Category Archives: Tutorials

Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee (Frugal Tip)

In my younger years, one of my favorite jobs was working in a coffee shop. I enjoyed listening to the whirl of the milk as it was being steamed, filling the case with fresh pastries, setting up the condiment table, and serving the customer their first cup of coffee in the morning. Well, except that time the lady told me she needed it to ‘be regular’, if you get my drift.

Then it was the type of customers that fascinated me. The artists, the business people, the students, the moms… I enjoyed the conversations that filled the place, the smell of fresh coffee that permeated the place, and the sounds of jazz, celtic, & contemporary music that accompanied the place. It wasn’t even my place, but I treated everday as such.

Where this all leading

Well, it is my view to think we pay for the experience that comes with a cup of coffee when we frequent Starbuck’s or Coffee Bean, Tea & Leaf. But you have to admit that the $5.00 experience, even shared three times a week, is a costly expenditure. For us Frugalites, saving money means cutting back or severing our relationship with this extra expenditures. Hopefully for the sake of putting that money towards paying off our debt or throwing it in the bank to increase our wealth.

Definition of a Frugalite: One who is frugal, yet fun. A person who wants to save as much of their hard earned cash as possible – but in creative ways. …

But just because you choose to break up the relationship between you and the coffee joint, doesn’t mean you need stop drinking excellent tasting coffee. The baristas don’t make coffee any differently then you do.

So, today we will be exploring how to brew a perfect cup of black Java, with a French Press coffee press, in the comfort of your own home for pennies on the dollar.

  1. Buy newly roasted, whole beans

    The length of time coffee beans are roasted will affect the color and flavor of the brew. Popular blends of beans to buy:

    American Roast (or regular roast) beans will result in a moderate brew-not too light or too heavy in flavor.

    French Roast beans will produce a stronger coffee taste.

    Viennese Roast (my favorite) is a blend of two-thirds regular-roast with one-third heavy-roasted beans.

    Italian Roast is for espresso.

    I hear Dunkin Donuts coffee beans ($8 bag) is a great coffee to find in your local grocery store.

  2. Use water that tastes good

    The right coffee beans + great tasting water is what makes a killer combination of brewed coffee. Use your favorite filtered water. Pre-boil your water before grinding your coffee beans to insure water will be at the proper temperature when you are ready to use your french press coffee maker.

  3. Time to Grind

    One of those little grinders will work just fine. No need to spend lots of money for a grinder!

    Put the beans in the grinder and grind for 10 seconds to create a course grind. Grind only what you are going to use for the day.

  4. The French Press

    Put 1 rounded tablespoon of coffee into your French Press coffee maker. Then, pour your hot water into the pot. Leave a minimum of 1 inch of space at the top. Stir the brew with a plastic spoon. Place the plunger unit on top of the pot. Do not press down. Let the coffee brew for 2-4 minutes, depending on your preference in taste. Hold the pot handle firmly with the spout turned away from you, then using just the weight of your hand, apply slight pressure on top of the knob to lower the plunger straight down into the pot. Lowering the plunger slowly with minimal pressure produces best results. Finally, pour your amazing cup of coffee into your mug.

    Here is a great tutorial for using the french press coffee press.

  5. Wan’t to jazz it up?

    Great additions: creamer, sugar, flavored syrups (like Taroni syrup – Yum!)

    For iced coffee: make your brew stronger, because the ice cubes will dilute the coffee.

Conclusion

The great thing about using a French Press coffee maker is that it’s easy to clean, no filters to buy, takes up very little counter space and storage space.

And the money saved:

If you consider buying a black coffee at Starbuck’s, it will cost you $2.00 per cup x 3 times a day x 52 weeks = $312 a year

At home: french press & grinder ($30 for both) + 0.26 per cup of coffee* x 7 days a week x 52 weeks = $95 + $30 (one time cost) + you get to drink coffee every single day = $125

So enjoy that awesome coffee and amaze you friends with your new talent. Want to know what your coffee says about you? Check it out, here! Leave a comment and let me know type of coffee drink you like. It’s a fun read!

*The 0.26 per cup was figured by $8 bag of beans divided by 30 days in a month

How to Increase Your Alexa Ranking

Participating in Financial Samurai’s Alexa Ranking Challenged, called The Yakezie Alexa Challenge, has me considering how to increase my Alexa Ranking (in addition to points made in Sam’s post). Alexa Rankings, for the post part, are resulted from your website’s page views and visits to your site (as it’s Home Page suggests).

I want to look at how each of these subjects:

Google Search Engine Optimization Tools, my website’s design, and other values could potentially increase my Alexa Ranking.

Google Search Engine Optimization
  • Using Google Keywords: There are many good websites that discuss how to use Google Keywords, so I won’t be discussing how to use them.

    But, I believe utilizing the Google AdWords: Keyword’s tool to target my written content can help increase organic search results. Thus, increasing visits to my sites and page views.

    Example, if you search the keyword “lemon” (with 5 million searches) versus “lemons” (with 386,000 searches), you can see I would have a better chance with people finding my site with the niche term “lemons” because it is more direct.

  • Buy advertisements on search engines: You may need to spend a bit, but it can increase the traffic to your website.

My Website’s Design for Search Engine Optimization
  • Write good content: You might develop your search engine optimization by using strong keywords, but content is what drives builds loyal readers to come back for more; creating the continuous flow of traffic to your site.
  • Post more frequently: Of course, an increase in page/site views is potentially imminent when writing posting more frequently, but to what degree? Per Alexa, frequently posting more content doesn’t always mean an increase to Alexa Ranking.

    My posting schedule is Tuesday, Thursday, and Sundays. I am thinking that fostering community, interaction, and conversation, on the website, with comment/nested comments might take a stronger stance to posting more frequently. To me, it is more important to build relationships with people. As this is what has helped my personal finance journey blossom.

    So, it might be beneficial to rankings if you can do both simutaneously.

  • Excerpt vs. Content: Does your website home page include an excerpt of the post leading to ‘read more’ or do you post a full page? I think Financial Samurai’s post excerpts has an edge on me in this area compared to me showing full post.

    One, there are more posts available for viewing on his home page vs. the 3 post I show on my home page. Two, if you’re content is good, then a person will hit ‘read more’ listed on the excerpt (counts as a ‘visit to your site’ and a ‘page view’).

    Where as, my site shows the full post. Many people pressed for a quick read can easily come to my site, read all, and move on (only gaining a ‘visit to your site’). My ‘page view’ would only be increased if the reader choses to leave a comment or hits an internal hyperlink. So, I might want to consider changing my home page format (don’t be suprised if my site morphs again). ;)

Other Values
  • Write about Alexa Ranking: Bloggers like to understand how to increase thier ranking; to reach more people. By writing a blog post it drives traffic to your site.

    So that is just what I did. Of course, the post is meant to help you, too. :) I’d like to have a community discussion to see what your thoughts are for increasing your Alexa Ranking.

  • Write Guest Posts: You might have heard me twitter this comment. Its meant to work just like the factor above. This also could include participating in forums, writing eZine articles, Associated Content Articles, eHow articles, Stumbling, Digg(ing), using Hootsuite, Tip’d, etc… Get yourself out there to be seen. Drive the masses back. :)
  • Use Alexa Search Analytics: When you search a website on Alexa site you will note the “Top Keywords for Search Traffic”. These are the keywords driving most of the traffic to your site note: my former food post for ‘Gordon Biersch Garlic Fries’ still drives the most traffic to my site). Do these Top Keywords align with the competition you wish to interact with? Or should you write more content with you site’s Top Keywords?
Conclusion

There are still many more possible ways to increase your Alexa Ranking, but these particular factors are what came to mind after joining Financial Samurai’s challenge. Ones I plan on focusing on.

Do I think installing the Alexa Toolbar will help? To a point. According to Wiki on Alexa Internet:

On April 16, 2008, many users reported dramatic shifts in their Alexa rankings. Alexa confirmed this later in the day with an announcement that they had released the new Alexa ranking system, claiming that they now take into account more data sources “beyond Alexa Toolbar users”.[19]

Meaning there are more factors to consider. You can follow up on the Wiki page.

At the end of this challenge, I will be sure to update you on that factors I think helped to increase my rankings.

What do you think works to increase the Alexa Ranking? If you haven’t signed up for The Yakezie Alexa Challenge, head on over there. What do you have to lose?

For more information about Alexa information, check out:

You can see my Alexa Traffic Rank Widget in the Sidebar. From the beginning of the challenge, in the last week of January, I have gone from a 433,000 to a 398,710 (Traffic Rank widget works a day behind). For me, that is not too shabby.

How-to make a plan to revamp closet in 2 hours or less

I have not much to wear. If you remember, I dumped 3/4ths of my closet and sent it to Goodwill. I think I dumped too much. Then again, I grew tired of all that I donated.

Well now, out of the 1/4 left – the weekend wear is great with blue jeans and t-shirts. But work wear – I have nothing left. Or so I decided to find out – do I have nothing to wear or is it I don’t want to wear anything I have.

Here are the four steps I took to find my conclusion:

Step 1:
Pen and Paper, I scribbled down all that I own (except the socks and underwear). Closet – done, shoes – done, drawers – done.

Step 2:
I listed everything in spreadsheet. The categories listed: Miscellaneous, Pants, Skirts, Shirts, Shoes, and Dresses. Added checkmark next to everything I wear.

Step 3:
Then, I color coded:

  • White – don’t wear
  • Yellow – wear
  • Green – wear to work

(Click on pic to enlarge) Looks like I have much more to rid of – if its in ‘white’, chances are I haven’t worn it in over a year.

Step 4:
Copy and pasted the work clothes, that I actually don’t mind wearing (green coded), together at bottom of spreadsheet. Then, again I separated the categories in other multicolors.

Um ya, I don’t have anything to wear, I am not wearing what I should be wearing (tennis at the office?), and I don’t like what is on the list (I put a check next to those I like – 7 items). *SIGH*

Conclusion: What a boring gal I am and totally not put together. No wonder I feel like I have nothing to wear to work, because I really don’t!

So hear is what I plan to do:

  • Donate those clothes I don’t wear
  • Mend any buttons/hems that need be (peacoat to name)
  • Go buy me 3-4 pairs of new pants (for work), 3-4 new long sleeve button up blouses, and 1 pair of black shoes (I like) on my 30% off coupon (plus the pants I want are on sale, too). I think I can pull this off for less than $200. I think buying quality pieces is suitable for pieces I would be wearing often.
  • Be happy that I have a full line of clothes to wear to work without feeling like a bum and confidently revamp my lead status at work, too.
  • So, have you organized your closet lately?

     

How to make a Room & Linen Spray

This article has been posted on the Make it From Scratch Carnival hosted by Gotta Little Space – be sure to check it out! :)

Here is another great frugal gift or idea to use all year round – Room & Linen spray. Making linen spray is so simple to do and much less expensive than going to a department store to buy it. You know exactly what is being sprayed onto your linens or in your room and have comfort in knowing that only pure natural products are being used. The toughest part of making these is deciding what scents to use.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup distilled water
  • 1tsp vodka or witch hazel
  • 5 to 6 drops essential oil (DragonMarsh $4.50)

A small (1/8th oz) bottle of essential oil goes a long way!

Use 4 oz. clean spray bottle (Michael’s craft store – $1.19) with fine mist spray nozzle. In a small bowl, mix essential oil and vodka together. The alcohol works as an emulsifier, allowing the oil and water to mix evenly. Pour the essential oil-vodka mix into the spray bottle, add the 1/2 cup filtered water, and shake. Make sure to shake well before each use.

If you don’t have a dropper for your oil, don’t fear! Follow these steps: 1) Stick a cocktail straw in the essential oil bottle 2) put your finger over the top of straw 3)keep finger on the straw and move straw over to your bowl with the vodka 4) take finger off the top of straw and wha-la! – the straw becomes a dropper *Thanks husband for being a great hand model! :)

Great holiday essential oils to use: eggnog, cinnamon, hollyberry, vanilla, cranberry, or orange (DragonMarsh does carry these oils, although they may not be listed online – email them, they’d be happy to help). Favorite year round scents to use: lavender or vanilla. Or you could mingle scents to enhance the aromatic experience with these 10 blends:

Blend #1

3 drops Orange
2 drops Grapefruit

Blend #2

4 drops Orange
1 drop Ylang Ylang

Blend #3

3 drops Orange
2 drops Ginger

Blend #4

3 drops Bergamot
1 drop Neroli
1 drop Jasmine

Blend #5

3 drops Fir Needle Oil
2 drops Spruce Oil

Blend #6

3 drops Lavender
2 drops Vanilla

Blend #7

3 drops Lavendar
2 drops Sandlewood

Blend #8

3 drops Vanilla
2 drops Ginger

Blend #9

3 drops Cinnamon
2 drops Nutmeg
1 drop Sweet Orange

Blend #10

3 drops Hollyberry
2 drops Sweet Orange
1 drop Clove

Another great use for the spray: to use in your car. I love using the vanilla spray in my car after it’s been hand washed (in my driveway – hopefully by my children :)). It’s a great way to get the “I’ve been to the car wash” feel without paying the money. Note: you may need to increase the essential oil to 10 drops for a more concentrated scent.

For more great essential oil blend ideas visit my Examiner.com article.

For more Christmas gift ideas try Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas and Christmas Gifts under $10.

10 Thanksgiving Place Card Ideas

Since the big meal tends to claim the center of attention during Thanksgiving, here are 10 free or frugal ways to help adorn a beautifully set table:

Free Place Card Printables

hgtv

Oak Leaves by HGTV

leaves

Oak Leaves by Lee Hansen

delish

Variety by Delish

thanksgiving

Turkeys by Lee Hansen

Thanksgiving Place Cards (small fee)

Fall Leaves beverly brown

Fall Leaves by Beverly Brown

Gourd Place Card by PaperSource

Gourds by Paper Source

Tasty Treat Place Card

Cookie

Cookies by Good Housekeeping

More Great Ideas for Place Cards

thanksgiving-table-country-living

Natural Living by Country Living

Martha Stewart

Oak Leaves by Martha Stewart

Pinecone Place Card

Pinecone Place Cards by Better Homes & Garden

*I need to apologize to my CDN readers for not presenting this last month. I’m just so used to following the US holiday schedule.

How to Make a Bar Chart for Your Blog

API Google Chart

Just one of the many cool charts you can create with Google Chart API

Do you every wonder how to get those cool bar graphs to mark your financial progress?

Well, Google Chart API lets you ‘dynamically generate charts’ by returning a PNG-format image in response to a URL. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize it couldn’t be more simple!

In this example, we will create a bar chart representing my imaginary savings account marked against my goal. :) This technical mumbo jumbo only looks scarier than it really is. Trust me. Give it a try.

To Make Your Own Chart

Define URL with Chart API’s location:

http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?

Define the Chart’s size:

chs=500×120

Define the Chart type:

&cht=bhs

*bhs defines bar chart, horizontal

Define the colors:

&chco=4D89F9,C6D9FD

Define colors using html’s rrggbb code, found here.

Map the Chart’s Data:

&chd=t:7000|10000

7000 representing $7,000 against $10,000. Change to your own defined values. The (|) symbol found under your backspace key on the keyboard (shift + \ = |)

Define the value range:

&chds=0,10000

In this case we are representing $0 to $10,000

Add labels on the x-axis:

&chxt=x

Define x-axis labels:

&chxl=0:|0|7000|10000

Add a title:

&chtt=Money+in+my+Savings|Nov 2009

 

So now your URL should look like this:

<”http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?
chs=300×100
&cht=bhs
&chco=4D89F9,C6D9FD
&chd=t:7000|10000
&chds=0,10000
&chxt=x
&chxl=0:|0|$7000|$10000
&chtt=Money+in+my+Savings|Nov 2009″/>

When you embed a URL in an HTML IMG tag, take care to use the character entity &amp; reference in place of an ampersand (&).

<img src=”http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?
chs=300×100
&amp;cht=bhs
&amp;chco=4D89F9,C6D9FD
&amp;chd=t:7000|10000
&amp;chds=0,10000
&amp;chxt=x
&amp;chxl=0:|0|$7000|$10000
&amp;chtt=Money+in+my+Savings|Nov 2009/”>
*post as one line straight across

If it works properly, it should look like this:

Try it for yourself. Copy and paste this URL into the address bar and hit enter:

If you’d like to discover a wider range of groovy choices or to find other types of charts, visit Google Chart API development tool site.

Have a Frugal Halloween

HalloweenI love Autumn and Halloween for its changing leaves, cool weather, porches ladened with carved pumkins, the smell of pumkin pie or apple spice, kids trick-or-treating, the full moons behind the clouds, laughter, candy, carmel apples, scarecrows, watching B-rated 1970′s Horror films on AMC, popcorn balls, decorating the mantle with autumn leaves, my mom’s awesome Halloween costume parties… the list goes on. I love Halloween with a vintage home charm.

Unfortunately, vintage home charm is not how most kids think of Halloween. No longer is it the happy housewife having time to make it a special Holiday for the family. No longer is it the kids knowing the true meaning of Halloween (do you know the true meaning of Halloween? Here is a great link to explore by the History Channel). It’s more the favorite fads in manufactured costumes, having scores of the top candy, and spending money on cheap decorations. *sigh*

Bring a little magic back into the spirit of Halloween with these great frugal Halloween links.

Better Homes and Gardens has a great link: Frightfully Frugal

Families.com Handmade Halloween

Domestikgoddess.com Tips for Frugal Halloween Decorations

TheDollar$tretcher.com has several links to great ideas for a frugal Halloween

Suite101.com has some great ideas for Fall Decorating Ideas – Halloween

The Bargain Queen has great ideas for last minute halloween costume ideas

FrugalFamily.com offers great tips/recipes for homemade Halloween concoctions like fake blood, face paint, fake wounds, toxic juice and games.

Squawkfox offers recipes: Gross, Easy, and Fun Halloween Food

Hershey’s Halloween Crafts & Activities has great printouts, activites for kids, wallpaper and screen savers.

Cubpack81.com: My favorite interactive Pumpkin Carving Site for little fun.

Need a Couple’s Costume ideas (like me – in a frantic state trying to make a last minute costume)? Check out this link for an extensive list with instructions.

And for the finale, Halloween is Here has a great, comprehensive, and printable list about fabulous, frugal Halloween costumes, make-up, and More!

Do you have a great link or tip to share? Or a favorite Halloween memory?

Remember, living with debt is a lifestyle choice. Make the changes necessary to live a debt-free lifestyle!

Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas

jingle

Wait! It’s not suppose to install fear in your hearts and mind (nor your wallet)! But, you feel that every looming dark cloud of holiday stress starting to trail your steps, right? I know I do!

Christmas in July – to me that rings the bell that we are to start preparing for the holiday season. And I think if we do start now we have a great chance of having a DEBT FREE Christmas (head on over to Enemy of Debt to join the challenge).

My family’s recent challenge has me thinking of how to meet our needs in a frugal manner; to not charge our Credit Cards or steal from our Savings. To live within our means (and still have fun).

I am determined to stay within my financial boundries! And I have a feeling you want to do the same. There are plenty of lists for frugal Christmas gift ideas, but they lack a personal touch. I wanted to find frugal, fun gifts that:

  • instill warm holiday wishes and love
  • use items I already have in the house (start asking for paper bags at the grocery store)
  • and are easiest enough to accomplish even if one lacks in artistic talent

 

Without further adieu, I present to you my 2009 Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas (click links for tutorials):

xmas4potato (or celery) stamp + brown paper grocery bags + acrylic paint = christmas wrap

 

 

wrap3potato stamp + fabric paint + plain pillow cases = A set of Nice pillow cases

 

 

wrap4potato stamp + plain cards + acrylic paint = Christmas cards

 

 

wrap5 1 yd novelty fabric + little sewing skills + Raffia = 4 Cloth Napkins (full size or cocktail) tied cute

 

 

xmas2 Dollar store frames + cute fabric + pretty satin ribbon = Tres Chic Fabric Frames (would be really cute to give a set of these with one of the frames containing a family picture)

 

 

wrap6 Ceramic Tiles + Paper Napkins + a little pizzaz = Set of Coasters

 

 

wrap2 Dollar store Christmas container + baking skills = Yummy treats

 

 

xmas3 A few 2/$1 Hallmark card(s) (from the $1 store) + Dollar store Christmas tin or homemade box = Holiday/Party Cards to be used throughout the year (I’m always in need of a birthday card last minute!)

 

 

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Tip: by something small at Michael’s and you receive a ’40% off regular item’ coupon. Then get the more expensive item and use in the same store trip.

Tip: Look at Michael’s clearance or $1 aisle. You’d be amazed what you can find for stocking stuffers. Wonderful aisle.

 

bar

 

If you have any great ideas or tips, please leave a comment with your idea. I would like to compile a big list!