Learn to Save Money the Teensy Tiny Way

Learn to Save Money the Teensy Tiny Way Perhaps you have the best intentions to save money, but still have zero savings.  Nada. Nilch. None.

If you truly want to learn to save money but have tried and failed (spending it on fast food and Amazon, you say?), then what might be lacking is a place to start and a path to follow.


You need to establish a habit of saving money. 

To establish that habit, you need to have a set of rules and a starting point.  The beginning rules should be very simple and very easy. 

For this money saving habit, you will start with a tiny amount and keep repeating.  And repeating.  Until you reach a point that it feels disturbing to skip the habit, even once.  When you reach that point, the habit has become locked in a neuron path in your brain. 

You can now start increasing the amount that you save – in small increments that get larger over time.  One day in the not so distant future, you will be surprised at how much and how easily you put money into your savings.

Here is an example of how to start saving money – perhaps it was the easiest example until COVID created a coin shortage! 

In this example, you set a rule:  Save one coin every week by Friday at midnight.  That’s it.  Just one coin, even a penny.  Starting right now.

You find a jar (or a box or a container) and set it on your dresser.  Deposit your first coin and your habit has begun. 

Do not go out a buy a fancy piggy bank or jug for your coins.  Start with what you have.  When you have reached a milestone … say 12 weeks of faithful saving, then you can get yourself something better if you still want it.  But don’t reward yourself by buying a fancy savings container at the start of the new habit.  Make yourself earn the reward.  If you reward yourself before you start, you fool yourself into thinking you have already accomplished your goal and your mind begins to lose interest. 

After a couple of weeks, if you want to add in miscellaneous pocket change or even a dollar bill or two, go ahead.  But don’t change the rule.  One coin. Once a week.  That is all it takes for you to have a successful week.  After a few weeks,  step up your game.  Increase the required number of coins or make it two days a week.  Yet stay within a limit that you know you can reach.  Don’t try to jump from saving a few coins once a week to saving a $20 bill once a week.  It’s better to go from a coin, to a few coins, to a $1 bill, to a $5 bill over time.

Create reminders and make absolutely no excuses.  If you wake up and remember that you forgot to save your coin, then get out of bed right away and find a coin to deposit in your savings bank!  Self discipline means you follow through on your commitments even if it is inconvenient, even if you are tired or had a bad day, and especially when there is a voice in your mind insisting that it doesn’t really matter if you skip this one time.  It matters.

You are doing two things right now.  First, establishing a habit – repeating it until it is naturally and permanently a part of your routine.  Second, you are changing your self image from an image of one who “can’t save money” to one of “I save money on a set basis without fail.”

Once you are hard wired to save money, you will be surprised at the ideas and opportunities that begin to appear that will help you to begin to grow your savings. 

Now, our example was saving coins in a jar.   No coins?  Perhaps you can put $1.00 in your savings account every time you get a paycheck.   Or every Tuesday  you can drink water at lunch instead of a soft drink and then transfer the price of the soft drink into your savings account.  (Hint, make it really easy and calculate the soft drink cost once and continue to use the same figure week after week. )

You make the rules.  Make them easy, with a set time and place to perform, and at an initially very low set amount.

Look at you. Now you are a person who makes a habit of saving money. You are awesome!

Share your rules and your progress in the comments!






Garage Sales for Bargain Kitchen Appliances

Colorful kitchen appliancesThis is the time of year for garage sales … there seems to be one or two in full display nearly every time I run an errand.

You might call them tag sales, yard sales, or even moving sales.

If you have been considering a purchase of a small kitchen appliance or specialty gadget, garage sales are a great way to have an inexpensive “trial run” to get an idea of what features are important to you, as well as whether you will even use the item at all.  A large majority of small kitchen appliances are rarely used and many of them find their way to garage sales.

For example, bread making machines are a common item to find at garage sales in my area.  The average price for a new-looking machine is about $5.00.  Yup.  $5.00 for a machine that probably cost $60.00 to $100.00 new.

Personally, I love my bread machine.  I use it often.   But if you visit garage sales in my area, it would seem that I am in the minority, and that many bread machines get used once or twice and then abandoned.

So, in this example, if you have been thinking about buying a bread machine, you could find one at a garage sale and take it home and experiment with it to see if you will actually use it enough to warrant owning one.  If so, then using the machine will also help you to decide what features are important to you and if you are satisfied enough to keep the one you bought or if you will now buy a new model with greater confidence of which one to select.  If you choose to buy a new machine with better features, the garage sale machine can be given away to a friend or charity for a win-win solution.

My guess is that you’ll save a considerable amount of money on small kitchen appliances this way, especially the specialty ones.   Many (if not most!) specialty appliances  are used once or twice and then forgotten, given away or sold.   Bread makers, waffle makers,  ice cream makers, single milk shake mixers, tabletop grills, frozen ice drink makers, pocket sandwich makers, food dehydrators, etc., are the type of appliance that you tend to either really love and use or you find that it’s just too much trouble to get it out, use it, and clean it.  Weed out the latter ones with a $5.00 or $10.00 purchase price, rather than spending $75.00 or $100.00 for something that will sit unused in your cabinet.

One important note – whenever you buy a small appliance at a garage sale, take the time to ask the owner if the appliance works and what they did/didn’t like about it.  I almost always get an honest answer.  Quite often the item is still in the original box and looks barely used.  You may even be able to plug the appliance in and see if it works.

My son has been asking for waffles, so I’m on the lookout for a waffle maker.  I’ve checked out prices for new ones, so I’ll recognize a true bargain when I see it.  Now that he’s been asking, I’m looking forward to having a breakfast of waffles, too!  Since I have my doubts that I’ll use a waffle maker often enough to warrant spending a lot of money on one, I’m looking for one in great condition that I can experiment with.

[Update:  I found a good waffle maker at our Humane Society’s Red Barn Resale Shop.  $2.00!  It makes yummy waffles. ]

How about you?  Have you found a favorite kitchen appliance at a garage sale? I’d love to hear about your experience.

Have fun looking for and experimenting with your bargain garage sale finds.  That’s the Fat Dollar way.

Editor’s Note:  this is an updated post from 02-04-12

The Cost Savings of Freezing Milk

Carton of milk and jar of frozen milkI’m always delighted when I do something to make my life easier and then find that it saves money, too. In this case, I’m referring to freezing milk for later use.

Milk can be easily frozen.  A quart sized canning jar is perfect for freezing milk.  Be sure to leave room in the container for the milk to expand as it freezes.

When milk freezes, over time the fats in the milk separate from the water in the milk.  To avoid this, freeze milk for very short periods, such as 2 -3 days.  Alternatively, you can vigorously shake, stir, or blend the milk after it is thawed to redistribute the fats.

The best way to thaw frozen milk is to put it in the refrigerator overnight.  Larger quantities of frozen milk may require longer than a night to thaw.  An alternative is to put the sealed frozen milk container in a sink or bowl of cold water to thaw.

At my local grocery stores, milk is currently on sale for $2.50 a gallon.  That translates to $.156 per cup.   Freezing a quart of fresh milk to prevent it from spoilage and resulting waste will save $.62 (4 cups @ .156/cup)  Freezing and later using a quart of milk each week would save $32.24 a year, or the equivalent of over 12 gallons of milk a year.

Even better than the money savings is the convenience of always having milk for cooking and eating.  No more special trips to the store for a gallon of milk!  That is a big time saver.  And hey, that saves gasoline as well.  Now that’s The Fat Dollar way.


Related article on The Fat Dollar website (more detailed) – Freezing Milk


Editor’s Note: Article originally published Jun 26 2012

More Inexpensive Christmas Gift Ideas – $10 or Less!

[Editor’s note 08-18-19:  I updated the prices and availability on most of these and had to replace a few.  Some are now somewhat over $10.00.  This was originally posted Dec 2012!]

Woman Hugging PackageIt’s wonderful to be able to give special gifts at Christmas, and it’s even more wonderful to be able to give a perfect, yet inexpensive gift.

Last year The Fat Dollar published Frugal Gifts – 10 Inexpensive Gift Ideas  and Awesome, Yet Inexpensive Gift Ideas but there are still many more gift ideas for gifts $10 or less.  Most of these are for older children or adults.  I’ve tried to include links where I thought it would help you find the specific recommendation.

1.  Make an Admiration or Adoration Box.

Start with a smaller box or a pretty jar.  Decorate it with fabric, costume jewelry, and/or trim if you like.

Next take slips or squares of paper and write (or print with your computer) one thing on each slip that you love, admire or find unique about the person the gift is for. You can even write special memories of that person.  Use full sentences, single words, even little photos or drawings.  The idea is for each slip to bring a special thought or feeling.

You can get as creative as you want with decorating the slips of paper, using calligraphy, special paper, or printing them with your printer with special fonts for the letters.

Put the slips in the box or jar so that the person can draw one out and read it whenever they like or whenever they need a boost of love.

This is an especially good present for grandparents or for someone who does not really need more “things”.

Cost:  Will vary with how much decorating you do and whether you buy a box or container, but the estimate would be $1.00 to $3.00 in paper and decorating materials.


2.  For your down-to-earth friends, Mother Earth News is having a great sale of items that would make perfect gifts.


The current sale includes:

Mortier Pilon Mason Jar Lids

Mortier Pilon Mason Jar Lids (Beautiful!) – set of 12 for $5.69



Heirloom Vegetable Gardening CD for $4.00  (Yes, some of us still have CD players)

The Bountiful Container Guide to Container Gardening  $8.35


 Cost of each above gift is $4.00 to $8.35 each (not including shipping)


3.  If you are buying for a writer or someone who keeps a journal, look at the Miquelrius line of notebooks.

These are  premium notebooks and my personal favorite for journaling.  I’d rate them a 5 star. The pages are ultra smooth, the lines are fine and straight, and the spirals are high quality.  The notebook lies flat for easy writing.

 You can buy them from   amazon.com

Cost:  $12.99 includes prime shipping

(Yes, I realize this is more than $10.00.  The price increased since the original post.  But I still love these notebooks and wouldn’t have anything else for my morning pages.)


4.  Book Ideas:


Man Up!: 357 Classic Skills for the Modern Guy – paperback – currently $9.98 at Amazon.com

How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free – currently $9.93 at Amazon.com

7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens– currently slightly over our $10.00 limit at $11.34

The Everything Kid’s Science Experiments Book – currently $9.99 at Amazon.com

The 125 Best Brain Teasers of All Time– currently $9.40 at Amazon.com


5.  For the book reader – a book light


Energizer LED Book Light  – currently $7.90 at Amazon.com 

LED Book Light by French Bull– currently $9.99 at Amazon.com



6.  Leather Kindle Cover by mCover in Pink , Green, Blue, or Black


ACdream Case for the Kindle 10th Generation and Kindle 8th Generation   – currently $9.99 at Amazon.com

Note:  Be sure you know the Kindle model/size


7.   Make a book of your family’s favorite recipes – hand write or print with your computer.


Put them in a spiral hardback notebook and leave room for the recipient to add their own favorite recipes. This is especially nice to give to a new family member or to a new bride.

My Favorite Recipes  – It is very nice for recipes … I just wish it was a little more colorful!

Blank Cookbook Recipes & Notes  – $6.99


 8. Bag of gourmet coffee and a coffee cup


Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC has many selections of coffee at $9.95


9.   Make a gift basket


Ideas:  Variety of popcorn in a popcorn bowl

Muffin mixes and a muffin tin

Pancake mix and syrup (darn it, adding a skillet or griddle would take the cost over $10.00)

Jellies and jams and a box of biscuit mix (or a container of your homemade biscuit mix)

Decks of cards and a book of card game rules

Basket of soaps and wash cloths


10.  Give a garden
–   delightful kits for $9.99

My Fairy Garden – Tree Hollow growing kit – $9.99

A kit to grow herbs like basil is perfect for the cook!  Try making your own kit with a beautiful flower pot, soil, and packets of seeds.


11.  Give a bottle of wine.


FoodandWine.com has a a good  listing of recommended wines , with many being $10.00 or less.

Gayot.com has a listing of the Top 10 Wines under $10.00

The Reverse Wine Snob has a listing of the Top 10 Red Wines Under $20.00 – several are 10.00 and under – look at Costco’s Kirkland Rioja Reserva for $6.99 a bottle!

I personally like the Yellow Tail line of wines. 
Barefoot wines are also quite pleasant and inexpensive.


12.  For your northern friends, give a pair of gloves and a deluxe ice scraper.


Other ideas in this category:

 Amazon has Proheat Reusable Hand Warmers

Carhartt Mens’ Extremes Cold Weather Boot Socks
Dickies Men’s Acrylis Thermal Boot Crew Socks

HeatMax Cold Weather Survival Readiness Kit (hand and foot warmers, body warmers)

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (pack of 10) – $8.45 at Amazon


13.  Zorbitz Lucky Bracelets or Zorbitz Karma Bracelets

These bracelets cost about $6.99 to $9.99 and each bracelet has a meaning or special purpose.  There is a wide selection of really intriguing and attractive bracelets.

 /> Zorbitz bracelets

15.  Practical gifts


These work when you want to give something to someone who has little interest in “stuff” or who may simply need certain things.

  • A book of stamps.  Add envelopes and note cards too.
  • Gift certificate to their favorite fast-food restaurant (yes, I know I said practical and this is a little off-base).  Restaurant.com offers discounted restaurant certificates, but I have not tried them so I cannot offer any information
  • Especially nice socks or underwear
  • Laundry basket with laundry detergent
  • Set of bath towels and washcloths (get the nicest you can – a good bath towel is a treasure after a shower!)
  • Set of kitchen towels – again go for the more plush ones; the cheap ones are somewhat useless and please don’t get a microfiber kitchen towel
  • Set of shop rags and disposable shop towels (I did say practical, didn’t I?)
  • Mason jar filled with homemade cookie or muffin mix with the recipe attached (I love making these!)
  • An assortment of spices and herbs – try Penzeys Spices, The Spice House, your grocery store, or local specialty shops.  It’s especially nice to get a spice or herb that a cook might hesitate to buy because it is a little more expensive than average.
  • Make and freeze a meal, dessert, main dish, side dish, or snack
  • Fill a large, tightly-lidded food storage container with homemade biscuit or muffin mix.
  • A set of re-useable shopping bags
  • Give a deluxe mechanical pencil to someone who appreciates writing instruments such as a writer, engineer, or accountant
  • A couple of low-energy fluorescent (CLF) or LED bulbs to replace their energy-hogging incandescent bulbs
  • An assortment of chocolate bars for the choc-a-holic (of course this is practical)
  • A fire extinguisher, smoke alarm, or carbon monoxide detector
  • An assortment of AA and AAA batteries (try the Maxell batteries from Amazon)
  • If they have a charger, they would love more rechargeable batteries – find out what kind of charger they have – you can buy the specific battery brand or many chargers will charge a variety of brands of rechargeable AA and AAA batteries
  • Make a set of coasters from 4-inch ceramic tiles – use paint, or decoupage pretty gift wrap.  Glue a piece of felt on the bottom.
  • If you have leftover herbs from your garden, make sachet bundles or little pillows with either specific herbs (like lavender or mint) or from a mixture.
  • Give a small planter or flower in a pot
  • Make a little gift basket for their favorite pet
  • Give a special Christmas ornament that recognizes a person, special interest, or hobby
  • Supplies for their hobby – scrapbooking, photography, bird watching, small rocket launching, etc. – find out what they frequently use or like.  Unless you’ve heard the person specifically express an interest in something they don’t normally use, then for our practical section, it’s best to buy them something that they normally use but is harder to get or is slightly out of their current budget.


I hope these give you some ideas.  As you can see, you can give special gifts for $10.00 or less.

If you have additional ideas, share them with us in the comments.  Thank you!

(Note that some of the links are in affiliation with Amazon.com and may pay us a commission.)

Is That a Counterfeit Coupon?

scattered coupons and pair of scissorsHave you ever seen a grocery coupon offered online or as an attachment to an email that seemed to good to be true?

I learned a hard lesson about counterfeit coupons several years ago.  I don’t recall the source of the coupon,  but I had printed an internet coupon good for a free rental at Blockbuster Video (yes, it was awhile ago!).  It did not even occur to me that the coupon might be a fraud.

My then teenaged son and his girlfriend were going to Blockbuster to pick out some movies to watch.  I suddenly felt generous.  “Here,”  I said, “you can have my coupon.  Get yourself a free movie rental.”  They were thrilled.

They were not so thrilled when they tried to rent the movie with my coupon.  The coupon was rejected.  To make matters worse, the manager pulled them aside and accused them of creating the coupon themselves and trying to commit fraud at the store.  He even mentioned that he should call the police.

They were shaken.  I was mortified.  I still cringe when I think of it.

Since then, I have been overly cautious about printing or downloading free coupons from the internet.   For the most part, I only print coupons from trusted sites like SmartSource.com , ValPak.com , Grocerysmarts.com, RedPlum.com and Coupons.com as well as directly from a product’s company website, such as Purina.com. 

Better yet, I usually download coupons directly to my grocery store card.  My grocery store offers digital grocery coupons from a variety of name-brand sources. 

How do you know if a coupon is counterfeit or legitimate?

There is a website, that if I had know about it back then, might have shown me that the coupon I had was a fraud.  The site is the CouponInformation Center.com.  It does not seem to be as vibrant or as frequently updated as it has been in the past, but the site still has good information.

Try visiting the Coupon Information Center and looking up your coupon. If it is listed on the list at the Coupon Information Center www.couponinformationcenter.com then you can save yourself a dose of mortification and throw it away. 

Currently, the site is listing, among others, these counterfeit grocery coupons:

  • PepsiCo, All Brands, $3.00 coupon
  • Kraft Foods, Velveeta, 1 lb Free
  • Nestle, Friskies, one Free
  • Proctor & Gamble, Any Product, Free
  • and at least a few hundred more

Each counterfeit coupon listing has a Download PSA listing with a picture and description of the counterfeit coupon.  There is also information on their (up to) $2500 reward system for helping to find and prosecute the person producing the coupon, but note that each coupon has an expiration date of the reward offer for that particular coupon.

So if you get a coupon that seems to good to be true, first visit the Coupon Information Center site and see if they have it listed. If they do have it listed as a counterfeit, consider reporting the source of your coupon to the CIC.  Then toss the coupon.

Other steps to verify your coupon

If the coupon is not listed, you still can’t be sure it is legitimate.  To try to verify it, try visiting the product’s website to see if your coupon is being offered there.  You might also try visiting some of the major coupon distributing sites (see links above) to see if they are offering the coupon.  You can even try googling it to see what you can unearth on it.

Another site to try for verification of your coupon is CouponsInc.com. They have a section on their site where you can enter the bar code of the coupon and they will tell you if it is a legitimate Coupons, Inc. coupon.  Note that this does not work for other coupons.  I tested the Veri-Fi It feature with a $1.00 off Turkey Hill Ice Cream coupon that I received in a mail flyer.  I’m certain it is legitimate, but CouponsInc.com returned a negative because it was not one of their coupons.

Signs of a fraudulent coupon

CouponsInc.com advises that if a site is displaying a copy of the actual coupon, it is most likely fake.  They advise that a legitimate coupon requires that you print it with special software (that you download and store on your computer) that prints the barcodes and also limits the number of times a coupon can be printed.  You will only see the actual coupon when you print it.

Another sign is a coupon that appears to have been cut from a flyer or magazine, yet it has a blank back.

And need I say this: If it seems to good to be true, such as for a free product, then it very likely is. 

Try Customer Service to ask about your coupon

If you still are unable to verify the coupon and the offer is valuable enough that you hesitate to toss it, I would contact the product’s company customer service center and ask them if your coupon is legitimate.

I would not take any chances on a questionable coupon that you cannot verify.  Tossing it could save you from some extreme embarrassment.

How about you?  Have you ever come across a counterfeit coupon?


Editor’s note: this post has been updated from our original post from 08-18-13

Stretching Your Skin Care Dollars

I saw a reader tip from a woman’s magazine about getting the last bit of skin care lotion from the tube and I decided to try it.  Some anti-aging skin care lotions are breathtakingly pricey – $60.00 or more per tube. If your skin care lotion is in this price range, you will see considerable savings from this tip.

Scissors and Cut TubeBasically, once you have squeezed every last bit from the tube, you simply snip off the end of the tube.  A considerable amount of lotion remains inside on the sides of the tube. In addition,an even larger amount of  lotion remains in the tip and mouth of the tube.  I estimate that 10 – 20% of the lotion can be recovered this way.

When I tried this with two different tubes, I had a comfortable week’s worth of extra lotion from one tube and over two weeks of use from another.  I was absolutely delighted.

This works with anti-aging skin care lotion, moisturizing lotion, other types of skin care lotion.  It would be very beneficial for a prescription tube of lotion.   I estimated that I have saved several dollars already.

It was easy, effective, frugal, and made use of items that I already had … that makes it a Fat Dollar money saving tip.

More details and photos are posted on The Fat Dollar site.