Saving money with my feet: The joys of a walkable neighborhood

On Saturday, I bumped into Rhonda at the local natural food market. Rhonda is one of Kris's co-workers and friends. I haven't seen her much since the divorce, although we live only a mile-and-a-half apart. For 20 minutes, she and I stood in the freezer aisle and chatted about life and the neighborhood.

"Do you know any other places to shop for groceries?" I asked. "We like this store, but it's pretty expensive. I know there's another market near your house, but its prices don't seem any better and the food quality is worse." (This is actually the subject of an already-written but yet-to-be published post I've produced for GRS.)

"I know," Rhonda said. "That store has great seafood at good prices, but that's about it. Their produce sucks. You could always hit the fancy supermarket across the river, I guess."

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More about...Frugality, Health & Fitness, Home & Garden, Transportation

One way to survive without health insurance

When I was considering leaving my full-time job, I had some concerns. My main concern? Health insurance. And it wasn't just me. Since my husband didn't have health insurance coverage through his job, he had been covered under my policy for years. Plus, we were going to be adding kids to our family, so we needed to think about them too.

First, we took care of my husband's needs. About a year ago, he started looking for a private health insurance plan -- and since he is a healthy guy, he found an inexpensive one rather easily. And once we adopted the kids, they could also go on his plan with no problems.

So that left me. If I quit my job, I had a few options: 1. Find my own private health insurance plan 2. Go without insurance 3. COBRA 4. Find a non-insurance alternative.

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More about...Insurance, Health & Fitness

How a healthy lifestyle saved my money and my life

This Reader Story comes from Gunnar, a filmmaker, a computer geek, a traveler and most recently an entrepreneur, who has launched the blog Wosla to inspire others to get healthy and save money.

Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income.

Until recently I thought I was living the perfect life. I was making decent money doing fun things like working on short films, and I traveled a fair bit.

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More about...Health & Fitness, Food, Psychology

Why my garden won’t replace my CSA subscription

I told the checker at the grocery co-op where I shop that I didn't need a receipt. "I don't want to keep track of how much I'm spending on my garden," I told him. My modest cart had carrots and apples and popcorn -- staples! -- and tomato, lettuce, basil and lavender starts. The reason I don't want to know: I'm worried it won't pencil out.

If I had to guess, this year I've poured $500 in plants, seeds and compost-enriched dirt into my garden. Lots of it won't yield much this year (every few years, when I have available money, I invest in perennial bushes and trees, like blueberries, apples and currants; this was one of those years), but then again I'll probably get something like $200 or $300 worth of figs and raspberries alone. Those were planted years ago.

What I'm not so sure about is my vegetable garden. With several heirloom tomato plants producing 10 or 20 pounds of $4-per-pound tomatoes apiece and those very pricey herbs, I'm sure I'll get a few hundred dollars' worth of produce. I still am eating tomatoes I canned last year from my garden (and they're absolutely amazing, very flavorful and pretty to boot). What's more, I'm less likely to waste things like herbs and lettuce. Instead of buying a whole head or bunch from the farmer's market, I can pick just what I need for dinner.

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More about...Budgeting, Food, Health & Fitness

The shocking truth about medical bills that can save you thousands

This reader story is by a longtime GRS reader Sumitha from afineparent.com, a blog founded on the simple belief that "Good Parents Are Made, Not Born."

Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income.

How much would you think it would cost to treat an ant bite?

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More about...Health & Fitness

Bicycle commuting and frugality

This is a guest post from Catherine. She is 27 and was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minn. where she resides with her cat, Monty. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and is trying to figure out her career path.

Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income.

I began bicycle commuting regularly 14 months ago. Living in Minneapolis, one of the top rated bicycle-friendly cities in the country, it has been mostly a joy (I say "mostly" as I look out the window and cringe to see snow still falling on May 3rd).

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More about...Frugality, Career, Health & Fitness

The cost of workaholism

"What are your resolutions this year?" a girlfriend recently asked me. I thought about the areas of my life I'd like to improve upon and responded, "I'd like to work less. I think I'm a workaholic."

She paused for a bit then hesitantly said, "that doesn't sound like a problem" And indeed, when I'd talked about this with my mom just a week earlier, she said, "That's a good addiction."

But it's easy to confuse hard work with being a workaholic. We assume an "addiction to work" means being dedicated and thorough, which is good.

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More about...Career, Health & Fitness

Spending in depth: The hair care budget

When I started this journey on GRS, I included hair care in my category of irregular expenses. At that time, I estimated that I spent about $600 per year on service and $300 per year on product. However, I thought that since the year is over it was time to visit that category in depth and see what I am really spending so I can assess these costs, much like I did with the bagel budget.

I feel like I need to preface this by saying that (like many women, I think) my relationship with my hair is complicated. I have thick curly hair, and when I was growing up I had to get product you could buy at the grocery store. In those days, it took half a bottle of conditioner to even be able to comb my hair and a third of a bottle of hair gel or mousse to get my style under control. I felt like I was fighting with my hair my entire life -- everything was a battle and I was NEVER happy with how it looked.

The first time I splurged and got my hair professionally styled (when I was 24 or 25), it was a revelation. The quarter-sized amount of shampoo or conditioner recommended by the package directions actually worked. The salon-quality product actually got the tangles out of my hair, so styling it wasn't painful. Plus, my hair actually looked NICE. Prior to that, I seriously didn't know any of these things were actually possible for me. And now that I know my hair CAN look good, it's important to me that it does.

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More about...Budgeting, Health & Fitness

Take a deep breath: Letting go of financial stress

I've been reading through some of my old posts and thinking about what I wanted for this, my very-end-of-the-year statement on money. And what I saw was a lot (a lot) of stress. It was appropriate, as I'd spent most of the day in a kind of crazy wound-up worked-up state, getting ready for what should be a lovely, restful retreat with a few friends from my writer's group.

Part of it was financial. I'd spent the week juggling money. I had plenty of money coming in, and I had even done a fairly good job of budgeting for once. But it was more than just the money going out -- it wasn't all coming in when I thought it would, and so some of it was going to have to wait to go out again. No big deal. It could work out in the end.

But I wasn't thinking, "no big deal."

I was thinking, whoa, Nellie! Oh no oh no oh no! I imagined what it would be like if that big check I wrote to a farmer bounced (it didn't). They would be so upset! And it would cost them. And it would cost me. And I'd be obliged to pay their fees, too, and then I would be out a hundred bucks or something more than I planned and maybe I would have to pay my babysitter late and… Continue reading...

More about...Psychology, Health & Fitness

More fun with life and death

I've always assumed that I'm screwed, longevity-wise. With a father and a grandfather who had heart attacks in their 60s and an uncle who had a stroke in his early 70s, I figured the genetic cards were stacked against me, at least when it comes to the odds of living a long life.

In fact, this is one of the reasons why I've decided to become much healthier over the past couple of years. But I couldn't quantify it; I didn't really know how much I was improving my chances for a longer life by eating better and exercising more. But now I know — or, at least as much as anyone can know such things.

In my last post, I discussed longevity since it's an important variable in the calculation of how much you need to save to retire. The longer you'll live, the more you need to save and/or work. Toward the end of my post, I linked to a life-estimating calculator on the website of Longevity Financial Consulting. Of course, no entity on Earth — be it a calculator, a doctor, or a crystal ball — knows exactly when you'll die. The value of these calculators is that they illustrate which characteristics lengthen and shorten estimated longevity. As you answer each of the 35 questions, your projected life expectancy is adjusted, giving you an idea of how important each characteristic or behavior is to your longevity.

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More about...Health & Fitness, Psychology, Retirement