived an expensive lifestyle to begin with has certainly made it easier for them to ride through the hard times too. 

When The Monroe Evening News where Paula works decided to start a community blog network in late 2006, Paula’s own experiences with stretching her family’s income to make ends meet, and the news that layoffs would soon be coming to the local workforce, helped shape her idea for the blog, Monroe on a Budget.  

Monroe on a Budget was launched early in 2007 with a focus on providing the local community with information about frugal living, budgeting and local services that offer assistance to families who are struggling to get by.

Little did Paula and the rest of the staff at The Monroe Evening News know at the time that Monroe on a Budget would offer exactly the type of information that families in Monroe were looking for.

Monroe on a Budget was a project that got started before my co-workers and I knew how much it would be needed,” Paula says.

Since it’s launch, Monroe on a Budget has become the most popular blog that the newspaper sponsors and, while the site includes a few permanent feature sections, like a database of all of the local food stores and information on their discount programs, coupon and food stamp policies, Paula also writes about practical money saving tips, public service announcements and the news headlines that will have some bearing on the community’s household finances.

Paula says she gets inspiration for stories from regional headlines and other blogs, but she also keeps her ears open to the issues that people in Monroe are talking about. Her family’s own experiences and the information or resources that they would have found helpful during the times when money was tighter than usual also help shape the site’s content.

Paula and her family know all about bumps in the road but they have learned how to prepare for and work through those times when money is tighter than usual. Paula, for example, was a recently divorced, single parent back in 1990 and she struggled to pay for day care, her rent, food and gas for her car. When she remarried in 1994, things got a bit easier because she and her husband could pool their income. Then, between 2004 and 2005, layoffs began and things got rocky again.

“My husband was back and forth between temporary jobs and unemployment for about a year,” Paula says. “We had bought our house only three months before he went on unemployment. Any expense that was not an immediate need was postponed until cash was in hand.”

But Paula and her family got resourceful and learned ways to save money even when there was little left to save. She says she and her husband have both reflected on the times when money was tighter than usual and agree that it was frugal living that got them through. Paula’s posts at Monroe on a Budget often contain the money saving tips, like grocery shopping on a budget, that she uses herself, and there’s no short supply of helpful advice.

“One of the best tips I have is: pick your battles,” Paula says. “When the income drops, you won’t be able to do or have everything your family would like. But what would you most like to do, and how can you do that?”

What’s interesting is that unlike so many people today who pin America’s debt woes on a general lack of financial education and awareness about savings and debt, Paula says she doesn’t think it’s a lack of readily available information that’s the problem.

She says she can remember listening to Larry Burkett’s Money Matters radio show back in the 1990s and that there have been Credit Counseling Services around for just as long. Paula says it’s more that people don’t know how to have a lifestyle that makes them happy and that they can still afford.

“Here’s my theory: Nobody wants to hear that they have to cut back on the daily lattes, or dining out, or the family vacations, to make ends meet,” Paula explains. “People want to know how they can have the lifestyle they want on the budget they have to live on. That is why I provide as many perspectives, links, resources and tips as possible so that my readers can try out and discover the tricks that really will work for their families.”

Whether you’re a single parent, you or your spouse recently became unemployed, or you’re just finding it harder to get by with rising food and gas prices, Monroe on a Budget offers the money saving tips and information that people living on less need.

Every family has different circumstances and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for frugal living, but reading about the ways that others have weathered through and thrived in less-than-ideal situations can provide all of the direction you need to stretch your budget too.

“I want my readers to be very resourceful,” Paula says. “A money-saving trick that works for my family might not be possible, relevant or practical for another family, or vice versa. But an attitude of resourcefulness is what they will need to help their families when finances are tight.”

While Monroe on a Budget focuses on the newsworthy topics, practical information and resources that will matter most to the people living in Monroe, this site is still an amazing source of information for people everywhere.

Even if all of the tips aren’t applicable to your situation this site can point you in the right direction. With a little perseverance and the right information it’s possible to get through even the most seemingly impossible financial situations. Staying afloat takes work, but it is possible.


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Fiscal Fizzle: Preparing for Life’s Hiccups with Money Saving Tips & Great Personal Finance Advice

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There will always be hiccups in life. They’re those types of events, periods or moments that stop you in your tracks, even if ever so briefly, and influence your actions in some way or another from there on out.

In my opinion, hiccups can be good and bad. Sometimes you need a little change or shift to shake things up, like marriage or the birth of a child or a job promotion. Other times, hiccups aren’t so positive and those hiccups, like job loss or layoffs, illness or injury, will test us and our ability to overcome the challenges and carry on.

When the recession took hold in 2008, the downturn of the economy with the thousands of job losses, foreclosures and bankruptcies that followed suit set off a massive, almost simultaneous hiccup in the lives of many North Americans. Some recovered faster than others and many are still struggling to get by and to deal with their loss of income or insurmountable debts.

For others, sticking to frugal living strategies and fiscal prudence has allowed them to weather through the tough times. You see, for all of life’s hiccups, whether good or bad, preparedness is key and, if you’re one of the lucky ones who have been following money saving tips, stashing money aside for rainy days and working hard to stay out of debt, you can rest easy knowing that you and your family can survive and thrive in any sort of situation, and that you will be that much further ahead when the dust settles.

Wojciech Kulicki, or Wojo for short, knows all about adjusting and adapting. Having been born in Poland at the end of the Cold War and moving to the United States when he was nine, Wojo and his family adapted to their new environment.  He says his parents and grandparents were frugal people, focused on saving and knew how to stretch a dollar and he learned many valuable lessons with regards to personal finance.

In 2009, Wojo channelled his growing interest in personal finances and frugal living into the highly-informative blog, Fiscal Fizzle, where he shares what he’s learned while he and his wife have prepared for and adapted to their share of life’s hiccups.

“Frugality in recent years has not only been a choice, but a need,” he says. “As the recession pushed down, we had no means to push back, other than to adapt the most frugal lifestyle we could muster and hope for the best.”

While Wojo says that the birth of his son was one of the most positive, life-changing events he’s experienced thus far, other events, like when his wife was laid off twice in four years or when the economy spiralled down, have had equally significant influence on the way in which he and his wife handle their money and prepare for the future.

When you have the tools—money saving tips, frugal living strategies—and a solid understanding of sound money management with minimal debt and adequate savings, you are better equipped to ride through those big changes.  Unfortunately, it seems there are many North Americans who don’t even know where to start when it comes to managing money.

“At the top of the list, I would say most of us are completely ignorant of what we should be doing,” Wojo says. “Even more—we simply don't know what questions we should be asking in the first place to get to where we need to go. Without a game plan, we're simply trying to float our heads above water and hope luck comes our way and bails us out. That's not a good way to live. We need to make basic financial education a part of life growing up, both at home and at school. We need to read about and practice good money management, investing, frugality, and more—just like we better ourselves in other areas.”

Whether you know a lot or a little about personal finance or frugality, Fiscal Fizzle is chalked full of valuable, easy-to-understand and highly applicable information on topics like, 11Ways to Stay Positive in a Bad Economy, 6 Financial Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs, and 55 Ways to Simplify Your Finances. Being prepared for whatever life throws at you isn’t hard, but it does require you to act. Learn from people like Wojo who have ‘been there’ and survived to talk about it. The worst thing anyone can do is do nothing.

“Some of us understand what to do, but feel overwhelmed by it all,” Wojo explains. “Instead of breaking down goals into manageable pieces, we simply find it easier to ignore reality, and continue on our way. We can't give into analysis paralysis. We need to make money management simple, easy to understand, straightforward to follow, and able to adapt to individual people's situations without losing its essence.”

What many people find challenging when trying to save more of their money is staying focused on their long-term financial goals and not giving in to the temptation to spend. Wojo says that he has a weakness for expensive electronics and, while it might initially seem hard to go without the new gadgets that interest him, he says knowing that he can achieve his bigger financial goals with a little perseverance and patience is a much greater reward.

When life is going along, tickety-boo, and people start financing their every desire with credit cards and loans, their ability to get by when the going isn’t so good is threatened. Wojo says even though he’s lived in America for 20 years the over-indulgence still astounds him. What people don’t realize is that for every gadget or gizmo they go into debt to buy, they lose a little more of their freedom and flexibility.

“…We are a prosperous nation, and we have the ability and the right to spend as we wish, which is wonderful,” he says. “Given that fact, it's sad to see that with so much freedom and choice, Americans have largely chosen over-spending, over-borrowing, under-saving, lack of financial education, and other poor money habits. This has resulted in actually limiting the choices we have because we're stuck in an eternal rat race with fewer and fewer ways out.

One of the biggest problems is debt—while it has allowed us to afford large purchases which would otherwise be unreachable for years, it has enslaved us to unforgiving payment schedules and made credit scores king.”

You won’t always make the best decisions or do things right the first time but children, flooded basements, college funds, braces, layoffs and injuries are a lot less overwhelming when you’re prepared and able to adjust. Successful frugal living and good financial planning require continuous learning and Fiscal Fizzle is a great site for everyday people to learn how to better equip themselves.

“Most of my readers seem to enjoy the fact that I'm just a ‘regular guy’ because they are also just ‘regular people,’” Wojo says. “They are looking for someone to relate to, bounce ideas from, and get inspired by. I don't claim to have all the answers or be the best role model around, but I understand I have a responsibility to try my best every day and share what I learn.”

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Money Beagle: Where Regular Folks Get Personal Finance Advice for Everyday Living

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When was the last time you paid too much money for something, made an investment blunder, or blew your budget and had to push back a debt repayment goal? Probably not that long ago, right? You’re still peeved about it, aren’t you?

Just a couple of weeks ago, when our washing machine went on the frizz and there was a mountain of clothes that needed to be washed, I rushed out to the first store I knew of and bought the part we needed. No calls made to other stores to see how much they charged for the part, I just bought the first one I found.

After the problem was fixed and the laundry crisis diverted, I got to thinking (regretting, really) that I should have called a couple of other places to see what they charge for that same part. My gut was right: turns out the store I bought the part from happens to be the most expensive plumbing place in town. I paid almost $20 more than I needed to.

Even though it wasn’t a huge amount of money I still kicked myself for days after. That’s the thing about money; really doesn’t matter how much you lose or miss out on, you still feel the pain of having less in your wallet.

There is, however, a silver lining to those personal finance mistakes. That’s if you can get over your frustration and see the valuable lessons that can be learned from your errors.

The man behind the informative and oh-so-true-to-life personal finance blog, Money Beagle, says he knows all about financial regrets. Years ago, when the tech bubble was just weeks away from bursting, he got serious about investing and soon experienced the ups and downs that come with day trading. Looking back, he says there are a lot of things he wishes he’d done differently and maybe he could have profited more.

“I took advice that led to losses and ignored advice that could have led to big gains,” he says. “Many of these things individually fall into the 'hindsight is 20-20' but when I step back and look at the mistakes as a whole, I can certainly see that there has been a definite pattern to how I mishandled things, and it's caused me to give a better look at investing on a much more fundamental level.”

This married father of one (but soon to be two), who writes his blog anonymously and, therefore, goes by the name Money Beagle or Beagle for short, has taken his financial errors in stride. He says that reflecting on his mistakes, like the ones he made while day trading, has positively influenced the way he handles money today.   

When you visit Money Beagle you will find information-packed posts about everything from investing, saving and budgeting, to do it yourself household repairs and shopping with coupons. The thing I like best about this blog, besides all of the important information that I can glean from it, is that Beagle’s posts are so candid; he isn’t perfect and he hasn’t done everything right the first time with regards to his money, but he doesn’t pretend otherwise.

Reading one of Beagle’s posts feels like chatting with a friend, sharing money saving tips that you’ve found helpful, fessing up to financial mistakes that have been made, and talking about issues that matter to everyday people. He offers personal finance advice that anyone can relate to and use.

When it comes to the topic of frugal living, Beagle doesn’t pretend that doing your best to stick to a budget and continuously being on the lookout for ways to save money is a walk in the park. He openly admits that frugality is hard but he’s also quick to say that sometimes the hardest things in life provide the biggest rewards.

“Running a marathon is hard (so I've heard) but people do it anyways because the reward of crossing that finish line is worth it, knowing that you overcame all the physical pain and obstacles to get there,” Beagle says. “So, while saving and being frugal is a tougher decision, the rewards you can achieve by doing so make it worth it.”

Sometimes, however, it’s the pressure we put on ourselves or, rather, our inability to get over what everyone else has or is doing that makes frugal living a lot harder than it has to be. Beagle says that when you validate success through material things, like so many of us do, you will always spend more money than you need to. If you measure success by what you own then budgeting or putting money away in savings can seem like some sort of punishment. Start defining success through other means and suddenly frugal living is a lot easier.

“The trick is to break the mold of how we validate and measure success,” Beagle explains. “Looking at a growing 401(k) balance isn't as 'sexy' as looking at a brand new 55" plasma TV, but if we really break it down, we can re-program our thinking to realize that the 401(k) balance is just as sexy (actually, more so) than the TV. It's just a matter of breaking the conditioning that we've been bombarded with.”

Even after we commit ourselves to making frugal living a priority, our old tendencies can still make it difficult to keep our personal finance priorities in check, and Beagle says overcoming the common expectation for immediate results can also be challenging. In his experience, Beagle says personal finance goals are the most successful when they’re realistic and attainable.

“We want instant gratification and I think many people get frustrated quickly,” says Beagle. “They commit to tackling their debt, but when it's six months later and they are only 10% through what they need to do to get it paid off, they lose interest and decide it's not worth it. That's why I think financial goals can't be like New Year's resolutions. They can't be these big extravagant goals, because just like those goals we set every January, they're too lofty. We have to train ourselves to set smaller goals, all working toward the bigger goal, and these smaller achievements can keep us motivated and moving forward towards our financial goals.”

Making sound financial decisions not only requires you to keep your eyes open and to learn what you can when the opportunity presents itself, but it also requires you to be flexible and ready to adjust when needed. For Beagle, parenthood has had the greatest influence on how he and his wife save and spend their money. He says it’s also made their priorities much clearer.

“…all of our big spending decisions involve looking at what it will mean to our family,” he says. “Even if we can technically afford something, like a vacation, we always make sure that we are also keeping our long term goals, like saving for college, in mind and that we're not putting anything involving our child (and future children) in jeopardy. Having children made me more focused on the long-term than ever before.”

With that being said, you’ve also got to be ready to adjust your frugal living strategy if it’s making you feel deprived or unhappy. Just because you decide that a 50” TV isn’t high on your list of priorities doesn’t mean you have to forgo all of the things that make you and your family happy. It’s possible to save money, have fun and feel totally satisfied all at the same time.

“Frugal living is challenging, but the challenge has to be worth the reward,” says Beagle. “If someone decides to be completely frugal, but they find themselves miserable, then a change in approach is certainly warranted. We don't deprive ourselves of everything and that's where I think people often make mistakes. Many think being frugal is giving up everything. But, it doesn't have to be that way.”

Beagle is right. Your frugal living plan is your own and it has to be whatever makes sense for you and your family. Save money where and when you can, after all, the rewards can be great. Just don’t sweat the small stuff.

Paying too much for a washing machine part is a blip on the radar in life. It’s inconsequential and will by no means derail my overall efforts to spend less. Now, making the same mistake twice? That’s just silly.    


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Stretching the One Income Dollar: How Families Live the Good Life on One Income

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I get the impression that a lot of people think a dual family income is a must if you want any semblance of a ‘good life’ these days. I guess it all depends on what your idea of a ‘good life’ is. I don’t, however, think that there’s a clause in the book of life that says “for your family to be happy, both adults must have a 9 to 5.”

Single family incomes are not necessarily a thing of the past. There are large numbers of people and families who are either forced into single income situations through job loss or injury, as well as the number of families who are choosing to have one parent stay at home due to child care costs or a shortage of quality, available child care. For others, it’s a lifestyle choice that's been made based on the idea that family life will actually be of a greater quality if one parent stays home. Whatever the reason, there are ways for your family to live well on one income.

For Monique, mother of two and the woman behind the blog, Stretching the One Income Dollar, it was illness that made it more and more difficult for her to work outside of the house and eventually forced her to stay home. But, instead of wallowing about the fact that she and her family would now have to live on less, or going into debt to try and keep up their dual income lifestyle, Monique adjusted, got resourceful and started writing about what she learned along the way.

Monique says she’s always been pretty frugal and can remember cutting coupons for groceries with her mom when she was a kid. While she employed the money saving tips that she had always known and used, she also started to look for other ways to save money around the house, make a little cash to supplement her family’s income and make each dollar go further. Monique’s experiences inspired her to write a book in 2009 (Stretching the One Income Dollar) and it was at that same time that she started her blog. Both Monique’s book and blog are excellent guides for families, full of the tips and inspiration that can help others learn to live well on one income too.

Monique says there are a few things she’s learned that have really made a difference in terms of allowing her family to live on less. Firstly, when she’s grocery shopping she goes with coupons in hand and often buys sale or reduced food items to keep her food cost low. Secondly, she and her family stick to the ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ motto at their house and, finally, if they don’t have the cash to buy something they don’t buy it.

You can find all of these money saving tips throughout Monique’s entries at Stretching the One Income Dollar, but you will also find information on debt and how to avoid it, product reviews and giveaways, tips for family fun on a budget and how to make money from home. 

Before you start thinking that a single income household automatically means a lifetime of scraping and scrounging, coupon clipping and discount diving, all work and no play, Monique says, in her experience, people often find that the quality of life for individuals and their families improve when they start to live on less than they had before. All it takes is team work.

“You both have to be on the same page,” Monique explains. “It has to be the whole family that works together to make it work. Just because you live with less, doesn't mean you have to live a lesser quality of life. Sometimes, it's the opposite actually. You’re less stressed and your family and your home life is healthy in so many ways.”

It’s associating or confusing happiness solely with material things that Monique says she thinks is the reason so many people still spend way more money than they need to and is probably what’s at the root of the popular belief that you have to have two incomes to survive in today’s world. It’s true what they say, money doesn’t buy happiness and if priorities are re-set and families start to define success or a ‘good life’ differently then there is less pressure for households to have big incomes. 

I think we tend to compare ourselves to others a lot, and what the ‘Joneses’ have,” Monique says. “I think even children will think the same way if they have parents that lead them to believe we are more superior because we wear or buy name brands.”

It’s amazing when you start to look around your house, at all of the things you own, and to ask yourself just how many of those things actually enrich your life as a family. Does that 50-inch T.V. bring you closer to your kids? Improve you or your children’s lives in some way? The monster of an SUV that’s parked in your driveway, complete with leather seats and sunroof, does driving it make running errands so much better that you would rather work another countless number of years at your 9 to 5 to make the payments, fuel and insure it? When was the last time you thought, “wow, that state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line dishwasher really makes us happy and was well worth every hour we worked to pay for it,”?

If you’re suddenly feeling like maybe you too have been caught up in the pressure to have it all, visit Stretching the One Income Dollar and you might be surprised to learn how you can get so much happiness from so much less.

“If you want to try to live on one income, start by reading all the frugal and thrifty books and web sites you can on living on less,” Monique says. “Start implementing those ideas now. Go through all your expenses now and take a look at what you can do without or how you can make changes in your life to save money. You can do it.”

Life is too short. Get grounded and start living it.

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Learn How to Clean Anything & Everything with DIY Green Cleaners & Help from The Cleaning Coach

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Have you ever looked at the list of ingredients on a bottle of Pine Sol, Pledge, or Windex? What about those commercial cleaning products that are supposed to rid your shower of mildew but require you to put a ‘temporarily out of order’ sign on your bathroom door for fear that one of your family members inhales the napalm-like cleaner within two hours of it being sprayed? It’s scary stuff and yet, week after week, people clean their homes with these dangerous products. 

After 20 years of working in the cleaning industry, commercial cleaners started to take their toll on Leslie’s immune system. She had become severely sensitive to certain ingredients in the store-bought cleaning products and decided that enough was enough; she was through with using toxic household cleaners.

Using some old family recipes, those given to her by friends, and creating several originals, Leslie started mixing up natural, green cleaners and testing them in her own home. She found them so effective yet their natural scents and non-abrasive ingredients didn’t leave her gasping for breath and coughing, that she wanted to share her new-found knowledge with others.  

“About five years ago, I realized my mission was to teach and encourage people about the dangers of toxic chemicals and to give them alternatives,” Leslie explains. “I decided that people need to know that there is a better way to clean. I started talking to groups of women—mothers and grandmothers—that were looking for a healthier way to clean. I work with organizations and businesses trying to get my message out.”

Since then, Leslie, also known as The Cleaning Coach, has become a popular figure appearing on television and radio shows, hosting workshops, working as a green consultant and blogging regularly about the new green cleaning solutions she’s created and answering readers’ questions. Leslie is also the author of The Joy of Green Cleaning, a cleaning bible of sorts and a must-read for any frugal living enthusiast. Currently, some of the green cleaning recipes that she has developed are being tested in a research lab at the University of MA, Lowell for their ‘cleanability.’ Leslie says so far they’re proving their merit as great, safe alternatives for toxin-filled commercial cleaners. 

Anyone who's interested in making their own homemade green cleaners needs to visit Clean Green Talk (Leslie's blog) where you will find tons of tips for how to tackle common cleaning dilemmas the natural way; how to make your own glass and mirror cleaner to homemade deodorizer for Ugg boots, getting rid of the smell in your front-loading washing machine, to how to keep spiders out of your house with a natural homemade spray.

What's amazing about the green cleaner recipes that you will find in The Joy of Green Cleaning is that a large number of the ingredients are probably already in your kitchen cupboard. Like Leslie says in her book, give just one of these homemade solutions a try and, before you know it, “you'll be going to your pantry for cleaning solutions instead of the cabinet under the sink.” Homemade green cleaners are also significantly cheaper than commercial cleaners.

When you consider that the homemade, natural cleaning solutions won’t damage your health and that making and using them will also save you money, switching over to the do it yourself natural route for cleaning seems like a no-brainer. Using safe products in your home have the great short-term benefits of saving you money but the long-term benefits for you and your family’s health are even more important.

“You can mix up a cleaner for 1/10 the price of a regular ‘over the counter’ cleaner from a grocery store,” Leslie explains. “Just think: a gallon of vinegar costs around $3 and will make two gallons of all purpose cleaner. If I do my math correctly, that’s1 cent an ounce! And will be safe and healthy for your family and pets! Think of what you would save in medical and vet bills.”

While Leslie says there are more and more people who seem open to trying natural cleaning products, she says a lot of people are still skeptical as to whether or not they actually work. It’s like somewhere along the way we were led to believe that nothing can be truly clean if it hasn’t been treated with a bright blue solution or a product that smells so strong your nose and eyes sting and water.  

“We have been programmed to ‘kill’ bacteria in our homes and people don’t believe that green cleaners will get rid of the bacteria,” Leslie says. “Actually, they do kill bacteria—you just have to use the correct ingredients and use them in the right proportions. Vinegar kills 98% of bacteria, tea tree oil is a great anti-bacterial product and hydrogen peroxide has been used for years in the medical field. All of these are in my recipes and work great for killing germs.”

Leslie has found, however, that all she needs to do to convince people that you can remove stains, get streak-free glass, spotless counters and white toilet bowls with a natural cleaner, is to get them to try just one of her many green cleaner recipes.

“When I talk to a group, I always mix up samples of a DIY cleaner that everyone can take home and try,” Leslie says. “I also give them directions and ask them to let me know how it works. I always get positive feedback saying that it worked BETTER than their store bought cleaner. The trick is getting them to try it!”

If you want to turn over a new leaf and take a giant leap towards saving money and protecting your health, Leslie recommends you stock your pantry with a few of the green cleaning essentials: vinegar, baking soda, salt, borax, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, club soda and maybe an essential oil to give your homemade cleaners a nice calming scent. She says you should also check out the list of ingredients that Whole Foods created for its customers to show them how many grocery store ingredients can be used in do it yourself green cleaners.

Leslie says she loves the challenge of finding a new, better and safer way to clean, and she hopes that people will continue to give her new cleaning challenges so she can continue to surprise them when she comes up with a natural solution for even the most seemingly impossible cleaning dilemma.

“People need to know that the things we use in our homes affect our families and our pets,” Leslie says. “I have seen huge changes take place for people that make small changes, for example changing to a homemade laundry soap instead of a detergent. Little changes can make a big difference—one spray bottle at a time.”

Wouldn’t you like the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you don’t have to lock the cupboard under your kitchen sink because your toddler won’t find a stock of potentially deadly cleaners there, that your tub and shower cleaner or the solution you use to clean kitchen counters and the sink aren’t damaging your lungs, or that your laundry detergent won’t cause your children to break out in a rash?

The next time you run out of glass or toilet bowl cleaner, think about how you could green up your cleaning routine. It’s easy and you owe it to your wallet, yourself and your family. Take Leslie’s advice and walk past the grocery aisle that sells the over-priced and harmful commercial cleaners and pick up a jug of white vinegar, a big box of baking soda and a lemon instead. Happy green cleaning!

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