I've got a great round-up of freebies to share with you today! First off, if you take a short survey here, you'll be eligible to receive a free bottle of Aveda Black Malva Pure Plant shampoo. (Thanks, Shellie!)
Guest post by J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly
Five years ago, I had over $35,000 in consumer debt. I was living paycheck-to-paycheck even though I had a decent salary. Since then, I've managed to turn things around, and am now debt-free except for my mortgage. I've even begun to save some money!
I didn't get out of debt overnight, though. It took a lot of work. I clipped coupons, I bought from thrift stores, and I sold a lot of stuff at garage sales. I learned how to be frugal. But I also learned how to save my money in a bank–something I had never done before. I'm here today to encourage you to save, too, and to show you two great ways to do it.
Right now, the best interest rates in the U.S. can actually be found through special rewards checking accounts at local banks and credit unions. Different banks have different names for this service. Where I live, one credit union calls it a Fusion Checking Account and offers a 4.25% APY. Another simply calls it Rewards Checking and offers 3.75% APY. Other banks around the country are currently offering up to 6.01% APY.
Obviously, these rates are fantastic. There aren't many places you can earn a guaranteed 6% return on your money. Unfortunately, there are a few catches. These rewards checking accounts usually come with some combination of the following limitations:
- You must receive your monthly statement electronically–not via snail mail.
- You must log into your account at least once per month.
- You must make a certain number (generally around 12) debit card purchases. (ATM withdrawals do not count toward this number.)
- You must make at least one electronic transaction each month. These include automatic payments to your utilities, for example, or a direct deposit.
- The rate only applies to the first $30,000 (or so) in your account. (The cap at some banks is $10,000; at others, it's $100,000.) The portion in your account above the cap only earns a tiny return.
If you use your debit card often, a rewards checking account makes a lot of sense. You can read more about these accounts at My Money Blog. Better yet, here's a huge list of rewards checking accounts by state. (Those listed with a red asterisk are available nationwide.)
Another great option is to open a high-yield online savings account. This is the route I chose for my savings.
For me, the advantage of an online savings account is that the money is completely separate from my everyday checking. If I want to access the cash, I have to go through the process of transferring it from the online account to my local bank. This may seem like a hassle, but in this case that's good; it prevents me from spending the money recklessly. Another advantage is the ability to set up automatic monthly deposits, which helps me to save on "autopilot".
The bank I chose was ING Direct, which is very popular with the readers of my personal finance blog. Its rates are generally modest, but the customer service is excellent. Best of all, ING Direct allows me to set up multiple accounts. I have one account to save for emergencies, one to save for a new car, one to save for Christmas, and one to save for vacation–and I can track them all from the same screen.
ING Direct is not the only option, though. There are many great online banks with good interest rates, which you can research in this list of the best savings accounts.
I am a huge fan of clipping coupons, shopping at thrift stores, and learning to make your own food. These things save money and offer a great deal of satisfaction. But I've also discovered that it pays to keep my savings someplace that will pay me interest.
Whew! I'm done and by some sheer miracle (or was it the motivation of blogging about it?!), I actually finished everything on my to-do list! I also took a quick inventory and realized that I now have 17 dinners in the freezer for after the baby is born. Yay!
I was really impressed with how this mini meatloaf recipe turned out. I used ground chicken instead of ground beef since I had picked some up a few weeks ago on a good mark-down sale. They turned out quite yummy and I will definitely be making this recipe again. I think it will be perfect to have in the freezer for quick dinners.
I also made up a loaf of our favorite whole-wheat bread which I'll slice and freeze to use later, a loaf of our very favorite banana bread recipe to take to a get-together later this week, and a double-batch of pizza dough to stick in the freezer. I just divided the pizza dough into meal-size portions and froze it in individual freezer bags. When we're ready to use it, we can just pull it out in the morning and by mid-afternoon, it's thawed and ready to be rolled out into pizza crust.
Thanks for following along today and for your encouraging comments. I don't know if I'll be up to another Baking Day before our baby arrives so I was very glad to have done this today. Having our freezer stocked with easy meals and snacks helps save me so much time and money!
Here's a picture of the the final fruits of our Baking Day today:
And now I'm off to finish cleaning up the kitchen and put my feet up for awhile!
Did you do any baking today or this week? If so, you are welcome to post about it on your blog and leave your direct link below so we can come by and check out what's cooking at your house!
(recipe from blog reader Helen)
- 2 cups flour (I used all whole wheat flour.)
- 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 egg
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- Pumpkin pie spice, to taste (I added in about 2 teaspoons.)
Mix together milk, pumpkin, egg, and oil in one bowl. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice in another bowl. Stir dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture and cook on waffle iron according to waffle iron directions.
These waffles were okay. Definitely not as good as our favorite Whole-Wheat Waffles and they didn’t seem to come out of the waffle maker really easily. I’m wondering, though, if it was because I doubled the recipe and maybe this recipe is better if you don’t double it? Or maybe it was because I used all whole wheat flour? I’m still debating what it might be.
The Cranberry Orange Muffin recipe is here. These were fairly yummy, though again, not a winner recipe in my book. The batter is thick and I think that makes them more on the dry side, almost the consistency of a scone rather than a muffin.
I was thinking that these would be spruced up and more delicious if they had a powdered sugar/milk glaze on them. But alas, I don’t have any powdered sugar in the house right now!
(The girls in their jammies helping me make green smoothies for breakfast.)
I woke up with some extra energy today and decided to declare it a Baking Day! At 33 weeks pregnant, I'm keeping it simple today. I am not completely sure how much I'll be able to do before running out of stamina but here's my proposed to-do baking list:
Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins
I could add about 10 more things to the list but I'm trying to be realistic here! I'll keep you apprised of my progress and share the recipes and pictures as we go throughout the day. We'd love to have you join us, too! I'll post a Mr. Linky up at the end of today so you can share about any baking you do as well.