Time Saving Frugal Living Tips
Community Supported Agriculture
Eating organic has grown in popularity over the past few years, and eating locally produced farm products is becoming popular. However, we don't all have the time to peruse farmer's markets for produce or afford to shop at Whole Foods Market? Community supported agriculture and co-ops are a valid alternative. How do you find Community Supported Agriculture or CSA project near you?
Community supported agriculture projects are typically organic farms. Those that would be interested in working and volunteering on a CSA farm can find those willing to host guests and students through the following web site: http://www.wwoof.org/. Click on the “WWOOF around the world” continent on which you live or will be visiting to find a farm in the area you would like to work on or visit.
As the minimum wage rises, so does childcare. What can you do to save money on childcare?
- Are there extras in the daycare bill that can be cut? For example, a nanny-cam or web camera at the daycare can add $30 per month to the bill.
- Pre-schools often offer "enrichment" activities. Can you cancel the cooking class, skip field trips or drop other add-ons? This is a delicate balancing act, since young children may feel as if exclusions from activities are an undeserved punishment. You can reduce the emotional turmoil by listing the activities and telling your child to pick one or two enrichment activities, instead of automatically enrolling your child in all of them.
- Ask about employer discounts with local day cares, where they offer 10-15% off for employees of specific firms.
- Find out if your employer has on-site childcare at any of its facilities. This childcare is often cheaper than commercial childcare operations.
- Do you have a dependent care reimbursement account? About $5,000 per year comes out of your check pre-tax and is reimbursed as you pay childcare costs.
- Research the discounts and deals the daycare offers to new families, whether one week free or discounts - then ask for the discounts yourself.
- Does the daycare have "vacation" days that you earn and do not have to pay childcare for days your children are not there, such as when the family takes a vacation? If so, ask if those vacation days can be applied retroactively to days your children were out sick or used in the future for holidays or sick kid days. I have also used this system with our daycare to avoid paying for days I am home during plant shut downs instead of paying the otherwise due tuition.
- Check the schedule your children attend compared to the schedule you are paying for. Can you change the schedule your children attend to 3-day or 4-day schedules and save 15-30% a week?
- Attend childcare open-houses where you may enroll your child for a chance to win free childcare for a week or to find out how you can get discounts like free tuition if you refer a friend to the childcare center.
- You may want to consider the before school or after-school care offered by your child’s elementary or middle school. This is generally cheaper than private childcare though it is often of lower quality. Or hook up with a stay at home parent who can pick up your children along with his or her own kids and watch them until you arrive.
- Does your employer offer emergency childcare assistance through its employee benefits package? While this cannot replace every day childcare, it can offer parents and affordable way to arrange for sick child care, childcare when the babysitter is sick or in home care when the daycare is shut down unexpectedly.
Wellness Resources Online
Wellness programs are corporate programs designed to improve employee health. If you use them, your health insurer may reduce your premiums. In other cases, the company will add money to a Health Savings Account or HSA that can be used to offset your health insurance deductible or use outright for co-pays. An increasing number of wellness resources are available online. A few examples include:
- Online nutritional counseling
- Online weight loss support groups
- Online smoking cessation programs
- Diabetes management
Enrollment may be done online or after consultation with your doctor. Many insurers will track online wellness counseling sessions and count these toward the required activities toward receiving “wellness dollars” or HSA contributions.
The company saves money by organizing these counseling sessions online. Employees avoid travel costs and frequently gain schedule flexibility. Privacy is another benefit, one not afforded to those who join Weight Watchers at Work or gyms on the corporate campus.
If you've had an annual wellness check with your doctor, call your company's Human Resources department to find out if it can be used toward any wellness program awards. That one act may be enough to earn a contribution to a Health Savings Account.