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Clueless about your money? Do you want financial security, but don't know where to start?

The Simple Nickle is a free web-based program to help you easily understand and control your finances in less than 15 minutes a day! We'll guide you step-by-step; it's as easy as checking your email! We'll also give you easy-to-understand financial education starting with the most basic aspects.

Cheap Eats: Recipes for Around $1 Per Serving: Creamy Cilantro Dressing on Salad

This post was featured at This Wasn't in The Plan, A Pot of Gold, and World Famous Recipes.

Creamy Cilantro Dressing on Salad

BEWARE! This is the best salad dressing you've ever had. It can be highly addictive, and goes well on more than just salad: fajitas, as a dip for veggies or bread, etc. Did I mention that it's fast and easy, too? This recipe is much cheaper in the summer when you make the salad from scratch, or if you get any of the special ingredients on sale.

Prep time: 10 min.
Ready in: 10 min.

Servings: 8
Price per serving: $1.14


For salad:
2 bags of pre-made salad

For dressing:
1 package Hidden Valley Buttermilk Ranch dressing mix
2 medium tomatillos

1/2 cup mayonaise
juice of 2 limes, or to taste
1/4 bunch of cilantro, or to taste
1/2 jalapeno pepper, or to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper, or to taste

Pour salad into bowl. Throw all the dressing ingedients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Dressing will thicken a bit as it sits. To adjust thickness, either add milk(thinner) or sour cream(thicker). This recipe is very flexible according to your taste; for example: we like ours loaded with cilantro, but others may not.

Check back each Friday for more inexpensive recipes for around $1 per serving!

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Spending POP QUIZ: Food

This post was featured at The Skilled Investor and Frugal Law Student.

The last thing you thought your were going to get on this site is a pop quiz. If you're having a flashback to high school, don't be dismayed. This one isn't graded. In fact, no one will know your score except you.

Even though your grade on this quiz isn't public, it does give you useful information that can help improve your financial life, and by corollary, your life in general. Come closer, take a deep breath, relax, and take our little quiz:

Open up your Mint online account(read more about Mint), or online checking and credit card accounts, or grab your statements from last month. Use a rough estimate to answer the following questions:

  1. How much money did you spend on eating out last month?

  2. How much did you spend on groceries?
  3. How much did you spend on lunch for the kids?

  4. How much did you and/or your spouse spend on lunch while at work?

And you're done! That wasn't so bad, was it?

Now, let's use our knowledge for good. Were you surprised at what you spent? Where did you do well? Where can you spend less? What are you going to do with that extra money? Important questions, powerful answers.

For example, last month I see that we spent $48 on fast food. That averages out to be about once a week for our family. That's more than I realized! If I ate fast food half as often, I would save about $25 a month. Using this handy calculator, I found that in two years, that $25 a month could turn into $653. Over ten years it could become $4,604, and over thirty years it could become $37,507! That is one habit that really pays off, and we'd be healthier, too.

I'm not the only one who has discovered how much we can save by making adjustments to our food bill:

Have you found other great ways to save on your food bill? How did you do it? What was the result?

Our little quiz is now done, and unlike high school, the outcome was really quite helpful. How did you do?

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Cheap Eats: Recipes for Around $1 Per Serving: Dar...

Does Your Costco Card Really Save You Money?

Does Your Costco Card Really Save You Money?

This post was featured at Broke Grad Student, Frugal Law Student, Modern Sage, All For Women, Are You Going To Be This Way The Rest Of The Time I Know You?, WESH2 Orlando, The Money Blogs, and Pinching Copper.

I was at Costco recently and was told it was time to renew my yearly membership. I obliged, having a cart of things I needed to purchase, but that $50 membership fee really shocks a frugal person like me.

The renewal got me thinking: is my Costco membership worth $50 dollars? Are most people's memberships? I decided to do the math.

First, the rules:

  • I only considered the kinds of things I regularly buy from Costco. Although it's probably true that you can get a load of laminate flooring at a better price than a flooring store, this is not something I can count on buying anytime soon. I didn't count the kinds of things I rarely buy there either, like ketchup and toilet paper, since Costco makes you buy enough to last for years.

  • I compared the prices at Costco to the cheapest prices I could find elsewhere. If I can buy something for less outside of Costco, I will.

  • I also did just rough estimates of how often I buy the things I do. For this exercise, I'm too lazy to go back through my purchases from a whole year.

  • Finally, we are a family of 4, including a toddler and a baby.

Regular purchases made at Costco versus somewhere else:

Milk: 2 gallons at $5.16 vs 1 gallon at $2.98 at grocery store. Savings of $.40 per gallon, about $60 per year.

Formula: 2 cans at $17 vs 1 can at $11 at Wal-Mart. Savings of $2.50 per can, about $180 per year.

Diapers: 200 diapers for $35 vs $19 for 92 diapers at Wal-Mart. Savings of $.03 per diaper, about $72 per year.

Gas: $2.88 per gallon vs $2.95 per gallon at Sinclair or Maverik. Savings of $.07 per gallon, about $60 per year. (I want to note here that we can easily get gas from Costco without going out of our way. If that weren't the case, I'm not sure it would make a real difference.)

Baby Wipes: 8 packages(88 count) at $15.49 vs 1 package at $2 at Wal-Mart. Savings of $.07 per package, about $1 per year. (This one sort of made me laugh, but a dollar's a dollar, right?)

Total Annual Savings: $373
Less membership fee: -$50
Net Savings: $323

Wow! What a difference one store can make! I knew there was a reason I loved Costco other than their $1.50 hot dog/soda combo.

Obviously, we get the majority of our savings from the fact that we have a baby. But even if we bought just milk and gas alone, we would still save much more than the cost of the membership. As our family grows, I anticipate buying more of our groceries from there as well, taking advantage of the bulk quantities. And although I didn't count big ticket items, over time, the savings would really add up. I guess we are destined to be long-time (satisfied) Costco customers.

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