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I love to learn new things, and have wanted to take a class or two, but because of transportation issues, I haven’t been able to.  My Peer Specialist was aware of this desire of mine, and pointed me to a site that offers free online college courses.  Taking the courses is for personal growth and I think some, but maybe not all may offer a certificate to show you completed the course.  The classes are from Universities such as Johns Hopkins and Michigan State University.  There is nothing at all to buy, and right now they are offering about 100 courses to pick from.

The website is called Coursera and can be found at http://coursera.org

I’m taking my first course through the site called “Internet History, technology and security”  The course is taught by way of video lectures I watch using my web browser (I have 3 different browsers, and found that for some reason, Google Chrome offers the best video feed.  Internet Explorer comes in second with some distortion in the video, and Mozilla Firefox oddly will play the audio fine for me, but the video freezes a few seconds into the lecture, so I recommend using Google Chrome, for pc users, which is also free and found at …. https://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/browser/

This site as the professor for the class I’m taking put it, is for people who want to gain knowledge or information, and not so much for people looking for college credits.

The length of each course varies, but I think the shortest I saw was about 5 or 6 weeks for the shorter classes, while the longer ones seemed to run about 7 to 9 weeks.

The class I’m taking has questions during the lecture I can answer, several quizzes, a mid-term which is peer assessed and I believe a final exam.  I had to write an essay with between 200 and 400 words based on the material covered to that point. minimum requirement to pass the course is a 76% based on quizzes, mid-term and final for the class I’m taking, but I’m guessing that each course may have some variation to what is considered passing, much like what I saw when I attended a semester at a community college, the grading is similar, but there might be slight differences in what the professor is looking for I guess is one way to explain it.

If you want to learn something new, check it out, you can drop out at any time, and like I said there is absolutely no cost for taking the courses.


Money Monday

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...

English: Stack of books in Gould’s Book Arcade, Newtown, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Article Link

“Perfect Hobby? Reading books Is Fun, Cheap and Good for You”

This article discusses the variety of benefits that come from reading books, and has a focus on traditional bound books, as opposed to ebooks.

For myself though, I do have a kindle, and I love it!  The initial cost was a little high, but with a battery that is usable for roughly a month between charges, depending on how much I use it or if I read text or listen to audio books.  I do find that there are tons of free or low-cost books available for it.  I also find that I’m more apt to read a book on my Kindle then I would be to go browsing bookshelves looking for a book to read.  Considering I have ADHD and Anxiety disorder, I find that online shopping is more efficient for me but everyone has their own take on that, buying or finding ebooks is fun to me, but then I’m also a gadget junkie so that might be a reason as well.

Going back to the traditional bound books though, I do know that it can be very affordable, especially if you check out used book stores, or even better your local library,  Other places to find books inexpensively could be yard sales, book exchanges, flea markets, and I’m sure there is place I haven’t thought of.  But there are lots of fringe benefits to reading, so check it out and maybe you’ll find out you’ve gained an opportunity to grow a bit 🙂

Money Monday – $24 Challenge

The challenge ….

3 days …. 9 Meals …. $24.00

If I only had $24 and had to use that $24 to buy 3 days worth of food (9 meals)

Questions I thought of as I approached this challenge included

  • Could I actually do it?
  • What would I buy?
  • How healthy would my meals be?
  • Would I have leftovers or would I be wondering if I had enough to last the full 3 days?

Here is what I came up with for a menu for the 3 days.

  1. Day 1
    1. Breakfast
      1. A bowl of Oatmeal
      2. 1 cup milk
      3. 1 egg
      4. 1 banana
    2. Lunch
      1. Cheesy Mac-n-Beans
        1. Ingredients needed
          1. 1 box mac-n-cheese
          2. 1 can diced tomatoes
          3. dry beans (cooked)
    3. Dinner
      1. Tuna Sandwich
        1. Ingredients
          1. 2 slices of bread
          2. 1/2 can Tuna
          3. 1/2 T Mayo
          4. 1/2 slice Onion
      2. 1 cup Milk
  • Day 2
    • Breakfast
      • A bowl of oatmeal
      • 1 egg
      • 1 cup milk
      • 1 banana
    • Lunch
      • 1 Tuna Sandwich
        • Ingredients
          • 1/2 can Tuna
          • 2 slices bread
          • 1/2 T mayo
          • 1/2 slice onion
      • 1 cup milk
    • Dinner
      • Boiled Dinner
        • Ingredients
          • Cabbage
          • Onions
          • Potatoes
      • 1 cup milk
  • Day 3
    • Breakfast
      • 1 bowl Oatmeal
      • 1 cup milk
      • 1 banana
    • Lunch
      • 1 egg salad sandwich
        • Ingredients
          • 1 egg
          • 2 slices bread
          • 1 T Mayo
          • Onion
      • Water
      • 1 banana
    • Dinner
      • My choice of either
        • Leftover boiled dinner
        • or Leftover Cheesy mac-n-beans
      • 1 cup milk

As you can see I was able to figure out things that were healthy, but also ended up getting mac-n-cheese which has a questionable degree of healthiness to it.

Here is a list of the items I would need to buy for this menu with prices for items based on the prices at  Warren Shurfine  where I was given permission to take some pictures of items on my list so I could include them, here’s a link to the video I posted on YouTube for the PAMHI $24 Challenge.

  • Shopping list
  • 1 pound bag of dry kidney beans – $2.19
  • 1 box of mac-n-cheese – $0.75
  • 1 small sweet onion – $0.99 per pound
  • 1 small head of cabbage $0.59 per pound
  • I purchased one that day and it cost about $1.29 for a roughly 2 pound head of cabbage that day
  • 1 small box of Oatmeal – $1.49
  • 1 gallon of low-fat Milk – $3.41
  • 1 dozen eggs – $1.19
  • 1 – 5 ounce can of Tuna $1.09
  • 5 pound bag of potatoes – $2.99
  • 3 bananas – $0.69 per pound
  • Total amount I would have spent for items on this list was about $21.00

Special thanks to the folks at Warren Shurfine for giving me permission to take the photos of items found in the slide show  I made to go with this post.

Money Monday – February 6, 2012 (Part 2)

I got enough tips and ideas I decided to split this into a two-part series, the first part if you missed it can be found by clicking here

Hope you enjoy the tips and ideas, I have my Facebook friends to thank for all of them.

  • Rachel Offered this idea
    • “I guess I would just remind people who the library is a great place to save money. Ours offers computers, free classes, clubs, movies and a discount book store. You can also borrow DVDs, CDs, books, tapes or MP3s of books. In our county we have access to every library in the county with one card; a catalog of hundreds of thousands of items at our fingertips. Any thing you order is delivered to your home library. You can get a movie queue going like with Netflix, but it’s all free.”
    • “Borrowing a good basic cook book and cooking from scratch saves so much over prepared food. “
    • “Also, when I leave the library with a big pile of books I feel RICH even though I didn’t spend a dime.”
  • Denny offered this tip
    • “Read your utility bills line by line, if you don’t know what a line means CALL and ask. If something changes CALL and ask. And each time you call ASK if there are any DEALS that might help you save money. Often they have deals that are NOT publicized, and the PHONE company is the VERY WORST for making mistakes and adding fees for what ever that they WILL take off if you question them. I have gotten anywhere from as little as $0.50 taken off my bill up to over $50.00 one time by asking why is it there what does it mean, why am I paying it.”

Money Monday – February 6, 2012 (Part 1)

For this Money Monday post, I decided to do something a little different, and recruited the help of my Facebook friends who’s brains I picked to see what they do to save money and stretch their dollars a little further, I present to you a 2 part post compiling tips and ideas they gave me to share with my readers.  Special thanks to each contributor for this little project, I truly appreciate it!

  • Jen H-C said she does a couple of things ….
    • “I buy generic/store brand when I buy food…there is minimal difference (if any) in quality. That allows me to splurge on items that are worth it, such as toilet paper, tissues, paper plates, makeup, etc. If you buy generic of those items, you often use twice as much! And who wants a ripped tissue?”
    • “Sometimes generic is not a bargain! I will take the time to figure out how much a certain item (more expensive stuff like soap, cat litter, detergent, etc.) is per pound or per ounce…sometimes a sale on a brand name does make it cheaper than generic!”
    • “A change jar! I keep them everywhere…the ashtray of my car is one, there’s one on my dresser, in my office at work too. Anytime I break a bill, I save the change in a jar (sometimes I keep quarters for vending machine, meters, etc…but you get the idea). Then when they get full, I take them to the bank and use the money for spending money on vacation. I can end up saving a few hundred dollars that way within a year…!”
  • An anonymous friend, gave me the following list of things she does to help stretch her dollars further
    •   Shop at thrift shops, household sales and antique shops
    • darn socks
    • hang cloths to dry
    • take short showers
    • “But I’m not willing to compromise on things that involve my health and happiness as I do value myself more than my $.
    • I use a credit card that earns points for almost all purchases, even groceries, insurance, medical, etc. I pay it off in total every month and still earn points. Each Christmas I can buy over a hundred dollars in gifts and use my points–the gifts and shipping are free.”
    • “I also make gifts such as scarves, embroidered towels and pillow cases.”
    • “Some of my friends barter for both products and services.”
  • Marissa offered the following list
    • Buy off-brand items
    • Recycle cans/bottles
    • Buy cheap food choices: rice, potatoes, pasta, bananas, etc
    • Buy uncooked, unpackaged food and cook at home
    • Pack lunches
    • Use sunlight during the day and sparingly at night. Try candles, and always turn off lights when leaving a room.
    • Turn down refrigerator temperature to conserve  energy
    • Turn washing machine to highest spin to conserve energy
    • Bike or walk instead of driving when possible
    • Use Netflix and other online sites instead of cable
    • Use a water filter instead of buying water jugs
    • Unplug appliances while not in use, otherwise they consume energy even when turned off
    • Hang laundry to dry
    • Keep appliances as clean as possible to extend their life: pull off the bottom-front piece on your refrigerator and clean thoroughly every year, change air filter at least every 2 months
    • Use coupons
    • Buy second-hand
    • Buy at garage sales
    • Turn down thermostat as low as is bearable (you can always put on more clothes for warmth); also open windows for temperature control, during the day for heat or during night to cool
    • Eat well and exercise to avoid medical bills
    • Drink water instead of juice or soda
    • Plant a garden
    • Make sure you get frequent oil changes and keep your tires well-inflated for better mileage. Try not to break hard or start-up fast; the smoother your transitions the better your mileage gets.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post to be posted on Tuesday, February 7, 2012 …..

Money Monday – Jan. 23, 2012

Without money

Image by Toban Black via Flickr

I know I usually pick some sort of “theme” for my Money Monday Topics, but this time I decided to go through my bookmarks and simply list some sites I like to visit when I want to try to acquire new money-saving ideas.  Some of them offer similar suggestions, but at  the same time, I typically find some tidbit I haven’t seen before, or am reminded of something I slacked off on doing.  Some are blogs, while others are sites dedicated to anything that falls under the heading of free or low-cost.  Often times if you look at these sites you’ll find that “Frugal” and “Green” seem to show up together within the same site.

Anyway, here’s some of the link I’ve acquired and enjoy visiting for ideas on how I can get more bang for my buck (so to speak)

Tips in general

  • BeingFrugal.net ‘Live more. spend less.’
  • Sense to Save  ‘There’s more to saving money than common sense’
  • “Thriving on Less” free downloadable e-book with tips and ideas for simplifying and saving money
  • TipHero.com – HUGE site with money-saving tips covering more topics than a single person could absorb in a day … and there’s always more ideas showing up it’s one of my favorite sites
  • The Caregivers Marketplace – offers cash back rebates on items used by people who give or get care the items are typically needed but not covered by insurance and is free to join
  • The Simple Dollar – Financial talk for the rest of us (Down to earth financial information that doesn’t need the reader to have a business degree it’s in plain language that even I can understand and financial stuff confuses me easily)


Money Monday – Laundry Tips

A clothes line with some pegs (clothespins) ne...

Image via Wikipedia

Here are some links to sites offering tips on how to spend less while doing your laundry.

I know all too well that having a clothesline in the yard isn’t always possible.  I live in a 1 bedroom apartment and even though there is a yard, it isn’t available for a clothesline.  So, what I’ve done is I got a drying rack which I set up in my bedroom, and hang as much as I can on it, but if I need more hanging space then it allows I resort to using hangers and hanging them on my door frames or shower curtain rod.  I try not to use the shower curtain rod, but sometimes it can’t be avoided at this point.   I’m working on getting another drying rack which should solve the problem and further prevent me from needing to use my shower curtain rod.  The obvious savings for me hanging items to dry is that I save $1 by not feeding it into the dryer.  I also don’t need to buy dryer sheets since I don’t use a dryer it would be silly to buy them.  Since drying clothes can make them feel rough, I found that simply adding 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the washer seems to help soften things a bit.  White vinegar is pretty cheap I think I paid less then $2 for a gallon of it, but it’s been a little while since I needed to buy it so I’m guessing a little on the price, but I do know it was cheaper then buying fabric softener.  Something else I’ve been experimenting with is spraying my clothes with white vinegar when I hang them up to dry.  This seems to work as well, and don’t worry, the vinegar smell goes away so you don’t have to worry about smelling like a salad.

Money Monday …. pop V$. bottled water

At one point I was drinking two 2-liter bottles of pop a day … everyday.  No surprise about why I weigh as much as I do now when I think about that concept, but I’ve since cut way back on the amount of pop I drink, and am primarily drinking bottled water.  Yes, it would be easy to argue that I could just as easily drink tap water, but to be honest I tried that and found it was easier to get a bottle of something to drink then it was to get a glass of tap water.  I haven’t figured out why this is, but getting a glass of tap water seems like such a pain to me somehow and is something I generally won’t do if I have a choice I prefer grabbing a bottle popping it open and drinking it.Any way, I just did some number crunching based on my most recent purchases of both pop and bottled water.

If I drink one bottle of store brand birch beer (3 liter size) per day every day like I use to, it would cost me  $601.44 per year  Fortunately I’m getting a little wiser, and discovered I do like water if it’s in a bottle, so now I drink mostly water … about a case a week  If I drink 1 case (24 bottles) of water per week over the next year, paying $3.50 per case, it will cost me $168.00 for the year.

Here’s how I got these numbers.

  • Pop
  • $1.79 per bottle
  • $12.53 per week (bottle price times 7)
  • $50.12 per month (week price times 4 weeks)
  • $601.44 per year (monthly price times 12 months)
  • *** Note Sales tax wasn’t figured in above, but if I include it, PA sales tax is 6% which would be about $36.09 per year on the pop which would increase the cost to $637.53 per year including tax
  • Water
    • $0.15 per bottle (rounded)
    • $3.50 per week (price for 1 case of water per week)
    • $14.00 per month (week price times 4)
    • $168.00 per year (month price times 12 months)

    I didn’t include  sales tax in my calculations … just the price I was charged before any tax.

    By switching from my favorite store brand of Birch Beer to bottled water bought by the case, I could save about $433.44 per year

    I use to think that bottled water was expensive but now that I did that comparison, I’m feeling like bottled water may be easier not just on my waistline, but also on my wallet

    Money Monday “Supermarket Confidential: How Grocery Stores Psych Us Out”

    Article link

    This article posted on DivineCaroline.com discusses some o the tactics commonly used by grocery stores to get us to part with our money

    Money Monday

    Various Federal Reserve Notes, c.1995. Only th...

    Image via Wikipedia

    101 ways to save money – offers tons of down to earth ways to save money and stretch your dollar just a little further

    10 unusual ways to save money – This is a short list on the US News website, but as I read this, I realized that I already do some of them, but could maybe improve on.  While others, were things I remember seeing my Mom or Grandma doing when I was a kid and never understood why they did it ….. now it suddenly makes sense and my Mom and Grandma truly became wiser in my eyes 🙂

    The theme of the sites I included links to, in many ways seems to be one of encouraging folks to get as much use out of what they have, rather than assume that a “disposable” item is strictly a single use item, if possible give it another purpose after its initial use.  Or, even look at how much use you will get from something at the time of your purchase, if you will only use it once, and it’s something that is somewhat pricey to buy, maybe consider borrowing the item from someone else.  Bartering can be helpful, as can bulk shopping.

    Be realistic though, if you see an item on sale and know its a good price, ask yourself if it is something you really have a use for.  In my opinion, it’s ok to have extra of things you actually use, but if you are getting stuff just because its on sale despite not having an actual use or need for the item, you may be defeating the purpose of saving money.

    I’m all for the use of coupons, store discount cards, and doing what you can to combine these to increase your savings, I do it myself.  I tend to have some concern though as I watched a show called “Extreme Couponing” on TLC.  I was in awe of how much they managed to get and how little they paid for it, but then when the extreme coupon shoppers began showing off their “stockpile” of stuff they had accumulated, and one person in particular bragged about having 100 packs of diapers, but in the same breath pointed out she didn’t have any kids, and was “preparing” for when she does have kids.  I found my mind turning in a direction of thinking that the next show we’ll see come out on TV will be something about stockpiling unnecessarily.

    While yes, I do encourage people to stretch their dollars, and strive to get the most bang for their buck, I would also like to stress that there needs to be a balance between saving money and extreme stockpiling.  Buy what you need or can reasonably use and if you don’t need it, don’t buy it.

    In closing, here is a link to a page on Wikipedia that talks about the history of coupons and even talks about their purpose.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coupons

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