Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Saving on Homeowner's Insurance

We woke up this morning to find that the wind had done some damage in our neighborhood overnight!

Here's what we found in our yard:
The backside of our upside-down shed

Where our shed was, before it got blown across the yard

The front side of our upside-down shed

Here's our neighbor's yard:
The backside of our neighbor's upside-down shed

The front side of the neighbor's upside-down shed

I can't speak for our neighbor but we definitely won't be making an insurance claim on the damage. The reason for this is because there are four main things we do to save money on home owner's insurance:

1. Fix things ourselves and don't file a claim, whenever possible. Every claim we make can potentially raise our rates so we will just set the shed upright ourselves.

2. Have a high deductible. Another way we save money on insurance is to carry a higher deductible. Our home owner's insurance deductible is currently $2,000. Having a high deductible means having lower rates. In order for a higher deductible to work for you, you'll need to have an emergency fund of at least six months expenses. Otherwise, a higher deductible could put you in a bad financial situation.

3. Pay by the year. I know I've mentioned this before, but we Bushmans also save money by buying our home insurance policy by the year and not by the month. If you are paying by the month, you are probably paying a fee for the privilege of doing so. Our homeowner's insurance is only $238/year, but even when we had a big house and our home owner's insurance was much higher, we still paid by the year to save money. (I want to mention, that if you do not have enough equity in your house--20% usually, then you might not have the option to pay home owner's insurance by the year, rather you may be forced to use an escrow account. This is just one more reason to pay that mortgage down!)

4. Pay our other bills on time. I'm no insurance expert, but I do know that there is a formula they use to figure your premiums. That formula has something to do with your credit score and/or whether you pay your bills on time. This makes sense when you think that the insurance company is looking for indicators that you are a responsible person who won't have a lot of accidents.

What do you do to save on homeowner's or renter's insurance? Do you use these same tactics to save on auto insurance?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Debt and slavery

I've been known to say on my blog that debt is slavery. Lately, I've been wondering whether that is actually true. Does debt take away your choices in the same way as slavery? Or is that simply an unfair comparison?

This is the post that resulted in my musings. It is my very first regular contribution for a great website, Enemy of Debt.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Cheese that won't break the bank

A couple of people have asked me, "What exactly is nutritional yeast?" Here's a short introduction to it. You can usually buy it in places that sell bulk foods like health food stores or food co-ops.

Aside from the two things I've already mentioned in this blog, wheat thin crackers and vegetable broth powder, there are many things you can do with nutritional yeast. The most magical thing, though, is that you can make a cheese sauce out of it that is totally vegan friendly and WAY cheaper than regular cheese!

Here's a pic of some cheese sauce my hubby made
I have made nutritional yeast cheese sauce many ways from many different cookbooks. Some recipes call for things like miso and turmeric. However, my favorite nutritional yeast cheese sauce recipe is also the simplest. It is a slightly modified version of the one found in my favorite cookbook, The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook. Here it is:

In a saucepan mix
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup white flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups water

Bring these to a low boil, stirring until the sauce starts to thicken. Remove from heat and add:
1/4  cup oil
1 tsp mustard

If you still need it thicker, add cornstarch until it is the thickness you like.

You can put nutritional yeast on top of anything. We have even made grilled cheese out of it!

These were SO good!
So, there you have it: nutritional yeast. Not to be confused with brewer's yeast or any other kind of yeast. Have you ever used it? If so, what is your favorite thing to make out of nutritional yeast? If not, do you think you might give it a try?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Homemade Vegetable Broth Powder

Vegetable broth and vegetable bouillon are so expensive! Not only that, they have tons of sodium and preservatives, and they are often hydrogenated. Since we Bushmans avoid hydrogenation like the plague, I've learned to make my own, more frugal version which I call vegetable broth powder. Here's the recipe:

Get an old, clean jar and fill it with the following:

2 cups nutritional yeast
1/4 cup sea salt
2 TBS onion powder
1 TBS turmeric
2 tsp marjoram
2 tsp celery salt
2 tsp savory or sage
2 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp parsley

Ingredients before shaking
Put the lid on and shake the jar until your broth powder is well mixed. Don't forget to label it before putting it in the cabinet. It keeps a long time and you don't want to forget what it is!

When you are ready to use simply add 1 TBS broth powder to about 2 cups water (adjust for a stronger/weaker flavor). Now you never need to buy broth again!

Does anyone else make their own broth or broth powder?

(I'm linking this post up to the Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Blog Hop.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Get an internet search engine that pays!

Okay, I want to start by saying that no one is paying me to write this post. I'm doing it because I've found earning Swagbucks to be crazy easy and because the points I earn with Swagucks can be transferred easily into something that I can actually use: Amazon gift cards.

What is Swagbucks? Basically it is a place where you can make an account for free and do little tasks to win prizes and gift cards.

When I first signed up for a Swagbucks account, I wasn't really sure what to do with it. It seemed to take a lot of effort to earn Swagbucks through their little tasks. A lot of the ways they gave to earn Swagbucks were things I thought were a big waste of time.

Then I discovered that I could download the Swagbucks toolbar and earn Swagbucks just by doing something that I was already doing anyway: internet searches. (You don't have to download the toolbar to do internet searches with Swagbucks, but I've found it makes it easier.)

When I use the Swagbucks search engine, I easily win ten or more Swagbucks every day!  Awesome, right? I mean what has Google ever given me for searching with them?

I've been using my account about one month and you can see to the right and down a bit on my Swidget how many Swagbucks I have. Every time I get 450, its worth $5 at Amazon, which is a place I already shop when I can't get things locally.

I encourage you to sign up for Swagbucks and start earning. It is totally free and you get 30 Swagbucks just for signing up. If you sign up here, I will earn points whenever you earn points up to your first 1,000.

Have you used Swagbucks before? Do you have their toolbar? If not, is this something you think you'll try?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Voluntary Simplicity or Poverty?

In listening to someone else talking about her life, I discovered something about my own life: Money wouldn't change my direction at all.

I know when people first hear about my blog they must think that I really value money. I don't though. What I really value is time. Since I don't want to spend lots of hours away from my family working for someone else, I am motivated to save all the money that I can, thus giving me more time at home.

The way we Bushmans live our lives is a concept I've seen other people call voluntary simplicity. But what does that mean, exactly? And what is the difference between voluntary simplicity and just being poor? I've compiled a list of the things that I think make the difference between simple or frugal living and poverty.
  • Choice. I choose to live the way I do because I feel I am living out my values. I have a lot of formal education and could choose to take a job that pays a nice salary, so it is only choice that keeps my earnings low and my free time plentiful!
    • Being debt-free. Debt is slavery. It will keep you working for others when you could be working for yourself. Debt limits your choices and keeps you poor.
      • Being able to save money. Having a savings account is a huge relief. When something goes wrong, savings can eliminate the stress from the situation. Simple living allows for building a savings. Living in poverty does not.
        • Abundant free time. Working from home and homeschooling my kids allows me to be able to set my own schedule and be insanely flexible. All this free time makes me feel rich!
          • Living Simply. Personally, not having a bunch of stuff makes me happier. Really. Its less to clean and organize. Sometimes the people who are in the worst financial position are the ones with the most stuff. You know those people right? They don't pay their rent but they bought a new TV? Those people are poor, in my book.
          • Perception. My life just feels abundant to me. I have plenty of the things I value: time with family, community support, time to pursue my goals and dreams, etc.
            What does simply living mean to you? Do you think there is a difference between living simple and being poor? Do you consider yourself to be living simply?

              Friday, February 17, 2012

              Be frugal with your money and your time

              Hi readers! The following is a guest post by Jon Lal of To return the favor, I did a guest post for, which you can read here.

              The desire to save money on shopping is very common, but many people spend quite a bit of time clipping coupons, flipping through ads and driving from one store to the next. Here are tips to be frugal with your money and your time:

              • Be as organized as possible. Create a plan for your shopping. That means creating a list and putting thought into your purchases ahead of time.  Apply this principle to all the shopping you do, whether it’s Saturday morning grocery shopping, Cyber Monday holiday shopping or anything in between.
              • Open your eyes before opening your wallet. Check out the ads before you shop so you know what’s on sale. Do a quick check for a coupon before you buy anything.  If you are shopping online, look on a coupon site for an offer. For your grocery shopping, look to your coupon organizer or an online coupon database. Don’t be afraid to buy extra if there’s a good sale, but be sure that you’ll use what you are buying. If you go overboard and purchase too much, it may go to waste, meaning that sale really wasn’t a great deal. When grocery shopping:
                • Know how much storage space you have in your pantry and fridge/freezer before you drive to the store. Don’t over-buy if you can’t store it.
                • Be sure you do not waste perishable foods and be mindful of expiration dates. Don’t hesitate to freeze foods if you are in doubt.
              • Be resourceful and create a routine.  Instead of waiting until the paper is delivered or wasting time flipping through all the inserts, use a comprehensive website. A good one covers all your shopping bases and includes weekly ads, printable coupons, online deals and Cash Back.

              • Make it easy for yourself by bookmarking helpful websites and scheduling 30 minutes in your calendar each weekend to plan your shopping. 

              • Get help from your computer. It’s obvious that you should always buy online to save time by not driving from store to store, parking then waiting in line, but there are more reasons why shopping online is more efficient. You can also save more money by shopping online because impulse buying is reduced. There are no sales clerks encouraging you to buy more and you can search only for the items on your list. You can also use free promo codes for discounts and free shipping in addition to earning cash back for free from a cash back website. Often you can combine a discount and earn Cash Back for more savings.
              These tips were shared by coupon & savings expert Jon Lal, founder of offers free Cash Back, with an average rate of 5% at 2000+ online stores. You can sign up for a free account now and get a $10 bonus. Hurry and sign up for BeFrugal’s free Cash Back! The $10 bonus offer is only available for a limited time. 

              Thursday, February 16, 2012

              Movin' on up!

              Some exciting things have been happening for my blog lately!

              • I became a .com - In order to present a more professional appearance, I spent the $10/year it takes to buy and maintain my own domain name system (DNS). I've noticed a definite increase in search engine hits with the new DNS so I'd say its been worth it so far.

              • I have a new home at Thrifty and Green - Although they aren't quite done adding the artistic stuff, if you go there you'll see that my content is up and running. Don't worry. I'll still be here too. Now I'm just in two places at once. :)

              • I have a new logo - My husband worked hard and made me a wonderful logo. Don't you think it looks SO fabulous? I really, really love it!

                • I have a TON of guest post invitations - In addition to writing for my blog, I've been getting lots of invitations to do guest posts for other bloggers and sites. I even have one invitation to be a recurring contributor to a site! I'll let you know the details as soon as they are finalized. 

                As always, thank you so much for reading my blog and for your continued support. I love sharing frugal living advice with you and I will be back to doing that soon, but I just had to take a minute to share all these wonderful changes. I hope you don't mind.

                What do you think of the changes?

                  Tuesday, February 14, 2012

                  What we use to homeschool

                  Lots of simple living proponents are also homeschoolers. I guess its no surprise that in striving for self-sufficiency many embrace homeschooling as a part of their do-it-yourself mentality. That's certainly what led me to homeschooling.

                  When we started homeschooling, I wanted desperately to know how other people homeschooled their children and what they used. I thought there was a magical formula for homeschooling and if I could just find the perfect curriculum, we'd have it! Now that I've done it for a couple of years I realize that homeschooling means customizing an education specifically for your child. That is the aspect of homeschooling that can make it so successful! Because of this, no one can tell me the perfect thing to do for my kid. In the same way, my telling you what I do for my kids won't be the perfect thing to do for your kids. However, maybe one or two of our choices might be just what you are looking for!

                  We are generally classical homeschoolers (helping our kids move through the stages of grammar, logic, and rhetoric), but we also do some unschooling (child-led learning). I also like to improvise our homeschool curriculum and what I've made up doesn't necessarily fall into a specific style.

                  What we do without textbooks:

                  We follow a schedule, but also try to be open to learning opportunities as they arrive or as our moods dictate. We do lots of reading and writing. To save money on paper, the kids often write on their rewritable white boards that I picked up at Target for $1 each.

                  Every day the kids read aloud, read quietly to themselves, and write in their journals. Weekly they are required to present a book report. I buy the notebooks for journals in bulk for 10-25 cents each during the back to school sales. The books come from the library.

                  I think memorization is important, but I also want it to be fun, so we memorize songs. So far we've memorized the Animaniacs Presidents Song, Animaniacs States and Capital Song, and The 50 States That Rhyme. To memorize these songs, we just break them into verses and focus on one verse each week or so, until we have it!

                  We also use the following books:

                  • All subjects - What your Nth grader needs to know - If I were someone just starting out with homeschooling and I could only buy one book, it would be What your Nth grader needs to know. You can buy this series of books on Amazon for one cent each (plus shipping). We use this book currently to fill in the gaps, but the first year we used it almost exclusively--especially for art, music, history and science.

                  • Science - Real Science 4 Kids We use the textbooks only and omit the lab books and teachers guide to save money. I try to pick these books up for $10 or less. My kids really like the pictures and they can read the text themselves. We supplement with videos from Kahn Academy and Discovery Education. (My mom bought us a subscription to Discovery Education. Its pricey, but I hear some states offer it to homeschoolers for free. We enjoy having it, but we will ask my mom to save her money in the future. There's too many free resources on-line to pay for a video service!)

                  •  History - Story of the World and A Child's History of the World These books are great! Story of the world has four levels/books. A Child's History of the World is just one book. We use both and add in History Pockets and other history crafts. 

                  • Math - Math Mammoth is pretty cheap and we like it a lot. If you are looking for a free program, you could try MEP Math. I also mentioned here that we use Fun for the Brain, a free math games site, to reinforce our Math Mammoth lessons.

                  • Grammar - We just recently decided to switch over to Kiss Grammar because its free and because my kids weren't retaining information with Growing with Grammar. I really haven't been using Kiss long enough to say how it is going.
                    • Spelling - Click n Spell This is a lifetime on-line subscription I bought through Homeschool Buyers Co-op. It was about $50, but worth it for me because I hate teaching spelling!
                    • Typing - Here is a totally free typing instructional game on line. We use it and my kids are really learning to type!
                    Daddy Bushman homeschools the kids one day each week in Spanish, Art, and Music. I didn't mention what he uses to do so because, honestly, I have no idea. That one day each week is my all important me-time!
                      Not everything I've mentioned here is free, but since we spend very little on homeschooling, most of it is pretty affordable. Don't forget to get look for homeschool books and resources first from your public library, where everything IS free!

                      What's your favorite homeschooling resource? What's your favorite way to homeschool for free?
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