Exercise

For some reason, gyms are becoming very expensive.  For someone on a budget, 50-100 bucks a month isn’t exactly possible. Luckily, there are ways to work out on a budget!  Most towns have a YMCA.  They have workout memberships for much less.  They usually have classes just like other gyms, so it’s really a great alternative.  Try working out at home as well.  My roommate likes a few workout videos, and she uses those every morning.  I personally prefer to own a few freeweights to lift on my own, combined with a walk/jog (which is free)!  So be creative, work out with friends, and enjoy yourself!

Fried Ravioli

I promised to post some easy, frugal recipes for holiday entertaining, so here’s my next one…enjoy!

Fried Ravioli

INGREDIENTS

  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup of buttermilk
  • 2 cups Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1 box store-bought bite-size cheese ravioli (about 24 ravioli)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 to 2 cups marinara sauce, heated, for dipping

Heat 2 inches of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 325°.

While the oil is heating, put the buttermilk and the breadcrumbs in separate shallow bowls. Working in batches, dip the ravioli in the buttermilk to coat completely, allowing the excess buttermilk to drip back into the bowl. Dredge the ravioli in the bread crumbs. Place the ravioli on a baking sheet.

When the oil is hot, fry the ravioli in batches, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer the fried ravioli to paper towels to drain (a slotted spoon works best).

Sprinkle the fried ravioli with Parmesan cheese and serve with a side of warmed marinara sauce for dipping.

Promotion Codes

If you’re like me, you enjoy online shopping almost as much as the real thing.  For most online stores, you can find general coupons by simply doing a google search.  These can range from as little as 5% (not terribly helpful) to 50% (extremely helpful).  But, don’t stop here!  When you get to the checkout page of most online retailers, they have a place to enter a promotion code.  Don’t think to yourself “I don’t have it…oh well.”  Go back into google and search for that retailer’s promotion code.  Sometimes these will get you additional saving, a free item, or free shipping.  Every little bit helps, so make sure you search before buying anything online!

Utilities

Where I grew up, there was only one utilities company.  They could pretty much charge whatever they wanted, and bills were outrageous.  Up here it’s not so bad, but I still try to focus on saving where I can.  Doing a few small things can really lower your monthly utility bill, allowing you to save that money or spend it on something much more fun!  First, always be diligent about turning off your lights.  Use ceiling fans and open windows to keep your house cool at certain times of the year.  Use insulated drapes on your windows to hold the heat in during winter.  Wash your clothes in cold water when possible, and allow them to air dry. When you run the dishwasher, skip the heated dry.  These small changes can save quite a bit of money!

De-clutter

Maybe you’ve seen those shows on TV where people’s homes are filled to the brim with junk – these people save everything but end up not able to actually use anything.  On the TV shows, expert designers come in and help them clear it all out.  The good news is, you don’t need an expert to get the same results.  I think it’s a good idea to de-clutter at least once a year, but preferably twice.  What does this have to do with being frugal?  All of those things piled in your house that you don’t use could be very useful to someone else.  “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”  So, have a yard or garage sale, or find a consignment shop that will sell your things for you.  Then, take half of your profit and put it towards bettering your home for the long term – not buying more things, but making repairs, updating outdated fixtures, etc.  Then, put the other half in savings.  You’ll be surprised by how happy you’ll be after a little de-cluttering.  Good luck!

Big families

Big families are definitely a blessing.  There is no substitute for a tight knit group that cares and supports each other.  Unfortunately, this blessing can become a huge expense around holiday time.  I have the perfect fix!  Suggest that your family has a secret drawing – each person will pick one name and will shop for only that person.  You can decide on a price limit as a group.  Then, when you all get together as a family, everyone will have great gifts to open and will actually be able to enjoy them without feeling the stress of spending too much.  It’s also great because everyone will actually receive something they want rather than small trinkets from 10+ people because that’s all that anyone could afford.  Or, instead of giving gifts at all, adopt a family in your local community and buy for them instead.  That’s what the holidays are all about!

Football

Saturdays and Sundays are HUGE football days, depending on whether you like pro or college football, or both!  I personally love college football, so Saturdays are set aside for cheering on my favorite teams with friends.  Watching sports can be an expensive hobby if you go to a sports bar each and every week.  Instead, have a rotating system where you watch the games at a different friend’s house each week.  When I host, I’ll either have “bring your own alcohol” or “bring your own meat to grill.”  These are the 2 most expensive things to provide.  If the big game is around dinner time, get some snacks together and have your friends bring their own things to throw on the grill.  You’ll only have to spend a little, and your friends will have a great time.  Happy football watching!

Leftovers

One of the best parts of Thanksgiving is the amazing leftovers.  Most families end up cooking way too much food for the big day, so chances are you’ll have lots of turkey and sides left after the big meal.  Don’t let these go to waste!  I know I get a little tired of eating the entire meal again, especially a few days in a row, so be creative!  The Food Network has lots of great ideas for how to rework your leftovers into amazing, different meals ranging from Italian food to a yummy turkey pot pie.  Enjoy!

Black Friday

Tomorrow is the biggest shopping day of the year, commonly referred to as Black Friday. Shopping on this day can be an overwhelming experience, so it’s best to go with a plan! First, either call or check the websites of your favorite stores. Some will be opening as early as 4am! Make sure you prioritize the order you will visit stores, as the best deals expire fairly early in the morning, and obviously the selection goes down very quickly with so many shoppers. Check online or in your local newspaper for coupons for additional savings. And, most importantly, set a budget for the day. I like to do this by taking out in cash the exact amount I’m allowing myself to spend. That way, when it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s easy to go overboard with so many good sales. Happy shopping!

Thanksgiving holiday

Lucky for me, I get to fly home today.  I’m hoping it won’t be a mess with all of the airline traffic.  I figured it would be a good time to talk about frugal travel.  With such high gas prices, sometimes it’s actually cheaper to take a flight (and much more efficient).  I have a long way to go, around 16 hours driving, so flying just makes sense.  You just have to do your research to really make sure you’re getting the best deal.  Never call the airline directly until you’ve looked everywhere else!  In addition to the well known websites like Travelocity and Orbitz, there are some other very good resources out there.  Kayak searches all of those discount sites and tells you the best deal.  If you’re a student, STA Travel will be a great starting place as well.  Don’t forget to check the websites of the airlines themselves, as sometimes they’ll surprise you with a low price.  Happy traveling!