The Frugal Toad http://www.thefrugaltoad.com Money Saving Advice for Everyday Living Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:43:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Save Money by Turning Canned Fruits Into Amazing Desserts http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/frugal-living/save-money-turning-canned-fruits-amazing-desserts http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/frugal-living/save-money-turning-canned-fruits-amazing-desserts#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:59:20 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=6094 Eating well on the cheap? The rice and beans brigade will tell you that asceticism is the only way to go but all budget and no bounty makes for a pretty boring life. Now it’s understandable that after buying groceries for breakfast, lunch, dinner and let’s not forget the snacks, there’s not much left over [...]

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Eating well on the cheap? The rice and beans brigade will tell you that asceticism is the only way to go but all budget and no bounty makes for a pretty boring life. Now it’s understandable that after buying groceries for breakfast, lunch, dinner and let’s not forget the snacks, there’s not much left over for dessert – even when dessert is fresh fruit. 

Luckily there’s canned fruit to the rescue. When your family favorites aren’t in season you can grab last season’s bounty from a supermarket shelf and turn it into a gorgeous after-dinner treat that kids of all ages will gobble down. Intrigued? Check out these budget-friendly (and surprisingly easy) finds for some amazing desserts made frugal thanks to all things canned.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

mini pineapple upside down cake

Image via Taste of Home

This is one of those crowd pleasers that looks posh with almost no prep thanks to the fact that it needs no frosting as a finisher. A basic vanilla cake recipe gets a tropical upgrade with simple canned pineapple rings and a brown sugar glaze that sets right in the oven. This recipe from Taste of Home uses pantry staples almost exclusively so there’s no need to shop outside of your thrifty comfort zone for ingredients that may or may not be used again. 

 

 

 

 

Fruit Cobblers, Crumbles & Crisps

cherry cobbler

Image via Better Homes and Gardens

These desserts are the frugal mom’s friend in more ways than one. How much effort you want to put in is up to you – there’s the plain canned fruit waiting for you to add the sugar and spice or already sweet pie mixes that make putting a fresh baked dessert on the table as easy as cranking the can opener. These recipes from Better Homes and Gardens take cobbler from a can to the next level without asking you to buy anything more than staples like graham crackers, lemon juice or white chocolate chips. 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Cheesecake 

pumpkin cheesecake

Image via Kraft

Are you only baking seasonal desserts? Well, you don’t have to when there’s canned pumpkin in the pantry! The flavors of autumn come to the table looking labor intensive and luxurious but the truth is there are few desserts easier to make. This three-step pumpkin cheesecake from Kraft is a fall favorite that’s not only gorgeous all year round, but also wallet-friendly thanks to fact that it’s made from ingredients most frugal folks will already have on hand. 

 

 

Dessert Pizza

fruit pizza

Image via Pillsbury

This wild take on pizza and dessert both delights pie lovers and intrigues gourmands – all without costing a lot. Some recipes use readymade pie crust, but those who prefer their sweets will love this recipe from Pillsbury that uses sugar cookie dough for the crust and sweetened cream cheese for the sauce. Canned (and frozen) fruit provides the fresh flavor and beautiful color. It’s another dessert that arrives looking like a million bucks but with coupons may cost practically nothing.

 

 

When you’re totally pressed for time, you can use the same techniques that make these canned fruit desserts so amazing. You can easily turn cake mixes, premade graham cracker crusts and store-bought pie crusts into something more like homemade. Only you’ll know how frugal life’s sweet luxurious can be!

– By Lana Evans

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What Benefits are you Entitled to? http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/benefits-entitled-to http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/benefits-entitled-to#comments Sun, 14 Sep 2014 18:39:43 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=6118 According to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), there are around 5.3 million people of working age in the UK claiming benefits of some kind, and although many people think benefits are only available to those who don’t work, this is not true – some benefits are related to your age or personal circumstances [...]

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benefits entitled toAccording to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), there are around 5.3 million people of working age in the UK claiming benefits of some kind, and although many people think benefits are only available to those who don’t work, this is not true – some benefits are related to your age or personal circumstances rather than your employment status.

With many benefits being replaced by the Universal Credit before 2017, it’s a good time to work out what you’re entitled to. Organizations including the Money Advice Service can really help you get to grips with the new system and how it may affect you by providing information on how Universal Credit works.

An important step in managing your money is to understand which benefits you’re entitled to. Moneysavingexpert.com offers a free online benefits check-up. Simply answer a few questions about your personal and work circumstances and you can get an accurate summary of the benefits you’re entitled to.

In addition to what you might call ‘traditional benefits’, help is also available to assist you with a range of everyday costs depending on your stage of life. Although not a complete list, some examples include:

Bringing up children – from September 2014, all children in reception, year 1 and year 2 are entitled to receive free school meals and for some families help is also available for the cost of school uniform. Depending on your level of income, you may also be entitled to support with the costs of childcare. Financial support is also available if you are expecting a child.

Learning – depending on your age, you may be entitled to support for education. Such support ranges from a bursary for 16-19 year olds, to financial assistance for those returning to learn as adults.

Coping with illness – if you’re ill or recovering from illness, you may be entitled to help with travel, prescription charges or even living costs. See www.nhs.uk for more information. 

Retired – from bus passes to winter fuel allowances and reduced TV licenses, once you stop working, you can save on a number of everyday expenses.

One-off grants are also available for things like making your home more energy efficient. Links to information on a full range of benefits and grants is available from the Money Advice Service.

Once you’ve used one of the benefits calculators to work out what you think you’re entitled to, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) can help you with the process of claiming if you need it. The CAB gives advice over the phone or face to face at a local centre. Find your local centre here.

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4 Things You Should Know About a Power of Attorney http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/4-things-know-power-attorney http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/4-things-know-power-attorney#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 02:13:06 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=6112 A Power of Attorney is a document that allows you (the principal) to appoint someone (the agent) to act on your behalf.  There are many reasons why you might want to appoint someone else to look after your financial affairs. For example, if you own a property in a different state you can give power [...]

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power of attorneyA Power of Attorney is a document that allows you (the principal) to appoint someone (the agent) to act on your behalf.  There are many reasons why you might want to appoint someone else to look after your financial affairs. For example, if you own a property in a different state you can give power to your agent to sell your property for you. You can also plan ahead and appoint an agent to take care of your finances if you are ever hospitalized for long periods of time.

A Power of Attorney is important to have and is simple to create. Below is a list of 4 things you should keep in mind when creating your Power of Attorney.

  1. Select a Power

A Power of Attorney allows you to choose from two types of powers that you can give to your agent; Durable and Ordinary.

Durable Power - is intended to remain in force in the event that the principal later becomes mentally incompetent. The Durable Power of Attorney ends when the principal passes away.

Ordinary Power - is valid as long as the principal is capable of acting for him or herself. An Ordinary Power of Attorney will end automatically when the principal becomes mentally incapacitated or passes away.

  1. Choose The Right Agent

When selecting your agent keep in mind that they will be carrying out decisions on your behalf. It is important to choose someone you trust and who will respect your wishes. Responsibilities of an agent are:

  • To act in your best interest;
  • To keep accurate records of dealings/transactions undertaken on your behalf;
  • To act for you with the utmost good faith and avoid situations where there is a conflict of interest; and
  • To keep your property and money separate from their own
  1. Agent Compensation

Depending on your relationship with your agent, you can decide to compensate them for their service or just pay them for out-of-pocket expenses. Out-of-pocket expense would include gas, parking, administration fees, etc.

  1. Signing Your Power of Attorney

Once you have completed creating your Power of Attorney, you will need to have it signed before a notary and have a witness or witnesses present. When signing your document use your usual cheque signing signature and initial each page of the document. 

Note: Your witness cannot be the spouse (married or common-law) of the principal or agent.

Getting Started

Now that you know what information is needed for a Power of Attorney, it will be easy to create your own. There are many resources that can help you get started such as an online legal forms website. Whichever resource you choose, don’t wait until it’s too late to create your Power of Attorney.

LawDepot is the leading publisher of do it yourself legal documents and omits unnecessary legal fees. With over 10 years’ experience, LawDepot has helped its customers save half a billion dollars. LawDepot’s easy step by step questions allow you to create any legal document within minutes!  Start your 1 week free trial today.

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Four Things That Every First Time Investor Should Know http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/four-things-every-first-time-investor-know http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/four-things-every-first-time-investor-know#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 13:28:17 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=6084 Being a first time investor can be a scary prospect.  Nothing is guaranteed in the investment world.  That being said, investing is a real way to grow your wealth over time and with some common knowledge, investing can be profitable.  While there are many aspects of investing which can take years to understand and implement, [...]

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first-time investorBeing a first time investor can be a scary prospect.  Nothing is guaranteed in the investment world.  That being said, investing is a real way to grow your wealth over time and with some common knowledge, investing can be profitable.  While there are many aspects of investing which can take years to understand and implement, here are three first time investors should know.

Your Basic Investment Strategy

Investing requires strategy.  How will you pick stocks?  How will you know when to buy or sell your equities?  These basic questions can be answered by understanding fundamental and technical analysis.  These two investment strategies are based around two very different methodologies.

  • Fundamental Analysis – Using a fundamental strategy for investing means you are looking for the value in the company you are investing in.  By analyzing cash flow statements, income statements, and balance sheets, one can visualize a company’s value.  You have to look for what the company’s future can be and how that translates to its value.  Investing using fundamental analysis is typically regarded as long term investing.  It can take time for a company to realize its value and the market to react.
  • Technical Analysis – Technical strategy investors are only interested in the numbers, but not the same as fundamentalists.  Their main focus is the stock price and how it fluctuates throughout a period of time.  Technical investors tend to look at the market as a whole and try to gauge the overall emotion.  Many consider investors who use technical analysis to be simple traders.  They are interested in buying an asset and selling it quickly at a higher price.

When you understand what strategy you want to implement, you can work toward picking investments to meet your goals and what you are comfortable with.

Diversification is a Must

No matter if you are a first time investor or a seasoned one, you need to have diversity.  Diversification is the concept of spreading your overall risk by holding different types of assets.  Depending on your strategy, you can have riskier (less diversification) or more conservative (high diversification) equities.  Stocks can be all over the place depending on the industry or part of the world they reside.  Blue chip stocks are relatively safe, but international stocks can be more volatile.  Remember, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

Watch the Fees!

Let’s face it, investing costs money.  There is the required capital to start investing, along with trading commissions, management fees, and others.  Fees can singlehandedly ruin your investment return if you are not vigilant.  Mutual funds, for instance, come with expense ratios, which are fees required to manage the fund.  If a fund’s expense ratio is .75%, then for every $1,000 you have invested, the fee is $7.5 per year.

If you have an investment advisor who charges 1% per year to manage your money, that could add up.  You would owe them $1,000 for every $100,000.  As your money grows, so do your fees.  Online brokerages come with trading fees/commissions.  If you want to execute a trade, you could pay $9.99 per trade.  The more you trade, the more it costs.

Make sure you are cognizant of all fees associated with your accounts and your investments.  Fees can and will slowly eat away at your returns.

Technology Is Your Friend

Finally, take advantage of all of the perks that modern technology has to offer you. For example, most trading platforms can be taken on the go in app form, meaning you’re never forced to stay by your desktop PC if you need to go out. Similarly, investment experts like Killik and Co. have educational materials all across the web, so if you want to learn more about general investment or specific investment strategies, you can find them with a simple web search.

By educating yourself about the different investing strategies, the importance of watching fees, and diversifying your portfolio, you will be well on your way to building your portfolio.

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How to Financially Prepare for Death http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/financially-prepare-death http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/financially-prepare-death#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:10:05 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=6089 There are few times when a person knows that death is upon them in a specific amount of time. Those that are diagnosed with a terminal disease may begin preparing financially and those that enter the middle age period of their lives see this as important too. Preparing financially for death is a way to [...]

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financially prepare for deathThere are few times when a person knows that death is upon them in a specific amount of time. Those that are diagnosed with a terminal disease may begin preparing financially and those that enter the middle age period of their lives see this as important too. Preparing financially for death is a way to help reduce the stress and additional anguish experienced by loved ones after your passing.

Pay Down Debt

Do your very best to pay down debt. This includes paying off homes, cars and credit accounts. Minimal bills means less financial burden for your family. Everyday bills such as utility bills or rent are simple for the family to take care of. The less debt they are left with, the better off the final estate will be.

Close out Credit Accounts

Regardless of what types of credit accounts you have, close them. Pay them off and close them. Credit card payments continue to go up after someone passes due to the interest on the account. This can leave a family with having to pay an inflated bill that is unknown at the time of your death.

The better you are able to take care of your credit accounts, the easier your final expense payments will be for your family members.

Purchase Life Insurance

It is ideal to purchase life insurance when you reach age 50. This helps your family to pay for your final expenses. As of 2014, the average cost of a funeral is $10,000. Even for the simplest funerals, the costs are rising. A life insurance policy can pay for your funeral and any other bills or medical expenses that arise following your death, providing that the coverage amount purchased is enough.

Consider Selling Possessions

If you have possessions that have value, consider selling them if you do not wish to leave them for specific family members. The funds from the items can be used toward paying down your final expenses.

The death of a loved one is hard to grasp at first. Everything is a blur and you walk around in a fog. Figuring out how to pay for final expenses, mortgages, vehicles and other bills left behind is stressful and aggravates the mourning process. When those increasing in age take the time to financially prepare for their passing, it relieves some of the stress and confusion from their family members. They are dealing with enough, figuring out how to pay bills left behind is the last thing they wish to deal with. In some cases the debt racked up by someone of age is impossible to pay off. Consider the items above and plan to reach near financial freedom before you leave this life.

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Tesla Patents Now Open Source: Will Electric Vehicle Production Take Off? http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/tesla-patents-now-open-source-will-electric-vehicles-hybrid-car-production-take http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/personalfinance/tesla-patents-now-open-source-will-electric-vehicles-hybrid-car-production-take#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 13:10:56 +0000 http://www.thefrugaltoad.com/?p=6069 Back in June, Tesla Motors CEO, Elon Musk, changed the game on electric vehicles. He penned a blog post on their site indicating they will no longer go after people violating their patents. They even took their patents down off their “patent wall” at their corporate headquarters in Palo Alto. This step is unprecedented in [...]

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electric vehicleBack in June, Tesla Motors CEO, Elon Musk, changed the game on electric vehicles. He penned a blog post on their site indicating they will no longer go after people violating their patents. They even took their patents down off their “patent wall” at their corporate headquarters in Palo Alto. This step is unprecedented in the automotive market. It begs the question: Why did Tesla open up their patents to everyone? The answer is actually quite simple.

Elon Musk built Tesla Motors to change how people buy and drive cars. He wants to bring electric vehicles to the masses. As a result, he produced one of the top fully electric vehicles around. The path has not been easy, but the potential reward is great. There is an uphill battle to change minds about the viability of this market.

Why Did Elon Musk Open His Patents to Competitors?

To the outside, this must look like a terrible business move, but if you take a step back, it is great. The only way to expand the EV market to consumers, one must change the perceptions of the viability. That is hard to do. The EV market is small compared to gas and diesel vehicles. By keeping the patents secret and held close, Tesla Motors was keeping the competition at bay. In a traditional market, this is advisable. In a new market, you do yourself a disservice by stifling competition. Competition creates advancement and helps grow a infant market. As more companies get into the EV market, the lower the price and expansion of options. These are what consumers respond to.

Elon Musk opened his patents to his competitors in order to create competition and new advancements. He understands the more EV cars on the roads, the more charging stations are necessary. Their charging network is small, but as more consumers buy, the necessity will expand. It will become cheaper to build charging stations and thus, be built in more places. This move makes sense when you understand how basic competition works.

What are the Perceived Issues with Electric Vehicles?

Electric vehicles still get a bad rap with consumers. This could be the lack of information about the features or how the media portrays EVs. Here are the most common perceived issues with electric vehicles.

  • Range – The typical range of a Tesla vehicle is 130 to 300 miles on a single charge, depending on the model. While this can be great for city driving, it can be a hassle for long range. A new Ford hybrid vehicle can travel up to 620 miles on one charge and one tank of gas. The EV range is slowly increasing as battery advancements are made, but consumers need more.
  • Battery Fires – News of vehicle fires in electric cars is a big draw for news outlets. Most vehicle fires involved the lithium-ion battery, which provide the best range and charging capacity. The percentage of vehicle fires is small compared to the amount of EVs on the road, but anytime a bad event occurs, it can dampen excitement in new technology. Until companies can assure consumers their cars and batteries are safe, EVs will be facing an uphill battle.
  • Recharging Station Availability - There is a shortage in recharging stations across the US. The majority are in larger cities, especially in California. While the range of electric vehicles is increasing as time goes on, people still need a way to charge their vehicle when away from home. To build out a full network of charging stations will be difficult, but there are companies offering new solutions everyday. One such company is offering cities and towns solar-powered charging stations that fill a parking spot. There is no electric grid use and they are portable. Advancements such as this are what will change how people adopt this technology.
  • Electric Grid Capacity – Many fear an influx of EVs being charged will put a strain on our nation’s electrical grid. According to Navigant Research, this is simply not true. Many of our largest electricity providers indicated our network grids can handle millions of EVs with no additional power plants.
  • Power Cords – The first generation of charging stations work with a cord. Unfortunately, there are hazards with cords. They can trip people as they walk by charging stations and they won’t work if the charging station is damaged. This is especially true with stations sitting on busy streets in downtown municipalities. To get around this, some companies are working on wireless charging, where a vehicle drives on top of the charger and it just starts charging. This could be the second generation of vehicle charging.

EV Investments Are Slowly Heating Up

You might think there is just too small a market for electric vehicles, but there have been big investments in the batteries that power them. BASF, the world’s largest chemical company, has started to invest heavily into battery research and production. While some other companies have decided to get out of the EV business, others are jumping in as sales slowly increase.

As the market continues to improve and accelerate, investors will look to companies such as Tesla, Toyota, and Johnson Controls for potential investment opportunities. As investments pick up, other companies will start to enter the market. When this happens, technology will improve and the market will accelerate.

The EV market has a large, uphill battle in front of it in order to be successful, but Tesla is planning on speeding that up with their open patent policy. You won’t see many companies offer their competitors a look into their technology, but Tesla Motors is no ordinary company. It takes out of the box thinking to create a new market and Elon Musk is one person who can do it. You will see more and more EVs on the road as the years pass, but once consumers get past their perceptions, the market could rapidly expand.

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