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Michael Burry Trashes Index Funds – Are We Screwed?

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As a general rule, Mr. Money Mustache avoids reading the daily news and ignores the fluctuations of the stock market. And he advises you to do the same thing.

The negative factors of wasting your time, diluting your precious brainpower, and creating undue stress by worrying about things outside of your circle of control far outweigh any slight advantages you might get from the tiny slice of news stories that are actually useful and relevant to your daily life.

But on very rare occasions, something will squeeze its way through the News Sphincter that is worth addressing, and last week I learned of one of them. The basic idea was this:

Image source: Bloomberg
If you’re not a finance nerd, the phrase “Like Subprime CDOs”, just means “really bad”.

Michael Burry, who in my opinion is a relatively brilliant and well-known financial figure, voiced his concerns that we may be inflating a big bubble by concentrating too much of our money in passively managed index funds.

And because I have been telling you since the beginning that index funds are the best way to invest, my email inbox and Twitter feeds started filling with concerned questions and links to his interview on Bloomberg, asking if we should be taking this seriously.

So is it a big deal? Should we be worried?

The quick answer is No. And we’ll get into the full explanation below, but first let’s do a quick review of Index Funds in general.

Why Index Funds are Great

Index fund investing is both the simplest and the highest performing way to invest your money. It’s as simple as getting any brokerage account and buying the Vanguard Exchange traded fund called VTI, or getting a Betterment account and setting your allocation to at least 90% stocks.

It’s the ultimate win/win because you just set it and forget it. Both the math behind it, and the historical performance for the past 40 years (since the invention of index funds) has proven this out.

Yes, a small percentage of actively managed funds have beaten the market, and a larger percentage have trailed the market. But this over and underperformance itself tends to be random, and today’s winners often become tomorrow’s losers.

A bowl of actively managed funds. Can you pick the winner?

And here’s the real problem: you can’t predict in advance which of these horses you are betting on. So your best bet is to ride directly in the middle of the pack, while minimizing the fees you pay for the privilege.

But suddenly, Michael Burry says we are reaching the point where this model may soon stop working. So who is right? Mr. Money Mustache or Michael Burry? Have I been naively misleading you?

And what about the reassuring words of Jim Collins in his book The Simple Path to Wealth or rather amusing Guided Stock Market Meditation he put up on YouTube? Is Jim full of it too, in light of these new comments from a financial expert?

Now, we are already treading onto thin ice here, because similar stuff is in the news every day, and most of it is junk. Financial ‘experts’ are a dime a dozen, and just because somebody got something right once (in this case predicting the 2008 financial meltdown), doesn’t mean they will be right in the future.

Because the financial news industry is powered by profits which come from clicks and traffic, their job is to shock and worry and distract you as much as possible so you will click your way through more of their bait. Within the context of that single Burry interview, for example, I saw the following bits of “Breaking News”:

Big gain! (never mind that aside from meaningless fluctuations, the market has gone exactly nowhere in the past nineteen months since January 2018)
Down Six Percent! (Oops it was back up to those highs by the time I checked)
Triple digits! (oh, wait, that is less than a third of one percent because the index is about 27,000)
Volatility! Impact! (oh wait, that is all just the random fluctuation it always does and it means absolutely NOTHING to you as an investor)

NONE of these things are the least bit newsworthy, and they shouldn’t even be mentioned in a footnote, let alone labeled “Breaking News.”

So, stock market reporting is silly, and predictions of doom should be viewed even more skeptically. Because the nature of our economic system assures that virtually 100% of predictions of financial doom will always be wrong, because we are not really all doomed – the future is very bright.

However, I’ve read a lot of Mr. Burry’s writing and have more respect for his analysis than that of permanent fearmongers like Peter Schiff or Dmitri Orlov. So I pay attention to his opinions, even when they differ from my favorite permanent realist-optimists Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

So the summary of his argument is this:

  1. Passive investing tends to distort the prices of individual stocks, because we buy everything in a fixed ratio without considering the value of each company.
  2. The “exit door” is small – there is a lot of money invested in fairly small companies whose shares are not frequently traded. So if we all tried to sell at once, we’d have way too many sellers and very few buyers. This would cause a massive price crash in the stock prices of these small companies.
  3. There are some complex bits under the hood of index funds – things like options and derivatives that can break under stress and cause money losses or more volatility.

Now at this point, the stock traders and active fund managers are probably cheering and jeering at us:

“YAY! Told you all along – come back to us where you belong.

We are well worth our much higher fees because we are gonna beat the market! Just look at this cherry-picked data from the current ten year bull market!”

But instead of picking a fight, let’s just address these points one by one:

  1. Yeah, but active traders have been making this argument against passive investing forever. The theory is correct, but in practice it would only be a problem if too many of us became passive and there were no active traders left. Thus the real question is: Are we close to this tipping point? And the easy answer is “Not even close”. Index funds own about 18 percent of global shares, and 45 percent here in the US. And active trading still outweighs index fund trades by 22-to-1.
  2. A small exit door only matters if everyone is running for the exits at once. And even then, as index fund investors (as opposed to active stock traders), we don’t do that. And even in the event of liquidity problems in a big sell-off, the only downside would be some bigger temporary price swings. We don’t care about those either.
  3. To better answer this question, I interviewed some of the people deep inside the machine – Betterment’s investing team and their director Dan Egan. A summary of their thoughts – This is actually more of a problem for “Synthetic” or leveraged index funds, not the true funds we invest in. For the most part, in the index funds you and I use, our money simply purchases real shares of businesses.

Point #1 above deserves a bit more of an answer. Because the real question here is “how many active investors does it take to balance out a market?” And like everything in life, this is not a black-and-white question. Instead we can look at this as being on spectrum. For reference, this is where we are now:

The great increase in Index fund investment after MMM and Jim Collins started advocating for it 🙂
Image source – Morningstar / CNBC

A Purely Active Market

If everybody was an active investor or speculator, you would just have a sea of squabbling bullshit. Even today, people are trading back and forth for no reason just based on what they think the price will be later this afternoon. Even worse, you have “technical” traders, who place bets on the immediate future of a stock based not on fundamentals, but on obscure (and proven to be useless) mathematical patterns of what the stock price has done in the recent past. I may be unfairly lumping thoughtful value-based investors in here with day traders, but stock price prediction is a slippery slope and most of the trading volume on today’s exchanges is very slippery. And don’t even get me started on the nonsense of “high frequency trading” and the “flash crash” of 2010. No shortage of overly active trading.

If Everybody Was Passive

At the other extreme of this would be an “All Index Fund” world, where giant zombie-like index funds would just buy all the companies in proportion to their current market value, even when those companies have stopped making money or are on the verge of bankruptcy.

Nobody would be even looking at the earnings, so stock prices would never drop, even when the underlying companies go extinct. And on the flip side of that, companies who became vastly more profitable would never be rewarded with higher share prices.

In this case, a gigantic market opportunity would open up. Apple shares would still be at their 1980 IPO price of 39 cents per share (after accounting for splits), and each share would pay an annual dividend of $3.08, which is like getting a 792% annual interest rate on your investment. Individual investors (even me!) would come back to the market and they would flood in and buy Apple shares, until the share price rose up to a level where supply and demand balanced out. And today, that price happens to be about $216 per share.

There are plenty of people out there, finding and exploiting these little opportunities. People like outspoken tech investor and futurist Catherine Wood speak authoritatively about them – but only time will tell if her $2.3 billion ARK capital fund proves to outperform the market over the long run.

And that is the real answer to question #1: If Actively managed funds start consistently outperforming index funds on average across the entire industry, then we have reached the point of “Peak Indexing”, and you should switch to a good low-fee active fund.

This is far from happening, but I’ll let you know if it ever does.

And for every successful niche-finder, there are a hundred wannabe players, spouting buzzwords and predictions, getting ever-louder when they are right but going mysteriously off the radar when proven wrong. This survivorship bias ensures that if we read the news, we get the mistaken impression that most stock predictors know what they are talking about. They don’t.

So really, that’s all there really should be to stock investing. A small group of dedicated experts seek out the best values, and in a big enough market a larger amount of index fund money can tag along.

Never Forget What Stock Investing Really IS

The value of one share of a company is equal to the “net present value” of all of its future lifetime dividends payable to you the shareholder. Higher expected profits mean higher eventual dividends and thus higher stock prices. Lower profits mean lower prices. And a company that never makes a profit over its lifetime should not even be listed on the stock exchange.

Lower expected interest rates also mean those future dividend payments are worth more of in today’s dollars, which means today’s stocks are worth more. Which is why drops in the interest rate often trigger simultaneous boosts in all share prices.

Some companies don’t currently pay dividends, but that is only because we the shareholders have given the management permission to temporarily reinvest profits into growth – in hopes of larger future dividends.

If we knew (theoretically) in advance that a company would never pay any of its future earnings to shareholders, those shares should be worth zero. A company which never produces and returns value to shareholders is worthless from a financial perspective – unless you could get someone to buy your proven-worthless slips of paper purely on pure speculation, in hopes of selling it to someone at a higher price in the future – like gold and bitcoin. Speculation of this type is a less-than-zero-sum game, a tax on overall human prosperity, which is why you shouldn’t waste your time on it.

So the stock market really is built upon the fundamentals of earnings and dividends. Not on news snippets and soundbites and rapid trading. And since publicly traded companies are big, slow entities with hundreds of employees and thousands of customers, their fates simply don’t change very quickly. “Analysts” who try to predict these future earnings with any certainty rarely outperform a coin toss.

So We Can All Just Stay the Course and Relax

Just as with other bits of news in the financial media, you do not need to take any action. Keep investing and stay the course. If you are so inclined, study up on profitable real estate investments as a side hustle, and if you want a bit of a safety margin in exchange for slightly lower returns in the long run, consider paying off your mortgage as you approach early retirement.

Once you arrive, you will probably find that money and investments are the last thing on your mind. After all, that’s what Financial Independence is all about – becoming free from the need to worry about money.

It’s a nice place to be, and I’ll see you when you get here!



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Azlo Review – Online Business Checking

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Azlo ReviewAzlo Review

Alzo is an online bank that focuses on simple business banking for entrepreneurs. With a huge focus on online entrepreneurs like freelancers and business, they are looking to change the way these businesses bank.

But what does that mean for you if you’re looking for a great business checking account?

Let’s dive in!

See how Azlo compares to the best business checking accounts and read more in our review below.


Azlo LogoAzlo LogoAzlo Logo

Quick Summary

  • Completely free business checking
  • Integrated invoicing and payment acceptance services
  • Does not offer checkbook services and cannot accept cash

Azlo Details

Product Name

Azlo Business Checking

Min Deposit

$0

Monthly Fee

$0

Account Type

Checking

Promotions

None

What Is Azlo?

Azlo is an online-only bank available in the U.S. and Mexico. The CEO & Co-founder is Cameron Peake. Azlo was founded in 2017 and is part of BBVA USA, Member FDIC.

“Within the banking industry, small business customers usually either aren’t served at all, or they’re served as an afterthought. At Azlo, from day one, we’ve built our product just for them. For example, we don’t have minimum balances or monthly fees. This is important because if you’re a new business owner ― particularly someone who hasn’t started earning revenue yet ― your money should be put towards your business rather than fees,” Peake said in an interview with fitsmallbusiness.com.

What Do They Offer?

Azlo offers free business checking suited for simple businesses such as small businesses, contractors, and freelancers who do all of their business online. 

It also has a no-fee model. Companies that need to write paper checks will want to use a different bank since Azlo doesn’t offer checkbook services. Businesses that need in-branch services and deal with cash will also not be a good fit for Azlo since none of those services are offered.

For most small businesses, Azlo can do virtually everything needed without any fees. It offers simple business checking, but for many small businesses, they don’t need anything more. Here’s what’s included with an Azlo checking account:

  • No-fee checking account
  • Free ATM access using Allpoint Network (55,000 ATMs)
  • Invoice clients for free
  • Debit card
  • Bill pay, which includes option for mailing paper checks
  • Connect your checking account to popular accounting software such as QuickBooks Online, Xero, and Wave.
  • Accept credit card payments through Stripe, Square, or PayPal.
  • Clients can send in paper checks for payment or use a bank transfer.
  • Receive incoming wire transfers fee-free. Outgoing wire transfers are not available.

As you can see from the list above, Azlo is very business-oriented.

Some customers have reported that transfers with Azlo are slower than with other banks. Azlo lists that outgoing transfers can take 1-3 business days, and incoming transfers can take 4-5 business days. Mobile check deposits can take 1-6 business days to process. These processing times can certainly be a factor if you need fast processing for transfers and check deposits.

Azlo cannot send international transfers. They are working on adding this option. Although you can pull from an Azlo account using an international debit service.

We also experienced trouble trying to use the invoicing and receiving payments with credit cards on invoices.

Azlo is available in all 50 states. Azlo is not able to offer services to businesses involved in gambling, money services, privately-owned ATMs, sales of marijuana or its derivatives, precious metals, pawnshops, or cryptocurrency exchanges. It also can’t support limited partnerships or limited liability partnerships.

Azlo does have some limits on certain transactions. From their webpage these include:

  • ATM withdrawals are limited to $1,000/day.
  • Card purchases and over-the-counter cash withdrawals have a cumulative limit of $8,000/day and 30 unique card transactions/day.
  • Transfers TO a linked account are limited to $300,000/day, and transfers FROM a linked account are limited to $100,000/day.
  • Payments through bill pay are limited to $10,000/payment. Bank-to-bank (ACH) payments are limited to $300,000/day.
  • Mobile check deposits are limited to $10,000/check and $20,000/month. Limit can be increased based on your Azlo account history.

Mobile App

Azlo has a mobile app for both the iPhone and Android. On the Apple App Store, it has a 4.3/5 rating from 258 people and 4.1/5 rating from 298 people on the Google Play Store.

Customer Service

Customer service is available by email and phone. You can email Azlo at support@azlo.com. They reply within 1 business day. Phone service is available at 844-295-6466 from 6:30 am to 5:30 pm Pacific time Monday through Friday.

Are There Any Fees?

Nope. Azlo is all-free business checking. That begs the question — how do they make money? Azlo says it makes money by earning interest on checking deposits and from customers using the Azlo debit card.

Payment serviced from Stripe, Square, and PayPal do charge processor fees, but these are separate from Azlo.

How Do I Open An Account?

Accounts are opened online at https://azlo.com.

Is My Money Safe?

Yes, Azlo uses bank-grade encryption on its website, and mobile and BBVA USA is a Member FDIC.

Is It Worth It?

It has potential, that’s for sure.

For small businesses that have simple checking needs and want to accept online payments from customers, Azlo will do everything you need. 

It has integrated invoicing and the ability to accept payment from credit cards and bank transfers, providing a great infrastructure for small businesses.

However, if you’re looking for more, check out our list of the best business checking accounts here.

The post Azlo Review – Online Business Checking appeared first on The College Investor.



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10 Slow Cooker Recipes That Will Make Dinner Time Easy

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Are you looking for some new and delicious slow cooker recipes so you can have tasty and stress-free dinners this week?

I love making meals in a slow cooker. Dinners are so much easier when you start everything in advance! I’m less stressed, can focus on things I’d rather do, all while knowing that I have a delicious meal cooking.

So, if you’re looking for some of the best slow cooker recipes, I have 10 new recipes for you to try – that’s almost two full weeks of meal ideas!

I think you’re going to like all of these slow cooker recipes, but here are my favorites:

  • Easy Slow Cooker Cauliflower Soup – Cauliflower, cashews, and a smoky chickpea topping. This soup is packed full of protein, and it’s vegan. This soup is creamy, rich, and the chickpea topping is roasted, which gives it a nice crunch.
  • Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken Soup – Chicken, black beans, fire roasted corn, lime juice, and more. You can top this hearty soup with cheese, avocado, sour cream (I like to use plain Greek yogurt), and more.
  • Mozzarella Stuffed Crockpot Meatloaf – Garlic, onions, mozzarella cheese, Italian seasoning, and more. This meatloaf even has a delicious sweet and spicy glaze on top. I honestly had no idea that you could even make meatloaf in the slow cooker until I found this recipe.

Many of these slow cooker recipes take 15 minutes or less of prep time, which means you can easily make them before you go to work in the morning. They also make great leftovers for lunch the next day.

I like to put together slow cooker recipes before we go out hiking, biking, or exploring. We’re usually very hungry when we finish, and having a slow cooker meal ready to eat means we’re never too tired to eat dinner at home.

Being too tired or too hungry to cook is probably one of the top reasons for going out to eat, but dinner out can easily cost $30-$50. That can be a lot of extra spending that you didn’t budget.

So, these slow cooker recipes will give you some delicious new ideas, make dinner time easier, and they’ll keep your food budget in check. 

If you’re interested in more meal ideas, I recommend checking out the following articles for more of my favorite recipes:

Note: If you’re looking for easy weekly meal plans, full of budget recipes, I recommend $5 Meal Plan. $5 Meal Plan is a meal planning service that sends you a delicious meal plan and shopping list every week for just $5 a month.

Here are 10 slow cooker recipes.

 

1. Easy Slow Cooker Cauliflower Soup

Get the recipe here.

 

2. Slow Cooker Vegan Butternut Squash Soup

Get the recipe here.

 

3. Sweet Potato Apple Casserole

Get the recipe here.

 

4. French Beef Stew

Get the recipe here.

 

5. Teriyaki Chicken Quinoa And Veggies

Get the recipe here.

 

6. Salsa Verde Chicken Soup

Get the recipe here.

 

7. Slow Cooker Corned Beef Tacos

Get the recipe here.

 

8. BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos

Get the recipe here.

 

9. Slow Cooker Chicken Chili

Get the recipe here.

 

10. Mozzarella Stuffed Crockpot Meatloaf

Get the recipe here.

What are your favorite slow cooker recipes?

The post 10 Slow Cooker Recipes That Will Make Dinner Time Easy appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.



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Eight Useful, Frugal Projects You Can Do to Save Money

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It’s been my experience that if you leave yourself too much idle time, you usually end up doing things you regret. Perhaps it’s just as simple as wasting away the hours watching random television programs and movies, or maybe it’s something destructive and wasteful that you’ll regret. Whatever the case may be, a sudden abundance of time can lead to some bad routines.

A much better approach is to find useful ways to fill that time, particularly in terms of making things, learning things, or optimizing things for later.

Here are eight projects to take on during moments in life when you have more time than you expect and are struggling to find worthwhile things for idle hands to do.

Maintain your appliances.

There’s really no better time than right now to go through each of the appliances in your home and give them some maintenance love.

The easiest way to do it is to look up the manual for each of your appliances online and see what they suggest doing for maintenance. Which appliances? Your refrigerator, dishwasher, stovetop/oven, microwave, washer, dryer and AC unit. There’s a nice checklist to get you started.

Almost every manual in the world will suggest maintenance and cleaning steps for those appliances. Follow those instructions as closely as you can. You’ll be doing things like leveling the washing machine, dusting behind the fridge, cleaning out little holes in your dishwasher, and so on.

Why do this? Whenever you do a maintenance run on your appliances, you’re extending their lifespan significantly. That means, during the time in which you live in this home, you’ll have fewer appliance replacements. Plus, you’re likely to get these appliances to run more efficiently as well, which could save you a little money along the way.

Make stock.

Stock is the liquid backbone of a ton of different soups and many casseroles and other dishes. There are countless uses for stock — whenever you would use water or bullion in a dish, stock will improve the flavor substantially. The best part? Making it yourself is free, but it requires some planning ahead.

What you need to do is save every vegetable scrap that you have, either raw or plainly cooked. If it’s a bit of extra vegetable that’s edible, but you skipped it for some reason, use it. If it’s a vegetable that’s on the verge of going bad, use it. If it’s some leftover steamed broccoli, use it. If it’s an outer layer of onion that you peeled away, use it.

All of that stuff can go in a large container in your freezer. A gallon-sized freezer bag is perfect for this.

Along with that, save the bones and cartilage and scrap bits of meat from any meat that you cook. Did you cook a whole chicken? Save the bones and cartilage and scraps. Did you cook a roast? Save the bone. Do you have leftover plain meat? Save it.

You’ll want to save individual kinds of meat — save the chicken bits in one-gallon freezer bag and beef bones in another.

When you have a gallon bag full of scraps, you’re ready to make stock. Pour all of those scraps into a pot. You can mix one type of meat scrap with vegetable scrap, or just do them alone if you want vegetarian scraps. Cover the scraps and bones with water, add a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of ground black pepper (or some peppercorns), and then simply simmer it on low all day long in a pot with a lid. You can do it without a lid, but you’ll want to add some water during the day. Twelve hours of simmering should do it. You can do this in a large slow cooker on low, too, and that allows you to safely leave it overnight.

When you’re done, strain the liquid. It’s the liquid you want to save, not the mushy scraps. That liquid can be stored in a big jar in the fridge or frozen in a freezer-safe container. It’s the basis of amazing soups and amazing casseroles. It’s amazing when you use it to cook rice. It’s basically liquid flavor for almost anything where you want to impart that kind of flavor.

Make your own bread.

Homemade bread is a little denser, far more filling, more nutritious, and makes absurdly better toast than the bread you buy at the store. A humble homemade loaf is like $10 bakery bread rather than the $2 loaf you normally buy, but here’s the kicker: it doesn’t even cost $2 to make, and your grocery store has all of the stuff (even if you don’t have it on hand). Not only that, making it yourself is a great kitchen confidence builder.

It’s really easy to do, too. All you really need is flour, water, sugar, yeast and an oven. A loaf pan is nice to shape the final loaf — if you don’t have one, you can get an inexpensive one at the grocery store for a dollar or two.

All you need is a packet or a tablespoon of dry yeast, 2 1/4 cups of warm water (it should feel nice and warm but not hot to the touch), 3 tablespoons of sugar, a tablespoon of salt, a small bit of oil for greasing the pan and 6 1/2 cups of bread flour. This will make two loaf-sized dough balls. You can wrap one in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge a few days for when you’re ready to bake another loaf.

Mix the yeast and half a teaspoon of sugar into the water and let it sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the salt, the remaining sugar and half the flour in a really big bowl until it’s thoroughly mixed. Then, add the water and stir — it’ll be like a soup. Add the rest of the flour, half a cup at a time, until you have a big dough ball you can handle with your hands without sticking to them.

Clear a spot on a table, put a little flour down, and knead the ball until it’s smooth. This will take about 10 minutes. Add a little flour if it starts to get sticky again.

At this point, split the dough ball in half and wrap up half of it to stick in the fridge. Take a bowl, rub a bit of the oil all over the inside of it so nothing sticks, and put the other dough ball in there. Let it sit for a couple of hours in a warm spot, covered with a towel.

After that, just punch down the dough and form it into a loaf shape. Rub a bit of oil all over the inside of the loaf pan and fit the dough in there. Cover that loaf again and wait another 90 minutes or so for it to rise.

Then, heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, pop in the loaf and wait 30 minutes. It’s done when you tap the top of it and it sounds hollow inside. Remove it from the pan and let it sit on a wire rack (or anything you can find that will elevate it from the table and let air flow under it) for a while to cool to room temperature. It’s ready to eat and should be good for several days. The toast is to die for.

When you want to use the other ball, take it out of the fridge, put it in an oiled bowl, and cover it. Let it sit for 3-4 hours and it will start to rise, then jump into the procedure above where you’re punching down the dough.

Not only does this make amazing bread, but it’s also pretty inexpensive, it’ll make your house smell amazing as you cook it, and if you do it a few times it’ll seem really simple, which will encourage you to bake other things yourself. Most basic baked items are similarly easy. It’s mostly mixing together flour, water and yeast, kneading for different lengths of time, adding another ingredient or two, and shaping it differently.

Fix a damaged article of clothing.

Most of us have an item of clothing with some minor issue. Maybe a button is missing from a dress shirt, or maybe a pair of pants is a little too long and needs to be hemmed.

Most of us also have a small sewing kit at home, with a few needles and a few different colors of thread in there. It’s one of those things we pick up over the years as a housewarming gift or in an emergency and then stick in a drawer for later.

Now’s a great time to pull out that garment with an issue and that sewing kit and actually fix it.

Sewing on a button, for example, is a very simple project to get started with. Here’s a great Youtube video that will walk you right through the process.

Other projects will require more work, but they’re all doable with a little time and some needle and thread. You can repair a torn seam. You can sew a patch on a uniform or a jacket. You can hem up a pair of pants.

The first few times you do these things, it’s going to be really awkward and slow. The key is to work through that awkward and slow phase, and this is a perfect time to do it.

Check your windows for drafts and bad caulk spots.

Go to every window in your home and inspect the edges around the window slowly, along every line of caulk (it’s the rubbery stuff at the edges of windows). Look for any spots where caulk is missing or looks damaged and make a note of it.

If you do have access to equipment to seal them (caulk, a caulking gun, and a putty knife), then by all means, seal those windows. These are items that many people have in their tool chest, so you may be able to just tackle it right now. However, springtime is a time of the year when you’re least likely to need to run air conditioning, so this part of the project can wait.

If you make a thorough catalog of all of the places with inadequate caulking right now, actually fixing it later will be a pretty easy task. You just get a caulking gun and some caulk and a putty knife and head straight down the list, going from spot to spot to fix the issues.

Why is this useful? Those spots where the caulk is missing from your window are spots where warm air is leaking out of your home in the winter and hot air is getting into your home in the summer. Fixing those spots will save you quite a bit of money over the long haul.

Make some homemade laundry soap.

Homemade laundry soap costs about $0.03 per load and does a pretty good job. On almost all loads, I find it’s almost exactly the same as Tide or storebrand detergent at a tiny fraction of the cost. It’s also easy to make it — you can get the items the next time you need to visit the grocery store.

All you need is baking soda or washing soda, borax (likely found next to cleaning supplies or laundry supplies), and a couple of bars of non-glycerine soap (Ivory or a generic brand works just fine). You’ll also need a container of some kind to keep near your washer, as well as a measuring tablespoon, and you’ll need a box grater. You’ll likely have most of that stuff already at home.

First, take the bar of soap and the box grater and grate the soap into fine flakes. You essentially want to turn the bar of soap into powder. This will take a little while — maybe 10 or 15 minutes — but you can do it while listening to a podcast or watching a TV show as long as you pay attention to your knuckles so you don’t grate them.

If you have baking soda instead of washing soda, put one or two cups of baking soda onto a baking tray and bake it in the oven at 400 F for one hour. The heat will turn the baking soda into washing soda.

Then, pull out your storage container and put equal amounts of washing soda, borax, and soap flakes in there. If you have a big container, two cups of each is great; if it’s smaller, aim for a single cup or a half cup of each. Shake the container and mix the powders together for a few minutes, then pop the measuring spoon in there and you’re good to go.

All you need is a tablespoon of this mix for a normal-sized load of laundry. Just sprinkle it around evenly in the load — don’t just dump it in a clump. It does an impressive job of getting clothes nice and clean.

If you use a cup of each substance, you have three cups of homemade laundry soap, which, if you’re using a tablespoon at a time, adds up to 48 loads. If you add up the cost of the ingredients, your cost per load will end up somewhere in the $0.03 to $0.06 range. If you compare that to the cost of normal laundry detergent per load, you’ll be pretty impressed by the savings.

Consider this a nice “trial run” to see whether or not homemade laundry soap works for you. It works pretty well for me!

Make a “refill” list.

This is actually a project I’ve done myself in the last few days. I typed this up, printed it, and laminated it.

It’s simply a list of the 40 or 50 things around our house that we consistently use up and need to replenish. The items on that list are things that we’ll always stock up on if we notice them on sale, and if we see that we’re running low, they get added to the list. Rather than just writing “dishwashing detergent” every few months on the grocery list, now we can just put a star by “dishwashing detergent” on the “refill” list.

Just go around your home, looking in your various cupboards and pantries, and identify all of the household supplies and nonperishable food items that you always want to have on hand. You’re looking for things like toilet paper, dishwashing detergent, flour, bar soap, shampoo, pasta and so on. The exact list will be different for everyone, depending on age, family size and specific requirements, and you’ll find that your first draft is probably missing several items.

What’s the value? Like I said, having a list like this with a dry erase marker handy makes it a lot easier to take note of the regular stuff you need at the store, so that you don’t forget something essential and have to make an extra trip. Notice toilet paper missing? Just draw a quick star on this laminated sheet, then check it the next time you’re about to go to the store. It’s as easy as that! Sure, it’s a new routine to get used to, but it’s a super simple routine, and it can easily start saving you trips to the store.

Review your subscriptions.

Many of us have subscriptions to services and publications and other things that we completely forget about most of the time. We’re subscribed to a magazine or two that comes in the mail that we don’t read that gets automatically renewed. We’re subscribed to an annual service on our phones that we were really into a few years ago but now it just gets re-subscribed without a thought.

There’s no better time than right now to sit down and go through all of those subscriptions and evaluate which ones are worth retaining and which ones aren’t.

There are several ways to find the things you’re subscribed to.

One way is to go into your email program and search for “subscription” and “renewal” and see what comes up.

Another way is to use your phone to find your online subscriptions. Here’s how to do it on iPhone and how to do it on an Android device.

Another place to look is your Amazon account. Here’s where you should go to check your subscriptions through Amazon.

It’s also worthwhile to look through your credit card and bank statements for the last several months, identifying any automatic charges and renewal charges that appear there.

You might also want to examine your magazine rack and any other spots in your home where magazines accumulate.

This isn’t a call to cancel everything, but rather to review everything and cancel things that clearly aren’t giving you enough value.

This whole process will take a little while, which is why it’s a nice project to take on when you have the time for it.

Make tomorrow better.

The goal with each and every one of these projects is to use some time today to make tomorrow better – a little less expensive, a little easier to navigate, and so on.

Good luck!

The post Eight Useful, Frugal Projects You Can Do to Save Money appeared first on The Simple Dollar.



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