The Budget Smart Girl Newsletter

Issue 1, Number 1, January 2009

Welcome to the debut issue of the Budget Smart Girl Newsletter. Thank you to everyone who subscribed. The response has been overwhelming and I didn’t think we’d grow this fast this soon. In fact, I’m now looking at a different newsletter delivery service to handle sending the newsletter to you each month, so stay tuned. And as requested by many, the first few newsletters will go up on the Budget Smart Girl Web site on the same day the newsletter is mailed out. Each month I hope to give away a prize/gift which will be for subscribers only. You probably already know that this month’s prize is a $50 gift card from SmartyPig. The winner will be selected later today so watch your e-mailbox to see if you’re the lucky winner.
If you have a money saving tip to share, any questions you’d like answered by me or one of the experts I interview on the site, or want to see a topic covered, just let me know. I hope this newsletter will grow into a valuable resource for everyone.
Well, here we go-

You Might As Well Make Some Money
Yes, we all have to buy stuff, but don’t you just love getting something for your purchases? This month I’m featuring two programs that are perfect if you have children and want to save money for college or other necessities.

Lots of folks are worried about how they’re going to pay for their children’s college education and Upromise is a free service designed to help families save for just that. You simply sign up for a membership on www.upromise.com and begin saving when making purchases from any of the thousands of companies participating in the Upromise program. Upromise also helps members learn how to invest and grow the money they’ve saved by transferring it directly into a 529 college savings plan. Upromise members can earn cash rewards of up to 25% of purchases by shopping at retailers in their local community or by visiting any of the 550 companies in the Upromise online mall such as: FootLocker, Bed Bath and Beyond; Eddie Bauer, Staples, Dell, Best Buy, Apple, Wal-Mart.com, Target.com, Sears.com, Kohls, L.L. Bean, and many others. And best of all, even current college students can benefit from Upromise rewards because the cash rewards can be applied directly to college loans.

And also check out-


With each Mead® or Five Star® school supply purchase, students earn Mead Money Madness points, which can be banked in an online account by registering at www.meadmoneymadness.com. Students can then spend points in weekly online auctions to win items from gift cards from popular retailers to game systems, iPods and much, much more. In addition to points from purchased products, students also can earn points by interacting with the website – taking part in surveys, trivia contests and other activities.

And what Budget Smart Girl doesn’t love to look her best? Here’s a site that gives you a head start on finding fashion bargains-

Home and Hearth
You might be lucky enough to be somewhere warm right now, but where I live, brrrr has been the catchphrase for the last couple of weeks. It’s tempting to turn up the thermostat, but when you’re being budget smart, you have to find other ways to keep warm. Yes, I’ve been wearing another sweater and putting a blanket over my lap when I’m sitting at my desk, but I did find this site that can give you even more ideas-

Leisure and Entertainment
More people are staying home these days, but it doesn’t mean we all have to sit around the house with long faces waiting for the good times to roll around again. Check your local library for DVDs and CDs. Ask your local tourist office about museum and art galleries that might offer free admission.

Don’t know about you, but our cable company keeps raising their prices and cutting out a channel or two. We’ve been thinking about switching to satellite TV or dropping cable and just renting more DVDs. However, I did find this interesting article on line about ways you can watch great programs for less or even for free. And if you saw one of my posts on Twitter, I also recommended you check out- www.fancast.com

I was sent the following information and thought I’d pass it along to you because it’s surprising just how fun and inexpensive a family night at home can actually be…

While families across the country might be feeling the credit crunch, there’s no reason to cut spending where it matters the most – in the form of time with your family. Starting this week – National Board Game Week – Hasbro encourages Americans to share a weekly night of laughter, bonding and fun – and still stay on budget – with a Family Game Night.

Board games can certainly be played and enjoyed at any time, but a designated family game night provides an opportunity for families to share an affordable night of staying in and creating new memories together. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Hasbro in May 2008, nearly half (48%) of Americans believe that a family game night is the most enjoyable form of family bonding. Board games top other traditional family activities such as watching movies (22%), cooking (19%) and playing sports together (9%).

“Having a family game night is a cost-effective way for families to connect and laugh out loud,” says Laura Rowley, author of Money & Happiness: A Guide to Living the Good Life and a columnist for Yahoo! Finance. “I was raised in a large family where game night was a given – and continue the tradition with my three children. For families on a budget, buying a new game costs significantly less than many other entertainment options, such as dining out or attending a sporting event, which makes adding a new game to your game night repertoire a smart and economical choice.”

Planning a family game night is simple: choose a date and time, pick up a game that is appropriate for the family (taking into consideration the ages of those playing and the number of people) and then, play! Plan to laugh and have a great time. To add another element to the evening that will help establish a family tradition, bring home a pizza, serve a family-favorite dessert or grant a 30-minute extension on bedtime.

“Family game night invites families everywhere to turn off the outside world for a short time and reconnect with each other,” says Matt Collins, Vice President of U.S. Marketing for Hasbro Games. “This year we are pleased to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hasbro’s Family Game Night initiative, which continues to encourage families to play games together for fun, learning and laughter.”

When planning your Family Game Night, consider some of America’s favorite Hasbro games, most of which are available for less than $20: MONOPOLY, CLUE, SCRABBLE, SORRY!, THE GAME OF LIFE, CONNECT 4, CRANIUM or OPERATION. Or, if you’re looking for a new game, try PICTUREKA!, a fast finding picture game that provides fun for the whole family.

Some of the classic favorites have been updated, adding a new dimension of play to the game. For example, MONOPOLY Here & Now: The World Edition invites players to buy and sell cities from around the world instead of the streets of Atlantic City. SORRY! Sliders is the newest game of sweet revenge and invites players to send pawns embedded with ball bearings whizzing up a ramp towards the center target of the game board, knocking out other pawns and sending them back to home base. And CLUE has received a modern-day make-over with a celebrity-style mansion providing the background for the crime instead of a Tudor mansion.

For additional information about games and other tips for Family Game Night, visit www.familygamenight.com.

In The Kitchen
Cutting down on your food budget seems to be on everyone’s mind right now. Here are some tips from the Meal Makeover Moms, Liz Weiss M.S., R.D. and Janice Bissex M.S., R.D. who will be chatting with me on the Budget Smart Girl site next month to share more of their money saving tips. And if you’re thinking about shopping for organics, Mom’s Best Naturals cereal is priced 20-50 percent less than other natural/organic brands.

Check labels for the healthiest ingredients – Stay in the fructose free zone! Look for foods that do not contain artificial colors, flavors and high fructose corn syrup. Mom’s Best Naturals breakfast cereals and instant oatmeal are a great option because they are all natural and priced 20-50 percent less than other natural and organic brands.
Buy food in season – Purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season, if not, buying frozen is always a great option and a convenient way to make sure families enjoy healthy foods even when they aren’t available.

Comparison shop using unit pricing – Look at the unit pricing versus the total price of the foods you purchase. This will allow you to find extra savings. For example Mom’s Best Naturals Sweetened Wheatfuls™ have a unit price of 10 cents per ounce as compared to Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats® with a unit price of 17 cents per ounce. That adds up to a saving of almost a dollar for each box.

Purchase foods that come in bulk or larger sized packaging – Not only will you save money but you will also reduce the amount of waste your family generates. Mom’s Best Naturals breakfast cereals are packaged in larger, family sized boxes and are priced 20-50 percent less than other natural and organic brands. On average, Mom’s Best Naturals are about 10 ounces bigger per box when compared to mainstream brands.

Add “extenders” to recipes that help you get more out of your food – Adding black beans to burgers and oatmeal to meatloaf may sound old fashioned, but not only does it allow you to save money, it adds extra nutrients to food. Try Mom’s Best Naturals all natural Quick Oats in your favorite meatloaf recipe. Check out the Meal Makeover Moms Cheesy Black Bean Burger recipe below.

Cheesy Black Bean Burgers
Makes 8 Servings

One 15 1/2-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 pound lean ground beef (90% or higher)
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup pre-shredded reduced fat Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
8 hamburger buns

Preheat the grill to medium. Place the black beans in a large bowl and mash with the back of a large spoon until smooth but still a bit chunky. Add the beef, egg, cheese, bread crumbs and garlic powder and mix until well combined. Divide the beef mixture and shape into 8 patties. Place the patties on the grill and cook until no longer pink inside and an instant-read thermometer registers at least 160°F, about 4 minutes per side.

Serve on hamburger buns with your favorite toppings and condiments.

Nutritional Information per Serving: 310 calories, 8g fat (3g saturated),
510mg sodium, 32g carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 28g protein

A Note from BSG-Whenever I think of black beans, I think southwestern spices, like chili powder and cumin. I looked for seasoned breadcrumbs but couldn’t find any, so try adding about half a teaspoon of each spice to the breadcrumbs for a variation of this recipe.

In the Garden
Okay, most of us can’t head out to garden just yet, but like me, you might be thinking about planting a vegetable garden this year. A ton of catalogs have landed in my mailbox since the holidays and some of the prices seem too good to be true. In the past, I’ve had some bad luck with low cost plants that died within a few months of planting them. So check out this site to see what others have to say about seed and plant companies before you hand over your money-
www.gardenwatchdog.com…don’t panic if the URL Dave’s Garden pops up, it seems to be another name for it!

Have you lost your job, or maybe your employer is cutting out or cutting down on prescription benefits? Something to check out is the Walgreen’s Prescription Savings Club. They offer 5,000 brand name and generic medications. You can earn rewards when you purchase Walgreen’s brand products and their photofinishing services. And you also get a coupon book with $50 in savings. It’s $20 per year for individuals and $35 per year for a family. And here’s an added bonus, if like me, a four legged friend is part of your family, you can add their name to your family membership and their medications are also covered. You can either sign up online or at your nearest Walgreen’s store. Check out all the rules, etc, and to see if it’s the right for you. They have a great FAQ section on their Web site. www.walgreens.com, click on Prescription Savings Club.

Book Review
The Everything Meals on a Budget Cookbook By Linda Larsen
$14.95…Amazon.com is selling it for $11.21, Can $16.50
ISBN 10-159869-508-8
Adams Media 2008

I already own another one of Larsen’s cookbooks which I love, so when I saw she’d written one with a budget theme, I had to check it out. The book contains 300 penny saving recipes. Besides them all sounding delicious, they list the cost per serving at the top of the recipe. The prices might be higher now, but still within most people’s budget and it’s an easy way to search for a meal that’s really low cost. The average cook should be able to put the recipes together. Another nice feature, all the recipes use ingredients that you can buy at just about any supermarket, no trekking cross town to find one or two special items. In fact, I’m guessing most of the ingredients are already sitting on your pantry shelf.
Some chapters include Breakfast on a Dime, The indispensible Leftover, Pasta for Pennies, What a Deal Desserts.
As my normal routine, I borrowed this one from the library. I only checked it out last week so I haven’t tried many recipes from it yet, but I did make the Curried Chicken Pot Pie for dinner last week. It was great and made a meal in itself. All I added was a simple dessert, see recipe below, to accompany it.
Other recipes in this book include Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts $1.89 per serving and Salmon Linguine for $1.06 per serving.
One chapter I especially like is the Make a Meal from Almost Nothing and includes Cheese Soufflé, Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles and Double Cheese Quesadillas.
I give this book a five star rating and will be adding to my Budget Smart Girl bookshelf.

Recipe for Chocolate Ginger Shortbread
I really hate calling this even a recipe because there’s no cooking involved and they’re simple to make. All the ingredients were sitting on the pantry shelf and were leftovers from my Christmas stash of goodies.

1 box of shortbread cookies, try the Keebler Sandies Simply Shortbread Cookies
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips. I used Ghirardelli brand
Just under ¼ cup of finely chopped crystallized ginger

Put the chocolate chips into a measuring jug and melt in the microwave, stir in the ginger until the two ingredients are well blended. Dip half of the shortbread cookie into the chocolate and then set on waxed paper to set. These make a simple dessert with something hot and spicy or even a treat when the mid afternoon slump sets in.

See you next month.

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