The Dollar Stretcher
Living Better for Less
March 3, 2008
Volume 13 Number 9
In This Issue:

 Introduction

Maximize Your Tax Refund

by Rali Macaulay
Have a plan for when your tax refund arrives

 Make an Easy and Elegant Birdbath

by Kathy Wilson
Creating a more wildlife-friendly garden

In The Dollar Stretcher Community

Choosing Time Over Frugality

When you get too busy, what goes? What do you skip or do differently?

Corned Beef
by John Smith
Stock up on this Irish delicacy

Inexpensive and Creative Wedding Gifts
by Melissa Hogan
Give a more memorable gift

Tips, Quips, Quotes & Questions On www.Stretcher.com This Week
 "The Dollar Stretcher" and Dollar Stretcher, Inc. does not assume responsibility for advice given. All advice should be weighed against your own abilities and circumstances and applied accordingly. It is up to the reader to determine if advice is safe and suitable for his/her own situation.

Introduction

by Gary Foreman gary@stretcher.com

Hello to all my Frugal Friends!

Do you know people who are doing dangerous things, but don't recognize the danger? You know, the guy who complains about the economy, but won't do anything to pay down his credit card balance. I call it the Alfred E. Neuman syndrome. The other day I added a blog entry on the subject. You can access it at <<http://www.stretcher.com/r/51.htm>>

All the Best!
Gary
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Maximize Your Tax Refund
by Rali Macaulay

Have a plan for when your tax refund arrives Are you getting a refund this tax season and can't wait to spend it? Well, wait a minute. What happened to last year's refund? Can you honestly say you have no regrets for what you did with it all, or at least a significant portion of it?

 If you have no regrets, you are confident it was money well spent, and you were in a better financial form than before the refund, congratulations! The more reason you should do even better this year. Or do you look back and wish you had not been in too much of a hurry to spend? Do you wish you had "remembered" your more pressing needs before you blew all your refunds? Well, the key is in planning.

Plan even before you get your refund. Set an order of priority. Put your plan on paper, and discipline yourself to follow through on it. Often when we get our refunds, we see it as "free money." But is this what it really is? A lot of people find it hard to save extra to meet the various needs that come across their path all year long, so this should be seen as your savings during the year. Remember that these are payments you made out of your paycheck in the year! It is not "free money." It is your hard-earned dollar. So make the best use of it.

What are your most dire needs? And before you spend, ask yourself, "Do I need this or is this just a spur of the moment desire?"

Do you have debts that keep you up at night with huge interest rates eating deep into your finances every month? Do you have major repairs you have not been able to afford without hurting your monthly budget? Below are some suggestions on what we can do with our refunds, in no particular order. Arrange them according to your priorities and your peculiar circumstances:

 - Pay off, or at least pay down, your credit card debt.
 - Make any major home or car repairs you need done.
- If you have no major credit card debt and no repairs needed, it could be time to make that major asset purchase you need like that laptop (or desktop computer) you need for your school or your business.
- Have no retirement fund? Then open an IRA account, even if with the minimum amount. Nothing is too small to start with, as long as the bank will accept it.
- Do you have the desire to take a course or professional exam but couldn't afford it before now? This could be a good opportunity to invest in yourself and improve your future career opportunities.
- Start up a college fund for your kids.

You don't have any debts that need paid down, or any "needs" whatsoever?
Then you can also do the following:

- Make extra payments on your mortgage.
 - Start an emergency fund or add to an existing one. You could open a Money Market account for this purpose.

Still undecided? Then leave the money in your account. Do nothing with it until the excitement of having extra cash wears down. Then you may be able to analyze your financial status and needs better and draw up a plan. Just don't rush to spend it all, so you are not sorry afterwards.

Take the Next Step: Awaiting your tax refund? Do you have a plan for the money? Sit down today and figure out how to best utilize your refund. After all, it is your hard-earned dollar, so use it to its fullest potential.

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Make an Easy and Elegant Birdbath
by Kathy Wilson

Creating a more wildlife-friendly garden
Bringing birds to your garden is one of the great joys of any gardener. Aside from providing food, providing water is a must in creating a wildlife-friendly garden. Here is a quick and easy birdbath that looks elegant and can be made from items you already own or can easily get from your local garden center.

Supplies:
Tall pot or urn, or even a piece of large pipe
A large saucer
Silicone glue, if desired
Several rough stones

 - Place your pot or urn in the desired place for your birdbath.
Depending on the shape of the vessel, you might wish to turn it upside down. I filled mine with rocks to give it weight and prevent it from blowing over in the wind.

- Place the saucer on top of the pot and glue with silicone to keep in place if desired.

- Place rough stones in saucer to give birds a foothold and then fill saucer with water.

 - Plant around the base of the birdbath to soften and add a natural effect. Use low growing plants.

- Place your birdbath in an open area such as a lawn.
Birds prefer to be able to view the area for enemies and will use your bath more often if they are not tucked back where a predator can hide. (Helps you to chase off those neighborhood predators as well!)

__________________________ Kathy Wilson is a home and garden writer, author and consultant and is the home decorating expert for LifetimeTV.com. Visit her for more home and garden ideas at http://www.TheGardenGlove.com and http://www.TheBudgetDecorator.com . Also visit her at http://www.Women-on-the-Net.com where any woman can learn to make money on the internet!

Take the Next Step: Look around your home for supplies that you could possibly use to make your own elegant birdbath. Your backyard wildlife will thank you.

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 In The Dollar Stretcher Community
 Choosing Time Over Frugality
When you get too busy, what goes? What do you skip or do differently? http://community.stretcher.com/forums/t/3669.aspx

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Corned Beef
 by John Smith

Stock up on this Irish delicacy
 I know some of you out there are turning up your noses at the idea of corned beef for St. Patty's day. Over the years, I have learned that there are two kinds of people in this world. There are those people who love corned beef and then there are people who haven't had tender and lean corned beef sliced thin on Black Russian rye bread, Swiss cheese, loads of mayo, stone ground mustard with a hint of horse radish and topped off with cabbage cooked in the corned beef broth.

These people would quickly change their way of thinking if they could just muster enough gumption to chomp into one these St. Patty beauties. Once their taste buds start jumping for joy and the juice from the cabbage mixes with the mayo and mustard and starts running down their chin, they'll be hooked just like the rest of us.

Of course, those non-adventurous types use the excuse that corned beef is either too fatty or too expensive or just for Irish folks who don't know any better. Actually they make a good point. Corned beef can have a lot of fat and the every day price is often a couple of dollars or more a pound than say a pot roast.

Even though I love corned beef with a passion, I'm not willing to spend the money that many of the supermarket meat departments want for a brisket that has been pickled. That's all corned beef is. They take the cheapest and most fattiest (It's a word, honest) cut of beef there is, cure it in a brine and pack it up for the drooling masses.

So why the high prices? Because they can.
The corned beef sells all year round even at regular high prices.
Fortunately for us tightwad corned beef lovers, once a year corned beef goes on sale at rock bottom prices in many of the large supermarkets. That time of year is now.

With St. Patrick's day quickly approaching, corned beef will be the main "loss leader" item for most stores. This is the time of the year to stock up. Corned beef in its plastic air tight package will keep in the freezer right up to next St. Patrick's day without any problem. Just make sure the seal is tight and no air has gotten into the package. You can tell by looking. The bag will be kinda poofy and may be leaking liquid.

Now be careful out there. The best price may not be the best buy. Many stores buy cheap point cuts processed with minimal trim standards. That means they will have way too much fat. The flat cuts are much leaner. You will have to determine if the point cuts are actually saving you money over the much leaner flat cuts. Sometimes they will and sometimes they won't. Either way, you will get the best prices now, so load up.

To fix corned beef, simply throw the meat, along with the contents of the pickling spice packet that comes with it, into a large pot. Cover with water and simmer for two to four hours or until tender.
Once the corned beef is tender, pull out and place to one side and add a quartered cabbage to the broth and boil until cabbage is tender.
Drain cabbage and slice corned beef cutting across the grain.

Then make your sandwiches, and be sure to have plenty of napkins handy. .

Corned Beef Hash Marine Corps Style:
2 cups shredded corned beef
2 cups peeled and cubed potatoes (small cubes)
2 cups ketchup or so (Just so everything is nice and goopy.)
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce or so to taste
1 chopped onion
1 small clove garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes until just tender, drain and set to one side.
Saute chopped onions and chopped garlic until translucent. Mix all ingredients together and place in casserole dish.
 Place hash mixture in oven at 325 degrees F for 30-45 minutes or until heated thoroughly.
Serve with eggs and toast for breakfast or with fried cabbage or coleslaw for dinner.

__________________ John Smith has been a butcher/meat cutter for 30+ years. He's written the book "Confessions of a Butcher- eat steak on a hamburger budget and save$$$," which is available at www.arkessentials.com http://www.arkessentials.com . You can check some of his archived articles at www.all-about-meat.com http://www.all-about-meat.com or post any meat related question and get it answered usually within 24 hours. John, his wife Vickie and their 8 kids live in eastern Idaho in the shadow of the Tetons.

Take the Next Step: Once a year corned beef goes on sale at rock bottom prices. That time of year is now. With St. Patrick's day quickly approaching, corned beef will be the main "loss leader" item for most stores. So stock up! I plan to. I don't have even a pinch of Irish in me, yet I love it!

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