Day By Day© by Chris Muir.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Extra Protein

I've done a lot of gardening posts, it's time for some more MEAT.

Tilapia – how to raise indoors. You need a 55 gal. barrel.  I think you don't even need a pump, as long as you change out a certain percent of the water (with a bucket?) every so often.  You have to get the chlorine out of the water first before putting it in.  Apparently Vitamin C tablets are good for this; or a friend of mine with a small ornamental fish tank just lets a bucket of water sit for a week and then uses it.  Green algae is good with this system, it's not to worry about.  You can also grow plants in your water (rice, ginger, chayote).  Tilapia goes for $7 and $8 a pound in the store.  But don't count on getting rich with this, it takes 7 months to raise a fish to the size you would want to bother to eat, and one of these barrels might hold 12 fish.  A tilapia tank is a good place to put a little bit of chicken manure.  It will make the algae grow more, which is like free food for the tilapia.
While I'm talking about protein, the little tilapia like protein themselves.  You can feed them earthworms or bugs. this guy tells all and has links where to buy tanks and fish at the end of his webpage.

Rabbits - You can eat a rabbit a week, if you get 1 buck and 2 does and breed them.  You need a bunch of hutches, maybe 6 or 8 of them to start, 18 inches by 2 1/2 ft and 18 inches high. Well, at least 3 to start, but soon you will need MORE.  The bottoms should be wire, and then you can have trays of earthworms and dirt underneath to catch the poop.
Rabbit poop can be used as manure right away.  It doesn't need to be rotted like cow or horse manure.  This is good, because you'll have lots of it.  However, it's easier to sell earthworm poop, so if you were wanting to sell some manure, it's best to have earthworms process the rabbit poop and turn it into earthworm poop, and then sell that.  Otherwise, just throw the rabbit poop right on your garden.
You also need some nesting boxes for when the females give birth.
I will post more later about raising rabbits.  I did a bunch of research and it's around here somewhere.  There's certain breeds that are good for meat, and some that are good for fur, and some that are good for both.
I saw one design for hutches where it was 4 hutches high, and 2 hutches wide.  In between the two stacks of hutches was a space where you could get into each one for feeding.  That seemed like a handy design.

Of these two projects, I'd say that the tilapia one is probably going to cause fewer problems if it's indoors, in fact it needs to be indoors because tilapia like it warm.  The rabbits, well, I'm not sure you'd want a whole bunch of rabbit cages indoors.  Maybe on a sun porch, or in a mud room, if you kept it real clean.
Picture credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Archive, ,

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I looked up good websites so you don't have to!

It's hot out!  I'm feeling lazy.  So I'm just going to share with you all some of my collection of good websites.    (this is not my cat----->) Good survivalist website (self described as the Mythbusters of the genre) people in London planting median strips etc. Free e-books on DIY rain barrels, homemade stoves, getting off the grid, preparedness, etc. Musical instruments from discarded materials. This guy is really talented. He made a lute type thing from a salad bowl. Then he made a virginal (like a mini harpsichord). 20 scam free ways to make money online fast The Gulching Guide (freedom-oriented intentional communities, named after Galt's Gulch from "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand) these good folks live in a travel trailer on rural land, and constructed all their own utilities out of necessity, but now they like their lifestyle. They tell exactly how they got cheap water storage, a big blackwater tank, electric, etc. and water their garden with greywater. this guy builds very small houses that meet international building code. The houses go for around $25K but you have to put them on land. He also sells plans and a book. Feed a family of 4 to 6 on $45 a week

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Little Tax Rant

I have calculated what a modest self-employed person pays in taxes.

Most or all self-employeds pay around 40% of their income in taxes (and so do regular employeds indirectly, read on to find out why):
Social security  and Medicare insurance. The self-employment tax rate is 15.3%. This rate consists of two parts: 12.4% for social security (old-age, survivors, and disability insurance) and 2.9% for Medicare (hospital insurance). This is up to the first $106,800 of your combined wages, tips and net earnings for the Social Security part and all of your wages, tips, and net earnings for the Medicare.
You generally have to make estimated tax payments if you expect to owe tax, including SE tax, of $1,000 or more when you file your return. (this would be in quarterly installments).
If you are an employee, your employer pays half of this 15.3%.   But of course, the wage they offer you takes this into account.  Don't think for a minute that if you are a W-2 employee that you are escaping from the payment of the employer half of this tax: your wage is lower because your employer has to pay the other half of this tax.  (If you are self employed you have to pay all of it yourself, so you should charge at least whatever will, when 7.515% is deducted, equal what the employee gets.)
Then, you have to pay Federal income tax, depending on your tax bracket.  You can look up the payment required on the IRS website.  They have tables for this.  I gave an example a bit below that is typical for your average modest earner that I calculated from the IRS Circular E. It's on Page 39 of the publication.
Then, there's state tax, if your state has one.  Generally this hovers around 2%.  If you're really curious, look up your state's guide to employer taxes.
Then, there's local tax, also around 2% in general.
So you're paying 19.3% in Social Security, Medicare, state and local tax, PLUS Federal income tax.
If you are paid $200 to $693 a week weekly, according to the IRS's Circular E, your income tax is $8.40 plus 15% of anything over $200.00
So say you make $500 a week, your Federal income tax would be $8.40 plus 15% of $300. or $53.40
$53.40 is 10.68% of 500.00.
Even in a modest tax bracket (26K/year at 500/week, assuming you never get sick or take a vacation) you would then pay 29.98% of your income for taxes.
But it doesn't stop there.  What about excise tax on your automobile, property tax (I think it is usually around 2% of the value of your home per year), and those kind of things?  If you own a $100K house, which is a fairly decent but modest house in the Midwest, you can add another $2K per year for property tax, if excise tax is 2% then a $15K car is $300 a year.  So $2300 out of $26K is another 9% or so.  So then your total tax equals 38.98% of your income.  Your 26,000 became $15,865.20 all of a sudden.  So you have to live on $1322.10 a month.  And this is making $12.50 an hour, which is considered a fairly decent "wage" where I live.
(Here is an aside about landlords) Don't think that by renting you escape property tax.  Your landlord has to make a buck, or at least break even on his mortgage.  (I am using the male, where there are many landladies too like me.  So all you landladies, forgive me).  So you are paying his mortgage, property taxes and insurance, as you would yours if you owned.  You are also paying for the upkeep on the property, but you would have to pay that anyway if you owned too.  As a landlord, from experience I know that landlords really don't make a killing on rent - they often have to spend 2 or 3 times the amount of the security deposit fixing the place in case of vacancy, plus they often must keep the apartment vacant for 2 or 3 months before they finish fixing it and find someone else, so they basically break even even if they are making $100 or even $200 a month more than the mortgage, tax and insurance on the rent.  The traditional way a lender treats rental property for income, is as if it only made 75% of what the rents are.  This mostly is true, although a good landlord with property in a good area can get it up to maybe 85 or even 90%.
Where a landlord actually makes money is not from rent but in three other places: buying the house at a discount, which he doesn't really make until he sells; in the slow appreciation of the property (which mostly just keeps up with inflation unless you are lucky to buy in an area that booms); and in the depreciation tax deduction.  It is funny that the tax man depreciates the property while it is actually appreciating in real life. You can deduct the basis (purchase price) of the house over 27 1/2 years.  But you don't get to keep that in the long run.  As the depreciation goes, the landlord would have to pay whatever he's up to in depreciation back if he sold the house, unless he does something called a 1031 like-kind exchange and buys another piece of real estate to replace it.  The tax-adverse landlord hopes to sell his property after he retires from his day job and goes into a lower tax bracket, so that the impact of the recapture of depreciation is offset by his lower retirement income.  Or he will hold on till he dies and his heirs get a new basis.
Well, anyway you can see that even someone, whether self-employed or not, with a very modest income has to pay almost 40% in taxes.  I did not take into account if you had any employees, which would require you to pay unemployment tax on your employees as well as half their Social Security and Medicare tax, which adds an additional 20% to their wages; or sales tax, or taxes like transfer tax on real estate transactions, speeding tickets from speed traps, the taxes you pay as part of your phone bill, or any of that.  You could add those up too if you really wanted to get mad.
And just think, whenever money changes hands, the recipient has to pay tax on it all over again.  So for example you spend your already-taxed money on a washing machine, and then the appliance store has to collect and pay sales tax from you, then they have to pay employment taxes on their employees, and then income tax on their earnings, and so does Maytag, and then so does Maytag's suppliers, and so forth and so on, down to the miners who dig out the ore to make the washing machine.
What does it all go to pay for? STUPID STUFF!
Bank bailouts, where the banks then sent their money overseas to foreign banks (their own guarantors), and then didn't lend anymore anyway.
The war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This is a war that seems like it will never end.  And a lot of the money we put there just went poof and disappeared, nobody can account for millions.
Welfare recipients in California (this was on NPR this morning) are able to use their welfare debit cards in CASINOS.  The state of California just found this out and is taking steps to end it, but for god knows how long they've been able to spend their welfare money at ATM machines right on the gaming floors.
The Bridge to Nowhere in Ketchikan, Alaska, for example, or any other Pork Barrel project.
I could go on but I'm sure you can find your own stupid stuff, it's not too hard to find.
And what happens if you refuse to pay your taxes?  I think you go to jail eventually... or if you resist those guys who come to take you there, you get shot.  I pay my taxes, but I sure as heck don't smile while doing it.  I do get some deductions from being a performing artist.  If you like to do anything artistic, I recommend you go into business with it.  Who knows, you might even make money at it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cheap Drinks

Here are some recipes for cheap drinks.

Ginger Switchel
I got this recipe from Living Well on Practically Nothing: Revised and Updated Edition by Edward H. Romney and made it. It was pretty good but rather weak.
I compared it to some other recipes on the Internet for the same thing and I think his recipe is deliberately pretty dilute. If you want yours to be stronger, add more stuff. Basically it was something like this (fortunately the exact amounts aren't that important):
Half a gallon of water
1 Tbsp. Molasses
1 tbsp. Vinegar (cider vinegar'd probably be best)
Some dried ginger to taste
Just mix them up and chill.

Stretching Juice
In my hippie days we used to make herbal tea and mix it with a little juice and put that in the fridge. Or just water down your juice a bit.

Hobo wine

Flavor your own coffee: add cinnamon or orange peels or vanilla to it when you brew.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

On Becoming an Ex-Pat to Avoid Taxation

I thought I would examine this popular scheme that floats around the Internet and see if there is anything to it.

First, know that the US will tax your foreign income even if you live abroad, as long as you are a US citizen. Therefore you would have to become a citizen of a different country and then renounce your US citizenship in order to avoid paying US taxes by going abroad.

Also, the US, if they figure out you left the country for tax avoidance reasons rather than some other reason, will not let you back in.  Ever.

That being said, if this idea still appeals to you, you need to find another country to become a citizen of first.  Some countries that it is easier to get residency, and then citizenship, that have good passports for traveling, are Ecuador, Brazil, Paraguay, and Singapore, according to I would add Panama to that.

You can also get citizenship in some countries if you had a grandfather from that country or if you marry someone from that country. But some countries (in Europe mostly) will double tax you while you remain a US citizen.

It will be almost impossible for you to gain citizenship elsewhere if you have a criminal record. You may think to try to get around that and buy a passport. This is quite dangerous, because sometimes the passport is registered as stolen, or it's fake, and you'll get found out eventually. And there goes your money down the toilet, as well as your freedom. So if you have anything on your record, try to get it expunged before leaving. Some countries also will not let you become a citizen if you went bankrupt. I have not been able to find the answer to whether a bankruptcy will wear off the way it eventually does in the US, for purposes of emigrating. If anyone knows, please comment.

You want to avoid some countries where you can just buy a passport for cheap, such as Mozambique, because too many other countries know about this trick so the passport's not worth much for travel.

A guy named Harry Schultz espoused a system of living part-time in different countries and spreading your personal life over 3 countries, or “flags”, becoming a “perpetual traveler” or PT.

  • Have your citizenship somewhere that does not tax income earned outside the country.
  • Have your businesses and speculations in stable, low or no tax countries.
  • Live as a tourist in countries where what you esteem is valued, not outlawed.

Some folks add 2 more countries to this, one for leisure and one for storing your assets.

These techniques are designed to keep you free from the taxes associated with living and working in the same place. These, combined with the lower cost of living in other countries, could save you money. But it also takes a certain amount of money to do this in the first place. This idea, I think, is best for someone who has a considerable portable income, but who won't get homesick for the US.

A couple of caveats I might add are

  1. there are apparently a lot of US Gov't agents (like IRS agents) lurking in popular ex-pat countries like Panama.

  2. If you are determined by the US Atty. General to have renounced US citizenship for tax reasons they won't let you have an entry visa after that. You could end up not being able to come back and visit.

  3. Some places, like Thailand, are not a good place for a married couple to go. The man will get bothered by the women there nonstop, which could wreck your marriage. Women, you have been warned.

  4. This system pretty much requires you to pack up and go to another country every 3 months so you don't outstay a tourist visa.

  5. If you make more than $100K a year or have more than $500K in assets, the IRS will tax you anyway for another 10 years after you renounce your citizenship, because they figure that you did it to avoid taxes and they have this regulation for that. They go back 5 years to determine this. So arrange your affairs accordingly.

In conclusion, one could try to emigrate to avoid taxation, but it is at the risk of not being able to come back, and you still could get taxed for 10 more years. Plus you need to only make less than $100K/year and have less than $500K for 5 years before you try it. I'd also say, if you decide to do this, tell nobody that it's for taxes. Come up with some reasonable other excuse.
PT: The Perpetual Traveler

Homemade Toiletries on the Cheap

You should not skimp on keeping clean (i.e. keep your appearance neat, brush and floss your teeth, don't stink, and don't let your hair get greasy). Personal hygiene costs pennies per day, only takes maybe 15 minutes to half an hour a day (that's if you're styling your hair); and if you don't keep clean, it will cost you opportunities you won't even know about. I'm talking money and romance here. I think the opportunity cost outweighs the few cents or minutes you would save by an order of magnitude.

However, if you ever run out of some toiletry and don't have money right then, or if you think the prices at the store are ridiculous, here are some things you can do instead.

This lady tells how to clean your hair without shampoo. Use a squirt bottle with baking soda water, and then rinse with vinegar!

Instead of shampoo you can also use dish soap, or even bar soap. Or conversely, if you run out of soap, you can wash with shampoo.

Instead of deodorant, you can rub your armpits with alcohol. This is the active ingredient in most deodorants. Actually, alcohol in the armpits a couple times a day can cure chronic body odor too.

Another deodorant substitute: poof baking soda into your pits. You could add some corn starch to that, and if you already have some, a few drops of tea tree oil is nice. (antibacterial).

Baking soda and salt make a good toothpaste. If you want it flavored, get some flavoring extract and add it (mint, almond, lemon, etc). If the salt is too abrasive, leave it out.

I had a boyfriend once who brushed with baking soda and peroxide. His teeth were pretty white, so I'm guessing the peroxide bleached them out.  Hey, there's the answer to that annoying ad about white teeth that keeps popping up everywhere.  And you got it for free from me!

Recycle the nub of your lipstick, make lip gloss: Dig out the last of the lipstick, mix with 1 part Vaseline, 1 part beeswax, zap it in the microwave for maybe 5 seconds, if that's not enough, zap it for 10 seconds, etc., stir it up, put it in some little container to harden (maybe an old film container?). If you don't have Vaseline, use some olive oil and beeswax, about half and half, to make the Vaseline equivalent. I am betting you could substitute paraffin for the beeswax, like a piece of a tea candle.

To make chap stick, increase the amount of wax.

Here's a recipe to make your own eyeshadow. . It's the mica that is the pigment, you can get different colors of mica. I am not sure how much of a savings this would be, though. But it looks like fun.

When I was about 12, I wasn't allowed to wear makeup so I got sneaky and made my own eyeshadow out of colored chalk and hand cream. It actually worked!

I saw another recipe online using 3 pts. flour, 1 part Vaseline, and food coloring. Instead of flour you could use arrowroot powder. I'm assuming this wouldn't shimmer since it has no mica in it.

Homemade eyeliner: Burn an almond and use the soot to draw on your eyelids.

You can also take an eyeliner brush and dip in in your mascara for a liquid eyeliner, if all you have is mascara that day.

Nail polish: If your nail polish got lumpy, put a couple drops of nail polish remover in it and shake it up for a minute or two.. You can also mix polishes or add eyeshadow powder to clear or white nail polish to get a custom color. I looked into the possibility of using car paint as nail polish, but I'm concerned that the car paint might have toluene or other chemicals in it that aren't safe for personal use.

However, I also found the converse: here is a lady who painted her car using 250 bottles of donated used nail polish! I suppose one could do this if one had the misfortune of having an old car that the paint was peeling off of and one didn't mind having a hippie car afterwards.

On that note, happy grooming!

Friday, June 18, 2010

How to monetize a website, make money online, free or cheap

Here are some ways to make money online, if you don't want to deal with auctions, making stuff, and/or stocking and sending out things.

Build a website or blog for free. (that's where this blog is) is free.  You can also build a website for free on Geocities, for example, using their online tools, or Google Pages.  But if you have hosting that comes with your internet access account, you can also build one yourself using a WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) editor.  I recommend KompoZer.  It's free.  I just got it and have been playing with it, it seems to do the job nicely.  Then upload your page with FTP (File Transfer Protocol), there are several free ones out there for trial use, or maybe your internet provider has a page for uploading files.  Build one that reflects what interests you. Build several, one for each subject.  For example, say you are interested in tropical islands, cowboys, running, frugality, etc.  Make a page about each.  If you root around, there are also free templates that you can start with. Here's some at

Use keywords.  In order to get your page higher in search engines, you should use Google AdWords' keyword tool  to find keywords to use in your page(s).  (it's free).  There is a good how-to for this tool at  It says to use keywords whose search volume is under 25,000 per month, or your page will get lost among millions.  Also (this isn't in that article), don't use a whole lot of keywords or phrases in each page, focus on one, and use it in the title of the page and a couple times in the first paragraph.  Do not stuff your page with the keyword.  Keep it to 5 or less times.

Get a domain name.  You can buy a domain name in a lot of places, but I use  It's around $9 or $10 a year for a domain name.  They also have extras, like email mailboxes and the like, if you want that sort of thing.  Then go to to point the domain name at your website. (it's free).

Write an ebook.  All an ebook is, is a PDF file.  Just write something in Word or (if you want a free office suite) OpenOffice Writer, then get a free PDF converter like at and turn it into a PDF.  Some PDF converters also will let you put links in your ebook, which can be used to direct readers to your website(s).  Sell your ebook on E-Junkie. It's $5 per month for up to 10 ebooks and you can put links to your publications on your blog or website.  They also support links from Facebook etc.  If you are a nonprofit you can get their service for free. You can also sign up to be an affiliate for other people's products through them, for free.

Sell ads.  Once you have your website up, you can not only sell your ebook, but also sign up for Google Adsense or Chitika and sell ads through them on your website.  Some make-money-online guides will tell you that you can do this immediately after creating a webpage.  My experience though, is I'm still waiting for an Adsense account, and I'm also waiting for a Chitika account. From what I understand, you have to have a very established blog or website (at least 6 months worth of regular posts), with a lot of visitors, to get with them. So I don't understand how the above advice would work if you had just created a brand new site. However, you could monetize a new site using the other techniques in this blog post without selling those kind of ads, and then add them when you got more established.

Sell art.  If you are artistic, you could design images for t-shirts and coffee mugs and the like and sell them on Zazzle and Cafepress.  You don't have to pay for the inventory, you just get a commission when they sell one.

Get stats.  Sign up with Quantcast to get your page ranked. This will help with ratings.  It will also help you know where your site stands, for free.  If you have practically no visitors, these stats won't help you much, but as you get more, it will help you see how your page is performing.

Get readers.  Sign your blog up with This will help you spread the word about your blog.  Also don't forget to go onto social networking sites like Facebook and announce your posts.  You might want to have a separate identity on FB for your blog than for your personal self, but that's up to you.

Become an affiliate. I've used before. (Commission Junction). Then you can sell other people's products on your website.  Say you made a website about cowboys, you can look for western wear affiliate programs, etc.

Be patient and persistent.  Everything I've read that isn't some hyper sales pitch indicates that it takes some time for a website or blog to "catch on".  6 months to a year is about right.  So you might not have much of an audience at first, but keep adding content so it doesn't get stale, and you'll eventually get a following.  Have good, fresh content.  You wouldn't keep going back to a site that had sucky content or content you'd already seen, either.  If you have a blog, be consistent about how often you post or your readers will get fickle.

Even if you're just starting out you can be an affiliate of Amazon.  Amazon has a decent affiliate program. You may have noticed I have Amazon links at the bottoms of some of my posts.
In fact, here are some now (betcha didn't see that one coming).  By the way SEO on that book in the middle means Search Engine Optimization.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cheap or Free Travel

You don't need a lot of money to travel.  That is a myth perpetuated by the travel industry.  Avoid the all-inclusive packages, pricey hotels, etc. and try these links below.

Accommodations – Organization where people exchange/advertise a free place to spend a night or 2 while traveling – organic farms that will put you up in exchange for work $30/yr subscription and you can find caretaker gigs, and live for free free membership, another couch surfing club

Travel Cheapest way to fly, if you have a flexible schedule.  I had good experiences with them.  I do not recommend Air Hitch or Air-Hitch dot com.  I understand they are very rude.

Living in an RV or Van Great website chock full of helpful info.  They say you can live in a van or RV in the US on as little as $500 per month, but that $1,000 makes it much more pleasant. Van Dwellers Yahoo Group Workamping website (work in a campsite)

Camping Camping in Panama!  You can also get residency in Panama if you have $500 a month passive income. In Costa Rica it just went up to $1100 a month to get residency. Camping in the US, guide to campsites etc.

Books from Amazon:
Camping's Top Secrets, 3rd: A Lexicon of Camping Tips Only the Experts Know (Falcon Guides Camping)
Camping for Dummies
Trailer Life RV Parks, Campgrounds and Services Directory 2010 (Trailer Life Directory : Campgrounds, Rv Parks & Services)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Free Real Estate Ebooks and Forms

So, you want to get rental property, or at least get one house for yourself at a discount?  Short on cash?  No problem!  There are a lot of ways to invest in real estate with very little money, AND...
You can start by learning for free!  No need to pay a real estate guru lots of money.

Here are links to free real estate e-books, mostly copied from a list at a forum at (4 free books at bottom of homepage) (4 free finance e-books) (fsbo buyers/sellers handbooks) (nice beginners guide) (scroll to sign up for free book) Peter Conti, his specialty is negotiation (negotiate those foreclosures) (Subscribe to get 2 free e-books) (create notes) not just real estate here but other stuff too

Free real estate forms! These seem to be the very same forms I once paid a couple hundred bucks for a REIA membership to get.  Given, the membership was good for a lot of other things, but here's the forms!
Good free rental application at I use this form. Their website is chock full of goodies too.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tiny Houses or Alternative Construction Free Plans

If you're looking for a way to be mortgage-free you might consider living in a tiny house, or a house built with alternative construction.  If you have the house built by a builder, it will still cost quite a bit, even possibly more than buying a fixer-upper, plus the cost of the land. 

In order to save, build it yourself.  Some of the tiny houses can be put on wheels like a trailer, so you can take your house with you if you move.  You might not actually need your own land with a tiny house, you could set it up in a friend's back yard.  You can also get fixtures for your house from a salvage/reuse place.

Tiny Houses or Alternative Construction Free Plans tiny house plans cottage plans (straw bale house plans, all sizes) nice website on why they think high thermal mass concrete construction is better than other kinds of alternative construction.  Easier to do than frame construction, too.

How to buy raw land, just a short summary

Bicycle Trailers

If you are going to try to live without a car, a bike trailer would make your life easier. You could haul groceries, go out on trash night looking for treasures, give someone a ride, etc.

Free Bicycle Trailer Plans,-$30-for-pa/

Blog about nothing but bike trailers

This guy made a bicycle trailer bed/tent thing for Burning Man. Great idea, he can sleep wherever he wants to go, move his tent to the shade, etc.

Book on bike trailers:
Utility Cycling: Roundabout, Utility Cycling, Bicycle Law in California, Bicycle Transportation Engineering, Bicycle Trailer

Monday, June 14, 2010

Make Your Own Vertical Garden or Living Wall for Cheap

OK, say you want to garden but your yard is nonexistent or miniscule. You could garden vertically.

On the most basic level, you could grow vining plants in hanging baskets (i.e. the topsy-turvy tomatoes), have window boxes under your windows, nail some window boxes to a wooden fence, or stake up vining plants next to a wall. There's also espaliered fruit trees – this is where you train a fruit tree so the branches grow flat against a wall or fence. Of course you want to pick a variety that doesn't get that tall. My handyman in his home installed a set of shelves across a sunny window and has a “curtain” made of potted plants on the shelves. He also grows vegetables on his roof in containers.

At the other extreme, there are some really spectacular “living walls” done by a Frenchman named Patrick Blanc. These cover sometimes the whole side of a building. From what I can see I guess he is using some kind of growing media, probably rockwool, to cover the side of the building, putting seeds in it, and then watering the wall so it is a hydroponic vertical garden. This is lightweight compared to soil, and rockwool doesn't rot. The living walls really look great and are the latest thing in urban landscaping. Some of the pictures I've seen of living walls have plants that haven't grown to completely cover the building yet, they are regularly spaced like Swiss dots. There are also “air farms” being designed which are skyscrapers, the entire square footage of which is for hydroponic gardening.

You can also buy rockwool planting systems for rooftop gardens, either shallow or deep enough for trees. They're not cheap.

There is one company selling what amounts to a smallish cloth envelope that you can hang on a wall from grommets. They have a “tongue” inside them (just a lining) which is probably made of rockwool or peat, and the indoors version also has plastic on the inside. You are supposed to put soil in these and then water the “tongue”, which wicks the moisture to the roots. You can daisy-chain them together via the grommets.

For the frugal person, that's you and me, we could sew similar envelopes out of an old tarp, or that black plastic fabric people get for their gardens. Any kind of heavy fabric would do, although some kinds might last longer than others outside. Possibly you could use felt as a “tongue”, or pieces of old sweaters, whatever you can get that's cheap or free and wicks water. Pieces of sheet plastic, trash bags, or freezer bags could be the plastic liners, if you're making an indoors one. I would also put a clear plastic liner up on the wall behind the planting, if it were me. Don't want to rot out the drywall. You could even mount a 4-foot fluorescent light with a full spectrum bulb above the planting, if it's indoors. Just locate the cord/plug so it's not below where you're watering!

I have also seen a “pillar” tomato planter, which is one of those cardboard tubes that you pour cement into to get a pillar or piling, and there is gravel in the center, and dirt around that, and then you poke holes in the sides of the cardboard tube and stick seeds in there. You water it through the top. How you get the gravel in there, is you have another tube (maybe a PVC drainpipe) that you have in the middle, you add the dirt around it, then you put the gravel in it, then you remove the pipe, leaving the gravel.

This one guy Ray Newstead has invented a self-watering tomato planter made out of a plastic storage box. The plans are a free download . The design is a bit hardware-happy, but it uses less water than putting the plants in the ground.

Here's some books

Download Foxfire 1-3 for free

The Foxfire books were written by high school students who went around and interviewed a lot of old people of the southern Appalachians who knew country ways. This lore is being lost as people get old and die, but at least they wrote some of it down.
Foxfire 1
Foxfire 2
Foxfire 3

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Check Your County on the National Stress Index

How is your county doing in the financial stress department?
Look it up on the National Stress Index!

The least-affected states are the Dakotas and thereabouts.  The scores go from around 3 for the least stressed to 32 for the most.  My county came in around a 12.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Get a Cheap or Free House Through Adverse Possession

Adverse Possession is where you use a property that is not yours without permission for a period of time, and after that period of time you are considered to legally own the property, without having had to pay the old owner.

You use the property either by living there, farming on it, improving it in some way (i.e. putting a fence on it or a cabin), or renting it out to someone else.

Basically, squatting until by exceeding a time limit you own the place.

Sometimes people own land they don't keep tabs on. So this is sometimes possible to get away with it. Either an abandoned house, or land way out in the country.

The more typical adverse possession, however, is when someone tries to steal part of their neighbor's land by mowing it for them or puts up a fence that encroaches onto their neighbor's land. There are people who will try this stuff.

Adverse possession must be OCEAN.
Open and notorious(i.e. no secret)
Actual (merely walking on the land isn't enough.)
No permission

Some states also require more things. Such as claim of right, i.e. that you are in the right. So a guy who sneaks in and steals your plants can't claim adverse possession just because he was using the property.
Or payment of property taxes. Some states require that.
Or some states require that you improve, cultivate or enclose the property.

By attempting to adversely possess a property, the disseisor (that's the guy trying to squat on it) commits an act of trespass. If he is discovered before the deadline by the owner of the land, then the owner can evict him or get the cops to throw him out. It's all a matter of how much time someone has spent in the place. If he is discovered just as he breaks in, it's a matter for the cops. If he changes the locks and has been living there more than a day or two, and has the utilities on in his name, etc., he'd have to be evicted. And if he manages to possess the property for the required amount of time in his jurisdiction, then he is considered to own the place.

After successfully adversely possessing a property, the disseisor can sue for quiet title, and this makes it a lot easier for him to sell the property, because he can show that he has clear title.

The time frame for many states is 20 years. In California it's 5 years, but you have to pay the property taxes.

In Louisiana and Quebec, where the basis for their law is French instead of English, adverse possession is called acquisitive prescription.

You can't do adverse possession to government lands. It doesn't work in that case.

How to Get A House With Tax Lien Certificates

Sometimes people don't pay their property taxes. When they do this, eventually the taxing authority (usually the county, sometimes the city if there's city property taxes) sues them in a tax foreclosure to force the sale of their house in order to use the proceeds of the sale to pay the taxes off.

While it is tragic that someone might lose a house in which they have significant equity by not being able to pay the taxes, the other side of the coin is that someone else might gain a piece of real estate for very cheap. That someone else could be you.

Because property taxes are the first lien on a piece of property, in front of the mortgage and any mechanics' liens or certified judgments, and because foreclosure wipes out liens on property, it doesn't matter if the property had a mortgage on it. You can buy it for the taxes and it'll be free and clear.

It is possible to bid at these auctions and buy property at significant discounts. However, other bidders can bid up the price of the property. Furthermore, you must have the cash to pay for what you've bought. Still, it can be a good deal.

Some states also have an intermediate stage where the taxing authority sells an interest bearing instrument called a tax lien certificate. Basically they are getting someone else to pay the delinquent property taxes and paying them interest. They then charge the interest to the delinquent taxpayer. Some states pay really good interest on these certificates, as high as 20%. So for an investment of maybe as little as a few hundred dollars, you can be getting some pretty good interest. Most times the taxpayer catches up. Sometimes they don't. You still get the interest.

The taxing authority will sit on the tax lien certificate for a while, maybe a year, and then if the taxpayer still doesn't pay their taxes they foreclose. In most places the certificate holder only needs to apply to get the deed to the property, but in a few places they need to actually do the foreclosure themselves. In this manner, you can obtain a property for pennies on the dollar.

How to get these tax lien certificates:

Some counties only sell these certificates in bulk, but others offer them by the each to anyone. Often they'll have an auction once or twice a year. If a certificate doesn't sell at the auction, then the county offers it for sale over the counter. Some places even offer them over the Internet, so you don't need to travel there to buy the certificate.

Each state is different about whether or not they have tax lien certificates or not; and each county in states that do certificates do theirs differently from the next county. So you have to look it up, or call and ask.

Here's the Caveat Emptor: Anytime you buy one of these tax lien certificates, or bid on a property at auction, it behooves you to know what the condition is of the property. The dangers are not only that the property is run-down, or missing its plumbing, or has building orders on it. Sometimes a property might have an environmental problem. Maybe the owner isn't paying taxes on it so that he will lose the property on purpose, because otherwise he faces an EPA clean-up of an old underground gas tank. Maybe the property used to be a gas station. For this reason, many buyers of tax lien certificates check and make sure the property is not on a street corner, because gas stations are mostly on street corners. They will have also someone go look at the house and see if they can determine what its condition is. The closer to the time of the auction you can do this the better. People losing their houses often get mad and strip them of their fixtures, or thieves can break into vacant houses and do this. This could happen right before the auction.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Get Free Plants for Your Garden

If you like a plant you find, you can propagate it without seeds in many cases. This is called asexual propagation. I found a great website that explains how to do this.

This way, you can just take a small, unobtrusive cutting from some plant you like and end up with one of your very own. You're not taking a whole plant from anywhere, and you don't have to wait until it goes to seed. I'll leave it up to your conscience whether to bring some scissors or plant clippers with you when you go for a walk in your neighborhood.

My grandma over the years built a fabulous flower garden with plants from abandoned houses around Detroit. I'm sure she rooted clippings in some instances. Many of my flowers were gifts from her garden and from the kind and generous neighbor across the street from her (sweet woodruff! Yeah!). Plus bulbs that people were dividing and had too many of. Spread the love!

Free seeds: My friend who has a huge victory garden in her backyard wrote me today and said, if you have no tomato seeds, you can squeeze out the seeds from a supermarket tomato and dry them on a paper towel. Then you can simply tear them off the paper towel and plant them when it's tomato seedling time. If the supermarket sells heirloom tomatoes, so much the better, and it's worth paying a bit more for that tomato just for the seeds.

If you grow lettuce, let one or two of them go to seed and take the seedy top of the plant, and dry it out in a paper bag. Or you can shake the seeds off a spring lettuce plant onto the ground and get a second planting. I have a volunteer lettuce this year from seeds that fell on the ground last year. One year I had a volunteer tomato plant that made tons of tomatoes, from a tomato that rotted and fell on the ground the year before. You can probably do this with pepper seeds too, but I haven't tried it yet.

I planted basil from seeds that came from a basil plant I had 2 years ago, and it came up just fine.

One thing that might not work how you expect if you plant a seed, is citrus fruit trees. I think most of those are propagated by grafting, but I'm not sure if that's always the case.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Disaster Preparedness on a Budget

Disaster preparedness is an investment that could save you not only money but your life, or at least a whole bunch of discomfort. There are people who try to prepare for everything that could happen, but let's just start with an emergency car kit. In the case of a disaster, you may not be near your home but you will probably be near (or in) your car. You could consider this either a survival-while-stranded kit, or a bug-out-of-town kit.

I just prepared a car disaster kit. Here's what's in it:

Tarp (already had)
First aid kit, $10 at Wal-Mart (I have one at home, but didn't want to move it to the car)
Car fire extinguisher, $11 at Wal-Mart (just thought it was a good idea)
Magnetic-mount, lighter-powered flashlight, $8 at Wal-Mart (good for fixing flats in the dark)
4 days worth of food: trail mix, canned beans, canned chicken, a couple cans of chicken – n – dumplings for variety, plus a box of trash bags, $24 at Aldi. About twice a year I will rotate the food.
Jumper cables (already had)
Spare tire (already had, came with car)
Bigger, better, X-shaped tire iron because I'm a weakling and it works better (already had)
Tiny car jack and a worthless, itty bitty tire iron (came with car)
Can of Fix A Flat (already had)
2 gallons of water (tap water in recycled lemonade bottles)
Small assortment of tea bags (already had)
Chewing gum (already had)
Polyester fleece blanket (already had)
Camping (very small) can opener, 1 set of silverware, small steak knife (already had)
1 roll of toilet paper (already had)
Lighter (already had)
Plastic cup (already had) (and this one is separate from the one I take coffee to work in)
Small batt-powered Mag-lite (already had)
2 plastic boxes to hold this stuff in($5 at Walmart for the both)

I also plan to put a change of clothes, a poncho, a few used plastic grocery bags, some cheap sneakers in case I'm caught out in high heels, a sweater and an old coat; and I need to find flares or safety triangles. Maybe a 5 gallon gas can would eventually also be a good idea, but I don't want to drive around with a full gas can all the time. Perhaps I could leave it at home, and rotate it twice a year too.

I had planned to add instant coffee, but my jar of it had gone moldy so I threw it out. Oh well. Tea will do. I hate instant anyway.

I have read that really you want 1 gallon of water per person per day, so eventually I will get more water as well. I just didn't have enough containers at the moment and I don't want to buy bottled water. If I had been thinking harder I wouldn't have turned most of the empty lemonade bottles I scored yesterday into planters.

Now, I also go on the road with my band a lot, so this stash will also help if, for example, I forget to buy food before leaving.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Upcoming Drinking Water Crisis - 10 Years Out?

A recently retired corporate executive friend of mine said yesterday that her intelligence told her the next big war will likely be about drinking water.

There is the same amount of water in the world as there was on Day 1; however, it's not economical to desalinate water. Only a few countries do this. So salt water doesn't count much in this equation. And we humans are getting so numerous that we're using up the finite amount of drinking water faster than it can replenish itself.

Parts of the world are already having a water shortage, and the US is one of them.

The Ocallala Reservoir (in the western part of the Midwest) is getting lower and lower every year.

“According to the California Department of Water Resources, (in California) if more supplies aren’t found by 2020, the region will face a shortfall nearly as great as the amount consumed today” (Wikipedia)

Lake Mead, which supplies Las Vegas with water, is drying up and there's a 50% chance it will be dry as a bone by 2021. (The Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

The recent drought in the Southeast was not due to lack of rainfall but rather to water usage.

Countries that don't get enough water import their grain. So a worldwide water crisis will also cause a worldwide food crisis. Water shortages also cause riots.

So, what does this mean to you and what can you do about it?

Survivalists: If you are worried that the water where you live could become unfit to drink and/or that bottled water may become unavailable, you could invest $80 in a Lifesaver Bottle. or if you want something that will fit in a pocket, invest about $50 in an AquaSafe Straw, which filters as you drink. . They also have a bottle that competes with the Lifesaver. But these are very pricy, if you're trying to be frugal. Also, the filters need to be replaced from time to time.

You could invest in a rain barrel (the cheapest one over 50 gallons that I saw online was about $80, but some of them were over $200). Even with a rain barrel, you will also want a filter or two. All a rain barrel is, is a big food grade plastic (or wood) barrel with a spigot about 1/3 of the way up and a lid and rough filter in the top to keep leaves and specks from your roof out. You stick it under a downspout. Some barrels come with a pump, either hand or electric. Some pumps are solar. You might be able to make due with a clean, new trash can in a pinch, which might be like $20 or $30, but I don't know if the plastic they are made of is safe for drinking water in the long run. Plus then you won't have a spigot, but you could always ladle it out.

I keep a few gallons of water around the house in recycled bottles. This is mostly for if they're fixing the pipes out in the street and the water becomes rusty looking for a day or two. Since my emergency water's sitting around so long I would boil it before drinking. I'm not outfitted for a real crisis yet.

Apart from that, sometimes when it rains a lot I end up with water in my trash cans, which I pour on the garden. I hate to waste anything.

To save water, the average washing machine uses about 41 gallons per load. So, can you wear that pair of pants twice? Must you wash an item you only wore for an hour or two? So many of my tenants would do massive amounts of laundry all the time. I really don't understand how they generated so much laundry. But these same people would keep the heat on 80 and then complain, while standing in their bare feet and shorts in January, about their heat bill. And they would get deluxe cable subscriptions, and then not pay the rent. Grr.

Back to water. Sorry about that.

I actually don't own a washing machine (long story). For several years, I have been doing my laundry in a 3-gallon mop bucket. I use a stick to stir it a minute or two, and let it sit for about a day, and then I rinse and wring it out in the tub. I hang my laundry dry, saving on electricity for a dryer. I actually do have a dryer, a little 110 volt apartment one, but I can't wring out the hand laundry enough for the dryer to do much drying to it. I was hanging it dry partway and then putting it in the dryer, but one day I forgot to put the laundry in the dryer and it dried out on its own anyway, so now I don't use the dryer. I might still use it if it were really damp out and I had jeans to wash, because they'd probably go moldy before they dried otherwise. When I have a large item, like a comforter, to wash, I go find a washing machine and big dryer to use. This is so seldom that I don't worry about not having a washer myself.

I don't water my lawn. I only water my garden. And that I try to do at the end of the day, when it'll be cool soon. But I'm actually constantly tearing up more lawn to make more garden, so eventually I'll be watering a really big garden. I'm thinking it'll soon be rain barrel time, just for the garden and for emergency back-up.

I generally don't buy bottled water, except once in a blue moon when I'm on the road, thirsty, and forgot to bring water. Even then if I can I'll just get a “courtesy cup” of tap water from a fast food restaurant. It's good to take an old 2 liter soda bottle and refill it with water to keep in the car. You can put a squirt of some flavor, like lemon or even a drop of mint extract.

In the US, the EPA is trying to pass new amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). This stupid law would make our already safe-to-drink water even more regulated and expensive to provide. This is in my opinion a step backwards. We don't need to be worrying about infinitesimal improvements in quality, we need to be worrying about plain old availability of water.

Worldwide, there are people working on solutions to current drinking water shortages:

This guy in India has invented dew collectors.

Arab countries are building more nuclear power plants, which can power desalinization plants.

There's this Santa Monica, CA company called Sionix ( which has a semi trailer-sized portable water treatment plant. They just truck it into your site and can treat a whole lot of water with it. Might be good in a disaster like the next Katrina or Haiti, where the local water gets contaminated.

In the long run, you may consider finding a part of the world not subject to water shortages or future water shortages, and move there. In the meantime, get a rain barrel to save on watering. If you are an apartment dweller and can't have a rain barrel, save gallon jugs and bottle your own emergency water. Learn not to launder every darn thing all the time. And don't buy bottled water – it's a stupid waste of money. Just refill a bottle from the tap.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Make Your Own Microwave Popcorn Cheap

Make Your Own Microwave Popcorn Cheap

Don't buy microwave popcorn! It's so expensive and contains artificial crap. Workers in microwave popcorn factories have gotten obstructive lung disease from the “butter”.

You can make your own microwave popcorn, I did this and it works. It's really easy, safer, and much more healthy.

First, get a small paper bag, like a Burger King bag or a lunchbag. You can re-use this bag over and over again because you won't be putting oil in it.

Place a couple or three tablespoons of unpopped popcorn into the lunchbag. Fold over the opening like 3 times. You don't need any oil for it to pop! Place the bag flat on its side in the microwave, with the popcorn spread out flat inside it. Turn on the microwave for around 3 ½ minutes. You will have to experiment both with the amount of popcorn and the time. Much more than 3 ½ minutes and your popcorn will start to burn, even if it is still actively popping. That's all you do! Your popcorn will pop, then pour it out into a bowl and add whatever toppings you desire. I really like a drizzle of olive oil and either Mrs. Dash or this stuff called Zatter Greens (it's a middle eastern spice).

Of course, if you want a big pot of popcorn, then what you do is take a big pot, add about a tablespoon of oil and maybe ¼ cup of popcorn, put the burner on medium (this you have to experiment with too) with the lid on, and then when it starts to pop, shake the pot every, I dunno, 10 seconds or so, until the popping slows down considerably, then take it off the heat right away.

Popcorn is one of those things you don't want to buy in too much bulk. When it gets too old, it dehydrates too much to pop. Popcorn has to have just the right amount of water in it to pop.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How to Trap, Kill and Process Small Game

Trapping, Cleaning and Cooking Small Game

This is probably illegal within most cities, but you still might need to know how to do this some day, the way things are going. I am not going to address deer in this article, only small game.


The easiest way to trap a critter is to buy a live trap at some place like Home Depot. They cost around $40. Always check your traps twice a day – you don't want to leave critters in the traps longer than 12 hours, it's not humane. Imagine being stuck in a trap yourself, exposed to the elements and hungry.

Possums and raccoons both will go into a raccoon trap. When you handle the trap, wear thick leather gloves, such as welders gloves, in case they want to bite. Sometimes possums will get trapped in a trash can all by themselves. They'll climb in and won't be able to get out. Cat food is a good bait.

Raccoons can have rabies, distemper and parvo. You can't catch distemper or parvo, and rabies can be cooked out, but you should wear rubber gloves when handling raw raccoon just to be safe from the rabies. Needless to say, don't eat a critter that appears to be sick. Interestingly, possums don't get rabies. Their body temperature is too low for it to take in their systems. But they both eat all kinds of trash. You might want to keep them in the trap somewhere comfortable and feed them corn for a few days before slaughtering them, just to get them cleaned out a bit.

For pigeons or any other birds, what you need is a bird or pigeon trap (if you can't find one at Home Depot or a farm supply store, google “bird trap”, and you will find them). The pigeon will push the door open to get into the trap, the door will fall closed, and the pigeon only knows to push on the door, so it won't be able to get out. If the birds have a nest in your attic or some other enclosure, put the trap right up to the hole they are getting in by.

For squirrels, there are squirrel traps, which are also good for catching rats and chipmunks, if you ever had a rat problem for example. You need to check these traps and remove the critters pretty often if it's a repeating trap, because they will eventually figure out how to escape as another critter is entering.

The easiest way to quietly, humanely and safely slaughter a critter, according to this guy I know who trapped 25 raccoons on his property one summer and ate some of them, is to fill a trash can with water and put the trap down in the water for several minutes, drowning the critter. This also keeps the hide intact.

Cleaning game

How to clean a squirrel This website gives a really good tip, to get the critter wet before starting to skin it. This keeps loose fur from sticking to the meat.

How to clean small game (like raccoons)
Note: Raccoons have these little scent glands under their front legs, these need to be removed when you clean them.

To cook a possum or raccoon, you first soak the cleaned carcass in vinegar with salt in it for about a day. Then rinse it with boiling water. You can stew it, bake it or barbecue it, just like any other meat. The recipes I've seen call for carrots and celery and taters to go with them. You can make gravy from the drippings.

Possum recipes

To kill and clean a bird, first you break its neck and then chop off its head. You can skip the neck breaking and just chop off its head instead to kill it. It is much less messy if you break the neck, wait for it to stop flopping about, then chop off the head and bleed it out, because chickens flop around a bunch when they die. Maybe other birds do the same, don't know. Then dunk it in boiling water for a few seconds. This loosens the feathers. Then you pluck it. After you get the big feathers off, singe off the down (with a burning rolled up newspaper, for example). Pick out the pin feathers. Once it's plucked, you can dress it. Here's how to dress a chicken: You cut around the anus. Try not to cut the intestines. You want to detach the intestines from their anchor without cutting them so cut a little wide around it. Chop off the head at the neck (you can use scissors for this). Reach down the neck and loosen the guts up. Then pull the guts out the hole you made around the anus. Reach inside the bird and make sure you got all the guts. Then cut off the feet and get any remaining feathers off. Wrap up your bird and refrigerate immediately unless you're going to cook it right then. Wash it inside and out before cooking.

Here are instructions how to clean and dress a pigeon or dove: It's a little different, in that you slice the bird wide open and then take out the guts. Maybe it's just too small to fiddle with reaching inside it. Also there's a part called the “crop” in its neck that you remove.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How to Get Out of Debt in 10 Steps

This is how to get out of debt in 10 steps. I won't say they are easy steps. Easy to understand, but it takes a little work.

1. Make a budget that reflects your current spending:
Write down everything you spend for at least one month (keep a log in a little notebook).
Also write down your recurring bills.
Write down your income after taxes. Keep in mind there are 4.33 weeks in a month.
If you have expenses that come in yearly (like your car registration, or Christmas), divide that by 12 and add it to your budget.
Add it all up and see what your income and expenses are.
An interesting exercise is to add your commute time to the hours you work, and then take your pay and divide it by those number of hours, and that’s your real hourly wage. Sometimes a job closer to home is worth being paid slightly less, because the real hourly wage is more.

2. Add up all your debts so you know what you are facing. Note the rates you’re paying too.

3. If you have less income than expenses, you will be in trouble unless you do something.

4. In order to fix this problem, you can either increase your income or decrease expenses.

5. Ways to increase income:
Work at the type of work you can do that makes you the most money (if you’re not).
Work really hard at work. Use any downtime productively. Then ask for a raise.
Get a second job
Start a side business (pick one without a lot of expenses)
Get a roommate, or rent your extra bedroom out, or your extra parking space, etc.
Sell stuff you don’t need. Weed out your collections.
Do you get a tax refund? If so, go to your employer and fill out a new W-4 claiming one more exemption than before. It’s your money, after all – why lend it to the Fed interest free?

6. Quick ways to decrease expenses:
Are you paying payments on a luxury item like a boat or fancy second car? Sell it.
Review your auto insurance and see if you can get it cheaper
Review your cell phone bill and see if you can get it cheaper or drop some services
Perhaps a prepaid cell phone would be cheaper if you don’t use your cell a lot
Move your credit card balances onto the one that will give you the cheapest rate.
Get rid of internet and use the internet at the library or work
Get rid of cable
Don’t renew your magazine subscriptions. Cancel your newspaper subscription.
Get rid of expensive whole life insurance and get term instead
If you don’t have dependents you don’t need life insurance
Cancel any credit life insurance you have (this is life ins. they sell you to cover one big debt, like a mortgage. It’s a ripoff)
Are you paying PMI (also called MIP) on your mortgage? Has your home value gone up enough to ask them to cancel it? (You may need to pay for an appraisal in order to get this done)
Go around to a few grocery stores, making a price comparison list for items you routinely buy. See what is cheapest where. Cut coupons from the Sunday paper and use them if you buy those items. Buy the store brand if it’s cheaper – store brands are the same quality as name brands. Look for sales. Plan your menu around foods that are on sale.
Make your own meals and quit eating takeout or going out to eat. You can cook a large amount of something and freeze most of it, once a week, and eventually you will have a big choice of foods that all you have to do is thaw. Invest in a chest freezer, if you can get a used one.
Quit smoking. Don’t go out to bars. Consider quitting drinking. Cut out any other bad habits, like drugs or gambling or paying for porn.
If you have rent-to-own anything, return it in order to stop having to make payments. You end up having to pay multiples of what the item is worth when you rent to own. Then do without the item, or get one used from the thrift store.
Don't use payday loans, EVER. They charge an arm and a leg.
If you rent, get rid of enough of your stuff that you will fit into a smaller, cheaper apartment, and downsize at the end of your lease. Move closer to your job if you can.
Unplug your electronics when you are not using them – they suck up phantom power. Consider getting a smart power strip so when you turn off your computer, it also turns off your printer and scanner.
Is your car a big fat gas-guzzling SUV? Can you sell it and buy a used economy car for cash (or lower payments)? If you can own a car without having payments, your auto insurance can be lower. When you have payments they make you get comprehensive and collision.
Consider getting rid of your car and using public transportation or a bike, or at least getting rid of your second car if you have two.
Use a bike to do local errands, instead of your car. Put less mileage on the car.
Above all, stop using your credit cards to pay for stuff. Either cut them up or freeze them into a block of ice so you have to wait a couple days if you want to use one – the temptation may wear off during that time. Don’t carry them on you. Give yourself a cash allowance for sundries and when it’s gone it’s gone.
If you have two incomes, and you are paying for day care, calculate the expense of day care vs. the smaller income after taxes. Also throw in mileage costs to and from the job and the day care. Does it still make sense to have the second income at the expense of the day care? What if you took in a couple other kids to babysit during the day for money? Would you make more then? Just a thought.

7. Now that you have done a bunch of things to save money and make more money, do another budget. If you now have more income than expenses, congratulations! Take that money and overpay the debt with the highest rate, until it’s paid off. Then put it on the one with the next highest rate, and so forth. Or, you can do the debt with the highest payment, or the debt with the smallest balance. You don’t need to hire a company to make your debt payments for you! They are almost all ripoffs. You can do it yourself.

8. Either when you are done paying off debts, or maybe during this time, take a certain portion of this extra money and start an emergency fund of at least $1,000 and preferably more than that. Some financial people say 6 months worth of expenses is a good number to shoot for. Then next time your car breaks down or you have an unexpected expense, you won’t need to use your credit cards.

9. When you are done paying debts, don’t start spending again! Take the same extra money and save it. Invest in something fairly stable that gives you passive income. Index funds are a good choice. They tend to outperform many other funds with their so-called wizard managers. A REIT is also a good choice – this gives you a real estate related investment without having to own real estate. Stocks that pay a high dividend are a good choice. Treasury bills can be a good choice, although rates have been real low lately. If you have made a side business, maybe you can expand it slightly. The trick here is you want to find an investment that is stable. The stock market has a lot of ups and downs. You can mitigate this by always investing the same amount every month. On months when the market is down, you’re buying more shares for your money. Or, you can time your purchases of stock so that you only buy in a down market or when your favorite (but stable) company has a rough patch. You have to not need this money to live on.

10. If you have matching funds at work in your retirement plan, use the retirement plan! It’s free money!

So there you have it, now get out of debt and save money.