Happy Simple Money: An Interview with Steve and Jan Berger

Jan and Steve Berger

I’ve known Steve and Jan Berger for 11 years. I first met Steve, a writer, when I joined the Colorado Author’s League and he was the organization’s president. Over the years we’ve gotten to be friends, and last fall when we were at a gift show selling books together we started talking about finances. Steve and Jan told me they were retiring and enjoying life, and since they’re youngsters and both in the creative arts I wondered how they’d done it.

The Bergers have a shared philosophy about spending and an unusual way of saving money that has worked splendidly for them. I thought their story was fascinating and inspiring, and they generously agreed to let me share it with you.

First, a little background: Steve and Jan have been married for 39 years. Jan is a successful graphic artist, and Steve is a writer and author. His novels include acclaimed titles like Ursula’s Yahrtzeit Candle, The Fifth Estate and his newest mystery, Fat Chance. Jan designed the books’ striking covers.

The couple lives in a beautiful home in a Colorado community located between two state parks. They own an income-producing rental property, they live debt free, and are now comfortably retired. They are on the waiting list for the new Tesla 3, and are taking a cruise from Greece to Venice this fall.

In short, they live a good life.

Keep reading to find out some of the ways they’re worked together to build a solid financial foundation.

Jan and Steve Berger | Happy Simple Living blog

Q: As a couple, you seem to agree philosophically about how to best manage your finances. Since this is an area that many couples struggle with, can you share any insights?

A: We both believe in open communication about money. It’s like building a house; you have to be on the same page, or you’ll tear each other apart. It’s helpful to have shared goals and agree on a financial strategy, and trust is key.

Both of our parents came out of the Depression, and they influenced us to be thoughtful about spending and always save a percentage of our money for a rainy day. Being rich was never our goal, but we wanted to have enough.

Q: Can you describe your unusual system for saving money?

A: It’s simple, really.  We round up expenses to the nearest dollar, and we round down deposits. So if we spend $39.12 at the grocery store, we enter $40 in the check register. If we deposit $157.89, we add in $157.

We also put every “found cent” into the slush fund: birthday checks, tax refunds and refund checks all go into the kitty.

You’d be surprised how small increments of money, saved steadily over time, can grow.

(Here’s one of their actual checkbook registers, so you can see their actual process which includes credit card purchases as well as checks. When the statement arrives, the funds have already been set aside to make the payment:)

Checkbook register | Happy Simple Living blog

Q: If your checkbook register shows a different balance from what’s actually in the bank, how do you keep from getting confused?

A: Steve uses Quicken to track every penny, and reconciles the balances on a regular basis. We move the slush fund to an interest-bearing account periodically.

Q: Do you use credit cards?

A: Yes, but not in the typical way. We use no-fee, cash-back credit cards for every expense we can charge. Our current favorites are issued by American Express and FirstBank Visa. We pay the balance off every month and never accrue interest. We’ve found that a cash-back card is a better deal for us than cards that offer airline miles.

Q: What are some of your money-saving strategies?

A: We try to control recurring expenses. For instance, we installed solar panels when we could afford them so we won’t be at the mercy of the utility company that will continue to raise rates for the rest of our lives.

We’re also on the list for the Tesla 3, an all-electric car with a 200+ mile range priced in the mid- to upper-$30,000s. Available in late 2017, we will be able to charge the batteries off our household solar panels. We believe it is a given that oil prices will go up again. So we will be saving money, controlling expenses and, not insignificantly, helping the environment and contributing to the mitigation of climate change.

Again, as we could afford it, we’ve replaced almost every light in the house with LEDs, which has reduced electrical usage, leaving more generating power from the solar panels for our use and to go back into the grid until we get our Tesla; then we’ll use it to power its batteries.

We belong to Costco and purchase things like stationary and checks there. We also bought our refrigerator at Costco, after researching models and determining that they offered the best value.

We both like to cook, so we prepare most of our meals at home. We’re also fortunate that we’re in good health. We think part of this is due to reduced stress from not having to worry about money, which means not having to spend as much on healthcare, which means less stress.

Q: Do you ever use coupons?

A. Yes, but only on things we’d buy anyway. Using the same criteria, we also take advantage of sales.

Q: What is your philosophy about spending?

A:  We invest in quality and value. We use Consumer Reports to research every major purchase. We always save our receipts in case there’s a problem with something we buy.

We don’t go shopping to buy things and improve our moods. Doing this is hollow. It might bring very temporary enjoyment, but it doesn’t last. To get that feeling again, people just go out and buy again.

We prefer to buy what we need and take pleasure in its functionality, amusement (like some of the art we’ve splurged on), and lasting pleasure––because it works well, saves time and energy, is cost-efficient and reliable.

Q: What are some of the best things you’ve ever spent money on?

An antique, blue, Chinese rug for our living room after we went from carpet to hardwood. We both absolutely fell in love with it, but it was 2.5 times what we had mentally budgeted. We negotiated the price down 20%, which made it only 2 times more than our mental budget, but we had the money, so we bought it. We still enjoy it every day.

[Steve:] A few months ago, Jan saw an ad for a beautiful, expensive, ring. Half joking she said, ‘If you ever want to buy me jewelry (which we rarely do), you can get me one these rings.’ I tracked down where the ring is sold––Boulder–– and finagled a trip up there for fun and lunch. Our walk after lunch took us down the Pearl Street Mall to the only place in Colorado carrying that jeweler’s wares. You can guess the rest.

One of the best things we’ve done with money is to give Jan’s former boss, who was very good to us for more than twenty years, a gift card for $500. That made three people very happy at a time when she could really use the money.

Our other splurges include a couple of self-indulgent trips to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs in New Mexico, including massages, great food and a serene setting with nothing to do but relax and enjoy. Steve took Jan to Italy for one of her birthdays, Jan took Steve to Washington DC for one of his, and we took Steve’s dad on a trip to Hungary. We like to travel and consider it one of the best things to spend money on since the experiences last a lifetime, as the mother of one of our friends always said.

Steve Berger and Jan Berger | Happy Simple Living blog

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: To be honest, we’ve actually never though this much about what we do with money. We think it’s because we’ve adopted many of these practices as needed, not all at once, and just assimilated them into our lifestyle. We do consider ourselves very fortunate for many reasons, and don’t take our good fortune for granted or feel particularly exceptional for these material achievements. To us, money has always been a means, not an end.

Thank you, Steve and Jan, for generously sharing your money strategies and giving us insights into how you’ve made a comfortable life through shared goals, open communication and smart spending.

How About You?

Readers, does Steve and Jan’s advice resonate with you? Do you have advice to add about strategies that have worked for you, either as an individual or as a partner in a relationship or family?

Would you like to see more real-life stories about how people manage their money?

I always love hearing your thoughts and comments.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

January Money Diet Day #8 – Lower Your Energy Bill

Lower energy bills | January Money Diet

It’s January 8th, and we’ve now successfully crossed the one-week mark in the January Money Diet. I want to thank all of you who have taken time to share your ideas and experiences in comments this week. It’s so inspiring to hear how you’re saving money this month, and I appreciate how many of you have shared wonderful goals and action plans for getting financially strong in 2016.

I also want to welcome the new dieters who are just joining — so glad you’re with us! Just jump right in, and feel free to participate and comment on the topics covered in earlier posts.

Today we’re going to explore ways to save money by lowering our home energy bills. We’ll enjoy the financial rewards of our efforts when our utility bills are lower than usual.

The January Money Diet is an excellent time to experiment with some new energy-saving strategies. Here in the Northern hemisphere many of us are facing larger-than-normal energy bills due to colder-than-normal temperatures. Our friends in the Southern hemisphere are in the middle of summer and facing cooling challenges. Either way, being especially mindful of energy use is an excellent way to save money — and help the environment.

These are some energy-saving ideas for you to consider:

Get Caulking

Drafts increase home energy use 5 to 30%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, with 11% of a home’s heat loss occurring through poorly-sealed doors and windows. If you already have caulk or sealing supplies on hand, go around your house when the temperatures are nippy and find any places where you have leaks. Sealing up air leaks now will permanently reduce the amount of expensive heated air that escapes, and will also help keep your home cooler during hot temperatures.

You DIYers might enjoy reading about my incredible discovery when I removed a piece of window trim beneath a drafty window last year. You never know what you’ll find in a 1970s home, but over time we have made many improvements to seal up the leaks and drafty areas.

Get Cooking

Baking and cooking not only warm us on the inside, they help warm the kitchen, too. If you don’t have young children or curious pets in the home, you can leave the oven door propped open after you turn off the stove to let some of that warm air escape and heat the room.

Let the Sun Shine In

On sunny days, open the blinds or drapes to allow the sun to shine in and warm your house with passive solar energy.

Dress Right

Before turning up the thermostat, try throwing on a sweater. It’s much less expensive to warm you than your whole house. Dressing in layers helps trap heat, and sometimes just adding a camisole or undershirt can make you feel much warmer. Good socks will help your toes stay warm, too.

Check Your Furniture

January is a great time to rearrange the furniture, and while you’re at it you can make sure that sofas, beds, bookcases and chairs are not blocking any heat vents or radiators.

Find the Right Water Temperature

There’s nothing better than a hot shower or bath on a chilly day. On the other hand, we don’t need to continuously heat all of that water in the tank hotter than it needs to be. (If you have an on-demand water heater, this tip doesn’t apply.) You may wish to turn down your hot water heater a degree or two and see how you like it. Maybe it’s fine, maybe another degree or two down wouldn’t hurt — either way, it’s just an experiment. (The U.S. Dept. of Energy recommends a water heater setting of 120 degrees F.)

Bust a Move

Exercise, dance, clean the house, run up and down the stairs — just get moving to increase your blood flow and circulation, and you’ll feel warmer.

Get Cozy

We keep warm blankets in the family room so we can snuggle up on the couch while we’re watching movies. You might also like to try sleeping with flannel sheets or an extra blanket on the bed at night. January is a great month to experiment with turning down the heater by one degree. Okay? Try another degree. We have warm comforters on our beds, and we’ve grown to love sleeping with the heat turned down, cozy under the covers.

Light Right

If you have some CFLs or LEDs on hand, are there any old incandescent lightbulbs you can switch out? I was amazed how much our bills went down as we transitioned away from incandescent bulbs.

Try eating dinner by candlelight, or light an oil lamp for light occasionally this month. (My son loves it when we do this). Get in the habit of always turning off lights when you leave a room, and take advantage of natural sunlight whenever possible.

Unplug Sneaky Energy Draws

Anything with a little power light on is drawing electricity, which means our plugged-in DVD players and stereos and coffee grinders and power drills are costing us money and wasting energy when we’re not using them. Unplug appliances so they don’t use power while sitting idle. Plug appliances you use often into a power strip with an on/off button for added convenience. Every little bit helps.

Be Snug As a Bug

Area rugs will help warm up hard floor surfaces. You can also reduce drafts under doors by making your own door draft stopper from materials you already have on hand.

Run the Ceiling Fan

This always seemed counter-intuitive to me until I tried it. Warm air rises, so if you reverse your fan to a clockwise direction and run it on the very lowest speed, the blades will gently push the warm air back down into the room. This works best in homes with tall ceilings.

Cover Drafty Windows

My insulation guy told me this trick: Close your blinds at night with the blinds pointed upward toward the ceiling so that cold air isn’t drawn into the house. Even when the blinds are open during the day, I tilt them slightly up to reduce drafts.

Be sure to close drapes and shades at night to keep the heat in. We buy window film kits on sale in April and use them to line a couple of drafty windows the following winter; I’m always amazed at how well they work. Some people cover their windows with bubble wrap for additional insulation; I haven’t personally tried that, but if you already have the supplies you may want to experiment.

How about you?

What are your favorite ways to save energy in January? If you try any of these ideas this month, will you share your experiences in the Comments section of this page? We’d love to hear about your experiences.

Hugs and stay cozy,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo: Geir Tonnessen

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

January Money Diet Day #2 – Go on a Home Scavenger Hunt

Pamper yourself during the January Money Diet

It’s only the second day of our money diet, and I’m already overwhelmed by your enthusiasm and goodness. I got goose bumps reading your comments as you embraced Challenge #1 yesterday. Giving 31 gifts is a big commitment, and I’m humbled and inspired by the stories and ideas you’re sharing. I hope you’ll continue posting about your experiences in both giving and receiving throughout the month.

We’ve committed to hanging on to our cash this month, but that doesn’t mean we need to live meagerly. In fact, I strongly believe that managing our money wisely is going to lead us to all sorts of abundance, blessings and adventures in 2016.

Find Your Hidden Treasures

On this first weekend of the January Money Diet, I encourage you to “shop” at home and spoil yourself with the things you have on hand. Now is the perfect time to go through the closets and drawers looking for those unused things we all tend to hold on to for Someday.

You might begin your home scavenger hunt with the bathroom cabinets; are there shampoo samples, fancy soaps, loofahs and pedicure kits hiding on the shelves? Gather them up and pamper yourself. You deserve it!

What about those specialty kitchen appliances and gadgets gathering dust? Let’s use our fondue pots and pasta machines and waffle irons this month, shall we?

Take inventory of your pantry and freezer, too; do you have any fancy, gourmet items or forgotten goodies lurking back in the shelves? Plan to enjoy those treats, clear some shelf space and save money on food this month.

What about unused craft and scrapbooking supplies? Home improvement materials? Fabric and notions? Yarn and knitting needles? Office supplies? Blank journals? January is a splendid month to take on a project using things you already have.

Take a look around the closets and drawers of your home, and you might find a treasure trove of good stuff just waiting to be used up and enjoyed.

After you’ve gone on a scavenger hunt around your home, will you post a few highlights in the comments section at the bottom of this page? You know we’re all just dying to hear what you unearth.

You’ll hear from me again on Monday, when we tackle meal planning to save money and time this month.

Until then, treat yourself to a long soak and use the scented bath salts. Get out the shaving brush and enjoy a nice shave. Burn the scented candles. Wear your silk pajamas. Play your music and dance!

Stay strong, steer clear of the mall, and enjoy this beautiful weekend.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Day #1 and Your First January Money Diet Challenge

Lantern festival | January Money Diet

Welcome to the first day of the 2016 January Money Diet. This year, we embrace our new dieters and say hello to many repeat dieters who have participated before. Our community includes money dieters in the U.S. as well as in Canada, Germany, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, the U.K., and Australia.

Best of all, we have YOU. I’m so glad you’ve joined us.

For the next 31 days, we’ll be joining hands and making a commitment not to spend cash on anything but essentials. We’ll encourage each other, cheer each other on, and share lots of ways to live large without spending. At the end of the month, we’ll each do something extraordinary with the extra money we’ve saved.

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Today’s post includes the first of 5 challenges that will help strengthen your relationship with money. If you choose to try these 5 challenges, you’ll be automatically entered in a giveaway for prizes including cash, financial books and more.

The Paradoxical Link Between Giving and Receiving

Prosperity and giving are connected in a beautiful way. It might not make logical sense, but the more we give away, the greater abundance we experience. We receive more, and then we can give away even more. In the process of sharing with others, we also feel happier.

In a month when many of us feel squeezed after the holidays and anxious to get back on track financially, it feels almost counterintuitive to start by giving more. And yet, because I’ve experienced this wonderful paradox in my own financial life I know that giving generously this month will unlock amazing things for each one of us.

The age-old principles of sowing and reaping are the yin and yang that bring balance and joy to the way we manage money.

Here is your first challenge, which you can work on at your own pace throughout the month.

January Money Diet Challenge #1: Give 31 things away.

During this no-spend month, look for opportunities to share your abundance with others.

Some of us may choose to give away 31 things we no longer need — perhaps items like clothes, furniture, coats, dishes or other items that would bless another person. Some may prepare a hot meal for someone, or send a thank you note, or teach someone a skill, or babysit, or listen, or give a back rub, or shovel a snowy sidewalk, or pass along a book. What you give is completely up to you.

Be on the lookout for unexpected gifts and blessings that come your way this month, too. I encourage you to return to this page and leave comments about the 31 gifts you give, and your experiences of both giving and receiving. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Gratitude book | January Money DietEach of you who participate in Challenge #1 and comment on this page will also be entered in a special drawing for a copy of one of my favorite books, A Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralik. It’s the inspiring true story of a man who transformed his dreary life by writing and sending 365 thank-you notes — one every day to a deserving person, for a whole year.

I’m excited to share this journey with you, and you’ll be hearing from me again tomorrow.

Until then, enjoy this New Year’s Day and the promise of a fresh financial start in 2016.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Grateful thanks to Jirka Matousek for the use of his stunning Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival photo.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Let’s Talk about Toilet Paper – Part 1

Toilet paper holder

My friends, I’ve decided to give our toilet paper choice a comprehensive review. Because toilet paper is an ongoing expense and a resource we use continually, I want to be sure we’re making an informed decision. Naturally, you’re invited to come along for the journey.

Last year, I finally got fed up with the store brand of toilet paper. Over the years the rolls had gotten thinner and shorter, and the paper seemed increasingly prone to disintegrating. One day I marched into the store muttering to myself, “You work hard, you make sacrifices for the family, and darn it, you deserve nice toilet paper.” I yanked a 12-pack of Cottonelle Clean Care off the shelf, and never looked back.

Cottonelle toilet paper

This wasn’t a frugal buying decision at all. At our local King Soopers, a 12-pack of Cottonelle is $7.49. With tax, it’s 67 cents a roll. We don’t belong to a price club, so the only way we save money is when it goes on sale—which is rarely.

The label is printed in nice, bold print. Yet for some reason, the text at the bottom listing the number of sheets per roll is printed in the lightest, impossible-to-read pale blue. Why do you think this is?

toilet paper info

With the aid of high-strength binoculars, I was able to read that a pack contains 12 rolls, each with 208 1-ply sheets per roll. It also lists the square footage (266.4) and square meters (24). This information could be handy for easily comparing brands—if only one could read it.

The package boasts that my 12 “Double Rolls” are equal to 24 “Single Rolls.” Like me, do you scratch your head when you read this? Since every toilet paper brand now considers its products to be double rolls, ours don’t seem particularly robust.

 

Magnifying the text on a t.p. roll

Aided by a magnifier, I found the Double vs. Single explanation on the package back in a font so small that Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Museum once used it to print the Declaration of Independence on the head of a pin:  “1 Double Roll equals 2.3 times the number of sheets as the leading ultra brand regular roll.” Ahh, now I understand.

Fancy T.P. and Sasquatch

Wait—what “leading ultra brand?” Are you telling me the leading ultra brand only has 90 squares per roll? I’m skeptical. Let’s keep our eyes open for pricey—but skinny—super-fancy t.p. rolls in the future. Will you let me know if you find this elusive, half-size luxury roll?

On the plus side, I also discovered this information in tiny elfin text: “Paper from responsible sources,” accompanied by a miniscule logo from the Forest Stewardship Council. Greenwashing? Not this time. A little research convinced me that the FSC is a legit organization which promotes responsible harvesting. Here are the principles of FSC-certified forests:

* Never harvests more than what grows back
* Protects biodiversity and endangered species
* Saves rare ancient trees
* Guards local streams
* Supports the local people
* Uses narrow skidding trails so as not to disrupt the rest of the forest
* Prohibits replacement by tree plantations
* Bans toxic chemicals
* Bans genetically modified trees (no GMO)

In the coming days, I aim to delve further into whether Cottonelle is the best choice for us—and if so, whether we can buy it cheaper elsewhere. All three of these attributes are equally important:

a. Comfort

b. As earth-friendly as possible

c. Reasonable price (would this be the right time to make a “cash flow” pun?)

How about you?

Do you make your own toilet paper from recycled feed sacks? If not, would you be willing to share the brand of toilet paper you use? Do you buy it at the grocery store? Or do you get those Volkswagen-sized packages at Costco for a better price? Are you Single Roll, Double Roll, Triple Roll or Mega-Quintuple Roll user?

I look forward to flushing out all of the options with you in the days ahead.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Top photo: A.N. Berlin

 

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

January Money Diet – Baby Steps and Resources

Take baby steps during the January Money Diet

It’s Day #16 of the January Money Diet, and we’ve officially crossed the halfway mark! How has this spending break been going for you so far? Has it been harder or easier than you expected? We have such a great group this year, and I have SO enjoyed getting to know you and read your comments.

Good Money Books

We’ve been focusing a lot on how we manage our money, and I wanted to share two books that have been instrumental to me in developing new money habits. You can probably get either of these books at your local library.

The first book that helped me is “The Millionaire Next Door,” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko. The authors’ research and findings about wealthy people is utterly fascinating, and for me it opened my eyes to the fact that most people who enjoy financial freedom don’t spend a lot trying to impress other people. They drive reliable cars, for example, and make careful spending decisions about major purchases. They build real wealth, and tend not to fritter their money away.

The second book is “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey. Dave is the founder of Financial Peace University, and I remember the first time I heard that phrase I took a deep breath and felt calmer. Financial peace…what a wonderful concept. I found his book to be both practical and inspiring.

Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps

As you’ve probably gathered by reading this blog, I like things that are simple. That’s probably why Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps appealed to me so much. Here are the steps he recommends taking to achieve financial peace, in this order:

Baby Step 1: $1,000 to start an emergency fund

Baby Step 2: Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball

Baby Step 3: 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings

Baby Step 4: Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and tax-advantaged retirement accounts

Baby Step 5: College funding for children

Baby Step 6: Pay off your house early

Baby Step 7: Build wealth and give!

Eliza’s Tiny Baby Steps

I would humbly like to add two steps to Dave’s. Here they are:

Tiny Baby Step 0.5:  Fund an emergency account with $100

Tiny Baby Step 2.5:  Begin a Vacation account (if you ask me, this is just as important as a retirement account!) and a Freedom account for large annual expenses, at an inconvenient credit union or bank with FDIC-insured accounts.

How About You?

Do you agree with these steps? If so, which step are you currently working on? (I’m currently trying to tackle Step #4.)

Do you have any of your own steps or tips for achieving financial stability to add to the list? And finally, do you have any good money books to recommend for solid financial advice?

Have a happy weekend, and I’ll have a new challenge for you on Monday.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. You could win a deluxe Happy Simple Living gift box by participating in the January Money Diet. The box includes a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card, $25 cash, pantry staples like bean soup mix and organic quinoa, signed copies of three of my cookbooks, homesteading supplies like soap, candles and eco-friendly cleaning supplies, and much more.

At the end of January I’ll choose one winner from among everyone who comments–someone who has participated in this 31-day challenge with heart and soul and achieved good results. Good luck!

Photo:  RSPCA WOAW

 

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

How To Remove a Sticky Label or Stubborn Price Sticker

Use this trick to remove a sticky price sticker

Pity the poor security people who work at places like Ross, Marshall’s and T.J. Maxx. They must have had to deal with an epidemic of people switching price stickers on already-discounted stuff. Why else would they affix such impossible-to-remove price stickers to their merchandise? The adhesive sticks fast on even the slipperiest nonstick surfaces, and to further deter easy removal the stickers are perforated in about sixteen places. This is all fine and well as a security measure, but what about us honest citizens who purchase something and do not care to enjoy said item with its price sticker forever affixed?

I’ve wrecked fingernails and tried razor blades, soaking in hot water, and solvents like Goo Gone and rubbing alcohol to remove stubborn stickers. These methods all have the unfortunate side effect of sometimes ruining the very thing you’re trying to preserve. When I finally discovered the magic trick to remove the stickers, I knew I had to share it with you.

First heat your iron to its lowest setting. You’ll also need a little scrap of fabric or a thin cotton dishtowel to protect the item while you get the sticker off. I used a small scrap of paper towel. Very gently and being careful not to touch the item with your iron, run the pointed part of the iron over the fabric or paper towel covering the sticker.

Remove a stubborn sticky price sticker with this trick from Happy Simple Living.

Test the sticker and see if it will cooperate now. If it doesn’t peel right off, hit it a couple more times with the iron. You may need to raise the temperature a notch or experiment a little bit. Just go slowly and err on the side of caution so you don’t melt anything except the stubborn glue on the sticker.

How to easily remove a price sticker, from Happy Simple Living.

As you can see, after about ten seconds with the tip of the iron this sticker came right off of a cellophane-covered package.

Remove stubborn price stickers with this tip from Happy Simple Living.

You readers are so smart you’ve probably been happily ironing off your price stickers for decades, but for me this discovery was life changing. How about you? Have you ever tried this tip?

Keep calm and carry on! Hugs and happy Monday,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

January Money Diet Day 15 – Visit the Library

 

Concord Public Library

Concord Public Library | Photo: Liz West

Once upon a time, if I was interested in a book I simply visited the website of an especially large online bookstore and clicked on a convenient little button that read “Buy now with 1-Click.”

Soon we had so many books we had to install custom bookshelves that covered an entire wall of the living room. When we moved a few years later, we hauled 26 cartons of books along with us. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m a writer, and I love books. But one day, I was trying to squeeze another new book on the shelves and realized we had run out of space. I sat down, gazed at all the books, and realized that many of them were books I had enjoyed once but was unlikely to read again.

I began giving books away, and decided to be  more selective about which volumes deserved a place in our pared-down collection. My new mantra was this:

  • I’ll only buy books I really love.
  • I prefer hardbacks if they’re available.
  • Used books are fine with me.
  • I’ll try to buy books from an independent bookstore.

I also decided to pay a visit to the neighborhood library. Today, if I’m interested in a book I simply visit my library’s website and reserve the book. My library e-mails me when the book is ready to be picked up.  I also borrow movies, CDs and current magazines from my library. This year I even downloaded several books on my e-reader from our library’s website. The books mysteriously disappear at the end of the lending time, but the technology is still amazing to me.

When my computer died a few years ago, I went to the library and used one of their free computers until mine was fixed. When my daughter was shopping for a used car, she borrowed Consumer Reports magazine and researched the most reliable makes and models. Our library offers a delightful kids’ library and a summer reading program that my son loves, free talks on a variety of subjects, a wonderful writers’ group, meeting and study rooms, and regular art exhibits.

This year our library partnered with our local power company to loan out portable power meters. We were able to borrow a meter to plug into home appliances and learn how much energy we’re using. Our library also lends Nook e-readers, and offers demonstrations of Google Glasses. What a cool place!

Today’s Homework Assignment: Visit your local library in the next few days, and let us know what you discover.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

The January Money Diet Starts Tomorrow

Vintage New Year's postcard

Hundreds of people will participate in the 5th Annual January Money Diet—would you like to join us? It’s absolutely free, and every day during January you’ll receive an idea or challenge to help you go for a month without spending cash.

Start the new year financially strong by taking a 31-day break from all but the most essential spending. We’ll even work to whittle down those essential expenses like groceries and the energy bill.

You can read more about the 2014 January Money Diet here, and sign up here.

Are you in?

Here’s to 2014—a year full of positive and profitable possibilities! I look forward to dieting with you, starting tomorrow.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.