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The Dollar Stretcher

The Dollar Stretcher blog will explore people and money.
  • Be Your Possible


    We're happy to participate in the launch of Barclaycard US' Be Your Possible initiative. See how we've teamed up to help women improve their financial literacy and redefine what’s possible. Get inspired here: Barclaycardus.com/BeYourPossible

    Be Your Possible is a mission, a movement and a place to go to find the inspiration, support and knowledge women need to improve their financial understanding and reach their personal financial goals -- whether that be career advancement, starting a business, learning more about investing or being smarter about day-to-day financial and credit decisions. Share your goals and how you plan to achieve them for a chance to win $10,000.

  • Valentine's Day Revolt

    Unless you're heartless or your internet connection died you know that Friday is Valentine's Day. A day that everyone from the florists' association to Vermont Teddy Bears (selling a $100 bear!) tells us is essential to the state of your romantic relationship. We're supposed, no REQUIRED, to spend hundreds of dollars to prove to our mate (or potential mate) that we love them. You can't access any media including your Twitter account without someone telling you what you should be that really demonstrates your love. Allow me to respond. BULL...oney! Love isn't demonstrated by a 2 or 5 pound box of chocolates (not even Godiva). Nor an overpriced bouquet of roses. Or even an expensive piece of jewelry. Real, lasting love is demonstrated by the little things you do for that person on a regular basis. Making morning coffee. Filling up their car. Even taking out the garbage without being nagged! That's not to say that you shouldn't do something nice to celebrate Valentine's Day. In fact you'll find a whole bunch of budget-friendly ideas in our library Some are not only very creative, but very romantic, too! But make sure that you also bring her a bouquet 6 weeks from now when she's not expecting it. Oh, and take out the trash tomorrow, too!
  • Cleaning Burnt On Cookware

    Reader Question: While making fudge I badly burnt the pan leaving a lot of carbon fused to the sides of the pan and discoloration to the bottom interior.  This is not a copper pan.  How do I get the carbon off?  WG


    Good question! We have an article that might be helpful. It's about cleaning stainless steel pots and pans 

    We also had a tip from a reader awhile back:
    When my stainless steel cookware gets that burned brown stuff on the sides and bottom, I put them in my oven (removing any plastic handles) and "clean" them when I clean my oven. All the crud just bakes off of them. Wipe with a damp cloth and they come out like new. My guests think I keep them clean all the time!

    Hope that your pan comes clean!
    ps: don't forget us the next time you make fudge in that clean pan!

  • What do you spend on diapers?

    Have you ever given money to a needy friend or relative only to see them waste the money? Frustrating isn't it? Especially when you skip many of the nicer things in life to try to save the money that you gave them. 

    That's why this report from the Health and Human Services department of the government burned my toast.  They were talking about comparing how 5 states bought diapers for the Medicaid program using competitive bidding. HHS calculated that if every state implemented the same process that they could save 23% or a total of $62 million! 

    All State Medicaid programs implemented cost-control measures—such as quantity limitations or reductions in fee-schedule amounts—for incontinence supplies. Five State Medicaid programs implemented competitive bidding programs. These programs reported savings of up to 50 percent. If State Medicaid programs had paid suppliers at the median competitive bidding rate, they could have paid 23 percent less, saving $62 million. Other positive outcomes resulted from competitive bidding, such as increased beneficiary access to supplies, increased product quality, and State Medicaid program control of providing supplies. However, States reported encountering initial challenges with their competitive bidding programs, and six States attempted to establish competitive bidding but did not fully implement it.

    Now it's been awhile since we've bought diapers in the Dollar Stretcher house, but as I recall we clipped coupons and watched for sales. No way would we spend 23% more than we had to on something that was going to be treated...well, like a diaper. I suspect that it would be safe to say that your family is just as careful to get the best deal you can on diapers.

    So I feel a little bit like the guy watching his brother-in-law waste the money I sacrificed to save. Don't know about you, but it kinda makes me mad. Makes we want to tell those who are spending my money to not treat is as something that gets...well, thrown away with the diapers.

    Just sayin'. 





  • Pinterest Wow!

    Awhile back I mentioned that The Dollar Stretcher could be found on Pinterest.  Evidently there must be a lot of TDS readers on Pinterest because the response has been awesome! We're seeing a lot of interest in our boards. And the repin rate has been amazing!

    We wanted to say 'thanks' to everyone who has helped make us welcome on Pinterest. I can't share details yet, but I can tell you that we'll be having a Pinterest contest beginning on April 1st. We'll be giving away a number of Amazon gift cards with one grand prize winner getting a $100 card! We'll share info here and all around TDS when the contest is started. Don't miss it! Hope that you're one of our winners!

    Keeping on Stretching those Dollars!


  • Where there are no bars

    Had an interesting conversation the other day. I was speaking with K. during a brief break from her work. She's been working some brutal hours and is on call pretty much 24/7. It looked like she might get a break this weekend and try to get away for a day or two.

    We talked about finding a quiet relaxing place. But, she said that what she really needed was a place that did NOT have a cell phone signal. We joked that we'd have to see if anyone has created an app for that: places where there are no bars!

    While it's funny, it does make you wonder if too many of us are trying to live too fast. Personally I'm goal driven. I want to get to my destination as quickly as possible on the shortest route possible. But, I'm beginning to recognize that might not always be the best solution. I suspect that I've deprived myself by not going a little slower and doing some sightseeing along the way.

    Don't know if there's a moral to this story. Guess maybe it's that we should all vary our speeds a bit. Not always fast or always slow. Giving ourselves a chance to get somewhere, but also experience something along the way. But, as they say: your mileage will vary!

    Keep on Stretching those Dollars!


  • The Spending Choices and Happiness Quiz

     Hello to all my Frugal Friends!

    Wanted to alert you to a couple of things of interest.

    Awhile back I was fortunate to meet Ryan Howell. Ryan is an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University. He's created a "Personality & Well-being Lab" that works understand the role of finances and consumption in people's happiness.

    One way he does that is by asking people to take online quizes. Right now he has one on Spending Choices and Happiness. If you have a minute or two (it doesn't take long) please take the quiz. You'll find it here . It does require you to register, but it's easy, free and informative!

    Also wanted to mention that on the site we have a special section on crafting. How to craft without spending money, how to make money on your crafts and more. It's in the right hand column near the top.

    Keep on Stretching those Dollars!

  • The Movement to Reduce Debt

     At the beginning of the year I mentioned something called the Debt Movement. It's organizers hope to pay down a total of $10 million of debt by getting individuals to join in a report how much they've repaid.

    According to Jeff Rose, who started the movement, there are current about 1,900 people signed up with $175,000 of debt paid off. One reader already paid off the $3,000 of debt she had so she's completely debt free.

    I like the idea. Most of us are more likely to accomplish any goal if we have encouragement, companionship and accountability. That's one of the reasons that we encourage TDS Forums. It's encouraging to see that we have over 300,000 posts from readers like you. I don't know how many people were helped by those posts, but I'm sure that it's more than a handful.

    So why not take a few moments to check out TDS forums and The Debt Movement site?

    Keep on Stretching those Dollars!


  • Being Frugal vs. Valentine's Day

    Hello to all my Frugal Friends!

    Is it possible to be frugal and be a good Valentine at the same time? You have to wonder.

    According to the National Retail Federation we'll spend $18.6 billion(!) on Valentine's Day. The average American will spend $131 on their significant other. Seems like the consensus is that you have to spend big to show how much you care for that special someone in your life.

    Well, I beg to differ! I don't think that you demonstrate love by spending more. In fact, unless your very wealthy it's probably very unromantic to spend a bunch of money trying to show your love.


    Suppose you spend $100 on a really nice, romantic dinner. You'll both enjoy a nice evening and hopefully build some memories. But, if you put it on your credit card you'll be paying for it for 2 years. Does your mate really want you to be in credit card debt? Wouldn't your life be less stressful and more loving if you didn't have the debt?


    So if you still haven't spent the average $131 you might want to check out the Valentine's Day section of our library. You'll find literally dozens of ways to show your love in a frugal, but still romantic, way!


    All the Best!


  • My Debt to Society

    I heard a phrase that you don't hear too often anymore. It was on an old TV show. One character said that another had 'paid his debt to society.' He meant that the person had been in jail and the time spent there was considered sufficient to pay for his mistake. In effect the prisoner had given up his freedom for a period of time to repay society for the wrong he had committed.

    As regular readers know, I've been on a crusade against debt for over 20 years. I don't like debt whether it's individual, corporate or government. I look at debt as being somewhat like a prison. While in debt I'm not free to do whatever I want with my money and a portion of my life is committed to earning enough to repay the debt.

    With the TV show as a springboard I couldn't help but think of the debt that all U.S. citizens owe. According to the U.S. Debt Clock site  the debt per citizen is over $52,300. Which means if I were to earn $20 per hour I'd need to work 2615 hours or 65 full-time workweeks to pay it off. Or, since it appears that we don't plan on paying it back anytime soon, I'll be working 524 hours to pay the $10,484 each of us owes in interest each year.

    I understand that some economists think that public debt doesn't matter. As you might guess, I disagree with them. But that's another topic for another time. Suffice it to say that we're all wise to do whatever we can to control and eliminate our personal debts. We hope that this week's issue can help you do just that.

    Keep on Stretching those Dollars!

    Posted Jan 30 2013, 02:27 PM by Gary with no comments
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Gary is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who edits The Dollar Stretcher website <www.stretcher.com> and newsletters. You can follow Gary on Twitter.com/gary_foreman
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